How hard is it to describe something you've never experienced? If you've never tasted a chocolate chip cookie, then explaining it to someone would be a pretty challenging exercise. 

Often, talking about ourselves is exactly the same. After all, we never experience what it's like to work, communicate, or collaborate with ourselves. And while we may know what it feels like to be in the Zone and have a peak work experience, we don't know what it's like to be in our own presence when this is happening. And that makes it pretty hard to describe ourselves to others. 

Answering the question "Tell me about yourself" in a job interview requires us to do something we aren't taught in school. We have to learn about who we are and how to talk about that person to others. 

It's isn't an easy process, but once you do have the right language to describe yourself, it'll make interviews, networking, and socializing almost effortless. And who doesn't want that? 

Ready to get started? Here are three actions to take today:

1. Get Support

Learning about yourself is not a solo act: You need support. This support can come in a number of ways depending on your circumstances and budget. 

If your organization provides coaches or will pay for you to get one, do it! Having a career coach is an investment that will pay off in dividends. A great career coach will make the process of knowing who you are fun, insightful, and fast! If you don't have access, then ask your colleagues for some feedback. The answers to these questions will help you learn more about yourself and give you insight into aspects that they experience. 

Next Step

Survey up to 10 close colleagues and ask them the following questions:

  • What is the unique way that I approach the work that I do? Please be as specific as possible.

  • Is there something really special about me that you notice often? 

  • What is the impact I've had on you and the business results? Please be as specific as possible.

2. Identify Your Zone of Genius

Knowing your Zone of Genius makes talking about yourself effortless. Your Zone of Genius provides two important aspects of yourself: your Genius and your Purpose. Your Genius is the thinking or problem solving that challenges you in the best way possible and allows you to do your best work. Your Purpose provides you with the impact that is most meaningful to you and therefore gives you unlimited motivation. 

If you know these two data points, you can have a detailed conversation about two essential topics in a job interview: what kind of thinking you're best at and what drives you.

Next Step

Ask yourself these two questions to uncover your Zone of Genius:

  • When was the last time you felt really in the Zone at work? What was the specific thinking or problem-solving that you were doing? Map out five examples of this and then look for patterns. This is your genius at work.

  • When was the last time you felt completely fulfilled by the impact you were making? How is that impact linked to a core emotional challenge you've experienced in your past? Your purpose is linked to a core emotional challenge. Once you see this you will gain insight into what kind of impact is most meaningful to you. Your purpose is helping others who are experiencing your core emotional challenge. Do some digging, and remember that, often, seeing your purpose requires some time and thought.

3. Practice Talking About Yourself

Once you begin the process of knowing yourself and identifying your Zone of Genius, you then need to create clear language that feels right to you to describe both yourself and your Zone of Genius. Once again, it can sometimes feel odd to talk about yourself, so practice is key. 

Next Step

If you're struggling to find the right language, start with some words that feel somewhat right and use a thesaurus to further refine. Still struggling? Ask a creative friend or hire a writer to help you get the right language.

Once you take the three steps, the question "Tell me about yourself" should be something you welcome. Your clarity and confidence will not only help others "get" you but also make you a slam dunk for the right job. 

Published on: Oct 8, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.