One of the top concerns I get from clients is “Oh, I don’t know how to sell myself.” To sell yourself, you simply have to figure out what you do best, what you do that is most useful, and then just share from your heart. You don’t need to “sell” anything.
Learning how to sell yourself in an interview or job application is a skill worth having in your arsenal. It doesn’t matter how skilled or talented you are if you don’t know how to communicate your value.
Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you do and for what you can deliver. Dare to share it with the world. Distinguish yourself and stand out from the crowd. Be unique, be bold. Claim your talent and your expertise.
People look at the act of “selling” through a defensive lens. We assume salespeople are trying to manipulate us into buying something we don’t need, that they’re willing to say anything to close the deal.
“Selling” Is Not a Bad Thing
The truth is that we are all salespeople — from your mother trying to convince you to eat your greens when you were a kid, to you trying to convince your mother or father to buy you that special holiday present. As you grew up, you learned that the “art of persuasion” was an important life skill.
One of the most common self-limiting beliefs is thinking that you might sound arrogant or bragging. In fact, you are simply providing recruiters with proof that you are the best choice — the asset. Recruiters cannot read minds; they don’t know what you’re good at, which means you are the one who has to point out what you’re best at.
The definition of “selling” is communicating the value of something. Consequently, in the context of your second-act career, “selling yourself” means aligning your professional value with the opportunity at hand.
To sell yourself is simply to present your usefulness as the solution to the problem or challenge that your prospective employer, client, or investor is looking to solve or handle.
It’s Not About You
Many people will say: “Oh, I can sell something else, a product, a service – even someone else. But I can’t sell myself.”
This is a limiting belief that is well worth reframing! You’re not trying to convince someone that you’re a good person. You are, of course, a good person. But that’s not the point. Anyone they hire will hopefully be a “good person.” The point is that you are offering your skills, experience, ability, and insight. It’s about the result, the outcome, the ROI.
In your mind, separate your identity from your offer. Yes, of course, they are both parts of the overall package. But if you focus on what you deliver, and on the objective value behind that offer, you wont’ feel so self-conscious about being liked or accepted.
Shifting the conversation – especially in your interview – to this result-oriented focus will help you become more of a partner to your interviewer. You’ll be discussing the result of them getting into business with you.
It’s About Them
Make what you do about those whom you serve and highlight what they are getting by collaborating or buying from you. Give your prospects or employers enough evidence to convince them that your deal is too good to refuse.
What is the specific need they are trying to solve or address? Look at the job description and research your prospective employer or client to build your arguments and reasoning about why you’re the right candidate. After you know their pain points and needs, identify the transformation you facilitate with the skills you possess and present yourself as the solution.
Your Selling Yourself Strategy
There are countless sales tutorials out there, but advancing or transitioning into a second-act career requires some specific approaches that are useful for more experienced candidates like you.
It’s important to realize that more is expected of older candidates. By this time in our lives, we’re supposed to have figured everything out. So we need to present ourselves as confident and knowledgable, but at the same time as open and adaptable. It can be a bit of a tightrope. So consider some of the following suggestions.
Choose Your Words Wisely
Selling yourself wisely starts with what you say and how you say it. Again, you are treading a fine line between confidence and arrogance. When you interview with a younger recruiter or hiring manager, they may feel intimidated by you as an older, accomplished professional. You might be something of a mystery to them and they may bring a certain amount of defensiveness into the conversation.
To make them feel more at ease, make sure that you are clear and specific with everything you say and ask. Provide as many relevant details as possible without over-explaining. Pay attention to how they’re reacting. If you see them begin to drift, maybe you’re losing them. Stop and say: “I hope I’m not going into to much detail, here. I just want to make sure I’m giving you the information you need.”
Indeed, that’s the filter you want to apply to this aspect of how to sell yourself. It’s about information. You’re not trying to convince them of anything. The more specific you can be, the more they’ll be able to process the information and make their own evaluation as to your “fit” for the position.
In your explanations, statements, and questions, you are treading another fine line. On the one hand, you don’t want to assume that they fully understand everything about your background and experience (including any jargon or acronyms that you use in your work). On the other hand, you don’t want to appear condescending. If they feel like you’re trying to inflate your value by using fancy language or talking over their head, you’re sunk.
