How to Brag About Yourself to Employers (Without Sounding Like a Jerk)

by Andrea Karim on 12 March 2014 0 comments

Do you find it hard to talk positively about your work experiences when facing a potential employer? Are you shy or socially awkward, or did you just never get used to talking about yourself positively?

I am totally with you there, my friend. I personally can't stand talking about my skills, work experience, or job qualifications because it feels like bragging. But even shy people need jobs, right? So we have to learn how to "brag" about ourselves. Here are five simple tricks for promoting yourself without feeling like a jerk. (See also: Make a Good Impression at Your Next Interview)

1. Start Online

Because so many first impressions are now made online, you can't overlook your online presence when trying to promote yourself. The benefit of your online portfolio is that it's much easier to brag about your work experience and skills, because you have time on your side. Think of it as pre-bragging.

Make sure that your LinkedIn profile, professional and personal website, Etsy storefront, or other online profiles are affirming and industry-specific. Display your letters of recommendation, industry awards, publications (blogs, articles, presentations), volunteer experience, and group memberships like Rotary Club. (See also: Get Your LinkedIn Profile Noticed)

2. Stay Honest

While it's important not to overlook your everyday responsibilities when building your resume, make sure not to exaggerate what you do or what you have accomplished. Nothing is more embarrassing than being caught in a self-promotional lie, so stick to the facts without downplaying your work.

"Stake a claim you can own," advises Jacob Hoehne, Chief Creative Officer for Issimo Productions. "Nothing sticks in your throat like a statement you only kind of believe. I still shy away from superlatives, but I focus on irrefutable facts like, 'We've done work for clients like Panasonic, Google, and Jiffy Lube' or 'Our video helped an online software company increase lead conversion by 7x.'"

3. Develop a Persona

This trick is a little unorthodox, but it's one of the few that I have found to be truly effective, especially for phone interviews, which I struggle with. Using a persona is, essentially, acting.

Here's what I do.

I imagine the person that I want to be — not a totally new person, but a better version of me. This is the Me that I would like to send to my 20th high school reunion. Alternative Me is athletic, is well-respected as a high-powered marketing exec, is raising the perfect family, lives in an amazing condo in the Big City.

Then, I pretend I'm Alternative Me. I imagine that I'm this high-powered woman, and all of a sudden, I feel a burst of confidence. I even have a photo of Alternative Me (OK, it's actually a photo of Kerry Washington, but whatever) that I look at during phone interviews to think of the kind of confidence that I want to project. And for me, this works. (See also: 15 Ways to Be More Confident)

4. Focus on the Team

For shy people, being forced to take the spotlight is difficult. After all, when you don't enjoy being the center of attention, singing a solo can be terrifying. But directing a chorus? That's a little less daunting. Changing the focus from "Me" to "We" can help you talk about your accomplishments.

If you're not officially a manager, you can still give examples of how you took initiative and provided leadership. Fomenting collaboration is a skill in and of itself, but it also gives you the chance to talk about your success without directly saying "I DID THIS!"

5. Focus on the Value You Bring

As a potential employee or vendor, you offer skills and services that solve a problem for your employer or client. But if you feel uncomfortable saying "I fixed this problem," change the focus of the sentence. Rather than talking about yourself, talk about the problems you fix and how you fix them. (See also: How to Finally Get That Promotion)

Wokie Nwabueze is a communication coach who helps women build the tools they need to promote themselves within their industry. "I suggest focusing on the value they bring, problem they solve, and need they fulfill," she says. "This approach takes self-promoting out of the 'me, me, me' realm."

"Focus on how what you offer can transform someone's life or business," says Dr. Jennifer Howard, psychotherapist and author of Your Ultimate Life Plan. "Then promotion can feel more like offering to help someone than trying to sell them something."

"It's not really bragging at all, but letting those who could really use your products or services know why either would benefit them," explains Megan Peterson, a jewelry designer and entrepreneur and self-described super-introverted woman who had to overcome her shyness in order to engage customers at shows.

When you change the focus from you to the problem you can solve or the value you bring, it can be much easier to wax rhapsodic about your accomplishments.

Are you shy? Have you found any tricks that help you promote yourself without feeling uncomfortable?

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