How to sell your imperfections

Tips and Tricks to Truly Sell Every Part of You

One of the most important skills I learned during my undergraduate years at the University of Washington is how to sell my imperfections. One of the experiences through which I learned was as writing tutor at the Odegaard Writing and Research Center at UW, where I helped many students improve personal statements for a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs, internships, scholarships and more; I worked with so many students who I could tell were extremely talented and bright individuals, but who felt held back by one small thing: a bad grade, a difficult period of their lives, or something else. I remember working with one student who was making a career switch from a STEM field to Business. Because she had spent so much time in STEM, she seemed very unconfident about her ability to get into business school. She repeatedly told me that all of her talents were useless to her new field!

It took us a while and I could tell that for a while she was frustrated, but I think we finally got to the point when she realized that this was not necessarily the case. We talked about how being different is not necessarily a bad thing; it only seems that way if that is how you market your skills, to yourself and to others. If you keep telling yourself that you aren’t good at something, you’ll never be able to develop that skill or even find the motivation to try and do so. On a similar note, you’ll never give others the ability to have faith in you that you’ll learn, or even that you’ll be able to use your different skill set to contribute meaningfully to your new work environment.

In other words, having imperfections or lacking certain skills can absolutely be an okay thing if you show a willingness and eagerness to learn and improve. Learning how to talk about this eagerness is what I’ll call “positive marketing” for the rest of this post.

Another way that I realized the importance of positive marketing was after I lost out on a scholarship opportunity I applied for last summer. It was the first big funding opportunity that I applied for. I worked on this application for about a month, and even made a point to show my application to co-workers at the writing center, guidance counselors in our University’s scholarship center, and my research mentors. One aspect of my essay was talking about what I planned to do with my degree, and at that time I was planning on taking two years to gain more research experience and figure out what I wanted to do for graduate school before proceeding. But in my essay, I called it a “year off” of school. One of my mentors pointed out the negative connotations to “year off”, because it sounds like I’d be taking a year to do nothing when this was not at all my plan. Why didn’t I instead say that I was “using the next two years after a graduated to advance my research skills in developmental psychology so that I’d be prepared to successfully apply to a PhD program in this field”? That phrasing wasn’t even something that popped into my head at the time, but it was what I planned to do.

Something that I’ve realized is that people, including me, often like to sell themselves short, and for me this was an extremely difficult habit to break. I remember that in this very same application, I wrote that I wanted to be a lecturer in a university and do research when there is a higher title for this job: professor. This was what I actually wanted to do, but I was too embarrassed to say it at the time, and looking back on it now, I know it sounds silly.

Now, every time I write personal statements like that, I make a purposeful effort to go back through my writing after I’m done to run through my work and make sure that I’m always talking myself up. When I first started doing this, I felt really self-concious, like I was constantly bragging, but once I got into a habit of doing this, I realized that I was just saying exactly what I wanted for myself and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. And this simple addition to my writing routine not only changed how confident I sounded in my writing, but it changed how confident I felt about myself and my abilities.

This, along with some other lifestyle changes I made, really helped me see myself as a work in progress rather than a finshed product and that really helped find ways to positively market every part of me, including the bits I’m still working.

That is what I want for every person who reads this post: having things you still need to work on does not make you worthless.

Here are a few ways I’ve thought of to positively market things that you’re working on. These are some really useful self-promotion techniques. Can you think of other ways?

How to Set Goals and Achieve Them

Blogger and researcher provides tips and tricks on setting achievable goals

A guide to Goal-Setting and Process-journaling

Everyone knows what it’s like to work towards something but get stuck in the process, and not know how to move forward.

You aren’t alone, trust me! One of the most critical aspects of starting to work towards something is realizing that you need to take it one step at a time: instead of trying to do “whatever it takes” to work towards a big goal, make each “step” of your process a smaller, achievable goal. These smaller goals are just as critical to your process as getting to that one big goal, and achieving each of these goals is just as worthy of celebration!

How do you do this?

Let’s start with a goal-setting example:

Before you buy the car, you need to make sure you have money saved up for the car, and you have money to make insurance payments. You need to figure out which insurance to go with. You need to figure out what kind of car you want to buy and make sure you get the best deal on it. In other words, your big goal might be buying a car, but in reality this big goal is made up of a list of smaller goals that you need to achieve to get there. These are the things you need to tackle first.

Strategizing-

How are you going to achieve each on of your smaller goals? Here are the 4 main steps I would recommend:

  1. Make a list of your goals and write it down
  2. For each of your goals, list what steps you’re going to need to take to achieve this goal.
  3. For each of your goals, name how you’re going to measure your progress
  4. For each goal, give yourself a deadline(s)
With the car Example:
GoalStepsMeasureDeadline
Saving up $20,000 to buy car -Save X Amount from monthly paycheckEvery month, Savings for car should grow by X amount07/31/2020 (1 year)
Save up for insurance (budget: 500/6 months)-Save Y Amount from monthly paycheck
-Look into A, B, C insurances; get advice from financial expert
-Every month, insurance savings should increase by Y, and every 6 mo, $500 should be ready to pay for insurance07/31/2020 (1 year)
Find car-Do research through consumer reports
-Ask friends for recommendations
-Find the best deal
-negotiate price
-Every week, spend up to 2 hrs doing research (~30 mins every day)
-Enter findings into process journal
07/31/2020 (1 year)

Now, not only do you know how you’re going to achieve each one of these smaller goals, but you also know how you are going to achieve your larger goal of buying a car! If you follow each one of these steps, you’re going to get to your big goal!