One trick that a recruiter once shared with me is to imagine that you’re talking to your favorite grandparent. You’ll immediately take on the attitude that reflects caring, respect, and engagement. When you interact from this perspective, you’re communicating your enthusiasm for what you do, and looking to help them understand why it’s so cool, not how important you are
Be Positive & Constructive
Building on the last point, selling yourself can actually be a way to model the attitude and behavior that you’ll bring to the job if you get it. Represent yourself as a solution finder and a problem solver. Instead of simply presenting your accomplishments as ROI data points, talk about how they impacted other areas of your team, department, or company. Make it personal and emotional. Show that your most important motivation is to support others in meeting shared goals.
When you look at it this way, selling yourself is all about making a connection with people and earning their trust.
Learn From Competitors
No matter what career niche you operate in — there will be others who also do what you do. Don’t let yourself be intimidated by them. Remember that no two people do the same job exactly the same way. Approach the competitor issue as an opportunity to do some research on how they sell themselves. Learn how they promote their services and evaluate what works and what doesn’t.
Look at their LinkedIn profiles and pick up some pointers for how you could represent yourself on LinkedIn. Look for ways you can explain yourself differently. Choose a different angle or perspective that could be more appealing to the specific target sector you want to work in or the companies you want to work for.
Reviewing how your competitors are representing themselves might be a bit discouraging initially. Stop comparing yourself to them! Instead, use their profile as inspiration to focus on your unique value proposition and the authentic language you can use to express it. If you align your message to your personality and your values, you will likely come up with an approach to selling yourself that comes across as genuine and useful.
So selling yourself is actually an opportunity to distinguish yourself and set yourself apart from your competitors.
Find and Express Your Voice
While selling yourself is primarily about focusing attention on the substance of what you offer and deliver, what makes it work is the authenticity and enthusiasm you express for what you’ve done, and what you want to do going forward.
Attitude is crucial. If you are perceived as open, honest, responsible, and dedicated, you will make major inroads with the clients, employers, or investors you’re trying to work with.
So ponder these three questions as you engage with prospects and be prepared to talk about yourself accordingly.
- Who are you?
- What are your values?
- What do you stand for?
Consider capturing your reflections in a daily journal. This is a great way to identify the answers to these questions and build your unique voice.
Journaling is a powerful tool to discover new things about your personality and can help you develop more authority in how you express yourself. It can also prove cathartic and help you answer the question: Are you being true to yourself?
Finding your tone means learning to express from your deeper, authentic self. Once you’ve engaged in an inner dialogue around your true self and your values, you’ll be able to speak more confidently while coming across as open and available (as opposed to distant or didactic).
You’ll begin to communicate with your entire being. This will translate into effectively selling yourself according to that fundamental definition we cited above: communicating the true value of what you do.
It is said that to enroll others in a program or service that you offer, you yourself must be 100% “enrolled” in that program. How perfect! If you are 100% convinced, positive, authentic, enthusiastic, and open about what you do, you will stand a very good chance of persuading or “enrolling” someone else (client, employer, investor) in your offer.
So, how do you find your tone when engaging with others and selling yourself in the most effective way? It starts with finding your “why.” Author and lecturer Simon Sinek is one of the best-known leadership experts on this topic. Check out his TEDx talk where he goes into detail about finding your “Why.” One key takeaway: “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”
Your prospective clients or employers are interested in the solution to their problem — the one thing that will make their life easier and their business more successful. When you know the reason why you do what you do, you will be able to connect directly on a deeper personal level with your prospects and begin to build the trust and mutual understanding that you’ll need to successfully move forward together.
Feeling Ready? Connect to Your Tribe
Are you more settled and confident about selling yourself?
Now it’s time to put these key practices and mindsets into practice.
This is where your network of colleagues and friends can help you prepare and refine the actual examples, stories, questions, and data you’ll use to sell yourself. Start crafting different kinds of pitches, including your LinkedIn About section, a checklist for your future job interviews, and a few paragraphs for a text version of your bio.
Schedule mock interviews with trusted friends, colleagues, and advisors so that you get familiar and comfortable with how you are expressing yourself. Go for authenticity, self-deprecation, and humor.
Get to the point when you can’t wait to meet someone new so you can “sell yourself” to them.
That’s when you’ll realize that you’re no longer really selling yourself. What you offer is fully integrated with who you are.