Several very special requests have come through recently. A work colleague needs help with her year-end performance self-appraisal. A dear friend wants a chance at that once-in-a-lifetime job opportunity. One of my students is applying for a hotly-contested, full-ride scholarship. Each of these people is an amazing bundle of talent and shouldn’t really need my help. Yet they’re all frozen in place. Why? Because they’ve been asked to sing their own praises.
My colleague emailed me her draft self-appraisal. The subject line pretty much said it all: “Please tell me if this is horrible.”
After receiving my edits to her cover letter, my friend bubbled over with thanks, and then quickly explained: “You see, I really struggle with selling myself.”
And my student doesn’t believe she’s accomplished anything.
Of course the happy owl loves self-promoting! It’s her chance to stop and consider her contributions from a new and different angle. Done well, it gets results. But most people shy away from self-promotion. They say it’s selfish or plain wrong to crow about themselves. As a result, most people never get very good at it.
But given the choice, wouldn’t you rather write your own story? I guarantee you this: no one else will do it as well as you will. Here are three quick tips for approaching the self-promotion challenge:
- Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Who will be reading or listening to your story? What’s important to him and why? When you take the time to frame your discussion around the other’s needs, two things happen: a) you establish a bond that makes your audience want to know more, and b) you won’t feel quite so self-possessed!
- Focus on results, not actions. Besides being really boring, a list of completed tasks says nothing about why any of those things matter. For example, let’s say you “participated in fundraising.” Big deal. But what if you “generated $722 in charitable contributions from all-new sources”? Or that those funds were used to buy school supplies for needy kids? Now that matters!
- Tell the truth and back it up with evidence. Think carefully about the truth; sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes not. When you do find it, use evidence (like statistics or examples) to put it into perspective. If you say only that “I take violin lessons,” that’s not entirely true. If you’ve performed a recital, then you’ve entertained 36 appreciative audience members! Say so!
Above all, keep it real. Share your drafts with someone you trust and ask for honest feedback. Still need help? Contact the happy owl anytime! – Susan Schlag, MLS