Speaking about our capabilities or achievements might not come naturally to many of us. But it’s a skill to acquire as being visible is a simple yet overlooked step for career advancement. While we might believe that our work will speak for itself, anecdotal evidence points otherwise.
In his book Power: Why Some Have It And Some Don’t, Jeffrey Pfeffer emphasizes that the quality of one’s work is imperative. However, employers are looking at other experiences, skills, and competencies that make a candidate ‘memorable’. He says, “Being memorable equals getting picked.” The vital question is, how do we talk about our achievements and stand out without sounding boastful? Here are some pointers:
- Share facts instead of descriptors. It seems obvious, but when under pressure, we often forget the power of sharing facts. For instance, if customer satisfaction scores doubled after you took on the managerial role, stating this instead of using a general ‘we are doing well on the customer satisfaction parameter’ will help you sound succinct and credible. A tip: prepare and keep such data handy, so you’ll be ready to use it at short notice.
- Illustrate with a story. As human beings, we are wired to respond to stories. If time or context permits, narrate how your work made a difference to someone. That’ll showcase your skills or expertise while demonstrating your ability to be people-focused. Mentored a team member as she tried to find her bearings? Discuss how well she’s doing today and how happy you are to see her success. Created an app for home chefs to sell their food? Describe how it empowered a chef to earn and build an identity for himself.
- Don’t underplay the hard work. Take credit for doing a task well instead of brushing it aside with ‘It was nothing’ or ‘It didn’t take much time’. While it might be true that the task didn’t need much effort or time, emphasizing it could suggest that had you worked harder, the outcome could have been better. Instead, accept praise or compliments gracefully by sharing how grateful you feel about having reached a milestone or by acknowledging any support you might have received from your team. The key here is to say it with sincerity and simplicity, to avoid making your statements sound contrived.
- Be honest. Was it a struggle to reach here? Did you go through testing times before seeing success? Keep your story honest and real; talk about the hard work and the joy of it. Being candid about both aspects of your success makes you more relatable and authentic. It also reduces the need to underplay your achievements to sound humble or fit in with a peer group whose success might be more modest than yours.
Openly gloating about success can put people off, but humble bragging can elicit a similar response. As research suggests people who humblebrag come across as being insincere. Avoid that trap by just stating your achievements and steering clear of both, false humility and overhyped accomplishments.