Build Your Self-Marketing Muscles
From Career Tips, 2014 Volume 5, May
One of the biggest barriers to applying the self-promotion principles I've been talking about in the last few issues is discomfort. This applies whether you are marketing yourself for your next job, seeking the visibility that leads to interesting opportunities at your employer, or promoting your small business or consulting practice.
You're used to presenting yourself a certain way, and to answering questions like "What Do You Do?" directly in the way that comes most naturally to you. Most people around you seem to be doing things the same way, so that must be right. Wrong!
If you want to market yourself effectively, then you don't want to be doing what everyone else is doing. You want to stand out and be noticed above the noise of the crowd. Besides, most people aren't self-promoting effectively, so if you mimic what you see, you won't be either.
That immediately creates discomfort. Doing something different from what most others are doing, what most are expecting you to do, what you are used to doing, and getting reactions different from those you are accustomed to, is automatically uncomfortable. You need to build new muscles, and practice continually until your comfort zone expands to encompass your new approach. Only then will you be able to relax a bit and let the new approach become a natural part of your repertoire.
Two of the most common mistakes that usually aren't even recognized as such are:
- Providing information instead of building engagement.
- Answering questions literally instead of being prepared with interesting, provocative and results-oriented answers.
Here's a simple example. Someone you don't know well asks "What do you do?", and you answer "I'm the general counsel for Relevant Pharmaceuticals."
That is a blown opportunity. Instead of an answer that might generate engagement and foster interest in what you do, leading naturally to a deeper conversation, you've answered the question literally, providing information. You've answered the question, but you've answered the wrong question.
What if instead, you said something like, "Most recently, I helped Relevant Pharmaceuticals vacate a frivolous $2 million patent infringement suit."
One can easily imagine follow up questions, like:
- How did you do that?
- Are you an expert in patent law?
- Do you work for Relevant full time, or are you an outside counsel?
- Can you help my company with issues like that?
- What other issues do you help companies like Relevant with?
Any of these leads directly to that deeper conversation.
So here's my two part challenge to you.
For the next month, every time someone asks you a question like "What do you do?", give an answer along the lines of the second one above. To get into the right mindset to do this, I want you to imagine that what they just said is one of these two statements:
"Give me an example of why your company should pay your salary."
"Give me an example of why a client should buy your services."
I don't care if it's someone you've never met who you've run into at a backyard barbecue, a colleague at a networking event, or your Great Uncle Bob who never really knew what you did in the first place. Every single time the question comes up, answer that way. This is how you are going to start to build those self-marketing muscles.
It's OK to use different statements, and different examples as you explore what works for you, but for the next month, never revert back to the 'standard' answer.
You are going to be sorely tempted to throw your title into your statement, changing it to "I'm General Counsel at Relevant Pharmaceuticals, and most recently I ..."
Resist this. For this exercise over the next month, I forbid you to include your title anywhere in your statement! Reserve your title for the deeper discussion, when the other party is really engaged with you and asking for more.
If you really take this challenge seriously, I guarantee you will see positive results over the month. Drop me a note to let me know what happens!