When promoting your professional capabilities—whether that’s through an active job search or as an ongoing effort to affirm your personal brand—it’s ridiculously important that you toot your horn, and toot it well.
Simply put, the easier you make it for people to quickly understand what you’re all about, and why they (sure as heck) should care about you, the better the odds are that they’re going to want to know you, interview you, or drop everything to hire you.
Most people, however, when faced with the task of shouting out what’s so great about themselves sort of freeze. Or, they go about it in a way that comes out all wrong and leaves those on the receiving end with the wrong impression.
Walking that line is truly challenging for most of us. We’re taught from an early age to not boast or brag. To not be cocky or arrogant. “No one likes the peacock,” my grandmother used to say. (I will argue that peacocks are cool as heck, but that’s beside the point here.)
And so, we err on the side of caution and—more often than not—end up underselling ourselves. We water down our amazingness in a way that makes us look like one of many. Another fish in the sea. A commodity.
You are not corn. You don’t want to come across as a commodity.
So, how do you make it abundantly clear that you’re great at what you do (and even more great to spend time with) without coming off like you’re full of yourself?
Here are four quick ways:
1. Make the Accomplishments Easy to See (and Understand)
So many of us are great at rattling off the “things” that we do or have done. In fact, nearly every “before” resume that comes through the doors of my resume writing business focuses solidly on the duties and responsibilities that person holds. However, telling someone what you do doesn’t necessarily help them see right off the bat that you truly rock at what you do.
This is why it’s so important to share accomplishments on your resume, in your LinkedIn profile, and in conversations—both the quantitative results (saved the company 42% on office supplies) and the more qualitative ones (became a trusted resource for the company’s most difficult client).
There’s a saying that’s perfectly apt here: “Don’t tell them how great you are, show them.” And you can do this by making your accomplishments easy to find, and easy to understand.
2. Make the “I” Obvious by Showcasing the “We”
You know what’s coming—there’s no ‘I” in team. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) But seriously, framing your wins in the context of “we” is a great way to demonstrate how impressive you are without giving off so much as a whiff that you’ve got a giant ego.
So, maybe you played a key role in taking your company through a complex technology integration. In fact, you may have been the linchpin to the entire project. However, you probably had teammates working side by side with you. Consider including them as you describe to someone how you nailed the assignment, even if you were totally the hero. It’s a simple shift that’ll demonstrate humility while making your impressive performance clear.
3. Let the Others Speak for You
It’s one thing for you to rattle on about how great you are (and, don’t get me wrong, you should get comfortable promoting yourself). But it takes on a whole different level of power when someone else sings your praises. Ah, yes. The magic of third-party testimonials. When they’re good, they can be incredibly useful tools for branding yourself and helping you land your next role.
Certainly, one of the most obvious places you can display a testimonial is on LinkedIn (as a recommendation).
The trick here is this: Ask with specificity.
Instead of simply presenting a generic request, “Hi. Will you please recommend me?” consider asking the person to directly validate the things you most want to showcase about yourself.
Hi Mary, I hope you’re doing well. I’m working to better present my project management skills on LinkedIn. Since you and I worked on the XYZ project together, I thought you might be a great person to highlight these strengths. Would you be willing to share some feedback here?
Bonus: If you get a great quote back, you can pull out an excerpt and plug it into your resume.
4. When Appropriate, Use Humor
Certainly, I’m not advocating that you attempt to be a stand-up comedian as means of affirming your professional expertise (unless, of course, you are one). But being funny goes a long way, not only in establishing your humanness, but also in engaging others.
And while it may not necessarily showcase your hard skills, it can help people see pretty quickly that you’re genuine, likable, and someone they want to be around.
Self-deprecating jokes are probably the easiest way to go about this. Try it at a networking event, as you work to break the ice with a stranger you’ve just met (“I can manage massive spreadsheets, but have yet to figure out how to hold a cocktail and a plate full of appetizers at these events”). Or, plug in a relevant story about yourself in your cover letter (“If you’d have told me on the day I caused that fire in science lab that I’d grow up to be a chemist, I’d never have believed you…”).
Always remember that we’re all just people. And people like to be entertained, to smile, and to spend time with others who make them laugh. So, if you can weave that part of your personality into your professional conversations and your personal branding efforts, it could go a long way in demonstrating that you’re someone special.
Because, without a doubt, you are. Now, go make the world clear on this.