I was talking to a job seeker a few days ago, who finds networking very uncomfortable. She feels like she is ‘pushing’ her message on others, and bragging about herself.
This is a common issue. I remember how at one of the first workshops I did at a conference, “Promoting You”, someone near the front of the room raised their hand and observed, “I don’t like to brag.” And I have to admit that when I started my coaching practice, one of my personal gremlins that held me back was the fear of being seen as a pushy salesperson. I needed to learn how to present without feeling like I was being pushy.
It’s very easy to get into the trap of thinking about presenting the value of your work as ‘bragging’, and it doesn’t have to be that way. A lot comes down to the delivery and context.
I need a message that presents the value of my work, rather than simply information about what I do. It needs to answer the WIIFM question (What’s In It For Me?) for the listener. But at the same time, if I run up to someone and simply present that message, that’s likely to be perceived as pushy, and come across as bragging.
So I need to do it in a way that doesn’t ‘push’ the message on others, but that rather responds naturally to questions. This is the context aspect. I have a conversation, and wait for the point where it will be natural to present it, such as when someone asks “What do you do?”
Now in 1 on 1 networking meetings, I can be a little bit more direct. Here the meeting has likely been set up as a chance to get to know each other, so there is an expectation that I’m going to talk about myself. As long as I don’t just launch into that without any ‘preamble’, that will be OK. And here I can give a bit more of a story. So I might set the stage, like, “Jim, I really want to get to know you and what you do, and to share a bit of what I’m about.” Now the sharing I might do won’t come out of the blue and feel like I’m pushing it on Jim.
So think about how and when you present your value proposition, as well as what you say.
See this piece for more on Showing Value vs. Bragging.