“Don’t toot your own horn!”
It’s an admonishment many of us heard growing up—a call to stay humble and avoid narcissistic tendencies—but does it still serve us today?
In a world filled with online communities and virtual networking, how do you balance humility with sharing your unique voice?
If you don’t toot your own horn, who will? I’ve found many people struggle with just that question, and it paralyzes them when they are asked to write about themselves, which happens a lot in today’s professional world.
Whether it’s completing a social media profile, a blog bio or an introduction for a speaking gig, we’re called to talk about ourselves more and more.
It’s essential to find a balance between the conflicting impulses of not bragging too much and putting yourself out there confidently.
I know marketing professionals who can write entire websites for other companies but can’t write a paragraph for their LinkedIn profile. So, how do you break this impasse?
You know you best
The first step is to acknowledge that you have ownership over your personal brand. Not only do you have control over it, but you are uniquely suited to share it.
People are looking for information about you online. Instead of making them fill in all the gaps about you and your career, you have the right and responsibility to influence how people view you.
Be authentic and genuine, and don’t avoid your outstanding qualities. If I’m looking you up, it’s because I want to find out about you. You don’t have to “pad your résumé,” but don’t shrink from sharing the successes, skills and experiences you’ve accumulated.
That’s not being boastful; that’s being honest. Once you accept that you have the right to share your message with the online world, the hard part begins—the actual writing. There’s just you, a keyboard and, well, that’s it.
There are a few tricks that can get the wheels rolling and make the process a lot simpler.
1. Decide what your overall message is. Before you even start to write about yourself, jot down a few notes about what you want to emphasize: Is it your experience, your professional accomplishments or maybe your nonprofit work? This will vary depending on the forum. ( A Twitter bio will probably have a different focus from a speaking gig introduction.) A few minutes of strategizing can save you a lot of time down the line.
2. Create some distance by pretending you’re writing about someone else. I’m not suggesting a psychotic break, but one way you can easily write about yourself is to imagine you are interviewing another person. We usually don’t have problems writing about other people, so acting like an outside observer can create a different perspective.
3. Write the questions now; answer them later. Instead of pretending you are writing about someone else, you can pretend someone else is asking you the questions. Consider what the reader would want to ask you. Write those questions down. Put them aside for two or three days. Then look at them as if you had just been emailed those questions, and write your answers.
4. Get other people to do it for you. If you are really struggling to write about yourself, there’s nothing wrong with getting some help. Most people, however, ask the wrong way. They ask open questions such as, “What am I good at?” or, “Why do you think people like me?” That creates a bunch of platitudes that don’t really help. Instead, approach a co-worker or friend and ask him or her to complete one of the sentences to help you brainstorm some ideas. Fill in these blanks:
- I am good at______.
- I am known for _____.
- People enjoy working with me because ____.
You don’t have to use their answers wholesale, but they will give you some great material for the process.
Too often we zoom past the chances we have to write about ourselves. We forget that in our busy, noisy world a little bit of writing might be all our reader knows of us. Take a few minutes, so you can do the process, and yourself, justice.
David J.P. Fisher is a speaker, business coach and best-selling author. He combines nuanced strategy and real-world tactics to help professionals become more effective, efficient, and happy. A version of this article originally appeared on Spin Sucks.