This is a guest post from Dara Blaine, a personal friend, and professional career coach. In this post, Dara explores an issue I’ve struggled with in my own career: promoting myself and my business.
A few years ago, if you went to the same networking event I did, you’d find me hugging a wall. That’s because I am a classic introvert, and as a general rule, I don’t jump into conversations easily unless I know you well. The challenge, of course, is that I have to talk to you to get to know you well enough to share a bit of myself.
However, I’m also a big fan of practicing what I preach, so as a career coach who helps people navigate the ins and outs of networking strategy on a daily basis, I’ve forced myself to step outside of my comfort zone on numerous occasions. In the beginning, I’ll admit: I felt nervous as I began to share my career story with others regularly. All the networking strategies I studied focused on sharing your accomplishments and putting your best foot forward. Put into practice, I often felt like self-promotion was synonymous with bragging.
This is a concern I’ve heard voiced by many of my clients, too: how do I put my best foot forward without sounding full of myself? As a big fan of language, I took to the dictionary to find the by-the-book difference between bragging and self-promotion. According to Merriam-Webster, bragging is defined as: “to talk about yourself, your achievements, your family, etc., in a way that shows too much pride.” One of the definitions of promote, on the other hand, is “to help (something) happen, develop, or increase.”
Those are two very different definitions.
Through this language, I was able to reframe the idea of self-promotion. This is what I now share with clients: bragging about yourself is inherently designed to make someone else feel that they are somehow less than you, and that’s not very conducive to a networking conversation.
Self-promotion, on the other hand, is about sharing who you are, what you do, and why you do it in a way that helps people to see how you might be able to help them in some way. Here’s a scribbled list to further breakdown the difference:If you’ve been reading about networking these days, you know that the key to networking effectively is taking the time to develop relationships. Great relationships are inherently based in reciprocity – both parties benefit.
So the next time you’re at a networking event and someone asks you what you do, why not focus on how you help people instead of listing your numerous accomplishments? This will relieve the pressure of feeling like you’re exaggerating yourself and help the other person connect to you in an authentic way.
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