Foliotek Blog

Self-Reflection Tips

Whether it’s for a resume, an eportfolio, or a job interview, knowing how to present ourselves to an audience is hard. We’ve all stared at a blank computer screen for an extended period of time, not knowing where to start. How can we summarize our life story into one page? Where do you even start?

Self-Reflection Defined: “Self-Reflection is mediation and serious thoughts about one’s character, actions, or motives.”

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Before jumping to conclusions that Self-Reflection is just as hard as presenting to your audience, take a moment to consider these steps from Sandburg. It’s very similar to exercising. It sounds really hard at first, but once you get in the rhythm, it all starts making sense. You will be happy you got started!

“It is necessary … for man to go away by himself ... to sit on a rock ... and ask, ‘Who am I, where have I been, and where am I going?” – Carl Sandburg

Step 1: Who am I?

From a career standpoint, an individual can be good at something and not enjoy it. Let’s be honest, lacking motivation and heart for your career will eventually give. So for this first step, focus on writing down the things you both enjoy and are good at. For example, maybe you are good at solving problems and you enjoy helping people. Make note of these areas and look for consistencies. Write down all the things that fire you up and that you are naturally motivated to do. Ultimately, these intrinsic motivators are what shape who you are.

Step 2: Where have I been?

This is where the reflection on past experiences will take place. Really look at what career decisions you have made and whether they turned out well or not. Learn from your mistakes, but also learn from the work environments you have enjoyed. If you haven’t had a lot of job experiences yet, write down what type of courses you really enjoyed and the learning environments where you work best. Perhaps you really liked round-table discussions or hands-on experiences. Again, apply the motivation aspect, but now specifically to your past career experiences. If you have some work experience, what positions did you like and how did you excel? Which ones were a challenge? By answering these questions now, you will be ready to really present your true passions and gifts.

Step 3: Where am I going?

After the first two steps, you should start noticing some consistencies in what career paths are a good fit for you. Consider what you can already offer to an employer with the education and the training that you’ve already received. It’s alright if you don’t have all the answers, but having a better understanding of where your strengths and passions are is a huge step in itself. Knowing the career paths you don’t want to take is also a huge victory.

These questions can help you reflect on who you are and where you want to be in life. Reflecting on this information can help you while preparing your resume, piecing together important artifacts for a portfolio, and speaking intelligently about your experiences in an interview. Even if you aren't preparing for any of the above, these tips will help you appreciate the work you've put in to get where you are today.

Related Posts:
What is Your Brand?
Tell Me About Yourself
Show Your Work


Land Your Dream Job

Elon Musk Quote

Using Foliotek to Get Your Dream Job

Employers want to see more than just a list of your skills; they want to see evidence of your work. The combination of Foliotek’s Identity Page (ID Page) and Projects is a great way to create an online brand that can be used to market yourself to potential employers. On your ID Page, you can include all of the pertinent information from your resume (objective, work and school history, etc.), but this is only the first step. Take your brand to the next level and include projects to showcase artifacts and evidence that prove you can do everything listed on your resume. When creating your online identity, your introduction is the first thing employers will see. It needs to be a solid reflection of who you are and what makes you great.

Helpful Hint: Check out Foliotek for more information and how to get started.

What makes a solid introduction?

This is your chance to attract an employer by explaining what makes you unique. Think of it as your first impression; it needs to be upbeat, honest, and brief. It should be no more than 500 characters in length, including spaces. Don’t worry, the artifacts you include in your projects will provide all the details. To keep your introduction short, focus on a few genuine characteristics and follow the guidelines below to really wow a potential employer.

Helpful Hint: The above paragraph is 455 characters (or 3 ½ tweets!)

How do I write a solid introduction?

Hook

When you read a book or watch a pilot episode of a new TV series, you want to be captivated from the beginning. The same holds true for an employer searching for a new employee. Start your introduction with an interesting story that describes what makes you who you are today. You could even include a quote, interesting fact, or statistic and reveal how it relates to you. Whatever you do, make sure it is stimulating and will make the employer want to know more about you and what you can do.

Information

Explain your hook further. Describe how the story or quote from your hook is important to your life and provide a few personal attributes that prove you will make a good employee. Think about any skills you have that would translate into the work force. What about you shows your ability to lead or work well with others? How have you interacted with others in your community? How do you stay focused on a task when things go wrong?

Helpful Hint: Check out this article by Travis Bradberry on Forbes.com to see what makes a Truly Exceptional Employee:

Thesis

Finish your introduction with an authentic statement illustrating what you want out of life and why the path you are on will help you succeed. You’ve told your employer who you are and what makes you great. Now wrap it up, and in one sentence tell them what you will do with this greatness.

Musk, Elon. "We Are Looking for Hardcore Software Engineers. No Prior Experience with Cars Required. Please Include Code Sample or Link to Your Work." Twitter. Twitter, 20 Nov. 2015. Web. 03 Dec. 2015.


