We know that all of you are and will continue to achieve great things, but how do you talk about them without coming across as pompous? I know that I have always found it really uncomfortable to talk about my achievements with other people. It feels gross and self obsessed and a part of me wonders why it needs to be brought up at all. My mother always told me to move in silence; keep my head down, do the hard work and trust that the rewards would be felt. And that was both good and bad advice. It’s good to concentrate on the work because it takes hours of commitment and many long nights to get to the point where you have something to announce. At the same time, part of celebrating success is sharing it and the more people who know what you can do, the more opportunities they are likely to bring your way. In this article, I’ll try to share some of the things that I have learnt about communicating my achievements, especially for that dreaded interview question.
I’m currently reading F**k Being Humble by Stefanie Sword-Williams and it is absolutely INCREDIBLE. She walks us through why we feel so uncomfortable with self promotion. We have been socialised into seeing it as a dirty thing to do and this is very gendered socialisation. Men who self promote are not vilified as much as women are and this disadvantages us. The first thing to do is realise that we only disadvantage ourselves when we don’t self promote and to treat it like any other skill that you can put effort into improving.
What are the specifics of what you did? Quantifying your success makes it more objective which in turn allows you to move past the ickiness because you are sharing the receipts and for the listener, presents your accolades for what they are. Let them be the ones to interpret the facts. If they come to the conclusion that you are great at what you do by themselves, that’s great. If not, maybe you’re speaking to the wrong person or need to work on how you present the facts so that they are impactful.
Spare everyone the typical “I hate to brag but..”, “sorry to bring this up..” and all of that. It only draws attention to the fact that you might be saying something off-putting and biases the listener. Humble brags like “Who knew that being as good as I am means that everyone is always trying to get time in my schedule” are not appealing. A study done by the Harvard Business Review found that it makes you seem less sincere. State it plainly, honestly and genuinely.
Make a plan with a friend. Talk them up and they talk you up. Listeners are actually more receptive to hearing about you from a third party, even if you are standing right there looking a bit embarrassed. They could also help you get more comfortable with talking about yourself. The comfort of a supportive relationship allows you to speak honestly about yourself and that practice helps when you have to communicate to strangers.
6. Use Brag Bites
A brag bite is like a mini elevator pitch. It’s a little pre-prepared marketing snipet about yourself. An example is “I am really lucky to lead a team of 10 volunteers, each working on a different part of the larger project. I couldn’t do it without such a great team. Last year, we started four new initiatives and we have plans for three more before the end of the year. It’s really exciting to see how well the students have responded.” Create a few of these, practice them out loud (seriously. Say it out loud in front of a mirror, record yourself. It is awkward but necessary) and take them with you to a self promotion opportunity.
7. Emphasise effort and express gratitude
It took a lot of work to get where you are so communicate that. Listeners appreciate the victory when they recognise the effort. Also, when you sound entitled, as though your success was expected, that rubs people the wrong way. Express gratitude for your success. That doesn’t mean that you chalk it all up to luck or accident but you acknowledge what or who helped you succeed.
Finally, be yourself. Don’t memorise stock quotes which don’t sound like yourself. If you like joking, plug humour in. If you like to share things, include the details. I’m self deprecating and you quickly notice that when we speak and I have learnt to make sure that I don’t undercut myself when I do it. Yes, this is a skill which includes best practice but it's also a very personal thing to do so inject it with your own unique twist.
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