How to Brag – Nicely

Dear, Anita,

I am currently assigned to a local company through a temporary agency. This company hires temps first and then decides whether or not to hire permanent. I work 3rd shift, so there is less opportunity to be noticed by management. I am tempted to email my supervisor and “toot my own horn,” as I have never been late or absent, have done every job happily, and even volunteer for overtime. I tend to get overshadowed by more aggressive people, and I don’t want to be overlooked here. How do I bring all this positive info to his attention without sounding like an insufferable braggart? Thanks.

Dear, Bragger Lagger,

Businessman Speaking Through MegaphoneThe great boxer Muhammed Ali once said – and I paraphrase – it ain’t bragging if it’s true. (He also said, “It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am,” but I’m not including that attitude in my advice.) In the world of employment, you’re going to have to man up and boast amiably about your strengths and accomplishments, whether writing cover letters and résumés, while interviewing, and, after you get the job, when asking for a raise.

But there is a fine line between confidence and “supercalifragilisticexpi-braggadocious.” You do need to let your employer know what you have to offer, but not in an egotistical way.

Be pleasantly self-assured. When talking about yourself, add a dash of humbleness. Avoid words like “best” (unless you really did win the “Best Fill-In-Job-Title of the Year” award). When you’re outlining your triumphs and accomplishments, this type of communication often comes across better in person rather than via e-mail (the obvious exception would be your résumé).

Provide evidence. If you say, “I’m a great motivator,” how can that be proven? Reconstruct your statement with specific examples from your past experience. Say something like, “I’ve always had success motivating others by doing X, Y, and Z.”

It’s not about you. It’s about how you can help the new employer. To avoid appearing self-centered, say “we” often to show you’re a team player (remember the axiom, “There’s no ‘I’ in team.”). Chances are you can’t really take full credit for everything on your résumé, unless you were literally a one-person entrepreneurial operation.

Let others boast for you. Bring up comments from co-workers, performance evaluations, and thank you notes or testimonials. “At my last review, my supervisor told me that…” or “A customer recently posted a great review on Yelp after we… ”

Answer questions directly and concisely. Sometimes droning on and on is a nervous habit during in an interview, but it could make you come across as someone who just loves the sound of his own voice. A shy person who avoids eye contact could be misconstrued as having a haughty or condescending attitude.

Avoid other signs that you’re cocky: name-dropping, one-upping, using five-dollar words when a 50-cent word will do, interrupting often, bad-mouthing others (former employers, co-workers, the bad driver who made you late), and to that last example, not accepting any blame. Showing a little vulnerability is not a bad thing. Why else do you think hiring managers ask that double-edged question, “What is your greatest strength and your greatest weakness?”

Whatever you say, be sure it’s true so this quip won’t apply to you: “With a braggart, it’s no sooner done than said.”–Evan Esar

Readers: Have you ever felt the need to brag about yourself to your manager because you don’t feel he/she has noticed your job well done? How did you handle it? 

Do you have a question for Anita Clew? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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