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May 7, 2010
The Ability to Represent Yourself: Don't Leave Home Without It

The phrase “at the right place at the right time” is considered a cliché, but in the job search, it is relevant. Whether it is meeting a company representative at a career fair or meeting someone by chance, time is an invaluable thing to have, and knowing how to present yourself without consuming too much time is a crucial skill nowadays.

Job seekers can succeed by emphasizing their unique aspects, yet not in a lengthy or off-putting way. There is a fine line between bragging and confidently expressing one's uniqueness. Alluding to what makes you special, while also declaring you are striving to be even better, will help you present yourself positively.

Nava Yeshoalul, who possesses human resources experience with multinational companies and is currently an HR Manager in DraftFCB's Organizational Development department, says personality matters as much as skills.

“Some of the key characteristics I look for in a candidate in a short amount of time falls in the categories of 'hard' and 'soft' skills. 'Hard' involves your educational and professional background, while 'soft' is about personal values and critical-thinking abilities,” says Yeshoalul. “Write down your key traits and memorize them like you would your favorite song. Then research the company you are interested in and make sure to note the qualities that you share with them.”

Yeshoulal explains that when it comes to illustrating, you have the aforementioned “book smarts” and “street smarts” and that you're a unique star. The STAR system helps you get your point across quickly:

S: Describe the situation you were in.
T: Describe the task to be performed.
A: What was your approach to the problem?
R: What were the results of your actions?

While it is important to express yourself adeptly when meeting someone, what you do after this is just as important. Networking and following up effectively will influence companies heavily when they decide who to interview, says Julie Bertrand, Director of Strategic Sales at CBS Radio Altitude Group.

“Networking is key in today's business," Bertrand says. "Keep strong contacts with those in your industry, and always follow up with e-mails and through online networking via LinkedIn.com and at live networking events. Nothing can help more in making your résumé jump out of the pile of many like a personal endorsement from someone in your network who knows the person who you are trying to meet."

The aforementioned skills are definitely important when it comes to planned meetings with companies, but the chance meeting that could take place at any time might be even more important. "Unintentional" networking is a good way to describe it. Being ready to present yourself properly and being graceful can help immensely when you least expect it, says Carlos Hernandez-Saca, Latin America Territory Sales Manager at Cornerstone OnDemand.

“Throughout my college years, I was a waiter at Café Rustica in Oakland, California," says Hernandez-Saca, who after being hired into his first tech job (despite no prior tech experience) was able to gain years of multinational experience with several technology companies. "I did much hard work, yet also had a chance to utilize my people skills and share my energy with the restaurant's eclectic clientele.

"During my last weeks before graduating from the University of California-Berkeley with my political economies of industrial societies degree, one of our regulars was dining with her husband and casually asked me what my post-college plans were. I explained that because of my families' financial needs, I was skipping graduate school and looking for any job I could find. This woman turned out to be a technical support manager and asked if I wanted to try tech support, and landed me an informal interview with her boss, who received great references from her thanks to the years of positive experiences she had interacting with me."

Hernandez-Saca's last piece of advice rings true in business, and more importantly, in life.

“It's important to exhibit respect and great service no matter what situation or industry you might find yourself in.” 

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Elias Kamal Jabbe is a Los Angeles-based Journalist and PR Specialist and the Founder of Multicultural Matters, an online media outlet focused on multiculturalism and international entrepreneurship. Feel free to connect with him via LinkedIn or Twitter.com/Elias213 for more information.
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