“Tell me about yourself”

Tell me about yourself
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As I’m about to start interviews for a Digital Marketing Coordinator to join my team, I thought it would be a good time to share a blog post I wrote a while back in a previous role at Potentia.

The “Tell me about yourself” interview question can be one of the most dreaded questions poised to you in an interview. There is no real right or wrong answer, yet how you answer it will set the tone for the rest of the interview. As it’s such an open question it often throws people, unsurprisingly most people do not prepare for it. So when poised with the question one will think – what exactly do they want me to say here? What do they want to know? And then the panic sets in; some of you will freeze not being able to respond, start reciting every detail in your CV or worse turn into a rambling Michael Scott!

Sometimes I’ll start a sentence and I don’t even know where it’s going. I just hope I find it along the way…” – Michael Scott (from the Office).

Whatever you do, don’t be a Michael Scott. So you ask, “what should I share when asked the ‘tell me about yourself’ interview question?”

Why are they asking you the question?

Before we get into how to answer the question, let’s think about why your potential new employer has asked you this question? They could be:

  • testing you to see how you will answer without direction;
  • trying to see how you articulate information about yourself in a few sentences;
  • trying to gain an insight into your personality and how you compare to the other candidates;
    trying to see if you will fit in with their company culture; or
  • ultimately wanting a high level overview of your achievements, knowledge, skills, abilities and personality.

It’s important to think about what they may be looking for so you can put an emphasis on things that you know are paramount in the person they’re looking for.

It’s your time to shine!

Now it’s time to work on how you will answer the ‘tell me about yourself question’, as this is your 5 minutes of glory and a prime opportunity to really position yourself as the right person for the role.

What you need to do in roughly 5 minutes is to explain in a structured approach who you are, what you do and why you’re the perfect candidate – essentially a slightly longer version of an elevator pitch. If you’ve never prepared an elevator pitch consider using the present, past, future formula to structure your response:

  • Start with who you are and where you are now in your career.
  • A little bit about your experiences, successes (relevant to the role) and skills you have gained.
  • Finish with the future – where you are looking to go, achieve and how this fits in line with the job you’re interviewing for.

Do:

  • Focus on skills and experience that are relevant to the role.
  • Relax and show your personality.
  • Be concise and enthusiastic.
  • Be prepared to be self-deprecating and/or use humility!
  • Summarise your background, achievements and objectives.
  • Talk about your career goals that are relevant to the interview.
  • Give them your “Unique Selling Proposition” – your biggest strength and benefit a company will get from you.
  • Including a quick mention of volunteer work, interests or hobbies that are relevant to the role or will show a bit of your personality.

Don’t:

  • Share your life story filled with personal information – they aren’t looking to find out if you’re married or what you hate about the city.
  • Badmouth past employers.
  • Talk about what you don’t want in a role i.e. working late.
  • Tell them that your dream or passion is something completely different to the role you’re interviewing for (you’re not exactly going to stick around then are you).
  • Avoid politics and controversial topics.
  • Dive into a long recital of your resume.

Finally, it’s a good idea to make sure what you are going to say is reflected on your professional profiles such as your LinkedIn profile and successes are mentioned in your CV. Employers will check out your social presence just as you will (or should) have checked out theirs! Now go prepare your brilliant answer and practice it with a friend, family member or a recruitment consultant before you head into your interview.

The original version of this post was on the Potentia blog.

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Personal Branding On Social Media – The Challenge Of Positioning Yourself

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It wasn’t that long ago you could say ‘social media isn’t my thing’ and get away with not having a professional profile online. However, in these contemporary times, (and certainly more so for certain professions) it is expected that you have an engaging professional presence online as an individual.

Recently I happened to be dining with friends, several of whom are passively job hunting. The topic of your professional brand came up; each one of them agreed that it’s relatively easy to find help and advice on setting up and optimising your social profiles such as LinkedIn, Twitter and other industry related communities. However, the consensus was that they found themselves at a standstill when it came to working out how to pitch themselves without sounding generic, using clichés or sounding like a sales pitch for where they work.

