Self-Promotion is Not a Deadly Sin

By: Kevin Gorham

I am a Baby Boomer. I am the product of German heritage. I grew up in the Midwest.  These are all factors which worked against me in the job search process. Why?  Because I was raised to believe that talking about my accomplishments was akin to committing a mortal sin. Many people share this same belief. To those of you currently searching for your next job, I say, “Get Over It!”

You may believe that doing great work equals having a great reputation. You may feel that if you do a good job your boss will market your brand. Or, you may still cling to that belief that self-promotion is boastful and bad. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

First, doing great work doesn’t equal a great reputation if no one knows about it.  Second, your boss isn’t going to market your brand. He’s more concerned about his own brand and your brand not overshadowing his. Finally, there is nothing bad about sharing your accomplishments in a way that demonstrates value to a potential employer.

Karen Kang, in her book Branding Pays writes, “Self-promotion should not be an exercise in boasting, which can be off-putting. Education is a better concept. Brand education helps a target audience to recognize your value.”

[Making a career transition? Check out our article, “Branding Yourself for a Career Transition.”]

Human resources professionals and hiring managers are not mind readers. They fly by the seats of their pants each day; just like you did. In fact many interviewers admit to only briefly looking over a resume before entering the room with a candidate. So as an effective job seeker, it is your responsibility – dare I say your obligation – to educate them on your accomplishments and your value. Connect the dots.

Finally, don’t be afraid to use the word I. Recruiters appreciate the fact that most accomplishments happen because of team efforts. But what they really want to know is what was your role and what contributions did you make? Don’t be afraid to say, “I did this and as a result our team accomplished that.” Remember, the recruiter isn’t interested in the team, she is interested in YOU.

[Want to test your interview skills? Take our Interview Strategies and Tactics quiz.]

As Fred Coon, CEO of Stewart, Cooper & Coon often says, “They don’t fire the team, they fire you. So when you describe your accomplishments, say ‘I’ not ‘we’ and take credit for those things you did that brought sales or profits to the company. Use your ‘I’ and not the diminutive ‘we’ when describing those things for which you were specifically responsible.”

So, shrinking wallflowers, stand up and be proud. Educate recruiters and potential employers about your brand and your value.  Don’t be afraid to say “I.”  But don’t brag. Your mother wouldn’t like that.

Branding begins with a great resume. Stewart, Cooper & Coon provides professionally written resumes.