How to Discuss Your Strengths When You Don't Like Talking About Yourself

Photo by  Hian Oliveira  on  Unsplash

Hands down, the most common problem my clients struggle with is talking about themselves and their accomplishments in resumes, cover letters, interviews, and networking settings. I hear the same things over and over: 

  • “I don’t like feeling as though I have to sell myself.” 

  • “I’m not good at pitching myself.” 

  • “I’m worried about coming across as boasting or egotistical.” 

  • “Talking about my personal strengths just feels icky.” 

More often than not, this is due to one of two things: 

  1. A lack of introspective work to explore and understand one’s strengths, or

  2. The need for language to confidently communicate what someone knows about themselves, but doesn’t necessarily know how to say. 

How to Discuss Your Strengths When You Don't Like Talking About Yourself

If this is an issue you face, be honest with yourself. It’s going to trip you up at every single juncture of the job search process. 

A sense of disconnection from your strengths, from who you are and what you really want, can lead you to: 

  • Choose jobs that are more about getting away from your current situation than finding the right fit for you.

  • Miss opportunities to build a great case for yourself in cover letters and resumes, greatly decreasing your conversion rate to interviews. 

  • Sell yourself short in interviews, receiving more rejections and fostering demotivation.

  • Fail to adequately advocate for yourself during salary negotiation, leading to chronic underpayment. 

So, what can you do about it? 

Leverage Your Strengths

One great option is to use an objective assessment to provide you a report out of your strengths and common, HR-centric language to communicate the value of your strengths in the work setting.

I personally use CliftonStrengths for this process, and am able to glean clear, strong language to talk about my core strengths.

For example, if you have strength in empathy, it helps you excel in sales and client engagement situations where you are able to maintain an awareness of the needs and unvoiced questions/concerns from the other part. Depth in relationships consistent with empathy is a critical skill for sales, business development, partnership development, consensus-building, stakeholder engagement, and client success roles. 

If you have strength in restoration, you are adept at making order out of chaos, have a solution-oriented mindset, and are able to bring a sense of calmness, courage, and creativity to problematic situations. Restoration also provides leadership traits such as problem identification, issue resolution, and risk assessment and mitigation. 

Those strong in Significance excel in independent settings where you can pave your way. They have an excellence orientation, impeccable professionalism and are able to build credibility with others quickly. With a determination to make a difference, those strong in Significance are often focused on being their best. These are critical attributes for professionals that need to be focused on performance outcomes, and positions you well for ‘front-and-center’ functions such as external engagement, giving presentations, outreach, partnership development, or leading high-stakes projects.