For those of you who have always been active on your professional social media networks this of course isn’t a problem or hard to do, but for most people and particularly those who are not millennials, it can be quite daunting. Most of us struggle with this because there really isn’t one clear approach for developing and curating your personal brand online.

Essentially, you need to find an approach that resonates with you. So as a starting point consider these three areas to focus on when building your personal brand online: positioning, authenticity and engagement.

Positioning

It’s important to think about where and how you are going to position yourself. When you put all your ducks in a row, how do you want to be viewed? What kind of personality do you want to project? If you’re still not sure, think about how your values relate to the professional you. How can you position yourself with those values in mind

Why authenticity?

In my view, authenticity is critical when building your personal brand strategy as authenticity goes hand in hand with trust. If you can build trust with your peers, colleagues and community, you will have a much stronger brand than those who haven’t.

  • Be 100% genuine and truthful about everything that you say, the detail in your profile to the interactions you have with people. If you tweak the truth or aren’t your true self-online, your network and community will soon find out.
  • Be real – you don’t want to come across as a robot by simply posting and never interacting or commenting. Find your own style and tone of voice that is similar to how you would normally speak and hold a conversation. Put yourself out there and show some emotion and opinion in your writing.
  • If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face then don’t post it. No one likes people who hide behind their online profile, so be true to yourself.
  • Once you’re comfortable with writing and posting online, consider sharing some of your personal experiences, even those slip-ups or mistakes as these can be very powerful showing how you’ve dealt with situations, how others can learn from your experiences and how resilient you can be.

Engage with others

This may be an obvious one but in addition to starting discussions, you need to proactively engage with your networks content, posts, and shares. It may take a bit of time and you may need to schedule time into your calendar to do this but it is necessary as simply put, no one likes a one-sided relationship. Seek out those in your professional networks who you resonate with and share their content, give your two cents and praise where deserved. Also remember to have fun – not everything has to be serious, everyone loves a bit of good-natured humour.

You want to make sure people see you as a real person, that the image you put across focuses on what makes you unique and represents your worth, passion and ambitions. By being authentic, engaging with your community and by having the right positioning, your personal online brand will flourish. You will start increasing your networks, receiving recognition for your contributions, expand your knowledge in more areas and be able to showcase your skills to those who matter.

Finally, however you decide to look at it, the digital world and social media is here to stay. So it’s worth putting some time and thought into how you would like to represent yourself in the social sphere. Go on… give it a go!


 

This blog post was originally posted on the Potentia blog.

Are you surrounding yourself with radiators or drainers?

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Every year as winter lands on us, we start the winter routine of cranking up the radiators to keep us warm at night and ensuring the drains are unblocked of leaves to ensure the rain drains away.

One wise person once told me to surround yourself with people who are radiators and distance yourself from drainers. Radiators glow with happiness and bring out the good things in life, and the drainers, well they do the opposite – they bring you down and drain life out of those around them. So as winter is now upon us, and you have started your winter routines, how about also taking a look at who are the radiators and drainers in your life.

No matter whether you are on the job hunt, looking to take on more responsibilities in your role or have other life or relationship goals that you want to achieve, you will want to lean on friends and colleagues. However if these friends or colleagues are the drainer type, they will most probably pull you down or even stop you achieving these things. I’m not saying to necessarily completely remove these people from your lives, as sometimes they will give you a worthwhile reality check, but they can be detrimental to your success. Instead, you need to actively surround yourself with radiators. People who will pick you up, encourage you and support you towards reaching your goals.

If you are unsure whether someone is a radiator or drainer consider this:

  • When spending time with them do you find yourself speaking negatively about yourself? Do you find yourself saying more passive phrases such as ‘I will try or ‘I don’t know if I can’?
  • Are they big moaners who generally look at things from the glass is half-empty approach?
  • Do they support you and celebrate your successes?
    Do they make you feel energised?
  • Do they make you feel positive?
  • Do they inspire you to achieve your goals

How do your friends and colleagues see you?

