On a trip to an art museum in Dublin, I arrive in the foyer to face a rack of dozens of donated shoes of every imaginable shape, style, size, and colour. You can’t enter the museum unless you leave your own shoes at the entrance and put on another pair from the rack. It is an odd sensation and really makes you think about who the original owner might have been. An empathetic experience. What has this got to do with the job search?

I find young people often struggle to value themselves enough and to recognise the value they bring to others. Too many hold themselves back either deliberately (out of fear) or without realising. Talking about yourself is seen as cocky or being a goody-two-shoes.

Are you too uncomfortable in your own shoes and unaware of what it feels like in the employer’s shoes to land the job you want?

Step into another’s shoes

red jimmy chooA friend once went for an interview and got into a conversation with the interviewer about her bright red Jimmy Choo’s on the way to the interview room. She was convinced the rapport building helped her land the job!

I did not have three thousand shoes, I had one thousand and sixty. Former Phillipine First Lady, Imelda Marcos

  • When have you stepped into the shoes of an employer, colleague or customer? What did you learn?
  • What if you filled their job shoes or shadowed them for a period?
  • How about acting as a mystery customer as part of your job and career research?
  • What story could you tell an employer to show your communication skills?

Being assertive about your value to an employer involves seeing things from their view as well as your own. Healthy self-esteem underpins it – knowing who you are, feeling good about yourself and being valued by others for the things you want to be valued for. If you don’t feel good about yourself, you are not going to convince an employer you will be good for them and land the job you want.

What do you want to be valued for?

Tips for Shining Assertively

  • Practise being assertive – where you openly acknowledge and take into account what you want and what an employer, colleague or customer wants.
  • Avoid being aggressive – seeking to achieve your goal at the expense of others.
  • Avoid being passive – not standing up for yourself and what you believe in.
  • Observe assertive people and develop your own style.
  • Keep a diary of where you have and have not been assertive. What was your goal? The other person’s goal? What emotions did you feel and observe in the other person during the conversation? How did you and they handle those emotions? What worked for you? What will you do differently next time?
  • Get a friend to observe and give you feedback on what you do well and any adjustments to make you even better at being assertive.

I like Cinderella, I really do. She has a good work ethic. And she likes shoes. The fairytale is all about the shoe in the end. Amy Adams

Choose the behaviour that leads to the result you want. When the shoe fits, talk with assertiveness and pride if you want to be a shoe-in for the job.