Many of us were raised to be humble and not to brag. But the process of career management often requires that you talk about yourself and your accomplishments -- a skill that makes many people uncomfortable because they associate this behavior with bragging. But when you talk about your achievements, you are not bragging. It's only bragging if your discussion contains hyperbole, half truths, or lies.
Recent experiments conducted by Haifa University researcher Nurit Tal-Or examining the impact of bragging about those close to you (i.e. a family member or a colleague) vs. bragging about yourself suggest that people view people who brag about themselves as more competent than those who brag about others. "Bragging" (with specific and quantifiable examples of how you have achieved success) can actually be good for your career brand.
Is the fear of sounding like a bragger holding you back in your career? Here are some ways you can boast effectively without being full of hot air.
Truthful resume writing
Many people tell me that they don't like to write about their accomplishments on their resume because it sounds like they are bragging. So instead, they write resumes that merely outline their job tasks and look just like the resumes of the other 500 applicants vying for the same position. If you don't write about the impact you had on the organizations you supported, someone else will -- and he/she will be the one to get the interview. You may be more qualified than your competitors -- but those who do the best job of explaining how they improved something in their past job have the best chance of landing interviews. Write about situations where you helped the companies you have worked for make money, save money, save time, eliminate a redundancy, grow the business, or keep the business. This isn't bragging. This is simply giving a factual account of your value to the organization and backing those claims up with statistics such as dollars saved, time saved, etc.
But remember, honesty is always important; claiming you achieved more than you actually did will damage your credibility. Writing that you single-handedly transformed a business process or taking full credit for a project that was actually executed by your team may come across as bragging or even lying. But explaining that you led the effort that resulted in these changes or that you co-managed a project allows you to claim responsibility for the project without suggesting that you achieved the whole thing by yourself.
Once you are called in for an interview, the hiring manager expects you to be able to articulate your past successes. Create compelling stories of your value as an employee using the "CAR" formula: discuss the Challenges you faced in your past roles, the Actions you took to address those challenges, and the corresponding Results. These stories don't make hiring managers think you are bragging. They help the hiring manager develop a comfort level with you. Most hiring managers believe that past successes are a good indicator of future success. So sharing stories that demonstrate your value proposition help solidify the relationship with the hiring manager and encourage him/her to move you to the next round of the interview process.
Networking meetings should not be all about you. You will quickly be labeled a braggart if you talk about yourself non-stop during the event and move on to the next person once you have exhausted all conversation about yourself. Great networkers focus on being good listeners and figure out ways to help others. In networking situations, if you let the other person do most of the talking, he/she thinks you are a great conversationalist. The key here is to let the other person brag, remember what they do, and share that information with others. Once you offer help to others, they will remember your efforts and want to reciprocate. And before you know it, they will be asking you about yourself and how they can help you by bragging to their contacts on your behalf.
Proactive performance management
Many people think that when their performance review rolls around, their boss should be brimming with good things to say and that it is that supervisor's responsibility to remember and document everything the employee has achieved over the past 12 months. But in the real world, bosses often don't keep track of everything their employees accomplish, and frequently employees take care of problems before the boss even knows they exist.
In order to manage your career effectively, you need to keep a "brag book" throughout the year that can then be shared with your boss at the time of your review. Be sure to describe how your achievements helped the company or department do things smarter, faster, or more efficiently -- and prove the impact of your actions with quantifiable metrics whenever possible. By "proactively bragging" about the value you bring to the organization, you may also be able to improve your merit increase or position yourself as the next in line for a future promotion.