Showing Value vs. Bragging
From Career Tips, 2020 Volume 11, November 2020
It's important that you always show value in your messages. This applies to your answer to "What do you do?", your 30 second elevator pitch, the opening profile in your resume, what you say in cover letters, and the way you present yourself in networking meetings and interviews.
And this isn't just about job search, it's equally important on the job, if you want to gain the visibility that leads to new opportunities.
The trick is to show that value in a way that doesn't cross the line into bragging, which then becomes a turnoff to the listener or reader.
As an example, I received a "Just Sold" card from a local realtor about our next door neighbor's house. It opened thus: "I did it again! I listed and sold a home in your neighborhood..."
Now if I was thinking right now about selling my home, I might be tempted to at least check her out as a possible realtor. But I'm not, so instead my reaction was, "She's pretty full of herself, would she be someone I would want to work with?"
Obviously if I were going to work with a realtor, I want it to be one who is very successful. But the problem here is that I react better to someone who is at least a little bit humble about their success. I do want to hear about her accomplishments, just not in a way that comes across so much as bragging.
Her card reminds me of our experience when we bought our first home, and a friend of Helene's referred us to her realtor. That realtor took us out to see a few homes, and quickly declared that she knew we were going to buy a house from her. We both found her a bit too aggressive for our tastes, and never contacted her again.
How might that first realtor have accomplished her goal without turning me off? Possibilities:
Use an opening that lets you in on the fact that she might be about to brag a little. That little bit of forewarning makes it more acceptable:
"I'm so pleased to let you know that I sold another house in your neighborhood."
Downplay the brag, while still letting you know about the success:
"I just wanted to tell you that I recently sold your neighbor's house, and would be happy to talk about how to do the same for you."
Throw in a dash of humility:
"I was fortunate enough to have the listing for another house in your neighborhood, and we just sold it for a great price."
Move the 'brag' to the end of the message:
(Message about the market, followed by) "I've had great success with sales in your neighborhood, and would love to share that with you."
I'm sure you can imagine all sorts of other variations.
Many times, the difference between value and bragging is all about the context and the delivery.
For example, if I walk up to someone at a networking event and immediately say with enthusiasm "I help job seekers who are frustrated with their search," it will come across very sales-y. On the other hand, that same statement in a relatively matter-of-fact tone in response to the question "What do you do?" has proven very effective in creating interesting conversations.
Another example: I invited a friend to a business networking group, and introduced him to someone at the continental breakfast table. That person asked Brad what he did, and Brad immediately launched into his 30 second pitch. Afterwards, the other party simply walked off to a table.
The pitch Brad gave was perfectly reasonable, and generally pretty effective in a situation where everyone is asked to get up in turn to introduce themselves. The problem was the way he pushed it on the other person. Had he simply given a one line answer, and then waited for another question to bring out more, he might have had a truly engaging conversation.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic. And for more, see these:
If self-promotion without bragging is an area in which you struggle, consider working with a professional on messaging and network skill-building. Take my Career Search Assessment and I'll set up a 30 minute exploratory session to examine your goals plus the challenges you face, and to explain how I could help you land the job and pay you deserve.
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