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  • 3 Methods to Build Your Personal Vocabulary

    Communicate photo from ShutterstockDo you have a personal vocabulary?

    Do you have a list of words or phrases that you regularly use to describe yourself?

    For most of us, the answer is no.

    One thing I have learned from all of the Birkman feedback I have given in the last three years is that most of us do not see ourselves the way other people see us.

    Whether you are writing a resume, a LinkedIn profile, or just crafting an answer to the interview question, “Tell me about yourself,” the key is to be authentic. You want to describe yourself how you are perceived and not how you want to be perceived. You do not want to sell an image that is not authentic.

    I am going to give you several methods for building a personal vocabulary list that you can use in describing yourself.


    You have likely taken a few personality assessments in your life. This could be Meyers-Briggs (MBTI), Birkman, DISC, Strength Finders, Kolbe, or others. Get those reports out and pick out the words and phrases that resonate with you.

    I use the Strength Phrases in the Components Section of the Birkman report. There are eleven behaviors and the report provides three strength phrases for each for a total of thirty-three phrases. I have the client pick out 8-15 phrases that resonate with them. I then have them translate the phrases into their own language.

    You can do this with terms from any of the reports. The take away is these phrases have to resonate with you AND you need to translate them into phrases that you are completely comfortable using.

    This is step one in building your personal vocabulary list.

    LinkedIn recommendations

    Sort through your LinkedIn recommendations and look for phrases that people have used to describe you. You can do this with past recommendations that people have written for jobs that you have applied for. Similarly, you can pull out old job reviews or evaluations that were written about your performance. Look for words and phrases that they used to describe you and your performance.

    You may want to use these phrases as is or do some minor tweaking to make it more comfortable for you and your personal vocabulary list.

    Friends, Colleagues, and Family

    Create a list of friends, colleagues, and even family that you know and trust. Ask them to create a short list of 3-5 words or phrases that describe you.

    You may be very surprised!

    Another fun one is to ask – If I were an animal, what animal would I be and why?

    Only use this with people you really trust!!

    Again, You may want to use these phrases as is or do some minor tweaking to make them feel more comfortable for you to use on your personal vocabulary list.

    Using these three methods you should be able to build a fairly comprehensive personal vocabulary list of words and phrases.

    You will want to use this personal vocabulary when writing your brand story.

    What words are in your personal vocabulary?

    Marc MillerCareer Pivot

    Check out my book Repurpose Your Career – A Practical Guide for Baby Boomers

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    Marc Miller is the founder of Career Pivot which helps Baby Boomers design careers they can grow into for the next 30 years. Marc authored the book Repurpose Your Career: A Practical Guide for Baby Boomers published in January 2013, which has been featured on Forbes.com, US News and World Report, CBS Money-Watch and PBS’ Next Avenue. Career Pivot was selected for the Forbes Top 100 Websites for your Career. Marc has made six career pivots himself, serving in several positions at IBM in addition to working at two successful Austin, Texas startups, teaching math in an inner-city high school and working for a local non-profit. Learn more about Marc and Career Pivot by visiting the Career Pivot Blog or follow Marc on Twitter or Facebook.

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