Describe who you are or your stance in three words.

Ryan Erickson

Maybe you don’t know who you are. Perhaps you don’t know “your stance.” And that ok; we all need to figure it out. So here are my answers to this interview question. 

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I recently applied for a job; well, it wasn’t for a job, per se, but an unpaid volunteer opportunity. I had applied to be a program manager for a non-profit. But alas, living in Hawaii doesn’t bode well with employment in the Eastern US — even as a volunteer. 

In hindsight, I’m not upset that I didn’t land that opportunity to help. However, I did receive a takeaway from the experience that’ll help me into the foreseeable future. 

During one of the interviews, I was asked to “describe who you are, or your stance, in three words.” Now I’ve read a lot of business, resume, recruiting, and business psychology books over the last few years. But this was the first time I’ve heard (or otherwise observed) this exact question being asked. 

I took a few seconds to think about that; admittedly, I was taken aback by the question. Not because it was “weird” or “unnecessary,” but because it was a thinker’s question. That is, it’s one that you can’t just blurt out an answer to. 

Had this been a standard, “what are a few words that describe you?” it would have been easier (hardworking, a people person, caring, etc.). But, for this, I needed a moment to think.

After what seemed minutes in my head, I stated: authentic, ethical, and gritty. While I think the first two words could be acceptable in any setting, the third, “gritty,” triggered a can you elaborate on that? That said, here are my thoughts on all three word choices. 

Authentic; This was something that I had to learn. Being authentic can be extremely hard for some people in the workplace. The word means to be “real” or, better yet, “non-sugar-coating.” It’s akin to what you see is what you get. 

That noted I prefer my team and peers to be the same. It makes things easier, sometimes. 

Ethical; Being ethical, be it in life or the workplace, can be complex when pitted against peer pressure or whatever the norm may be. 

I consider myself an ethical person. I tell the truth-ish, do the right thing, and I’m genuinely an open book to my team, peers, and boss(es). But, unfortunately, it’s also an attribute that drives my wife crazy, because in reality, being an ethically driven person generally makes things more complicated than they need to be.

Gritty; Taken out of context, this may conjure an image of John Wayne or NHL’s Gritty. However, we are not talking about them; we’re talking about the attribute of being gritty or having grit

I finished a book about two months ago called GRIT, by Angela Duckworth. In short, it’s all about what it means to have grit, how it’s measured (scientifically speaking), and how people with grit seem to persevere. 

So, what is grit? If you have grit, you can look at adversity — in the eye — and rise above it. You’re willing to hunker down and do the task, even against all odds. 

I have a great example of what grit is and how you can use it to keep moving forward. My current boss has grit. While she has many attributes that make her a good leader, grit stands out. 

She came into the company with a vision of what she wanted it to look like. She’s made unpopular decisions and some tough choices, all for the company’s betterment. She’s undoubtedly dug deep to accomplish this. She’s shone her grit. 

She, like those who make it through the Beast or make it through the Selection Course to be a SOF Green Beret (read the book to understand), don’t have to be the best, but they want to be the best. 

So, next time you’re wondering if you can do the task at hand, think to yourself, do I have grit? Maybe you don’t, and that’s ok. Move on to the next task. But if you do, that task will get done without reservation. 

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An Agilistic Practitioner of Project & Program Management with proven military & civilian records of success; PMP, PMI-ACP, & CSM | Let's solve problems, together.

Kalaheo, HI
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