Nov 112010

Or how to showcase your talent  subtly:

Every now and then somebody says that as a professional you have to be humble. Depending on what they mean, they are very wrong.  When you vying for a position, the last thing  you want to do is hide your light under a bushel. If you have qualities, your job search is the time to let them show.

The employers you apply to don’t want you to be humble. They want to know what you can do and why they should hire you.  Most don’t want anyone who appears arrogant, and that’s your conundrum: Strutting your stuff without appearing full of yourself. Showing your value without appearing arrogant is your goal, not humility or even modesty.

You have every right to be proud of your achievements and skills, and your pride and self assurance should be visible  in your life in the industry as well as your job search. Quiet self assurance, on paper or in an interview, is impressive, but putting it on paper is challenging. It can be done, though.  Here are a couple of tricks. Or really one: Share credit and don’t brag.

1: Bragging – I received five stars for my fine cuisine at La Chose. Not bragging: During this period as Executive Chef La Chose received five stars. Eh voila! You still get all the credit, and you have shown yourself to be a team player to boot.

2. Bragging: I opened this prestigious restaurant. Not Bragging: I was the opening chef/sous chef / manager for this five star restaurant.

3. Bragging: I brought down the food cost and increased sales by 35%. Not bragging: During my employment as Executive Chef the restaurant’s food cost was reduced by 12%, while sales increased by 35%.

4. Avoid the first person singular  if you can in any way. That, for those who don’t love grammar, the words ” I”, “me”, “my”.  Instead of I was voted the best restaurant, try “We were voted the best restaurant.” Or: The Plains Dealer readers voted Chez Shorty the best new restaurant of 2001. If you were voted best chef (obviously something you don’t share), try to avoid the pronoun. (“Voted best chef of 2007 by Foodstuffs Journal”)

5. Self praise stinks. Rather than stating on  your resume that you are “an exceptional leader,” a “skilled culinarian” or a “gifted chef”, let your history speak for you. Few employers give much credit to statements like “I am a consummate professional and an exceptional manager.”  They will see as much if you say you managed a staff totaling 75, training college students where experienced staff was not available, or that your duties included creating maximum cooperation between the service staff and kitchen to assure guest satisfaction.

As you see, it’s easy to display your achievements without “hogging” the credit. You show yourself to be a team player as well as the splendidly talented professional you are.

It’s not what you think you are that impresses employers, but what you can prove you have done. Don’t hesitate to lay it out clearly. If you developed a green waste management program  (or better  if you worked with the management team to develop one), let it be known. (“My responsibilities included working with the local utilities commission to develop a .etc.)

What if you received awards? That’s different. If they advance your case, state them. If not, leave them for an interview.

Every so often someone in an  interview says something like, “I’ve had the privilege of working with a terrific staff.” I know I am dealing with a star when I hear that.