CANOE Network

The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

The big question

By Jim Hayhurst Jr.
Special to the Toronto Sun

Psst! Want to know the secret to getting the perfect job? I can tell you, but you probably won't believe me.

Why? Because the answer seems so simple, you'll think I'm telling you something you already know.

Pretend I'm going to interview you for a job. Your dream job. Now grab a pen and paper, or open up a blank page on your computer, and write down your answer to the following question:

Who are you?

Now tell me, what did you write?

Your name? Your title? Your job description? Unfortunately, those don't tell me who you are, they tell me what you are. Try again without those descriptors.

What does it say now? Did you write down phrases like creative, people person, team player, honest, loyal, a good communicator or hard-working? Generic descriptors that also happen to sit at the top of your resume?

If so, then you have just described yourself the way 99 per cent of the other applicants (and readers of this article) would have. And I have no idea who you are, as distinct from them.

So, you're not alone. And that's the bad news because you are now lumped in with every other applicant who may or may not be as good at you for this job, but who certainly is as bad as you in describing who they are.

The fact is, almost every person that comes to our career centre -- from university students looking for their first job, to thirtysomethings lacking career satisfaction, to recently fired senior executives -- has difficulty answering that most basic question, who are you?

Knowing who you are and being able to clearly and concisely articulate it in an interview (not to mention on your resume) is the single most important thing you need to do in order to find and get your dream job.

Why? It's simple. Ask anyone who's done it: hiring the right people, efficiently and effectively, is very difficult. So hirers want job candidates to make their hiring decisions easier.

Here's how you can help them -- and help yourself at the same time:

Use Accomplishments, not Responsibilities.

Everybody has responsibilities, but what did you do with them? Use the P.A.R. rule -- what was the Problem, what Action did you take and what was the Result? This will help the hirer understand how you created value in the past and how you might do so in the future.

Have a Story: Describe who you are in a memorable way.

Use an anecdote from your past that reveals your skills, interests and values (we call this a Personal Reference Point).

Or create a metaphor that captures who you are in a vivid manner (we call this a Personal Allegory). Use these in both the interview and on your resume.

Know Your Skills, Interests and Values.

These three core elements define who you are. Uncovering them takes a lot of work and requires a disciplined approach. However, once you know them you can make virtually any decision -- from career to relationships to lifestyle -- with conviction and confidence.

In the end, it comes down to this: Know who you are before you figure out where you want to go. When you've done that, the job search process will seem a lot less daunting and will be a lot more rewarding.

Jim Hayhurst Jr. is a writer, consultant and inspirational speaker. He is Partner at The Right Mountain, a Toronto-based consulting group. Where Have I Gone Right? The Right Mountain Guide to Getting the Job & Life You Want, was published in January by John Wiley & Sons.

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