Gina London: Bragging's right: how you can put yourself out there to shine
'I don't like to brag." That's what the man told me on the phone last week. I was reviewing his CV and LinkedIn profile while we discussed ways to bolster his job search strategy. He had just finished telling me about a recent sales award he earned after directing a successful project.
It was a project worth about €5m to his organisation. I asked him why he hadn't listed that accomplishment anywhere I could see. He responded with that quote at the top of this column.
In the three years since I moved to Ireland, if I had a euro for every time someone told me, "I don't want to be seen as 'acting above my station'" or "we're not used to putting ourselves out there", I would be rich.
Don't tell me I don't get it because it's "an Irish thing". I'm here to tell you it isn't. At least not any longer.
Take one look at any of the positive social media influencers here in Ireland or at someone who is generating positive headlines in the press at the moment and I'll show you an Irish person who is putting themselves out there.
People are doing it. You can too.
Of course, no one wants to be known as a braggart or narcissist. (Well, almost no one. I'll avoid mentioning the resident of the White House here).
I tell my young daughter there's a big difference between being confident and being cocky. The bottom line is no one knows your story and your triumphs better than you do.
So, don't call it bragging if it makes you feel squeamish, but do wake up and take responsibility for promoting yourself to prospective employers or clients.
As All Business magazine writes, "Knowing what your achievements are will enable you to seize opportunities to set yourself apart from the competition."
Here's how to promote yourself.
1 Don't bury the lead
I started my career as a newspaper journalist and I can tell you from experience you don't want to have an editor come up to your desk and loudly accuse you of "burying the lead".
I'll tell you that saga another time. But for now, do apply the concept to your CV or LinkedIn profile.
Think like a reporter. What are your fiercest facts? List them together with bullets. Or try creating a special section called "Key Achievements" and put them together there.
Just don't hold back. Put yourself in the mind of the other person. What must they learn about you - quickly - in order to want to hire you? Focus less on responsibilities and more on results.
2 Craft a story.
Now that you have identified a list of your accomplishments, wrap the cold facts with the story of how you achieved it. What was the struggle before the victory? Did you have to work all night on your project during a power outage?
Did you fly to an exotic locale to close the big sale?
We all like stories, so if you can think about your achievement as an element of a bigger story, it will become more interesting. The idea here is to engage the listener in a human way.
You don't want to unnaturally blurt out fabulous facts about yourself. Therefore, it's critical that you practice calmly and smoothly telling your stories aloud.
Be careful to add the colourful bits that you crafted, but don't go on and on so that your audience loses the will to live. The more you practice your stories properly, the better you will be when you actually deliver them.
4 Credit others
No man is an island and you very likely had a team of people working with you or supporting you in your efforts. Make sure to mention them as part of your story. You can be proud of your accomplishments without being a glory hog.
5 Network constantly
If the mere thought of this suggestion exhausts you, I'm sorry. But unless you're completely satisfied with where you are currently in your career and there is nothing short of retirement that will move you from your secure position, then you'd better be networking.
You should commit to nurturing your current business relationships and to trying to make new ones.
Ask people you already know to introduce you to new people. Expand your circle. When you meet someone, follow my recommendations above and talk yourself up.
But don't forget to also offer ways to add value and help the other person with whom you meet.
The old maxim is true. It's often less about what you know but about who you know.
The more people you know in a variety of roles, the more likely you may be the one who springs to mind when an opportunity arises. As Entrepreneur magazine writes, "The one with the most connections wins."
It's never too late to become the person you want to be.
Come on. If you want to stand out, you have to stand up.
What are you proud of? What do you want for your career this Christmas? Write to Gina in care of SundayBusiness@independent.ie
Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist who is now a director with Fuzion Communications. She serves as media commentator, emcee and corporate consultant. @TheGinaLondon
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