How would you ensure that you don't seem like you're boasting when telling people about your achievements?

I must admit, self-promotion is a skill that has never come instinctively to me. There are two main reasons for this. One – most people in our society take a dim view of self-promotion (especially if you’re female). Two – there is a very fine line between self-promotion and boasting. The majority of my early attempts at self-promotion were a total cringe-fest. I was so worried about looking like a know it all, that I would mumble my ill-thought-out responses to my shoes. Often without even finishing the sentence.

Lisa McShane

The bad news is, we all have to promote ourselves at some point. After all, if you can’t sing your praises, who will? Plus, you don’t want to miss out on a valuable opportunity to boost your career.

Now for the good news. Once I realised self-promotion wasn’t optional, I took steps to stop being rubbish at it. After doing a load of research I condensed my findings into an acronym, titled BOAST. This helped me demystify the dark art of self-promotion. Hopefully, it will do the same for you.

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Lisa McShane

Be honest and modest. Don’t let your desire to showcase your skills lead to you “embellishing” the facts. Contextualise your successes within the big picture, and you’ll instantly be more appealing. Talk as if sharing what you love about your job/successes to your friends. If you talk about your achievements in this way, it will come across as passion rather than boasting. This will help you build an affinity with your audience.

Own your value. Focus on your strengths and weaknesses. Ask yourself what makes you stand out and what values have brought you success. Make sure you know what you want people to associate your name with. For example, do you want to come across as laidback and funny? Or do you want to appear more professional? Knowing your values will help you to choose the right tone for your personal brand. It will also make it easier for you to promote yourself in a positive way.

Accept compliments. When somebody compliments you on your work or the way you have handled something, don’t dismiss it out of hand. Acknowledge their appreciation and state that the recognition means a lot to you.

Stop feeling guilty about self-promotion. I know it’s difficult to talk about your prior successes without feeling sleazy. Remember, you are not being arrogant or pompous. This is about advancing your career.

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Train. If your nerves are still getting the better of you, consider preparing a short pitch. It only needs to be about 30 seconds long. It should include evidence of your work and highlight your unique selling points. Short words are enough to self-promote and be effective. It might make it less awkward if you imagine that you’re selling a product, rather than yourself.

If you use my “BOAST” acronym you too should be able to navigate a path between confidence and cockiness.


This article was written by Lisa McShane, Founder at Babblebird.

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Want to discuss this with other young women in STEM? Why not join the Stemette Society to continue the conversation.

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