How to promote yourself without sounding like a w*&ker
Last week I was picking up a frame I had purchased from an online seller. Upon collection, the seller and I engaged in small talk when I asked her what she did for a living (I was curious as she had A LOT of frames for sale). Straight away, she said, "I'm good at drawing, so I recently started a small business working from home and primarily do art and affirmations cards for mums." However, what immediately stood out to me was her first three words, "I'm good at...".
I left, but those words stuck with me. I was impressed! She owned her skills and took pride in her abilities. So I asked myself, what am I good at? As soon as something popped into my head, it took about 0.2 seconds for my subconscious to completely dismiss the idea. I felt like an arrogant idiot even admitting my skills to myself, so what chance did I have to show others what I can do?
Stephanie Sword-Williams, the self-promo guru and author of "F*** Being Humble," coined the phrase FOSS: Fear Of Sounding Stupid. Williams believes this is the driving factor as to why so many shy away from self-promotion. As a society, we fear the idea of being deemed as not good enough. Still, if you are managing your professional brand, you are indeed setting the expectations of your self-promotion right?
So how can you promote yourself without the fear of sounding like a w*&nker?
Build a portfolio
Be prepared, be prepared, be prepared! Whether you're a photographer or an accountant, no matter what you do, you have a body of work. This portfolio, in whatever shape or form it may be, whether it's a website or a report, is you're collateral and acts as evidence-based material to back up what you're saying. But no one is going to see something that lives on your desktop - so print it, post it, and make it seen.
And don't let the confines of crippling perfectionism hold you back! Your work doesn't have to be bulletproof to be pretty damn great - that is part of the journey of progressing in your career, getting better as time goes on. It's also the least w*&kerish thing to assume your work thus far isn't immaculate - but your ability to bring it forward and own your work and the skills that went into it is merit unto itself.
Give thanks where thanks is due
"If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else." – Booker T. Washington.
There is no merit lost in admitting you had help. Your ability to seek help from others who can fill the gaps where your weaknesses lie, shows your logic around the effectiveness of getting a project moving and is something to be applauded. Like an Actor giving their Golden Globe speech, you never hear them say, "thank you, I deserve this, and how good was I in the closing scene?!" instead, they're often pressed for time as they squeeze in the magnitude of names that they know ultimately helped them achieve this success.
In no way does it take away from their performance or denies their abilities. But it shows humility and grace. So when you're self-promoting be sure to champion those around you have helped you win your wins!
Here is where I stand on self-promotion today
What self-promotion isn't: a bigoted act in which one parades around like a show pony yelling, "look at me and how great I am!"
What self-promotion is: being prepared to showcase your work or set of skills when opportunities arise to ensure you are taking an active yet authentic role in your professional trajectory.
Thanks for reading!