Which would you rather do: brag about yourself or eat a bowl of squirming leeches?
If you’re like many smart, accomplished women, the answer is obvious.
At least the leeches have protein, right?
Simply put, self-promotion does not come easily for many women. And that is a big problem. Selling yourself, at least a little bit, is part of getting ahead in your career and your life. You must learn how to do it if you want to attract opportunities, job offers, mentors, and money.
Laura Allen says women often ask her how to, in her words, “pitch without being a bitch.” Her advice: “If you want to sound nonchalant and easygoing when you meet someone new, then you need to know what you are going to say beforehand. You never know when you might find yourself alone in the elevator with Oprah. And you are only going to get one chance to pitch her!”
Of course, there’s a difference between being prepared and sounding canned. You have to find a self-promotional style that is authentic to you. Here are some tips from women who’ve done just that:
Show your gratitude. Alexandra Levit, author of They Don’t Teach Corporate in College, advises, “Thank others who made it possible for you to be where you are. Example: If you’ve just completed a successful project and you want people to know about it, send an e-mail thanking your team for a job well done. Not only are you demonstrating your gratitude, but you’re sending a subtle message that you did an amazing job managing the project.”
Toot your organization’s horn, too. “I do force myself to brag, but on the occasions when I’m just a wee bit shy, I tend to tout my company’s excellence,” says Chris Salvatore, senior publicist at Krupp Kommunications. “It’s easier than beaming about myself, and if you think about it, why would such an excellent company hire anyone but the very best?”
Make it a conversation. “When someone asks me about my career or what I do, I like to talk about it in a way that indicates what I am learning and enjoying rather than just list accomplishments,” says Christine Hassler, a speaker, coach, and author of Twenty-something, Twenty-everything. “This also opens the door for follow-up questions or a more engaging conversation.”
Play up your projects. “I like to say, ‘I’m working on a really fun project right now,’” says Diane Danielson, CEO and founder of DowntownWomensClub.com. “Another fallback is to say I’m writing a book, even if that’s one small part of my job, because people are always interested in writing books and talking about them.”
If you’d like even more encouragement, check out Peggy Klaus’ book, Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It. Then practice, practice, practice. As with anything that scares you, the more you do it, the more comfortable it becomes. Self-promotion really is an essential skill these days.
And I promise you it’s easier than eating those leeches.