Some people are really good at self-promotion. The elevator pitch rolls of their tongues in every new situation. Others would rather undergo a form of torture than push themselves forward by pointing out their positive attributes. What about you? Are you in danger of boasting, or do you fail to sell yourself to others? How can you strike the right balance? It might make all the difference to your job search.
Do you know Ms or Mr Alpha?
These people are really good at whatever they do. Academic study, running clubs and societies, volunteering, networking, the list goes on. But, what if we stop and ask ourselves how we know how good they are? Sometimes we’ll find that it’s because they tell us! They’re undoubtedly great at self-publicity, but they may not actually be any better than the rest of us at everything else. The great thing for them, is that their publicity works. We believe them.
What about Ms or Mr Alpha Plus, plus, plus?
These characters rather overstep the mark with their self-promotion. Literally every opportunity to extol their own virtues is seized. They’re not as successful at convincing us though. In fact they risk making themselves unpopular, or even turning into laughing stocks. They’ve overstepped the mark, we aren’t sure we like them and we don’t believe them. They’ve got it wrong.
Then there are the Epsilon family…
We never hear from them about their successes or achievements. We probably rather like them, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that they’re nice but average. We’re often wrong. Their trophies are in cupboards and they don’t tell us when and how they’ve succeeded. Humility is great, it just doesn’t necessarily help you get ahead! They need to learn to sell themselves.
Do we need to be able to promote ourselves to achieve success?
Surely good people get noticed without “blowing their own trumpets”? Not necessarily. If you’re going to land a good job and succeed once you’ve started work you need to find a way to promote yourself without boasting and alienating everyone around you.
How might you do that?
1. Understand what your own strengths are.
You can’t sell something if you don’t know what you’re selling! Try to spend some honest time reflecting what you are good and less good at. There are some useful resources to help you here.
Make sure that you never tell others you’re good at things which aren’t exactly strengths. You’ll undermine all your personal credibility and you definitely won’t endear yourself to anyone. An honest audit of your strengths is also going to help you with the job hunt. You’ll be better able to apply for the jobs which align to your skills and experience.
2. Use your strengths to help others.
If you have the expertise to support someone else and you go out of your way to help them, several things will happen. Others will notice you’re good and they might start talking about you. You might find that you’ve developed a positive reputation without having had to say anything yourself. You’ll also be able to use the experience to help you in the job market. Writing in an application form about how (for example) you used your social media skills to build a website to promote a business, leading to £x of new sales, is a compelling story. It’s a lot better than a bald assertion that you’re good with social media.
3. Don’t just talk. Listen too!
Listening to others can be very powerful. We all like to be listened to! Generally a conversation is only successful if it’s a two way affair. If you talk all the time people stop listening. However good your personal pitch was, it won’t be heard. Helping others to understand and articulate their strengths is one way of promoting your own without sounding boastful. The process of listening helps in the job hunt too. “Listening” to what question an employer is asking in an application form or at interview ensures that you target your answer correctly!
4. Think about your body language .
I’ve blogged recently about body language in interviews. Remember that your body is talking all the time. How you tell people about yourself matters. Don’t be too loud, or too confident. The self-deprecating smile or wince will help you to persuade people you’re great without alienating them. Try not to gaze at the floor or melt into the corner though when others are exploring their strengths. Make sure you’re part of the conversation.
5. Use social media wisely
You can build up your reputation in a particular area through your social media engagement. For example, use your LinkedIn account to comment on news stories in areas of your own expertise. You might find that people start to listen to you and to follow what you’re saying. Your reputation will start to grown and if you’re job hunting you might even find yourself engaging with the very recruiters you want to win over.
So, final thoughts…
You need to engage with an element of self promotion – however much it is anathema to you! Make sure you don’t overdo it though. Subtlety is key!