It’s a simple prompt that can make even the most talented people sweat: Tell me about yourself. Whether you’re interviewing for your dream job or attending your first team stand-up meeting, introducing yourself and talking about your own achievements can be stressful.
How can you possibly distill the nuances of your professional story and accomplishments into a concise statement that sounds confident and charming, but not braggadocious? With a few tricks, you can get better at talking about yourself and communicating your value, according to Louis Melendez, a communication coach and the founder of Have Better Conversations.
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For starters, there’s a big difference between boasting and bragging. “Boasting is talking about ourselves from a place of pride and eloquence,” Louis said in a recent virtual workshop for the Codecademy community. “Bragging is when we get nasty, competitive, and contrasting.” There’s a time and a place for professional boasting, like during a job interview or heading into a performance review. But bragging, criticizing others, and over-exaggerating your accomplishments tends to be off-putting no matter the scenario.
If you missed the workshop, we got you! Here are Louis’ tips for telling your professional story, being your own hype person, and making a lasting impression. Be sure to sign up for upcoming Codecademy community events to get more career advice and coding tips, plus connect with other learners around the world.
When talking about your accomplishments, look for places to articulate the specific impact you made. “Specificity breeds credibility,” Louis says. Pointing to a particular time when you identified a challenge and came up with a solution is much more effective than saying something vague, like, “I did a good job” or “I worked really hard and met my goals.”
It helps to have a running document where you keep track of what you’re doing, that way you can reference your recent quantifiable and quantitative achievements, Louis says. For example, which projects did you lead? Did you help make your team’s process more efficient? Did you mentor a junior dev? Having these wins down on paper makes it easy to recite them the next time you need to advocate for yourself. (You can learn more about how to make a “hype doc” in this blog.)
Emphasize (and contextualize) your impact
Lots of people struggle with making their individual contributions visible. Your hard work will not necessarily speak for itself, so you have to let people know what you’re doing, and take credit for your work, Louis says. You can do that by sharing weekly wins with your team leader and teammates, or bringing your hype doc to your performance review.
Depending on who you’re talking to, people may not grasp the scope or significance of your work right away. That’s why it’s important to immediately talk about the business impact of your work, Louis says. Think about the effect your project or expertise had on the team or organization as a whole.
Try to use language that’s approachable for people so that they can really understand what your output means for their day-to-day life, Louis says. (A non-technical person at your organization may not be able to contextualize your impact without some additional explanation.) For example, maybe a design decision you made led to an increase in sales. Or perhaps you took initiative to automate a task that saved everyone hours of time.
Make it positive
As you’re talking up your successes, avoid comparing or contrasting your work to your teammates’, Louis says. For example, saying something like, “I spent way more time debugging other people’s code because nobody else on my team takes the time to do it,” is not the vibe. Keep the focus on your own work, stay positive and forward-thinking, and don’t get distracted by how other people are advancing.
“When we’re boasting, we’re not putting other people down, and we’re not lifting ourselves up relative to others,” Louis says. “We’re simply lifting ourselves up.” In other words: Don’t get distracted comparing yourself to others.
With that in mind, you could reframe the previous example, saying, “I debugged hundreds of lines of code this quarter, which gave me fascinating insight into our code base and allowed me to forge relationships with more senior engineers on our team.”
Practice using this script
Here is an easy-to-remember script Louis wrote that you can use the next time you need to talk about yourself. It’s set up so you can mention a few of your professional achievements and goals, and sprinkle in a bit of information about your personal interests and passions that will make you stand out.
Hi my name is…
A fun fact about me is…
I’m proud to say…
In the future, I hope to…
Want to keep developing core communication skills? Louis offers coaching and courses that can help you with job interviews, salary negotiations, public speaking, giving and receiving feedback, and any other time you need to communicate confidently. (BTW, you can enter the promo code CODE at checkout to receive a discount on Louis’ courses.)
We’re always hosting free events for folks in the Codecademy community to learn these important job-readiness skills, connect with other code enthusiasts, and hear from inspiring thought leaders. Sign up for an upcoming community event, or join the discussions in our Discord server and forums.