The Art of the Brag: Promote Yourself
by Allan Hoffman
Monster Tech Jobs Expert
Database analysts and .NET coders aren't known for their gregarious and outgoing nature. But these qualities are necessary for the face-to-face networking essential to career survival.
While most technology professionals understand the importance of networking, many have a hard time mustering up the can-do attitude needed when networking opportunities arise.
"Get over it!" Peggy Klaus writes in Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn without Blowing It.
"Being an introvert won't get you noticed. Reach out beyond yourself and interact with those around you. It's the way of the world and the only way to get ahead."
Her book, with tips on crafting "brag bites," "bragalogues" and other ways of hyping yourself, turns bragging into an art form. Consider these common networking situations and see how the right brag lines can help you expand your contacts and paint the best picture of your skills and abilities.
The Softball Game
You're in the bleachers at your daughter's softball game. Another parent strikes up a conversation, eventually asking, "What sort of work do you do?"
Don't say: "I work at one of the big telecom companies. It's OK. The industry sucks right now. I've been looking for a year, and I can't find anything. Let me know if you've got any contacts."
Why not? It makes you sound like a discontented whiner -- someone who wouldn't be happy working anywhere.
Try saying: "I'm a project manager at ABC Telecom, handling projects for Fortune 500 companies in the insurance and financial services industries. I love the work, especially my coworkers, but I'm feeling like I'm ready for a new challenge."
Next, ask him about his work -- you need to listen as well as brag -- and see if there are any common connections. Consider mining for leads ("I don't know if you know anyone in your company's IT department, but if you do...") at the next game.
The Tech Group
You've volunteered to drive your local IT group's monthly speaker, the CIO of a leading retailer back to the airport. After you describe your job, she asks if you've been working on anything interesting.
What not to do: Talk about the tools you use in your job.
Why not? Focus on how your work makes a difference to your company, not the tools you employ.
Try this approach: Focus on one or two projects, all with the aim of expressing your enthusiasm, proactive attitude and ability to work on a team.
You could say: "One project involved a complete overhaul of our network. My boss was the team leader, and he tapped me as the point person for working with HR and marketing to let them know, on a daily basis, where we were with the project and how it would affect them. Keeping them in the loop took a lot of work, but it made for a smooth transition -- and I loved reaching out to other departments in the company. Just last week, the CIO stopped by my cube and told me he heard from the marketing and HR directors how helpful I was."
The Industry Convention
You're perusing a booth at a sprawling exhibit hall. The person staffing the booth asks you how you like your job.
Don't say: "Who knows whether I'll have a job in a couple of weeks? I hear our CEO is in India now. He'll probably offshore half my department."
Why not? You don't want to spread rumors.
Say this: Consider one of Klaus's bragging tips: "Keep it short and simple." In this situation, emphasize an aspect of your work you like. "I love creating new software tools for our customers. I've been doing that for 20 years, and I still get a kick out of it."
Be sure to pick up his card and follow up with an email telling him how much you enjoyed speaking to him about the product and that you've passed that information on to the appropriate contact at your firm. In a subsequent email, you could ask if his company is hiring.