My little sister recently graduated from Psychology. When she went to her first interview, the interviewer asked her:
“What are your strengths and weaknesses?”.
Is there a more classic question than that? Unfortunately she had trouble to answer the question, and in the end she was not selected.
Graduate programs and internships are most often looking for the rigth person rather than the right knowledge, so the problem with recent graduates is that they are not aware of their personal brand.
The best book I read on personal brand was Brand You 50 by Tom Peters. In Tom´s world, we are here to create cool things. In 10 years you should be able to look back and say: “I did all that good stuff”. Every task is a project, and every project is something you can talk about and be proud of. You want to be with other cool people who do cool things, and get out of your cubicle. You want to be a leader, regardless of your age or your position.
But there is more to personal brand. Personal brand is about how you portray yourself, and it´s also about knowing your strengths and your weaknesses, maximising the output you get from your strengths and work on your weaknesses.
The problem with graduates is that they often have not made enough “cool projects”. This means 2 things:
1. it can be hard to prove strenghts: The fact that you say you are a “good team worker” does not mean you are one. You need good stories.
2. You don´t know your strengths and weaknesses anyway: In most cases you lack the self-awareness to know how you compare to other people, particularly people who are already inside the firm, simply because you have not run enough projects with enough people yet, or at least, not in a business environment that you can see in your mind.
The thing is that someone with a good track record or experience can afford to be self’-aware because the CV speaks for itself.
You as a graduate cannot afford not to be aware of your personal brand. That´s all you have.
So you must learn about your own personal brand:
1. Ask yourself what you stand for. What do you want to be when you grow. What cool projects you want to have achieved.
2. Get feedback from the people who know you well. Ask them openly what they think you stand for.
3. Find the differences, now that gives you something to think.
4. Your strengths are your product, your brand, what you can sell, the reason why somebody wants to pay for you. Set objectives of 1-3 projects for the next 12 months where you will potentiate your strengths with great new stories.
5. Think about your weaknesses and set objectives to improve 1-2 in the next 12 months in such way that you could write about them.
I have done a lot of personal branding for myself. The time when I improved myself the most was when I wrote stuff as if I had achieved it. I remember once I received feedback because I was very bad at public presentations. I heard about a competition for public presentations 3 months later. I promised to myself that I would win it, and I wrote it on a post-it: “I have won the presentation competition and I feel great”. The next day I bought 3 books and read them all. I practiced my presentation skills at home and, round after round I saw myself in the final of the competition, which I won in the end. I was the youngest and the only non-native speaker, but I had taken some feedback and turned it around. Now I could speak of a “cool project”. I might never become a “natural born speaker”, but knowing my weaknesses helped me to improve.
TraitPerception is a flexible platform in that it allows you to receive feedback anonymously and easily, and besides, you can use your report to prove your reputation. Don´t feel bad about development needs or potential weaknesses, on the contrary, learn from them, learn what people think you are today and what you want to stand for, and once you know it, it will be a lot easier for you to show your potential employer why you are the person they are looking for and land that graduate program or internship.
Juan holds an MBA from Chicago Booth with high honors and an MSc in Electrical Engineering from UPM.
His hobbies are capoeira, a brazilian martial art, drawing and tennis.
“Reward excellent failures”