Want a Job? Use Your Experiences

Getting a job isn't easy. Statistics show that half of all college graduates under the age of 25 are either unemployed or underemployed. You certainly don't want to be the person who owes Uncle Sam $100,000 big ones and is stuck selling sneakers at Shoe Carnival. You'll never move out of mom & dad's basement!!

So how do you find meaningful employment --- a career matching your passions and making use of your six figure education? It's not as hard as you think. You need two things. A digital brand (online identity) that acts as your virtual introduction and evidence that demonstrates your GRIT and Professional Skills as they pertain to your future employer.

Online Identity (virtual brand).

First, you need an online introduction. This is your opportunity to make that killer first impression. Sorry, but Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and even LinkedIn just don't cut it. I'm not going to spend time detailing how to do this...just go here and create a free account. You'll be done in 10 minutes. Step two is where we'll focus our attention today.

Quote by Dan Schawbel

Showcase GRIT & Professional Skills.

Today employers are more interested in hearing about your past experiences than grilling you with traditional interview questions. Why? Because research has shown that past experiences are a great predictor of future behaviors. Because of this, it behooves the interviewer to hear about your past experiences as they pertain to the skills they want their employees to possess. To do this, they ask questions about what you have done. This way, they learn what you can do. This style of interview questioning is called "Behavioral Based Interviewing." It looks like this:

Instead of asking you: "What would your best friend say is your greatest strength?"

You'd be asked: "Tell me about a time when you demonstrated leadership?"

You see, the employer already knows what skills they desire in a new hire (in this case, leadership). They want you to prove you possess those skills based on your previous experiences. This means you need to be ready with stories from your previous experiences that demonstrate the GRIT and Professional Skills the hiring manger is looking for. How do you do this? It's pretty simple, but it takes some focused time.

Preparation

Before you do anything, read through some job postings and think about what type of skills the job you want requires and make a list. We’ll call this "List A." If you're feeling lazy, just check out this Burning-Glass report or use the suggestions below.

  • Communication Skills
  • Organizational Skills
  • Writing Skills
  • Intuition
  • Customer Service Skills
  • Base Technology Skills (Microsoft Word, Excel)
  • Problem Solving
  • Resilience
  • Planning
  • Research
  • Being Detail Oriented
  • Ability to Grow

Now that you have List A, hit the pause button on your life (I know, this is the hardest part, but remember $65,000/year is way better than $9/hour). Take some time and think back on the substantial experiences in your life and make another list, "List B." For me, this means closing my eyes and forcing my mind to travel back-in-time and relive various aspects of my life. Try tapping into a few of these helpful categories:

  • Big school projects
  • Extracurricular school activities
  • Volunteer experiences
  • Previous job/internship experiences
  • Social experiences
  • Family interactions

Execution

With those experiences in mind (List B), try to connect some GRIT and Professional Skills (List A) with how you demonstrated those skills in that experience (List B).

(List A) x (List B) = New Job

Repeat that process a few more times (3 - 7 should suffice). Now you're locked, loaded, and ready to nail your next interview.

But wait… stop the presses… you have to get to the interview first! AHHHH!!!

Hopefully you've already taken care of Building you're Online Identity. If you have, then simply tie these stories to your Online Identity and put a link on your resume. This one two punch puts you a step ahead of everyone else. Hiring managers will be impressed by your virtual introduction and the stories demonstrating the GRIT and Professional Skills they need. You'll certainly land the interview and ultimately that great, better paying job.

Now, go by your last pair of shoes with your employee discount and move out of Mom and Dad's basement. Welcome to productive citizenship.


You can do better than a resume. Help us help you.

Resumes suck, portfolios are hard

As builders of portfolio systems (and employers ourselves) – we think portfolios show an authentic picture of who you really are and what you can do that goes way beyond a resume (cough pack of lies).  We believe everyone should be building portfolios, and employers should be looking at them when evaluating candidates.

While electronic portfolios are extremely valuable, they are a ton of work to produce and take a long time to finish.  This fact can be very demotivating to even get started – it is difficult to take that first step when looking up at a mountain.  Even if people recognize the value in having a portfolio, they often won’t start the process of building one. Only the most motivated (or those forced to in school) take that first step.

The other difficulty is that portfolios take time to evaluate, so employers often won’t look at them to narrow down candidates.  As an employer, I wouldn’t look at hundreds of portfolios to narrow down to a list of a few candidates to interview.  However, if I have something like a stack of resumes – I would narrow candidates down to ten based on the resume (and related school/work experience and transcripts), then interview each of those candidates to get some evidence of what the resume says to narrow down candidates for a deeper second interview.  We think that portfolios can take the place of that first interview and actually save the employer time.  Unfortunately, resumes are still necessary to efficiently narrow down a large list of candidates, though – even with all of the problems that resumes have (exaggeration, verifiability, keyword stuffing, etc).

