The term "self promotion" often
carries a negative connotation-and with good reason. No one enjoys associating
with someone whose solution to every problem starts-and ends-with the letter
"I". At the same time, unless others know what you do-and can do-chances are
they will never realize they need your services. Instead of approaching this
topic as "Me: 101," however, let's take a different approach and focus on how
to communicate your value to those with whom you come in contact.
Particularly in these tough economic times, making yourself memorable to employers, potential employers, clients, and business and networking associates is more vital than ever. You might know that you are ideally qualified for certain positions and opportunities, but with countless other qualified professionals jockeying for these same positions, it's not what you know that counts; it's what others know about you.
How can you advertise ‘you' to the world without earning Sir Lancelot's "C'est moi" reputation? Simply put: communicate a comprehensive value "package" of which you are one component-albeit a catalytic component. Below, I've outlined the three communication components constituting this approach, and the good news is that it works whether you are searching for a job, hoping to move ahead in your current position, soliciting new business clients or working to expand your network of business and professional relationships.
So, let's dive in and examine how to turn self-promotion into value-communication while advancing your career.
1) Communicate Your Capabilities
This is more than providing a laundry list of education, skills training and professional experience. Anyone can type up a resume-and have it subsequently trashed because it looks exactly the same as 1,000 other resumes. A better way to communicate your capabilities is to do so in terms of achievements and accomplishments.
For example, if your vocation is IT sales and you closed a multi-million dollar deal with a major corporation, you might say you had the opportunity to work with a leading corporation to provide needed IT capabilities while at the same time helping your company set a new sales record (if, indeed, this was the case). And if you made the sale as part of a team, be sure to give credit where credit is due: "I had the honor to work with a highly talented sales team to seal the biggest sales agreement in company history."
Doesn't that sound better than "I closed this great deal and set a new sales record"? Indeed, it does. Facts melded with humility form a powerful combination.
2) Communicate Your Vision-In Terms of Others
Perhaps your goal is to be the top-producing IT sales representative in the region. While saying as much might impress some people, it probably will do little to separate you from the hundreds of other ambitious sales reps with the same goal who, incidentally, may be in direct competition with you.
A far better way to communicate your vision and make your qualifications more appealing in the process is to convey your goals in terms of others.
For example, if you know the way to achieve your goal is to sign on a certain number of major companies and/or corporations as new clients, you might say your vision is to help 20 (or however many) leading corporations maximize their IT capabilities by implementing the systems, software, and equipment that you can offer. Already, you've shifted the direct focus away from you while still maintaining your role-i.e. your value-in producing the desired results.
Are you starting to see the pattern here?
3) Communicate Your Value to Your Audience
This step builds on the previous two by focusing your communication specifically on your target audience. In other words, pretend you are now interviewing directly with the hiring manager of an IT sales corporation, or you are having lunch with that prospective client whose business would skyrocket your sales figures. You could tell the prospective employer you've sold millions of dollars in IT services and can do it again, and you could tell the client you've installed and configured IT networks for companies far more complex than his (not recommended). But let's face it, the real question the employer or client is asking isn't "What can you do?" It's "What can you do for me?"
And a better way to communicate your value is to find out first what your audience's goal is and then share how you can help him or her reach that goal.
For example, if you are speaking with the head of an IT sales company, use your past sales success to demonstrate how you can help him or her grow the company's market share and expand its sales territory. Or, if you are chatting with a potential client, illustrate how you can help increase that client's business productivity and profitability.
It's been said the key to success is finding a need and filling it. In the same way, the key to communicating your value to others is identifying their goals and demonstrating how you can help them achieve them.
Self-promotion does not have to be about self-aggrandizement, and it is possible to advance your career while maintaining humility. In fact, not only is it possible but it is also beneficial.
As we said at the outset, no one likes to be around people who view themselves as the best thing since sliced bread. But people do want to associate with individuals who are confident, who want to help others achieve their goals, and who possess the necessary skills and qualifications to do so.
So, don't be afraid to let others know what you can do. But choose to transform self-promotion into value-communication by communicating your capabilities, communicating your vision, and communicating your value to your audience.
Richard Zeoli, author of the 7 Principles of Public Speaking, is the founder and president of RZC Impact, a pioneering communications firm specializing in executive-level communication coaching and strategic messaging. He has offered communications, political, and current events commentary as a frequent guest on national television and radio. Zeoli is also a Visiting Associate at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University in New Jersey.