There have been a number of articles recently about people embellishing their résumés and exaggerating their accomplishments in interviews. The opposite–failing to self-promote can be just as much of a problem. I recently had a bright, accomplished sales professional tell me she was bad at self-promotion because she didn't like to be “boastful.” This is not the first time I’ve heard this; it’s a common problem for certain demographics, including some women, introverts and individuals from cultures where any talk about accomplishments is viewed as unseemly.
Conveying your value to a prospective employer (or a networking contact) is a key part of an effective search for work. As a career coach who supports a diverse population of mid-career professionals, here are the “3R’s of Self-promotion” I give my clients:
- Review: Before any career conversation, make sure you have reviewed your qualifications for the position you are interviewing for or the promotion you are seeking. Plan ways to demonstrate how something you have done in the past relates to the current situation, using concrete examples and simple success story format: “When I was at Company, I noticed Problem, so I did A, B and C and as a result, Positive Outcome (quantified whenever possible) occurred. People respond better to stories than empty “claims,” especially stories with happy endings!
- Recall: Many times, people get stuck in their own head during meetings, don’t know what to say and are paralyzed by the fear of saying something wrong. Having a list of well-honed and practiced accomplishment stories that “prove” your skills will allow you to be attentive to the conversation so you actually hear what is being asked and can respond approximately by demonstrating your match/potential value for the role.
- Reframe: People who hesitate to talk about themselves are usually concerned about coming across as bragging. If you identify the problems the person you are meeting with is experiencing; in the case of a job interview, it’s either the wrong person in the job or no one! When you shift your focus away from yourself to conscious attention on the needs of the person on the other end of the conversation, discussion of your skills and experience is the way to show how you can help, not an egotistical boast.
Remember that failing to convey what you can do is as much of a misrepresentation as making deceitful claims. An effective search can involve humility, but it’s no place for false modesty. After all, if you don't blow your own horn, who will?