Self-Promote Without Sounding Obnoxious

You can work hard and achieve great things, but you won’t get very far if no one knows what you’ve done and what you’re capable of doing in the future. Part of building a personal brand is communicating that brand and its value to the people around you and to people who can benefit from what you do well.

There is a fine line to walk, however, when promoting your self and what you can do. No one wants to be around someone who constantly talks about themselves–especially if all they talk about is how great they are. I’m sure you’ve been around someone like that and felt that urge to get away as soon as possible. Let’s look at some ways to self-promote without annoying everyone around you.

Be truthful

It should go without saying that you should not take credit for things you didn’t do, nor should you overstate your accomplishments. However, it bears repeating: Exaggerating the truth or outright lying about what you have done may go unnoticed at first, but eventually it catches up with you and that’s never good for your personal brand.

Check your intent

Ask yourself why you want to share your achievements or accomplishments. Is it merely for the sake of making yourself look good? Or is your motivation something greater than yourself? Talking about the great things you have achieved is okay if your intent is to show someone how you or your product can help them. Showing how you bring value by mentioning previous successes can build credibility. Talking about yourself just to make yourself sound awesome is just obnoxious.

State facts and feelings, not opinions

Imagine someone wins an award from their student organization for being the most valuable executive board member of the academic year. That’s a wonderful accomplishment that deserves recognition. Imagine the award recipient exclaiming, “I’m the best exec board member this organization has ever seen!”

A little over the top, right? Of course, this example is an exaggeration but it goes to show a little humility goes a long way. The recipient is making a large claim that is based mostly on his/her opinion and overstating the meaning of the recognition from his/her peers. A less obnoxious way of responding would be something along the lines of, “I’m so pleased my work could contribute to the success of our organizations this year,” or “My fellow organization members recognized the impact of my efforts to organize our club’s efforts.” A statement that is factual or about the recipient’s feelings cannot be argued and is far less irritating.

Give credit where credit is due

No one is successful alone. More than likely there were people who helped you achieve the wonderful things you have accomplished. Be sure to thank those that have helped you and give credit to other people who are part of your team. In fact, if self-promotion does not come easy, you may find it more natural to give credit to others as well as yourself in order to make your contributions known.


Kelly is a career advisor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she assists undergraduate business students with all aspects of their career development. Connect with Kelly on Twitter, her blog, LinkedIn or BrazenCareerist.

Related posts:

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  2. The Elevator Pitch: Promote and Position Your Personal Brand
  3. Authenticity and the Job Search

2 Responses to “Self-Promote Without Sounding Obnoxious”

  1. It’s interesting to me that obnoxiousness is actually expected in traditional advertising, but in social media and personal branding (a term I’m still trying to fully accept) we’re expected to at least *try* to “keep it real,” assuming the “real” person in question isn’t inherently obnoxious. Ultimately, we are seen for who we are, either modest and helpful or self-aggrandizing.

  2. I really enjoyed this piece – no question personal branding is a huge part of the hiring process. You seem to be “in the know” – check out our website and let me know what you think – we’ve worked hard to help candidates create their own brand, but believe we are a bit ahead of the curve….

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