Laid off in America

Monday, March 24, 2003

Who am I in the working world? What slick, but thorough statement could I make about myself, in a cocktail party, during an elevator ride, when I introduced myself to networks, in answer to any question that resembled: "Tell me about yourself?" I discovered it's really important to have ne of these statements, sitting comfortably on your tongue, ready to roll out on a moments notice without any thought.

I started by identifying all my accomplishments in my different jobs. I also thought about my accomplishments in my volunteer work and in my school work. I found that this takes a long time, because accomplishments aren't a job description, they are what you have done as a result of doing your job. In fact, I kept thinking of more and more, especially as I talked with different people who worked with me on different components of my job. Some things thta might get the ball rolling--have you won any awards or bonuses or promotions? Have you received any big compliments around something you did? What are you particularly proud of?

I also listed my skills. There are a lot of skills that I have as a result of my training. Those were the easiest to think of. But I realized that I had some skills that I never appreciated when I looked through my accomplishments. In my accomplishments, I realized that I have created and introduced new systems and procedures and been involved with or directly responsible for a number of start ups. I had never thought of myself as being skilled at the visioning, persuasion, energy, creativity, etc., that is necessary to put new things in place. I could add another skill to my list! Although I didn't have a chance to use it much, one boss told me that my people management skills were a hiddent talent. I put that down too. So think "hard skills", "soft skills", and look for skills that are outside your usual description of yourself.

I also thought long and hard about my personal characteristics and values. Since I had worked at a place that did a lot of leadership development work, I already had more data along those lines about myself than I knew what to do with. I also had the opportunity to take an interest and skills inventory. And I took more freebies on the web (just take these with a grain of salt, because you don't know if they are valid and reliable. One I like that is based on high quality research is, particularly the VIA signature strengths inventory). I tried to make a list of these, but found that's really hard to do. There are so many ways you can go. But it was/is a learning experience. Just some highlights. I'm extroverted, innovative, open-minded, a bit neurotic in stressful situations, not very organized. I'm big picture (as opposed to detail) and intuitive oriented and tend to be driven by my thoughts more than my emotions (which sometimes comes across as not being very nice. I'm a complex, non-linear thinker. I like independence and autonomy on my job accompanied with challenge. I also like worthwhile issues. But I also value balance in my life--work is only part of what I do.

Finally, I thought about what I really liked to do. What got me excited in my jobs. What got me in a "state of flow" so that I didn't notice the time flying by. And conversely what did I hate doing and what exhausted me. Those were easy, routine stuff and details kill me.

Finally, I took all this information and tried to categorize it. Who am I in the world of work? I was actually a much more rounded person than I had ever appreciated. Not to mention accomplished! Once I came up with some categories, I came up with one or two stories that I could tell about each one. Stories are easier for me to remember than details and bullet points. Also, they make interviews more meaningful and fun. Anything to add fun to this situation!

Okay, now I had to distill this down to a short paragraph. This is what I came up with. I am an experienced Leadership Selection and Development Professional with expertise in executive selection/succession planning and the design, development, and implementation of organizational systems and policies to support the movement of talent throughout an organization. I have the proven ability to design and implement innovative business initiatives that support long term business goals. I have experience with Fortune 500, not-for profit, and small entrepreneurial firms. My strengths include conceptualizing systems, communicating, and influencing people through action learning, team building, and development.

To be honest, this never came out smoothly and naturally. I sounded like a personality-less automaton. I think this is why my interviews got off to a slow start. But it was hepful in so many different ways for me to do this.

Do others of you do anything like this? Or am I just anal:-) posted by Valerie 11:16 AM

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The experience of the new rite of passage among today's professionals: Being Unemployed

Contact me
You can contact me by sending me email at

This blog's mention in the July 2003 issue of Fast Company
Web of Despair.

Other unemployment blogs I have found
Ask your ass.
All about Jen.
Homee's job search.
Get that job.

Some blogs I like but haven't been updated in a while
Where The Hell Did My Job Go.
Invisible Matrix.

Credit problems?

What's keeping me occupied while I'm unemployed?
My husband and my travel photography blog.


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