For any job, school application, scholarship, publishing deal, etc., we are all forced to “sell ourselves”. We have to find a way to convince very specific people that we are better than the other people in our position. It’s never easy, often scary, and can amount to quite a bit of trial and error. There can be a lot at stake, but even if there isn’t, it can take a lot out of you.
I won’t lie to you. I’m not going to say there’s a super secret cheap and easy way to be successful. At least, if there is one I sure don’t know it. But I have learned a lot about the process of how it works, and how to present yourself professionally and elegantly to whoever you may be reaching out to.
The most important thing is to know your audience. This goes with a lot of things, especially for a writer, but really, all you need to know is what they want from you and what they expect of you. You see, even if there are, say, ten thousand people applying to this job or college, you don’t have to be the best of all of them. In fact, you don’t even have to be in the top one thousand. All you really have to do is convince the people reading your paper/proposal/whatever that you are the best and most qualified person to do whatever it is they may be looking for.
This isn’t as hard as you may think. As I brought up last week, “Fake it ’til you make it” is actually really sound advice. Show your interviewers that you are exactly what they are looking for. Never put yourself down. Be confident. Bump up and embellish your accomplishments without lying. It’s okay to make things sound more impressive than they really are.
People are never expecting perfection. Let’s say you’re trying to get a job, maybe at a clothing store. Imagine what the perfect employee would be like from management’s perspective: diligent, communicative, and enthusiastic. These are the traits you want your interviewer to see in you, whether or not they are true (though remember, lying is never a good route to take). So when you’re planning a resume, or thinking about the questions an interviewer may ask, write up accomplishments and think about the honest responses that would paint a picture of you in that light.
If it helps, you can also imagine yourself to be somebody that has already successfully done this thing you’re trying to do. Look at the version of you that has landed this job, won this scholarship, or published this book. What are they like? If you imagine them to have different traits than the current you, pick out those traits. Find little ways to make yourself more like that ideal you. Go for a jog if that “successful you” is more energetic than you really are.
As a parting word of advice, whenever you present yourself to others professionally, you’re making a promise when they hire/accept you. You can’t show “successful you” to an interviewer and then be lazy and boring you after you’re hired, because they didn’t hire boring you. You have no obligation if for whatever reason you fail their test, but if you do succeed, guess what: “successful you” is the real you now.