Badges are better than a transcript or work history

I think one way that we can improve the status quo is with badging.  The folks over at Mozilla are working on OBI – an open badging initiative that will allow any authority (school, employer, certifier, conference, etc.) to hand out virtual badges (small pictographic awards for discrete skills – think virtualized boy scout sashes) that are backed by evidence of the skill awarded.  The learner can take these badges that come from any source, and store/organize them all at one place, which then can be displayed elsewhere (their Facebook profile, for example).  I see this as potentially serving as a much finer grain and verifiable picture of what you typically get out of a education and work history/skills section of a resume/transcripts.  Depending on how many badges the learner chooses to display – it can be as quickly scannable/reviewable as those documents.

What about dispositions?

There is still a problem that badging systems don’t aim to solve, though.  Employers don’t just do first interviews in order to verify what is on the resume.  They also want to find out about the candidate’s personality, motivations, passions, work ethic, and so on.  Educators often refer to these attributes as “dispositions“.  A good portfolio will have information about your dispositions – but once again, those are difficult to build, and most people aren’t building them.  Many employers are now resorting to searching for candidates on Google, and then seeing what they can find.  This often produces a scattershot (and undesirable or inaccurate) picture of a candidate.

Web business cards

Putting all of this together, we see the potential for a system that doesn’t currently exist.  This system has several key properties:

  1. Lets you build something that is sharable in 10 minutes or less
  2. Can become the “identity page” that shows the self-curated, desirable picture of your professional/educational/social life
  3. Stores data in Microformats to make it easy for employers to identify candidates based on specific criteria, and more likely for this profile to become the first Google result for a person
  4. Is scannable by employers in the first couple of minutes to determine a candidate’s fit and whether they want to look deeper
  5. Displays OBI badges and/or links to portfolio evidence to verify skills
  6. Allows easy embedding and linking to dispositional data from other sites: social media, portfolios, etc.

This system would be a fairly simplified version of our current portfolio tools.  It would be superficially similar to about.me and flavors.me – but it would be backed by the hard evidence of badges and portfolios and the searchability of microformats.  It would be your web business card, resume, and/or cover letter – and it lets anyone dive as deep as they want (and you allow) into who you are.

Here is a sample we came up with:

Business plan

We know we can develop a system like this.  We believe our portfolio tools prove we have the chops.  Go try our current portfolio system for yourself and see if you agree.

We think people want a system like this even if they don’t know it yet.  We aren’t sure if people would pay for it.  We think people should have an online identity like this, and we’re ok with giving it away to get it going.

However – we are a self-funded small company, and so we need to be able to make money somehow to keep the lights on.  The classic “get eyeballs now and sell ads later” model doesn’t work for us.  We are confident we can get some of the users to pay for portfolios in order to bring more attention to their id page – but that will only fund the project if we get a lot of people to build an id page in the first place.

Since we are a small company, we are also worried that we’ll go and build this awesome thing and then nobody will notice.  We want people to notice.  We see this project as a way to invest in our product sales efforts by building something great instead of throwing a bunch of money at ads or sales people.  We also are a bit concerned about how much it’s going to cost to host a free system where we are targeting lots of usage.

This is where you come in:  I need your help convincing my boss to think differently.  We traditionally have used a business-to-business, hosted, software-as-a-service type model.  We control our data, support, and operations end to end.  That’s quite costly, but it feels safe to be in control.  It’s scary to think about doing something different for this project, but I think we need to.

I think that at the very least, we should make this system in open technologies – and make it easily and freely installable.  I think individuals, businesses, and schools should have the opportunity to control the system operations and data if they desire to.  This is a bit scary for us – while it does have the advantages of removing the support and hosting burden – if we give it away for free, aren’t we giving away opportunities to upsell and make a profit?  I think I mostly have him convinced that the benefits to our reputation are worth the giving up those “maybe revenues” – but I could use some extra ammo here.

I really want to go even further out of our comfort zone, though.  I want to build this thing and open source all of it.  I think our opportunity to get early traction goes up exponentially if we do so.  Many of our potential early adopters are into open source – either they work on it, or they like to look at it, or they just feel better if it is available.  If the source is out there – we can prove we aren’t doing any funny business with your data (we wouldn’t anyways – but this is better than a promise).  It also gives us the opportunity to prove that we not only build pretty and extremely usable systems, we also know how to build them the right way.  I also believe that even though we would be giving away all of our code for free – when we get real traction, most people will still come to us to host and support the system to save themselves the hassle.  They’ll even pick us over any competitor that might try to host our stuff, because we know it best.

That said, the whole idea of open source grates at my boss’s business sense – so this is a hard topic to push.  I truly believe it is our best business case (in addition to being the right thing to do), but I need help convincing him.

What you can do

Please help me.  Comment on this post.  Share it on twitter/facebook/google plus – or message us (Foliotek/@Foliotek) there.  Vote it up or comment on reddit.  Email us at idpage@foliotek.com.  Ask us through any of those mediums to get on our beta list.  The more data I have to give him now that shows that people want something like this, they want to install it, and that they want it to be open source – the more likely it is that we’ll start building it right away and everyone will benefit.