3 Ways Savvy Women Talk Up Their Successes Without Bragging (To Get the Career They Want)
It drives me absolutely bananas to see talented women play down their accomplishments. Yet we continue to see women at all stages of their careers shy away from talking about the value they bring to the table—even when the situation requires it.
The reason? It feels like “bragging.”
So they stay silent, keep their heads down, and literally bank on someone else taking notice.
Sometimes this works out. More often it doesn’t, and they’re left wondering why they don’t have the career they really want.
The Difference Between Bragging and Articulating Your Value
Bragging is excessive or boastful speaking when the situation doesn’t call for it.
Smart, savvy women like you know that there are critical situations that require you to speak clearly and confidently about your strengths, skills, and accomplishments.
Talking about yourself is not a topic to be avoided but a skill to be mastered.
It’s not bragging to talk yourself up in an interview, performance review, or pivotal conversation hinged on rewards and recognition; it’s crucial for your career.
But that doesn't mean you're comfortable doing it.
Here are 3 ways to talk yourself up with authenticity, conviction, and ease.
1. Write Yourself Back Into the Story
We’ve all heard about the power of telling stories.
And many women effectively do this—when it comes to others.
I worked with someone who used precious time with senior management to showcase her team because they weren’t getting the recognition they deserved.
Admirable, right? We need more leaders like her. The challenge was that she wasn’t being recognized either, and by leaving out her own considerable contributions, she unwittingly wrote herself out of the story.
If your team does the heavy lifting and you want to acknowledge it, celebrate them!
But you set the stage for their success, which deserves to be celebrated as well.
You can recognize your team’s efforts and include yourself in the story.
The higher you climb in the organization, the more intangible your contributions become: Tragedy averted here, steer in the right direction there, investment in your people now for a high-performing team down the road. Intangible doesn’t mean unimportant. The more behind-the-scenes your contributions are, the more important it is to strategically showcase them.
Here’s a formula to give (and receive) credit where it’s due: Senior management provided x, my team focused on y, which enabled me to focus on z.
“What was great about [insert example], was that senior management gave me the autonomy to run with a bold idea. My team worked tirelessly to come up with creative yet realistic recommendations, which enabled me to focus on the big picture questions that ultimately got us the best answer for us and our clients.”
2. Fill the Gaps With Curiosity and Passion
Another client was heading into an interview for which she was absolutely qualified. But the new environment felt really high stakes, and it was psyching her out.
The job posting listed a bunch of technology she wasn't extremely familiar with. Rather than focusing on all the ways her experience and skills helped her stand out, she worried about the one area she lacked.
How could she talk confidently about herself when she was questioning why she was even in the running?
The solution? We reconnected to the excitement she’d felt when she first applied to the job, then tapped into her passion for what she could bring to it Day 1.
We focused on what she most wanted them to know about her. Soon a story emerged that showcased her value-add without a litany of boastful personal achievements.
She talked about her passion for making her students’ day-to-day easier. She shared how attuned she was to the learners’ perspective and how she channeled that into the creation of high-quality resources to help them through the learning process.
She also reframed her concern about learning the new technology in terms of a strength, "I'm really pretty good at picking up new things quickly," and remembered that she'd wanted her ideal role to include a challenge that was "just right" for her. She reasoned, "Maybe coming up to speed with the new technology is exactly the challenge I need."
By talking about the things that excite and move you, your energy automatically follows. It feels great to talk about and great to hear. When was the last time you listened to someone speak passionately without getting caught up in their enthusiasm?
Connect with your own stories and big picture motivation with phrases like:
I really love…
I’m passionate about…
I’m fascinated by…
I want to answer these types of questions…
It's important to me that...
I'm in my element when...
Address your concerns about a new opportunity head-on by:
Expressing your interest in taking on the "right" challenge for you
Asking direct questions to better understand it
After all, who wants a role with no opportunity for growth? The key is aligning those growth opportunities with what's most important to you.
3. Let Others Lend You Their Voices
I want you to speak with confidence using your own words.
That said, if you’re still struggling to sing your own praises, borrow someone else’s voice.
Mine your 360 feedback, letters of recommendation, and every-day compliments. Then use them to help you tell the story:
“I’ve been told I’m good at [insert strength].”
“People always comment on my [insert skill].”
“Somebody once said [insert compliment], and it stuck with me because…”
“I was really proud of [insert project or accomplishment] because [insert reason] and got a lot of positive feedback for the way I [insert unique contribution].”
Confidently Talking About Yourself Is a Habit You Can Build
Recognizing the situations where it’s an advantage to speak your value, and having the confidence to do so, is a habit you can build.
My goal is to make the process of talking yourself up become second nature.
Imagine communicating your value so effortlessly that it becomes just another tool in your leadership toolbox…so you can focus on doing the work and strategically remind the organization why they’re lucky to have you.
If you can’t—or won’t—articulate what you bring to the table, how do you expect anyone else to?
Give these 3 techniques a try and let me know how it goes.
If you need help pulling together authentic stories you can stand behind and building the confidence to tell them, let’s talk.
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