“Ugh, I hate networking! It always feels so exhausting. I’m not comfortable bragging about myself. Can’t I just skip it?”
Nobody wants to be perceived as a horn-tooting, self-serving, narcissistic braggart.
But guess what?
There’s a big difference between “bragging” (gross and unhealthy—more on that in a moment) and simply “reporting the facts” (beautiful and very healthy—more on that in a sec, too.)
If talking about your accomplishments makes you feel like you’re having a full-body allergic reaction, this post can help.
First off? We need to make a clear distinction between bragging and reporting the facts.
When you brag, you’re talking arrogantly or boastfully. You’re often exaggerating your talents and accomplishments, or speaking poorly about others in an effort to make yourself look better than them.
This braggy behavior is rooted in—you guessed it—deep insecurity. You’re making an overblown noise about how great you are, because deep down? You feel worthless.
This impulse to brag often originates during childhood. Maybe you were raised in the shadow of a “golden sibling” who got all the attention, while you got none. Maybe you had a parent with unreasonably high expectations, who made you feel unworthy of love. Maybe it’s a habit you got into as a teenager to impress your “cool friends.”
It can be helpful to understand where the impulse to brag comes from—but if you don’t know, it’s OK. You don’t necessarily need 10 years of therapy, plunging deep into the depths of your soul. As long as you have enough self-awareness to recognize when it’s happening—you can learn to stop, and do better.
Reporting the Facts
When you feel confident and good about yourself, you don’t need to magnify your accomplishments or diminish other people’s great work.
With a healthy sense of self-pride, you can simply report the facts.
No flourishes. No stretching the truth. Just stating who you are and what you’ve done, plain and simple.
When you reframe the whole idea of “networking” and “self-promotion” and even “writing a cover letter” as a matter of “reporting the facts,” it changes the entire experience.
Suddenly, you have nothing to fear.
Nobody’s going to accuse you of being a liar. Nobody’s going to accuse you of being a bragger. People will either want to hire you—because they need the skills that you’ve reported—or they won’t!
But either way, they’re going to think: “Wow. Super impressive and cool.”
Practice the art of reporting the facts about your career—in a calm, confident tone.
Start small. Try “reporting the facts” about what you accomplished today at work to a good friend—over the phone. Don’t overblow your accomplishments or diminish them. Just the facts.
Work up from there. Try “reporting the facts” about what you accomplished this week to a mentor or somebody that you deeply admire—face to face.
Then, the big leagues. Practice “reporting the facts” to people you don’t know at a conference, meet-up, happy hour, or networking event.
Here’s a short script you can play with:
Hi, my name is [your name], and I do [your job].
Right now? My biggest project is [project you’re working on], and I’m really proud of how successfully it’s going.
How about you? What’s the most exciting project in your world, right now?
Sleazy? No way.
Super impressive? Definitely.
Let’s have the facts! What’s one thing you’ve done, this week, that was a total success?