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How to sell yourself and boost your career trajectory

Do you remember what it was like leaving school? The uncertainty, the nerves and the need to make a good impression, to have the confidence and ability to sell yourself in cover letters, interviews and meetings. It may seem like a distant memory to you, but if your children are soon to be school leavers, this is what they are facing now. Maybe they’ve started writing their Personal Statement and are struggling with how to frame their unique passions and talents. At this time in their lives, there’s a huge amount to do – and so much of it rides on having superb communication skills.

At The Colin James Method® we are passionate about supporting the future workforce, we’ve come up with some top tips to help your children build lifelong skills to position themselves effectively:

1. Tell stories to easily illustrate your achievements

Today’s school leavers need to be able to articulate their achievements and experience through compelling stories about their experiences that quickly show their passion and enthusiasm. Jennifer Aaker, a professor at Stanford Business School, often discusses how stories are 22 x more memorable than facts alone – resulting in a deeper understanding and a personal connection when we use them in our conversations.

Top tip: Be brief! Stories don’t necessarily need to be long; they can be simple anecdotes or analogies to help clarify your points or claims. Avoid rambling. Keep it brief, using only the detail that helps illustrate the point. We suggest you work on two or three stories in advance that can be adapted to display different qualities you think they are looking for.

2. Focus on your audience’s needs – not your own

Relying on the academic achievements and success in your Personal Statement isn’t enough, you need to be able to bring these alive in the interviews to really stand out to the interviewer. Think about your audience, e.g. is it an academic interview with a professor or administrator, or a job interview with a manager or recruiter? Each is going to be looking for something different.

Imagine yourself in their shoes to help you focus on what they want to hear or see displayed by you – THEN plan your responses.

Top tip: Finish your stories by circling back to an outcome they are looking for. In an interview, you’ll be asked a question. You’ll use that question as a springboard to tell a story that illustrates your relevant achievements or experience, but always be sure at the end to come back to the question and the outcome they are looking for.

Here’s an example:

Question: What are you like under pressure?

Answer: [Story about a time that you were under pressure, what you did and the end result]

Outcome: [Circle back to what this means to your audience – how the experience will help you deal with pressure in this job or university course?]

3. Practise methods to manage your nerves

Nearly everybody gets nervous before an interview, exam or a big meeting. It’s just how the body has evolved to cope with what they expect to be stressful situations. But you need to manage your nerves and reframe your expectations so they don’t stop you from leaving the very best impression of yourself.

Top tip: Rehearse! The greatest way to put your nerves to bed is to practise interview situations as much as possible. Rehearsals will prepare you for the real deal, make you feel more confident and provide you with a muscle memory-like response on the day – which will leave you feeling calmer.

  1. The first step in overcoming interview nerves is research; research the organisation/institution interviewing you, even the interviewer, and THEN anticipate the kind of questions you’ll be asked.
  2. Enlist a few people to practice-interview you. Each person is likely to ask you slightly different questions and help you feel more prepared..

Selling yourself is a crucial part of success in interviews, meetings, pitches and when networking. For your child, it’s never been more important than right now, for things like university applications and job interviews but it will serve them well LONG into their career. Get more actionable tips like these, plus tools, templates and much more besides. 

SN members receive an exclusive 10% discount off their online CJM Job Interview Course by using code SCHOOLPERKS10.  Sign up today!

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