Humble Brag

If you’re looking for work, there’s nothing wrong with tooting your own horn, and telling others about the quality of the work you do.  In fact, it’s expected! Being able to tell others what you are good at what, and how it relates to what they do, is as important as where you send your resume, and to whom.  And while a humble brag – this genteel boasting – can play an important part in your extolling your talents, for many it’s not a skill that comes easily.  Yet it is something you must get comfortable doing.
The phrase “humble brag” implies the outward display of giving credit to one’s self, often accompanied by a self-effacing personal dig.  Huh?  Here are a few (non-job search) examples:

  • “In spite of my bald spot, my hair still looks good.”
  • “I still look sharp in this jacket even though I gained a few pounds.”
  • “I’m proud my roses look great even though I haven’t watered them.”
  • “I may have burned the roast, but it still tasted 5 Star!”

When we make such references about ourselves in front of familiars (coworkers friends or family), those within earshot will usually accept the comments as humorous. However if you do it too frequently, you could be thought of as an egotistical braggart.  Tread carefully!
So how can we turn this concept into something effective for conveying our strengths, skills and accomplishments without sounding overly boastful?
The first thing to remember is the self-deprecation must be subtle and not a real put-down of yourself or anyone else.  You don’t want to turn a creative use of language into a perceived lack of (self-)respect!
For example:

  • “Struggling in school was worth the effort when I saw my grades escalate.”
  • “The learning curve for that software program was very steep for me, but when the boss saw my results, I was glad I took the time to master it.”
  • “I thought I might have to sacrifice three vacation days to complete that project, but when I turned it in earlier than expected, the boss was ecstatic, and acknowledged my efforts in front of the whole team.”

In these examples, there was always a positive benefit – not just to the person making the comment – but to their work as well. The statements indicate that the company or team also benefit.  When you are looking for work, you must be comfortable talking about yourself in a positive light.  You must be able to advocate for yourself, your skills, your accomplishments. You’ve got to do it convincingly, with confidence and conviction.  It should sound natural and unrehearsed.  And, you must do it in a way that shows you are proud of what you’ve done, without sounding overt.  Like I said earlier, subtlety!
If at all possible, put some emphasis on how others (department, company, team) benefited from your actions.  Even though you are talking about yourself, you could also be demonstrating your recognition and consideration for those around you and your environment.  But remember, this is a humble brag; you don’t want to give too much credit to others and detract from the focus, which should be you.
Without a doubt, there are many who have difficulty projecting the air of confidence and self-aggrandizement required to speak of themselves in this way!  Regardless of the Influence (culture, shyness, disability, whatever!), to boast or sound prideful causes them great personal discomfort.  Those who choose to, or can, will learn to assert themselves in their job searches, using the humble brag and other techniques that will help them convey their strengths and qualifications, and differentiate and elevate them above other job seekers.
Combined with PAR’s and accomplishment statements, the humble brag can be effective during networking, and in job interviews, and in casual conversation when you want others to know you’re proud of an accomplishment.  Just remember there is a fine line between demonstrating a sense of humor about yourself, and being full of yourself!  Let the prospective employers you meet know you are proud of what you can do.  Go ahead, brag about yourself, just don’t forget to be humble too!
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