This smart goal setting strategy can be used to successfully achieve goals you might set for multiple aspects of your life! Whether you’re setting personal goals or even larger career goals, it’s always good to have a plan of smaller, achievable steps.

What happens if things go wrong?

There is always a possibility that your something in your plan will go wrong. In fact, just be prepared for it! But if and when something does go wrong, there is no need to get stressed out. The best part about working towards smaller goals is that you can adjust smaller steps instead of having to adjust the larger goal. For example, say you’re saving up to buy a car, and you find the car you really want, but it’s not available at any of the dealerships near you. What do you do? Do you give up on the car that you’ve wanted for so long, or is there a possibility that you can work something out with the dealership or with the help of friends?

You can work these things out! Part of setting achievable goals is knowing how to be flexible about them too. You might have to adjust your goals, and you may not get somewhere as quickly as you want to, and that’s okay. It’s also about the lessons that you learn along the way.

This brings me to my next tool-

Process Journaling

If you’ve read some of my other posts, like the one about applying to Grad school, I talk about process journaling soo much, and it’s because constantly writing things down has really helped me with some of the anxiety I have about various aspects of my life. It gives me a way to clear my mind while also allowing me to document my thoughts.

Your process journal is a great way to document your progress and your reflections and thoughts as you make your way towards a goal!

The last and probably the most important tool: having a positive attitude. As cliche as this sounds, it really is possible to accomplish almost everything if you’re in the right mindset, and making a plan by breaking every goal down into smaller steps really helps with that too.

Here are some resources to help you get started with goal-setting:

free! process journaling + goal-setting worksheet and template

You can download this google doc to your computer. Even though these have helped me with goal-setting and accomplishing my goals, remember that what works for you might be different! So feel free to customize these however you like!

And if you have any suggestions for me feel free to let me know in the comments 🙂

For more tips on tricks for success, check out my other blog posts:

  • How to sell your imperfections

    August 14, 2019 by

    Now, every time I write personal statements like that, I make a purposeful effort to go back through my writing after I’m done to run through my work and make sure that I’m always talking myself up. When I first started doing this, I felt really self-concious, like I was constantly bragging, but once I got into a habit of doing this, I realized that I was just saying exactly what I wanted for myself and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. And this simple addition to my writing routine not only changed how confident I sounded in my writing, but it changed how confident I felt about myself and my abilities.

  • How to Set Goals and Achieve Them

    August 1, 2019 by

    Before you buy the car, you need to make sure you have money saved up for the car, and you have money to make insurance payments. You need to figure out which insurance to go with. You need to figure out what kind of car you want to buy and make sure you get the best deal on it. In other words, your big goal might be buying a car, but in reality this big goal is made up of a list of smaller goals that you need to achieve to get there. These are the things you need to tackle first.

  • Applying to Grad School

    July 22, 2019 by

    For those who have not applied to graduate school yet but are thinking about doing so in the next couple of years, here are a few tips and tricks that really worked for me.

  • 7 Steps Toward Better Research Writing

    July 16, 2019 by

    Although I love to write, I know that it can be an overwhelming process-even this is an understatement. Writing is a universal form of communication, and maybe even the most important form of communication. We hear stories and learn history from the writing that is left behind by past generations, and writing is one of… Read more

  • All about APS

    June 3, 2019 by

    Last week, I participated in my first ever big conference at #aps19 in Washington DC! This was an AMAZING first big-conference experience

  • ‘Scientific Collaboration Means Collective Celebration’: My First Experience Planning and Presenting at a Research Conference

    March 6, 2019 by

    The first annual Northwest Social Cognitive Development Conference (NSCDC) was my first ever research conference, and the first time I was able to assist in organizing a research conference. The purpose of this conference was to gather researchers from all across the Cascadia Corridor to discuss and present on current topics in developmental science, specifically pertaining to social and cognitive development. I did a poster presentation about my current project on infants’ prosocial expectations. Aside from being my first presentation opportunity, I also had the chance to network with many talented researchers and professionals in the field, and learn from their work and experiences in academia.

  • “I’m stuck!”: How to get around writer’s block

    February 14, 2019 by

    Not feeling confident is a struggle I’ve faced many times, and one that I’ve seen other students face many times through my work as a writing tutor. Lacking confidence in writing is one of the biggest roadblocks to producing excellent writing. Luckily, it is a roadblock that can be worked around with a little bit of patience, self-love, and creativity.

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