I enjoy meeting new people everywhere I go. One of the things I listen for is how people describe themselves. This is important when a person is making a career change, starting a business or between jobs. You need to communicate who you are to others.
A self-introduction explains who you are, your current goal and what you can do for the field of choice. You can make a credible impression of your intent and enthusiasm.
‘Connecting the dots’, so people see how your work helps is your responsibility. Figure out why your strengths and experience are useful to the field and highlight that. You will become clear on how your skills can help and the type of organization you want to work in. You can then revise your self-introduction as needed.
The way most career changers describe themselves doesn’t get them the buy-in they need. They tell their job history, their credentials, their degrees, and education. This is not a relevant message for starting off a networking conversation. These statements lack passion. They often include jargon about “market leaders,” “teamwork,” “people skills,” etc. Please don’t misunderstand me here, your experience or skill with people could be valuable to the other party. Most people go through a lifeless recitation of ‘all their facts’. You should talk about why you care and how you believe your work may be of use to anyone who could recommend you.
Here are the outcomes you want to produce from what you say. The person who listens to you will:
- Know what your current career goal is (what you want);
- Understand what you tend to contribute, a bit of your success pattern;
- See how you are capable and qualified for roles you’re talking about; and
- Sense your enthusiasm and want to get involved in your campaign goal.
These four things will help them consider you for employment or help you reach more people. That’s engagement!
Take two minutes or less. Use 30 seconds if you don’t have the person’s full attention yet, such as on the phone. For 30 seconds, pick a few points that will help someone grasp that you are relevant to the area they know. You can share the full 2-minute version of what you can do when you have the person’s attention, a bit farther into your call, or in person.
I advocate including a story. A story is a natural way to engage someone in your view of things. Stories bridge the gap between people and explain complexities in a shorter form. They’ve worked this way for thousands of years, and they will work for you.
The format is up to you, and you don’t have to say it the same for each situation.
- What you need: State your current situation, e.g., “I am doing some research to determine the best focus for my next career move. I’d like to get a good understanding of how the industry could use my strengths”.
- A Tale: Illustrate the best of what you can do with a story. Choose a brief story from your past that demonstrates the best of your ability. Say how you did it, and the results you achieved. Include enough specific detail so people can relate to your story, but keep it very simple. Mention any feelings— mad, sad, glad, or scared—you experienced in the story. Communicating these feelings creates rapport. Talk in terms conveying what you did (say “I” not “we”).
- Relevance: Follow the story with extra information from your background (essential experience or credentials).
Now you have introduced what you can do and what you want the other person to do for you in a compelling way that relates well to the needs of your listener. This way they begin to appreciate your potential value to the field and may want to help you get there.
Practice until it’s natural. It may sound contradictory but it works! As you gain experience, both from practice and from initial contacts, you will improve until it feels natural.
It is important to change your self-introduction as your campaign moves forward. It can evolve from: “what things I can do that are important to this field,” to opportunity finding: “here are the challenges I know can help this type of organization”, to: “how are you handling these issues right now?”.
Wishing you all the best in your personal introductions!
Speed mentoring photo courtesy of the US Embassy in Malta