This article first appeared in the Indian publication me.inc.
Sometimes it doesn’t feel right to mention your accomplishments. Or you know someone who brags and it bugs you. You need to find a happy medium to get ahead.
It’s 2006, I just graduated with my MBA and started my first big corporate job. I have my little cubicle and a handful of important sales accounts to manage. In many ways, I feel like the small fish in a big pond, so I mostly keep to myself. But pretty soon, I land a few big deals. Actually, for someone who’d just started, I am doing rather well.
One day, my boss calls me into his office. I open the door dread what is going to happen. I sit down on the hardwood chair and hold my breath. What he says to me has stuck with me ever since. He says, “There are over 50,000 people working at this company. You’ve been rather successful. But you won’t go anywhere hiding under your desk. From now on, I want to hear you talking about your wins with the team. Ring your bell. Is that clear?”
Since that conversation, I’ve moved to several jobs and even started a few of my own businesses. Each time, I hear his voice telling me to ring my bell. Let people know what I am capable of and how my skills can help them.
But I’m sure you have the friend who does nothing else but talk about themselves. I do. They don’t stay friends for long though. So I’m not telling you to brag. I’m not telling you to be self-obsessed. But when the opportunity comes to speak honestly about yourself, take it. Otherwise, how else are potential employers going to know what makes you unique?
How to ring your bell on LinkedIn
On LinkedIn, there are three key areas, your photo, your headline and your summary. Many people leave their summary blank because writing about yourself can be too difficult. Or, some people write these long biographies in their summary.
The Ladders, a popular US based job board did a study and found that recruiters spend about eight seconds on average on each online profile. They look at the image to see if it’s professional. They look at the headline to see if it matches any of the jobs they are recruiting for. And the remaining five seconds are spent on the summary.
The summary is where you can ring your bell. After all, personal branding is about what makes you uniquely qualified for the position you want. In your summary, answer the question, What Makes You the Best at What You Do?
For many, this can be an impossible question. We’re conditioned from an early age to not brag. If we bragged as kids, our parents told us to stop. Or maybe we held back in fear of alienating our friends. For me, I had friends who bragged and I vowed to not be as annoying as them.
But remember that there is a difference between bragging and telling someone honestly what makes you so good. I recall my grandmother’s words to me, since I was such a quiet kid, “Honey, you’re not good enough to be so modest”.
Here is an exercise to follow if you find yourself stuck.
Think of a time in your career that you were the most successful. It could be any time, at a job, in life, with friends, etc. Recall what happened as vividly as possible. Then ask yourself, “what did I do to make this a success”? What role did I play in the event’s successful outcome?
Here’s an example.
My client Stef couldn’t articulate what she is the best at. So she recalled a time when she helped a local chapter of a charity she belongs to go from ranking 150 to 15 in the country, for charitable donations.
I asked her what role she played in this. And her answer became the center of her personal brand. She said, “I had a goal of taking my chapter to number 1. I know we had the resources but lacked the organization. So I put together a plan and delegated the right people to execute the right parts of it. I held weekly status calls to keep them accountable, since they were just volunteers. Pretty soon, all of them were making their own decisions, without me. I was very proud.”
She took a failing volunteer organization and through sharing her vision and plan, turned it around completely. I would say that this is a skill many organizations would love to have.
Bell ringing on Twitter and Facebook
Twitter and Facebook, unlike LinkedIn, focus more on posts than on profiles, mirroring an actual networking situation.
If you rang your bell on every post, people would feel that you are indeed bragging. Consider the 80|10|10 rule for online postings.
80% of your posts should be conversational, including questions, observations, photos, quotes, and other original content.
10% of your posts should be reactions to other people, including comments, retweets, likes and interruptions.
10% of your posts can be self-promotional, including personal branding statements, statements about what you are looking for, something you accomplished or something nice someone else said about you.
Some guidelines for bell ringers
If you noticed from Stef’s story, it wasn’t really about her. It was about what she accomplished with her unique skills. The difference between bragging and telling someone what makes you the best is focus.
Here are some guidelines you can use to avoid bragging and do more bell ringing:
Focus on how your skills accomplished something greater than yourself
Have a story to back up your claims of greatness
Be just as willing to talk about what other people did to help when asked
Know when to ring your bell and when to stop
Bell ringing is always about a promise of how you can do something similar for someone else, it adds value
Ring your bell to me
I’d love to hear what makes you the best at what you do. Are you feeling weird about sharing your successes? Do you have an annoying bragging friend? Feel free to share yours on the online version of this magazine. Or find me on Twitter or Facebook at: