Potential and Self-Identity

In Meg Jay’s The Defining Decade, she discusses the evaluation of a “twentysomething” based on his or her perceived potential to succeed.  She states, “As a twentysomething, life is still more about potential than proof.”  This may give the impression that we should become great storytellers or some may even interpret this as a suggestion to become skillful liars, but the true message behind this is to become a great communicator about who you are and what you’re passionate about.

When I first began interviewing for internships my sophomore year in college, I found the single hardest question to be “tell me about yourself”.  I struggled to answer it because I had never truly taken the time to self reflect.  Where to begin?  I decided to compile a list of questions that would help me tell my story:

  1. List of adjectives that describe yourself
  2. Extrovert/Introvert? Do you like to work in teams or alone?
  3. Reasons for joining a certain organization/working at a company/doing a certain activity and What did you like about it?
  4. How has your background and personality influenced your interests today?
  5. What do you like to read (When you open a newspaper what section do you jump to first)?
  6. Where do you envision yourself in the future?  Where do you see yourself when you close your eyes and what are you doing?
  7. What skills and experiences will help you achieve this vision?
  8. ***How do you want to be perceived and what things would you need to achieve in your career to change how others perceive you and / or actually change your REAL skills?

*** I’ve recently added #8 to my list of questions after reading Mark Suster’s “If You Don’t Define Your Personal Brand, the Market Will”.  As important as it is to be able to tell your story with confidence and fluency, it is even more vital to have it received as you have intended it to be understood.  Perception is everything in first impressions (Personal branding to be elaborated in a later post).

Through this process, I began to understand my passions, strengths and weaknesses.  I found that my interest in technology developed from my regular appearance at Hewlett-Packard’s “Bring Your Daughter to Work Day” events (on my other visits I was sometimes given my own cubicle!) and the fact that I grew up in a family of engineers.  I realized I chose German as my foreign language because my piano duet partner, who was my role model, was half German.  I understood that I preferred a team environment because when I made the decision to transition from swimming and track–both individual sports–to volleyball in high school, I never turned back.

With this new understanding of myself, I began to feel more confident and comfortable in my interviews.  I actually couldn’t wait to be asked “tell me about yourself”.  I also found it easier to meet new people as I was able to quickly find common ground by recognizing my interests.  My self-awareness became a sign of maturity to others and this translated into their trust in my potential to be successful.  The goal was to be perceived as someone who identified her passions at an early age and would be fearless and determined in her efforts to achieve her goals.

Because every day is a first day for someone, we are required to continuously self evaluate ourselves to be able to effectively communicate our potential.



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