I Was Just Doing My Job

As he explained to me why his job search was so difficult for him, the words I have heard from so many clients came out next, “I find all this self-marketing stuff really hard. I don’t like talking about myself. It wasn’t anything special. I was just doing my job.”

We talked further about Joseph’s accomplishments (not his real name), and I learned that he had helped the owner to thoroughly transform the company’s internal project management process. This resulted not only in decreasing turnaround time by days, but also created highly satisfied clients, drove a significant boost in word-of-mouth business, and was a key factor in business growth of over 20% during his first year in the role. The owner attests to these statements.

Joseph has topped out at this company, and while he is on great terms with the owner, it is time for him to move on and develop other dearly-held skills which have been under-utilized in his current role. However, his job search hadn’t gone far, in some measure because his resume was a dry recitation of job titles and responsibilities.

“But I was just doing my job,” he reiterated.

“What do you suppose will convince hiring managers and recruiters to take a deeper look at your skills and experience?” I asked. “A laundry list of responsibilities, or a few well-chosen, relevant success stories that demonstrate your impact on the business?”

It was a loaded question, I know.

We continued an exploration of his past accomplishments and found that Joseph had a number of excellent success stories that he hadn’t yet defined in his self-marketing efforts.

We identified scope of impact (how many new clients came through word-of-mouth; what was the average dollar size of those new projects; how much did he help increase capacity; what impact did this have on profitability).

“I was just doing my job” has killed many interviews before they get started. The “head trash” that often accompanies the need to self-market can be a non-starter in your job search. Most of us struggle to be objective about our strengths and accomplishments in the first place, so “I was just doing my job” adds one more avoidable roadblock.

Take action to remove that roadblock by documenting your best Success Stories (situation/challenge, actions, and results – including scope and metrics). Move past this limiting thinking and find out where and how you do your best work. Use these Success Stories to drive your self-marketing. That will get you more job interviews with decision-makers who need your solutions.