As well as looking at whether you are surrounding yourself with drainers, it is important to consider whether you are at risk of becoming one or viewed as one through association. In the office, you don’t want to hang around with the disengaged employees who hate their jobs, bosses and the company itself, as other employees will associate you as being one of them. Also spending time with these types of people will most likely turn you into one of them.

So as you get into your winter routines take some time to assess who you surround yourself with and perhaps it’s time to clear out those drains and find a couple of great new radiators.


 

This blog post was originally posted on the Potentia blog.

Pushing past the ‘sugar coating’ to determine a company’s true culture

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You are so fantastic that everybody wants you! Now it’s time to be a bit selective – do you really want to work for them, yes it may be your dream role, but is the culture right for you? After all, it’s imperative to know whether they will appreciate your encouragement of staff to take up the next desk safari challenge.

On a more serious note, it can be hard to determine what a company culture is like, and culture can make or break a job as well as influencing your confidence and drive. When interviewing, your potential new employer (like you), they will put on their best game face. This means that you often won’t get a true sense of the culture in the workplace.

So how can you judge the culture of a potential employer and whether they like office pranks and desk safari challenges before signing on the dotted line? Workplace culture is extremely important to me as I’ve worked for the brilliant, the good, and the ugly – the difference it’s made to my performance and enjoyment is huge. So along the way I’ve devised the following strategies and questioning to help gain an insight into what a company’s culture is like:

  1. Look up company review websites, which feature reviews and ratings by current and former employees. One company review website, which is growing in popularity in New Zealand is Glassdoor.
  2. Check out the company’s social media accounts (and if you can current employees). Look out for what’s going on, if they have fun and if there are any an indicators of what it’s like to work at the company. Several years ago when interviewing for a contract, I noticed the director’s PA had tweeted saying “Ops I just spilt my coffee all over my boss #fail”. I slid this into a conversation in my interview, which to my luck generated a great conversation that not only gave me an insight into how she reacts to situations but also taught me how she interacted with colleagues and those she managed.
  3. Is there a social hierarchy? Find out whether the CEO and managers socialise, meet and connect with people outside of their team. Do they treat staff as an equal regardless of age, position or title?
  4. Ask to meet some of the team members/employees (especially if you are going to be managing a person or team). If the company wants to ensure you are the right fit for the team, they should welcome this request or already have it as part of their recruiting process. Ideally, when you meet it will be in a relaxed environment over a coffee or drink. You are more likely to receive an honest response from team members rather than those who are interviewing you, so it is worthwhile. At my current workplace, we have a peer review process, which involves the potential new employee going out for a casual drink with three or four of us (employees). Not only does that mean that we get to assess if they are right for us and our culture, but whether they see themselves fitting in.
  5. Ask in your interview what the company culture is like. I always ask this question and when I do, I am looking for two things in their answer. First, I want to know how employees work together and support each other. Next, I want to know if employees are sociable and if the company puts some effort into bringing everyone together as a team. Of course, it is unlikely that they will say something negative, however if they answer enthusiastically and spend a decent amount of time describing the culture, it’s likely they like the culture themselves. For bonus points, you could also consider asking, “why did the last couple of people leave?”
  6. Ask your interviewer what do they personally like about the culture, as well as what it’s like compared to the last place they worked at. This will give you a baseline to help understand their view on the company’s culture.
  7. What happens when someone makes a mistake? Are individuals able to learn from their mistakes or are they crucified the first time they make one or something goes wrong? We’re all human after all and things don’t always go to plan.
  8. What is the busiest time of the year or quarter? This will let you know whether they are always busy and perhaps overworked. Take note whether people work together at these busy times and if they are collaborative.
  9. Look out for humour and laughter. When you arrive at the office and while in the interview look out for laughter and humour.
  10. The good and bad statements staff make. Ask what is the most common “great” statement said by staff about the company, and on the flip side, what is the worst complaint heard regularly in the office? Amusingly the most common complaint I’ve heard at my workplace is that one certain colleague keeps leaving half a banana in the fruit bowl!

