You're sitting at your computer, about to apply for your dream job, but then thoughts start to go through your head that this is a waste of your time.
Maybe you're thinking, "My parents didn't go to college," or "I have a learning disability." "When I went on their website and I looked at the folks in the most senior level roles, I didn't see anyone who represented my race or my gender." "There's just no way I'm going to get this job." So you don't even submit the application.
But I'm here to tell you that your self-doubt about your experiences can be the key to driving your career success.
[The Way We Work] [Made possible with the support of Dropbox]
Most of us experience self-doubt at high-stakes moments, especially if they're people of color, first generation college student, or they don't have a traditional background, so they don't fit "the mold." If that's you, you're a part of my community.
What I've realized is that these experiences that seem like a liability are actually your differentiating strength. The secret is to transform how you perceive your own story. Even if you've been on an untraditional path, you've accrued some skills over time that are really valuable in the workforce. Your task is to identify those experiences and trumpet them, because it's likely that story, that is your ticket to a great job.
I know this, because I had my own self-doubts that I had to overcome. I didn't have top-notch internships in college. I also wasn't an extraordinary student. By the time graduation came around, I was definitely the thank you, laude, versus the cum laude. What I didn't realize was that I was really good at connecting with people, and now as a talent nerd and a CEO, I've watched thousands of graduates, who actually had a lot of self-doubts, overcome those and accomplish goals they never thought were imaginable, and here's how.
Ask yourself two questions. The first is, why do you want to do this work? Maybe you already know the kind of job or work environment that makes you happy, or maybe you haven't quite figured that out yet. Usually, your personal experiences can help give you clues. For example, did your grandmother do manual labor, and it made you really worry that she didn't get access to high quality healthcare? Did your brother have to overcome his dyslexia, and you helped him with his reading? And so, you became really attuned to education policy. When you're in an interview, go ahead and talk about them, because it will show your passion and your dedication to the work.
One young person I know, Dylan, was not sharing his personal story about filling out immigration papers for his parents when he was younger. Often when he told it, people would think that his parents weren't sophisticated. Dylan realized that he needed to harness the power of that incredible story, along with his academic talents. He told it in a way, when he was applying to law school, that made it clear why he wanted to go into advocacy law. He is now in his third year at Georgetown Law.
The second question you have to ask yourself is, how can I share my story to showcase the unique strengths I will bring to the work? For example, did you have to work multiple jobs while you were in college that did not at all align with your major? That shows an employer that you have time management skills and a strong work ethic. Did you need to drop out of college because one of your parents was sick? Fill in the gap, talk about how you administered their treatment plan. Talk about how you had to work around their complex schedules. That shows that you're thoughtful, that you're compassionate, and you know what, that is what makes a great teammate.
Reframing the hardship in your story can remake your confidence over and over again, but it takes time. It's like running a marathon. You have to train and practice.
Go back and reflect on those tough questions that you need to answer. The answers are what makes you you, and I have to tell you, when you learn to practice that story, tell it with conviction. I am sure that the hiring manager is going to hear the strength in it too.