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On self promotion and selling oneself


** Kind of a different post today. Let me know what you think! **

Once again life has got in the way of blogging. They finally announced the promotion board I’ve been waiting for at work, and my life has been taken over by writing the application form for the last week and a half. It’s an absolute monster, standing at about 6000 words (one question has a 2500 word limit, so it’s not just me being waffly). It’s also super repetitive, because they basically ask you three very similar sets of questions for some reason.

So when it came to the last question, where you get 300 words to tell them anything else about why you are suitable for the job you haven’t already covered elsewhere, and there was nothing I hadn’t already covered elsewhere, I threw caution to the wind and wrote a list of why I am amazing, without any examples. Saying things like “I am recognised by analytical and policy colleagues for consistently delivering work to the highest standard” and using words like “exceptional”.

It was incredibly hard for me to write all this blowing my own trumpet without giving specifics. I was actually inwardly cringing as I wrote it. I think the reason I dislike this kind of chat so much is because the people that are really into it are often the people that have least justification to do so. Like they talk about all being great instead of actually doing something that would make them great. And I know it works, I’ve worked with loads of people, usually senior to me, who actually do very little work, and just bullshit their way through life. And even though it’s blatantly obvious (to me, anyway), somehow seem to get away with it.

But I’d hate to be like that. I want to be recognised for being good at my job, absolutely, but I prefer to be recognised organically, by the people that actually use my work, not by having to go round ‘selling myself’. This is probably the key thing holding me back in my career (along with my inability to hide it when I think people are doing a crap job or are talking nonsense), but even if I do somehow managed to acquire the bullshitting skills that some people have, I can’t see how it would make me happy, because I’d feel like a cheat. Right now I might not have the highest profile I could have, but I know, I’m bloody good at my job, and I know that the people I’ve worked with know that, and that gives me a satisfaction all of its own.

On the other hand, once I got over myself it was actually quite fun to write those 300 words. Too damn right I’m fantastic at analysing, presenting, writing, interviewing, project managing, networking, coaching, negotiating, you name it! Go me! And when I read it back this morning, it wasn’t actually as bad as I imagined. It *is* all true, and I could evidence it if I needed to. I did evidence it in the rest of the form actually.

So I think those self promotion skills are in there somewhere, I just need a bit of practice. And who knows, one day I might even enjoy it, maybe. And if the people doing the good work don’t sell themselves, then you’re just leaving the floor open for the bullshitters, aren’t you?

Thoughts, anyone?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Rhianne 7 March 2013, 9:14 am

    It’s so funny that you’ve written this now… I just updated Linked In profile and I felt the same way to start and then the same at the end too. I have worked hard these past 4 years and I can do all the things that I say I can do and I do it well! It was actually a really nice reminder that I am capable of all these things, my workplace isn’t particularly encouraging or inspiring (everyone gets on with their job type thing) and I don’t cover all my skills with my job, so putting them all together and realising that I wasn’t in as terrible place as I thought was really nice.

    I don’t like bullshitting either (though I could with the best of them lol, I studied design, pitching is all about the bullshit) I prefer to show my hard work and dedication too, but the occasional reminder that I am pretty awesome at some things, is a nice little confidence boost.
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  • MarieAnge 7 March 2013, 12:02 pm

    Always be true to yourself, people will know you are honest and genuine.
    The rest will fall into place.
    Well done, good luck. I hope you get the position.

  • Jennie 7 March 2013, 12:29 pm

    You should never shy away from promoting yourself, especially when in possession of true skills and talents. Giving way to the people that can’t “back up their brag” will only land you in a situation where you are working for them & getting frustrated. Coming from Sweden I grew up with “the law of Jante” pretty much summed up in this sentence “You are not to think you’re anyone special or that you’re better than us”…this very Scandinavian way of thinking makes self-promotion very hard for a lot of people cause it is viewed as something inappropriate. Self-promotion shouldn’t be a dirty word, when you sit on a pot of gold as regards to skills and talents, you should always let people know about it so that good work can be done.
    I’m keeping my fingers & toes crossed that you bag the position, they would be very lucky to have you.
    Lot’s of love,
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  • Marisa 7 March 2013, 2:36 pm

    This is something that is so hard for me too. I’m not sure why – I think it’s because I never want to come off as arrogant or full of myself, but thinking this is such a lie. We should all promote our talents and abilities without feeling embarrassed or cocky because perhaps they are something that can help someone else out. And you’re last line is so very true…it’s just what I need to read to remind myself of this 🙂

    Very best wishes Franca!! Fingers crossed <3
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  • Susan K 7 March 2013, 5:17 pm

    I hate self-promoting. Which is a bummer, because in my field, you need to aggressively sell your awesomeness (especially of your publications) to everyone. It must be a cultural thing, though because I was reading something about Korean interview norms, and evidently Koreans find bragging very annoying and embarrassing. In fact, Koreans like to do the opposite- backdoor brag and engage in false modesty. Not that this is better, but it feels less annoying.
    I was actually listening to a public radio broadcast about this kind of phenomenon, which is supposedly quite common in self-promoting, certain kind capitalist cultures like the US http://ttbook.org/book/word-1
    Anyway, I’m sure that your version of self-promotion is probably very reasonable and called for, given your discomfort with it. Good luck!!

  • Yasmeen (Castle Fashion) 8 March 2013, 2:39 am

    I was in a leadership development program and a senior level executive at the company we partnered with and asked each woman to name one thing she’s great at. It was tough, especially for the younger women. Even their language gave it away…They would say, “I think I’m good at…” or “I’ve been told I’m great at…” but many didn’t whole-heartedly assert that they felt confident in and certain of their ability. I don’t think young girls are taught to recognize and promote their own skills and achievements, at least not as much as young boys are.

    And I think that issue is also intertwined with the idea that when 1 woman fails, the public or media will take that failure and apply it to the entire gender. I’m sure many men have the same issue with self-promotion but it probably stems from something other than mass systemic production of certain qualities in an entire gender (i.e. modest, passive)
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  • Jessie 8 March 2013, 5:39 am

    Not a deep comment, but: Yay! Go you!

  • Maria 8 March 2013, 10:02 am

    I can relate to this post, a lot! I also find it hard to blow my own trumpet, and also have a strong dislike of people who are *so* good at promoting themselves, when in fact they don’t have such good skills!
    I think it is something which definitely gets easier with practice. At work, when the need arises, I try to ‘make myself’ just do it – as in, write down a list of things I’m good at, without overthinking it. Then look at the list and think – is any of it wrong? untrue? overblown? Most of the time it’s fine – so long as I don’t give in to the self doubt / lack of confidence.
    I definitely see this as something which female rather than male colleagues predominantly have a problem with…

  • Lorena 1 May 2013, 7:49 pm

    I can relate to this –
    The thought of selling yourself as a product use to make me cringe too, all i needed was to get a pat on the back. BUT then comes the thoughts, the wondering mind on why someone else does so well and gets a promotion when you KNOW that they’re not even that capable ?
    But, oh well, they ring their own bell, clap at themselves and are constantly telling everyone how good they are. When I spot those people I usually dislike them.
    However in this competitive world I have learned to promote myself but in a very subtle way… anything overdone can look desperate or cheap.
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