My most recent blog topic was about how interviewees often default to using the word “nice” to describe themselves if they haven’t prepared for their interview. I think that this same reluctance to be more open about their positive personal qualities and work-related talents answers in part the question about why, for example, a website like LinkedIn hasn’t taken off in Norway as it has in countries like the US and UK. Could it be that the stereotype of Scandinavian modesty and unwillingness to brag about oneself still holds a grip on the workforce? In turn affecting foreign-born employees who want to fit in in their (newly) adopted country so that they tone down their own communication style?
I’d answer that yes they do, to a certain extent – just look at people’s Summary sections on LinkedIn and you’ll see why. That is, if you can find one at all. This is the place where we need to summarize what we do in such a positive way that readers (for instance, the 40% of ‘decision makers on hiring’ such as HR-people) will want to continue down your profile page to learn more about you as an active professional/student. Why then are so many of these Summaries missing or so ‘thin’ on information that you really get no good idea of what this person does for a living? A typical reply I’ve received to this question is the one a LinkedIn course participant gave me a few weeks ago: ‘I just don’t know where to begin. And I don’t want to overdo it and appear full of myself. And that makes me insecure, so it’s easier not to do anything at all and leave it blank.’ Other heads in the room nodded, and we all let out a massive, collective sigh…
Until I stopped sighing and told him and his classmates: “You can do this! Just keep it simple and follow these five steps”
1. First, before you start writing, think hard about whom you are writing for (your ‘target audience’).
F.ex. What are their problems and how can you solve them?
2. Next, write in the first person as if speaking to your reader (use ‘I’)
3. Include a few keywords in your writing – not too many! (seems fake)
F.ex. I use ‘administrate, teach, translate, proofread, blog’
4. Share highlights of your expertise. What makes you unique?
5. Finally, include a ‘call to action’ at bottom of your Summary in a separate line.
F.ex. ‘If you’d like more information, please contact me at …’
*Please note I’ve written (Easy) in the title above – because writing well about yourself does take some time and effort, and is admittedly easier for some people than it is for others. Yet this five-step mini-guide will hopefully help you at the very least get over the not knowing where to begin. And the self-defeating, outdated thought that you are bragging and should probably just leave this whole Summary thing alone. Rather, use your well-written Summary to connect in the professional world! Use it in ‘oral format’ next time you’re in the interview hot seat! It will serve you well – after all, it’s your own unique story that you deserve to tell, so don’t be reluctant about sharing it with others. We’d like to hear it.