Finally remember here in NZ we pretty much live in the land of two degrees of separation so do ask your network if they know what the culture is like. There is always a good chance someone will know of someone who can give you their thoughts (although make sure you gain an insight into the context of their opinion to measure its worth).

I’d love to hear your thoughts on your best method of determining the culture of a potential employer?


 

This blog post was originally posted on the Potentia blog.

Costly mistakes; everyone makes them

Mistake!
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In 1962, NASA took on the first interplanetary mission with spacecraft Mariner 1. Unfortunately, the mission was cut expensively short after a hyphen spelling error in a punch card, which caused the destination to change. The change in destination sent the spacecraft into a collision path, so 293 seconds into the mission the spacecraft had to be destroyed. This simple error in NASA’s code helped doom the Mariner 1 mission, which cost $18.5 million – remember that this was in 1962, and is equivalent to a lot more today.

The moral of the story is that everybody makes mistakes!

If you don’t believe you make errors or mistakes then you are lying to yourself; even the most skilled people make errors in documents, CV’s, code and more! Sometimes these errors can be brushed aside but at other times, they are critical, costly and can affect your company’s and your reputation.

I’m guilty of it – no matter how many times I proofread and spell check my work there is always that one small error. Unfortunately, you typically don’t see it until after you hit the send button or submit the final copy for distribution, which is then followed by that sickly feeling when the mistake comes to light.

So why do you make mistakes?

The problem arises most often when you are working hard; your brain optimises itself by interpreting words without reading the whole word. This means your brain can focus on difficult tasks such as forming complex ideas. The better you know the content the more efficient your brain is at optimising your reading by skimming over the words (as if you’re on autopilot) and the more likely you are to miss things.

How can you stop making those errors and mistakes?
To look at your work with a ‘fresh pair of eyes’ you need to trick your brain into de-familiarising itself with material you are working on; below are a few tips to stop you from making any troublesome mistakes.

1. Step away from your work
My first suggestion is to step away from your work and come back to it later. This is not fool-proof but using a different part of your brain and focussing on another activity can allow you to come back to your work fresh and ready to proof with a new set of eyes.

2. Change your spelling and grammar settings in word
It surprises me how often people have the advanced spelling settings turned off – this can be really helpful when it comes to proofing. One thing to note is that if you are a Google Docs fan is that Google Docs spelling/grammar settings aren’t as comprehensive – so export it and check outside Google. The same goes for writing emails in Outlook – write your email in Word first then paste it in Outlook.

3. When working online, proof offline
When working on your computer you are guaranteed to make typing errors (amongst others), so make sure you print out your work and proof read the printed version.

4. De-familiarise your brain with your work
The more attached you are to something or the more familiar it is to you, the more likely you will not see your errors so de-familiarise your brain. Do this by changing the colour of the text or background or changing the font type (i.e. switch between two distinctive Serif and Sans fonts). This will help trick your brain into thinking that it is something new that you are reading.

5. Get someone else to check your work
Lastly and where possible, get someone (who hasn’t been involved with your work) to check it, as they will have the best chance of spotting any errors.

Hopefully you work in an environment where a mistake won’t result in a multi-million dollar spaceship being blown out of the sky… but for most of us it certainly doesn’t make you feel great when one is spotted in your work!

Make sure you put the checks and processes in place to help minimise those mistakes and spelling errors, and ultimately give you some piece of mind.
If you want to read more on why our brains make mistakes, check out Wired’s post with psychologist Tom Stafford, who studies typos at the University of Sheffield. I welcome your feedback, any funny but less than ideal mistakes you have seen, and suggestions on how you prevent mistakes in your work (and hopefully there aren’t too many in mine above).

This blog post was originally posted on the Potentia blog

My advice for Kiwi and expat marketers wanting to work in London

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I was recently contacted by a marketing graduate in New Zealand about coming to London, United Kingdom to work in Marketing, so I thought I might as well share my experience to other Kiwi/Expat marketers considering moving to London and seeking work.

To start off, if you want to do well in London, I would recommend getting experience before moving to the UK. It is not an easy job market for most and it is an even harder environment for a graduate. While I was in London I met several European graduates whose parents paid for them to go to London to do 6 to 8 month unpaid internships. So as you can imagine it’s not the easiest for a graduate without well off parents to support them while they do an unpaid internship!

