How to Show Off Your Accomplishments (Without Sounding Like You’re Bragging)
This article first appeared in Apploi Observer on November 14, 2013.
If you can’t tell a potential new employer what makes you different (read: better) than the other 118 candidates, how will they ever know?
This is actually harder than it sounds. When I first started working, I landed a huge deal. I was at a solar energy installer in Kathmandu back in 2004, and the market was hot. In fact, I remember the customers paid in cash. I couldn’t keep all the bundles of paper money in the small bag I had taken with me to the appointment, so it was spilling out all over the place. When I dumped the pile of cash on the controller’s desk, he kind of stared at it, grabbed a few fistfuls of cash, and handed it to me, saying, “Here’s your commission.”
That was the last I ever spoke of it. Until one day when my boss called me into his office. I thought I was in trouble, but to my surprise, he looked at me and said, “You’re really good at this! Nice work.”
“Thanks!” I said, beaming a bit too early.
“So, why haven’t you told anyone else in the office?” he said. “How are they ever going to know you? How are you ever going to get ahead if you keep hiding under your desk? You’ve got to figure out how to ring your own bell to get ahead in this world.”
A hard lesson to learn. And when I see people do this well, I admire them.
Why Is It Hard to Talk About Yourself?
We’re trained from an early age not to brag. Should we do so, either our parents will scold us or we’ll alienate our peer group.
So we retreat in the other direction: false humility.
When you receive a compliment, do you simply say, “thank you”? Or do you go out of your way to discredit what nice things that person has said about you?
The problem is that if you can’t talk about yourself and your accomplishments, your future employer will have no idea! You’re making their job harder by not sharing this information.
How to Strike the Right Balance Between Facts and Bragging
I can sit in front of you and tell you I’ve written a bestselling book without bragging. I’m simply stating a fact: Job Searching with Social Media For Dummies sold over 10,000 copies, thus making it into the bestselling category.
Then I will you that selling so many copies was a lot of hard work. Writing the book was a long, intense process that took over my entire life. I wasn’t born into it, I earned it. Still not bragging.
But if I said, “I’m a bestselling author, whose book sold over 10,000 copies easily.” That could be bragging.
First, It’s Not About Who You Are; It’s About What You Did
When you talk about your accomplishments, learn to distinguish between something inherent to you (like intelligence, luck or good looks) and something you did (like hard work, perseverance and innovation).
There’s a big difference between “I’m a bestselling author” and “I’ve written a book that’s bestselling.”
Second, Show Your Struggle and Be Human
Bragging has a sense of, “I’m better than you. Things you think are hard are easy for me.”
You can quickly eliminate that pretense by sharing your struggle. It wasn’t my brilliant writing and perfect timing that sold 10,000 copies (although I’d like to believe that). It was lots of outreach, phone calls, guest blog posts and begging my friends to leave Amazon reviews. In short, my struggle makes me human.
It’s Your Turn…
I want you to think about a time in your life where you’re the most proud of what you did. Maybe it’s a wild success.
Next, ask yourself, “What role did I play in this success?”
Write out a few paragraphs. Read it to a friend and see if it feels like bragging.
Being able to talk about your accomplishments is a skill that will not only help you outshine your competition, but will help boost your confidence so you can go out there and do it again!
How can you share a big accomplishment in a way that doesn’t come across as bragging?