One of my friends who had recently relocated to another country was sharing his experience on how he found a job over there in a very short amount of time. As he continued speaking, he mentioned something that caught my attention. He said “If you ever consider relocating to this place, make sure you plan to be active on LinkedIn for at the least 6-8 months – like, comment, share, post, connect. Just be active on it.” And as I begin to write this post, this conversation stood out that displayed the need to be visible and, in a way, to talk about your own accomplishments.
My first boss was a friendly chap who also happened to know me well. On the first day of my work, he gave me one golden advice which I have since passed on to countless young professionals, tongue in cheek of course! He said ‘Work hard for sure, but make sure it’s seen by those who must see. Better if your boss’ boss knows it well. Visibility is important to grow’. That piece of advice has stuck with me ever since. I may not use it anymore, but it’s a precious advice nonetheless.
Professional life is all about promotions. Your resume is a small sachet of your real self that serves to promote you. Your appearance is also a promotional endeavor and so is your appraisal meeting. The world is divided into cultures that are comfortable about promoting your own self and those that feel embarrassed about it, owing mainly to their upbringing. Considered not modest in many cultures, bragging is a necessary evil oftentimes. In the book ‘Brag: How to toot your horn without blowing it’, author Peggy Klaus says that most people are repelled by the very notion of bragging and consider it obnoxious even when they know it’s necessary.
Bragging or boasting about one’s own achievements may not be considered the best thing but it’s something you can’t do without; especially if you’re working in an extremely competitive work environment. This is something which everybody loves to indulge in themselves but are unwilling to tolerate when others do it! Human psychology, you said? Well, delve into it deeper and you’re confronted with another entity- Narcissism which is a close but elder cousin of bragging.
Bragging needs a proper when, how much, why and before whom directives to be effective. There is a thin line between bragging and being boastful which is, strangely, crossed many times. In competitive organizations where every other person is striving to outsmart the other, it becomes a necessary task to brag about your own achievements. It’s not about shallow trumpeting but all about being confident and proud of one’s own achievements. Who else will pat our back if we don’t do it? How else will others come to know what good we have done? So you say why should we blow our own trumpet? If we don’t, then what do we say at the appraisal? To a large extent, bragging about your achievements helps boost self esteem because in a business world, more than the task, it is how many people know you’ve done it that matters more and rightfully so.
A lot is dependent on other team members, your boss, his boss, members of management, clients, guests and sundry knowing what you did. One’s daily work is always part of the teamwork or projects. Very rarely is the boss willing to split individual accomplishments and acknowledge them before the stakeholders. So one single person’s problem solving skills, fine decision making abilities, that deal that someone cracked under pressure or the negotiations that bent in your favour because of someone’s push would otherwise go neglected. If you’ve done it, brag about it.
Moms frequently brag about their kids and their lives. We’ve grown up seeing people do it all the time. With age, we learn to separate the grain from the chaff. Bragging is perfectly valid in precise doses before your own teammates and boss. A little more is acceptable over business lunches/ dinners where all people do is brag. Hike that bragometer by a few notches when you’re at the interview or your annual appraisal meet. But whenever you do it, follow certain rules. Frame your sentences that work for your brag but don’t sound such. Tricky? Not really if you understand what I’m saying. Steve Jobs did a perfect job of capitalizing on his humble beginnings by using his personal anecdotes, especially before students. His famous graduation speech in fact begins with just that.
Instead of saying “I’ve lived in the US for a long time”, one just starts using the words “Gas” for petrol. Before you explain, people know you’ve been living there for long. The outcome of bragging must be the real objective to start with. If the outcome is envy and pure boredom on part of the listener, you’ve not done it correctly or you didn’t have anything to brag about in the real sense. But when the listener is in awe of your accomplishments and digs deeper to know more, you’re sure to have hit the hammer on the nail. Moreover, when you speak up and give out details about your achievements, you’re more likely to be remembered.
Accomplished business leaders, politicians, academicians with a rich repertoire of achievements often quote from their work experiences. That, I wouldn’t call bragging at all. It’s the boastful brag that catches the eye and irritates the most but one which can’t be avoided. It’s better not to resort to bragging when in the company of people who have accomplished much higher levels but have chosen to remain quiet about it. The time, place and the company you’re with matters a lot. Do it more when among equals. Avoid hollow names-dropping if you cannot provide accurate references to context. Your audience has no way to verify your brag if you don’t substantiate it, but if it’s exposed, you fall flat on your face.
Should you brag about yourself only when you’re with others? Go ahead. The social media is an open field to put up your stars for all to see. Wherever possible and permissible of course. Put up the certificates you’ve earned. The conferences you’ve been to. The legends you’ve met and interacted with. Staff meetings? Speak up in full glory, but just ensure you allow others to speak too and just do not interrupt. Complement others when they share their stories.
In fact, in an era when corporate storytelling is the in-thing, bragging ought to also be considered as a different kind of storytelling that stays long after you’ve met the person.
What impresses you when you see a colleague or that stranger talking about themselves? How did they do? Or what puts you off when someone brags about themselves? Take a moment and comment below your experiences.
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