This is a job you’ve wanted for a while. It’s perfect for you; a natural step up in your career with more responsibility, better pay, and an opportunity to make a difference. You’re finally met by the interviewer who seems friendly and personable. She leads you to a small office to begin the interview.
After a moment of formalities and paper shuffling, she looks up at you and says,
“So, tell me about yourself.”
How do you respond? With your positioning statement.
Before my layoff in December of 2015, I had never written a positioning statement. But, not long after the announcement, my career coach and I met to put one together.
What’s a positioning statement?
A positioning statement is an important communication tool you can use in interviews, networking events and social functions. Think of it as a 15-30 second advertisement for your personal brand. It should include your professional identity, areas of expertise, strengths, and what you’re looking for.
Positioning Statement Template #1
Alright, we can do this in four sentences. For this walk-through we’ll assume we’re writing a positioning statement for a software developer, and then I’ll include an example for a customer service supervisor. Let’s fill in the following blanks with the software developer’s information.
Sentence #1: I am a ______ with ______ years of experience in the ______ industry.
This is where you will communicate your professional identity, not necessarily your job title. For example, your job title might be technical specialist II, but you may decide software developer is more descriptive. For example, I am a software developer with 3 years of experience in the technology industry.
Sentence #2: I have expertise in ______.
The second sentence will provide your areas of expertise. List three major responsibilities or detailed skills for which you are considered an expert. For example, I have expertise in mobile communications, app development and QA testing.
Sentence #3: My strengths include ______, ______, and ______.
This is where you list three of your strongest qualities that set you apart from other candidates. They could be specialized or particularly desirable skill sets, or some other skill or specialty that is part of your personal brand. You may also substitute a major accomplishment for the last strength. For example, My strengths include object oriented programming languages, complexity reduction, and bug removal. Or if you add the accomplishment it would say, My strengths include object oriented programming languages and complexity reduction and I was recently recognized for my outstanding compliance scores.
Sentence #4: I’m looking for an opportunity to ______.
End with a reminder that you’re looking for an opportunity like the one the recruiter is hiring for, and reference the job description. Use vivid language to paint a picture of your brand values. Let’s say the job description says:
- You have a passion for not just coding, but better software design at all levels.
- You have experience or significant interest in web technologies
You might say, “I’m looking for an opportunity to turn my knowledge and passion for web technologies into better software design that solves problems, exceeds expectations and converts leads into loyal customers“.
Put it all together and bang! Here’s our new positioning statement:
I am a software developer with 3 years of experience in the technology industry. I have expertise in mobile communications, app development and QA testing. My strengths include object oriented programming languages and complexity reduction and I was recently recognized for my outstanding compliance scores. I’m looking for an opportunity to turn my passion for web technologies into better software design that solves problems, exceeds expectations and converts leads into loyal customers.
And here’s an example of one for a customer service role:
I’m a customer service supervisor with 5 years of experience in the credit card industry. I have expertise in sales, service and collections. My strengths include first call resolution and diffusing customer escalations and I’m consistently recognized by management for my outstanding quality scores. I’m looking for an opportunity to leverage my credit card knowledge and my superior communication skills to inspire brand loyalty, create customer advocates and make a meaningful difference.
Positioning Statement Template #2
I just learned about this template from The Brand New You show with Ryan Rhoten, episode 90 titled Your Personal Brand Statement. I encourage you to listen to Ryan’s podcast for more detail, but here are the basics:
Sentence #1: I am ______.
Similar to the above examples, this is where you state what you are known for, or what you want to be known for (podcast editor, copywriter, retail store manager, etc).
Sentence #2: I help ______ understand/do ______ so that ______.
The last sentence actually has three spaces you will fill in to complete this positioning statement. First, you will clarify who it is that you help; those that benefit from your contribution. Second, you will state what your customers understand or do better as a result of your help. And finally, after “so that”, you will say how your customers benefit from working with you.
“Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation” – Zig Zigler
Write/revise + Rehearse^10
Failing to master the delivery of your positioning statement can have lasting results.
In her book, Presence, Amy Cuddy tells us about the time she delivered an elevator pitch to three prominent social psychologists in her field. Let’s just say it didn’t go well. As she recalls in her book,
“May face went hot; my mouth went dry. Hyperaware that not one but three luminary scholars were confined with me in that tiny space, I began my pitch – or, rather, words started tumbling out of my mouth. I knew by the end of the first sentence that I’d started all wrong. I heard myself saying things like “So…oh, wait, before I explain that part…” I could barely follow my own story. And as the awareness of my imminent failure closed in, the ability to think about anything other than my crushing anxiety fled.”
How will you fair when it’s your turn?
Let’s say you’re the maid of honor or the best man at your bff’s wedding, and you’re expected to deliver a short speech. You can write up a wedding toast and read it through a few times, but if that’s all you do, you’re likely to make a mistake on the big day.
Renowned author and speaker Zig Zigler once said: “Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation.” You’ll get the opportunity to deliver your positioning statement in your interview, but to stick the landing you absolutely must prepare for it. In other words, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!
Treat your rehearsals as a role-play, imagining that you’re in the interview. I sometimes find myself strolling around the house, rehearsing out loud over and over again. At times I’ll stop and rehearse a piece that I’m having trouble with, until I can deliver that part smoothly, then I take it from the top and go through it all again.
So, if you want your positioning statement to roll off the tongue, rehearse it out loud at least 10 times, or until you can deliver it naturally and confidently. If something doesn’t sound right as you rehearse, tweak it a bit until it does, then continue rehearsing. When you’re ready, practice it out loud to a friend or family member.
What’s your position?
The next time you hear “tell me about yourself” in an interview or networking event, you can now respond with a descriptive and eloquent positioning statement that firmly establishes your personal brand.
Thank you for reading! Do you have any tips on writing a positioning statement? Please leave a comment below or on my website http://www.milesshattuck.com.