How to craft a natural self-description to boost your career prospects.

How to craft a natural self-description to boost your career prospects

March 31, 2024

In my final year of primary school, class tests showed I generally rated about 6th out of the 40 students in my class. But in an unofficial type of test that our teacher, Mr Thorpe, quite often liked to give us, I nearly always came first. Great! What was the subject? It was general knowledge. And during my career, this wide interest led me to craft a natural self-description that boosted my career prospects.

I loved learning about the world around us, and although general knowledge was never included in formal tests, the results reflected my natural interest in news events, and in writing. These wide natural interests led me to my lifelong career in public relations / professional communication, in which it is essential to take an interest and understand trends and events in business and the world around us. This is what registers in the minds of employers and others in business.

A natural preference

Of course, discussing your expertise is essential, but Harvard researchers have found that during their career, a person is generally considered to be a natural for a particular job or project, or they are a striver, who is perceived to have had to work hard to achieve the same results.

The Harvard researchers said:

Our society is deeply conflicted about the source of excellence. On one hand, we are fascinated with child prodigies, portraying them as wonders of nature. On the other hand, we love a good ‘overcoming adversity’ story, as it inspires us all to greatness.

In the research, participants acting as potential entrepreneurial employers proved to be biased towards ‘natural’ applicants.

The preference for ‘naturals’ over ‘strivers’ in performance judgments was investigated in detail. Participants judged the ‘naturals’ to be superior to the ‘strivers’ on several dimensions of performance and success. In view of this, it is important for you to write your CV using a natural self-description to boost your career prospects.

Here’s how to craft a natural self-description that boosts your career prospects

You may think you don’t sound humble when you speak about yourself as being naturally suited or gifted for your chosen career, but you should imply these capabilities in all of your bios and in your personal elevator pitch.

Describe yourself persuasively as a natural in a personal elevator pitch

Let’s say you’re a professional communicator. You have the choice of basically describing yourself as (1) a striver, or as (2) a natural:

Option 1. “When I finished school, I decided to start a career in advertising or PR because these jobs had glamor. So I worked really hard to get a degree and then I have conscientiously worked my way up in a consultancy. In this time, I have succeeded in doing…” [52 words]

Sounds like a good, humble thing to say. Many people would be happy with this. But the Harvard study suggests we’d consider option 2 would be a better approach if you described yourself like this:

Option 2. “At school, I realized I had a natural interest in people, and also an aptitude for business because my dad was a businessman. So, I got a degree in business communication, worked energetically in this profession, and used my business capabilities to play an active role in my industry…During my time with…, I have…, and I think this gives me great potential to…” [60 words]

Emphasize your potential as well

Other Harvard research found that when people seek to impress others, they highlight their achievements. However, the researchers found that people evaluating others often prefer potential instead of achievement.

In fact, compared with references to achievement (eg, “this person has won an award for their work”), references to potential (eg, “this person could win an award for their work”) appear to stimulate greater interest and processing, which can generate more-favorable reactions.

This can lead to situations in which the potential to be good at something can be preferred more than actually being good at the same thing. This preference was confirmed by the research in various situations.

The takeaway

In job applications and interviews, always ensure you draw attention to your potential for adding value to the new role, as in option 2, above.

Restyle your personal elevator pitch to capitalize on the opportunities it creates

 Some valuable advice, Indeed:

A personal elevator pitch is a quick summary of yourself. The term relates to the length of time it should take you to deliver your pitch about yourself, which is usually the duration of a short elevator ride (roughly 30 to 60 seconds or 75 words – assuming you haven’t started it during waiting time!). Elevator pitches are often about a product or your organization, so think through how those pitches would be different from your personal elevator pitch.

A good elevator pitch is important because it effectively demonstrates your professional  strengths, skills and potential. An elevator pitch can also be used flexibly in various situations, which makes it especially valuable. If possible, you should always have some talking points about yourself prepared so you’re ready to take advantage of unexpected opportunities, especially during a job search.

You can use part or all of your pitch to prepare for an interview, either on video or in-person. You’ll be asked to provide a summary of who you are, your background, and what you want from your next job. The elevator pitch can be a good framework for the start of an interview, where you are likely to be asked, “Tell me/us about yourself.”

The substance of your personal elevator pitch can be used to outline your cover letter or a professional summary statement at the top of your resumé. If you’ve already crafted an elevator pitch, then this is a great way to repurpose it.

Your personal elevator pitch can be adapted for networking at an event or during a spontaneous encounter. Whether you’re in line at the grocery store, at a cocktail party or an organized professional gathering, the pitch can quickly help new contacts understand why they should connect with you or consider you when an opportunity arises.

An advantage of using an elevator pitch when speaking about your career or personal goals is that you can show you are capable of taking the lead. Instead of waiting on the other party to direct the conversation, and potentially away from what you’d like to discuss, you can assertively explain what you have to offer. In many interactions, such as a job interview, this can impress your audience.

Further reading

You may like to read further career advice in my article, “Crafting your career path: 5 tips and strategies for a fulfilling professional journey.”

I hope all this helps your quest for a top job. The above research confirms that using a personal elevator pitch with a natural self-description will boost your career. My best wishes for your career prospects!

Kim Harrison

Kim J. Harrison has authored, edited, coordinated, produced and published the material in the articles and ebooks on this website. He brings his experience in professional communication and business management to provide helpful insights to readers around the world. As he has progressed through his wide-ranging career, his roles have included corporate affairs management; PR consulting; authoring many articles, books and ebooks; running a university PR course; and business management. Kim has received several international media relations awards and a website award. He has been quoted in The New York Times and various other news media, and has held elected positions with his State and National PR Institutes.

Content Authenticity Statement. AI is not knowingly used in the writing or editing of any content, including images, in these newsletters, articles or ebooks. If AI-produced content is contained in any published form in future, this will be reported to readers.

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