Back when I worked in HR, I’d often be greeted in the office by literally hundreds of CVs to read through for different jobs.
What with those, and all the CVs I now read for people who want new ones, I can confidently confirm that the most popular thing people write about themselves when they’re looking for a job is…
(…drum roll, please!)
“I work well in a team and on my own.”
Do you think that’s an interesting thing for someone to write about themselves?
Not only is it boringly bland, but most of the time it’s not even true. We’re all better at one or the other. I hate working with other people so much, that I had to start my own business to get away from their needy personalities and unreasonable demands (that’s sort-of a joke).
The message here is not just to stop writing things about yourself that are dull and untrue, but to stop writing the same things everybody else writes about themselves as well.
How will you manage that?
1. Start with an anecdote
This is a good tip for writing blog posts: open with an anecdote, otherwise known as a short, personal story-with-a-point.
Use a conversation you’ve had with someone (you can make them anonymous if you like), an amusing incident, or something that occurred to you, to set the scene for what’s to come.
Most readers will find this a much more entertaining opener than the perennial “During these unprecedented times…” (isn’t it ironic that the word ‘unprecedented’ has enjoyed such an unprecedented surge in popularity over the past two years!)
But the other great thing about starting with an anecdote is that it makes your writing truly unique to you, and as such, difficult for other people to copy.
2. Use quirky personal facts
Weaving in the odd quirky fact will make your profiles and ‘About Me’ summaries more interesting for others to read.
Particularly if all you’ve got at the moment is: “I like spending time with my friends and family”, or “I enjoy socialising/reading/going to the cinema”.
Facts are great ice-breakers, too. Not only do they make you appear instantly friendly and approachable, but they could even be the reason someone gets in touch with you.
(I’ve got a short list of facts on my website’s ‘About’ page, and people occasionally mention one of them when they contact me for the first time.
This one (above) inspired an email from a professor at a Moscow university, who as well as asking me to copy-edit some of their English materials, offered me a fascinating explanation of the Russian etymology of ‘War and Peace’).
If you’re having trouble coming up with a fact for yourself, try these prompts:
- What’s your proudest achievement? (Don’t think “my kids” – think something like assembling a complicated piece of flat-pack furniture in under 10 minutes, or making it all the way through to the end of a notoriously long book or film).
- What did you want to be when you grew up? What went wrong?
- What’s your favourite biscuit?
3. Tell the story behind the story
Nothing and nobody is boring, once we’re able to understand them properly.
You might worry that your life, or your business, is too mundane to write about in an interesting way. But by taking readers behind the scenes and sharing the finer detail, you’ll help them to connect with whatever you’ve chosen to tell them.
For example, I once worked with a client who had just started his own tech business, and was looking for ways to set himself apart from his competitors.
His company name wasn’t immediately obvious (it said nothing about tech). When I asked him about it, he explained that a close friend had given him a ‘good luck’ charm when he’d been made redundant a year or so before, so he’d named his company after that.
We told that story in a blog post and on his company website. It did an excellent job of connecting people with his company on a deeper, more personal level… which is a fantastic way of setting yourself apart.
If you’re struggling with inspiration, or even plain old time, I can help you come up with new and engaging ways to talk about yourself. Contact me to find out more.
I'm a friendly and professional writer, reviewer and editor who works with warmth, humour and flexibility.
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