Job seekers, especially older workers, are given two pieces of potentially conflicting advice:
- Be humble
- Sell yourself
The two seem contradictory. Is there a way to do both? The answer is yes, but it takes great communication skills, self awareness, and practice. First understand the reasons behind each piece of advice.
Why be humble?
Qualified workers, especially highly experienced workers, often have vast accomplishments and the temptation is to share as many as possible. Here are some reasons why that might not get you hired:
- It’s intimidating, especially to younger hiring managers
- It makes you look egotistical and most people do not enjoy coworkers with big egos
- You may come off as a “big talker” or a person who always has to top everyone else
Why sell yourself?
At the same time, job search is a sales process. The product you’re selling is you.
- It’s vital you give potential employers a compelling reason to “buy” you (i.e. your ability to solve their problems)
- You’re competing with a lot of other people so you must stand out
- If you don’t sell yourself, who will?
The trick is to share your accomplishments without arrogance or ego. Prepare stories that illustrate your abilities and successes.
- Be a team player. Make sure the stories give ample credit to your team, your boss and other good partners, where appropriate. This illustrates that while you are a problem solver without a big ego.
- Be a doer. Focus on how you created success and on bringing out your competencies.
- Be realistic and honest. Don’t oversell. Let the accomplishments speak for themselves. Don’t inflate them.
- Be relevant. Don’t share stories just for the sake of bringing out accomplishments. Share them as they are relevant to demonstrate your promise of future value for a new employer.
- Be a story teller. If you tend to feel awkward selling yourself, don’t think of it as selling. Think of it as storytelling. These stories are a true and honest portrayal of the value you are capable of bringing.
Most people tend to tip one way or the other.
- If you tend to feel uncomfortable sharing your accomplishments, work on confidence.
- If you feel very sure of your abilities and sometimes wonder why others don’t see it, work on humbleness.
Practice with a trusted friend and ask for honest feedback as you seek the right balance.