Up skill and do your research before heading to the UK

It is good to know what part of marketing you prefer and research what recruiters are looking for in candidates in those types of roles. I worked in all rounded marketing roles before moving to the UK, however in all my roles I made an extra effort on focusing on improving the CRM and digital aspects of the businesses i.e. email marketing, social media, web/SEO and customer journeys. I learnt basic html coding skills at university and then self-taught email specific coding and best practices – this is what helped me stand out to recruiters and secure roles.

Before moving to the UK I went to a Global Career Link seminar where they told me all about the job market, life in the UK and what to expect. Following the seminar I was put in touch with one of their staff members who helped me tailor my CV to the UK job market. They also set realistic expectations on what type of role I could potentially get and what type of pay I would be looking at. Depending on what experience you have they can also set up interviews with recruiters for you when you arrive.

Will finding a job be easy?

Many people think getting a job in London will be easy. Unless you get lucky most people will need to put in a bit of work especially to secure their first job.

First, I would recommend building strong relationships with recruiters as most roles are recruited through agencies rather than direct (especially if you are after contract work).

Next network as much as you can and keep on top of the latest jobs as if you wait for the closing date your CV probably won’t get looked at.

A few good digital resources

If you enjoy digital marketing I would learn a bit of html and sign up to email newsletters that will help teach you the latest research and findings in the marketplace A few of my favourites are Jericho Smartmail (NZ email provider) have great newsletters , econsultancy, Sticky Content (writing for digital) and Smartbrief (daily email on any topic – the social media and career ones are great) . I can recommend others if there are particular areas you want to keep up to speed with. In addition, Twitter and LinkedIn are great places to learn off others, ask questions and sometimes find jobs. Recruiters use LinkedIn quite a lot in the UK and I was approached about several jobs through LinkedIn based on recruiters seeing my profile and experience on LinkedIn.

Finally, I absolutely loved working in London and would highly recommend at least giving it a go. If you have any specific questions I am happy to help out if I can, otherwise check out the websites that I mentioned above and good luck!


“Think not of yourself as the architect of your career but as the sculptor. Expect to have to do a lot of hard hammering and chiselling and scraping and polishing.” BC Forbes

*Disclaimer: these are just my thoughts and opinions from my experiences so please don’t take everything as gospel!

 

Is it possible to separate your personal life and work life on social networks like LinkedIn?

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Many individuals join professional social networks like LinkedIn for their own professional development rather than as brand ambassadors for their work.

Over the last year I have engaged with many people on social media platforms and have found it hard to separate the two on some networks such as LinkedIn. In my last position for a membership organisation, I often was personally contacted on LinkedIn and Twitter about the organisation. This led me to think about how, if I should or if I even could separate work from play.

Like many people I know I initially joined LinkedIn for my professional development and to keep in touch with contacts who I have met through networking, events and work. At first I wasn’t too sure what I thought of people contacting me directly about my work seeking more information. But it made sense as people like dealing with people who they can put a face and name to. Inevitably if you work in marketing and are doing your job properly you will probably end up becoming a brand ambassador whether you like it or not. If you do not want to be a brand ambassador for your company then perhaps you should rethink what and who you should work for.

With the explosion of social media not only the marketing team and stakeholders need to be brand advocates – all employees need to be as well. Employers also have to take care in making sure all staff will represent their brand in the right light or at the least don’t do the opposite. This does not mean that every employee has to be out there promoting the brand and company through their social networks, but that they should at least know how to respond and act. For example, if an individual asks for information about their workplace via LinkedIn employees should know how to respond and direct them to the right person who can help in their organisation.

Ultimately, my active use of social media over the years for work and play has highlighted how important it is to become a brand ambassador for my work. To me, this can only be done if I am passionate and believe in the organisation I work for. This is now a key factor in my job hunt for my next London marketing role!

I am interested to hear whether you have had the same experience and/or whether you have chosen to keep the two separate?