My clients laugh when they see this in the instructions in an exercise: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up; but when you are networking or interviewing, blow your own horn! Sell yourself!”
We have a lot of energy directed toward us throughout our lives telling us to be humble. Our parents tell us not to brag: “Don’t brag; it’s not polite.” Our coaches tell us that we win as a team and we lose as a team. After tossing a perfect game against the Braves in May 2004, Randy Johnson said he couldn’t have done it without a great bunch of guys behind him. Even the Bible tells us to be humble: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up (James 4:10).”
After more than 22 years and working with thousands of job seekers, I’ve concluded that one of the most common problems holding job seekers back is the failure to blow their own horn. I can empathize with you; I feel somewhat embarrassed when I tell an HR person who is considering my services that I believe I’m the best career coach in Atlanta. As long as I deliver the message in spite of my embarrassment, I’ll be helping them make a decision that is good for their company and for their departing employees.
One of my all-time favorite compliments was from a client who wrote to his former employer, “I got more in three days from O’Farrell Career Management than I did in three months from [your competitor on the north side of Atlanta].” This is an example of point three down below. Blow your own horn; it’s expected when you are searching for a job!
Four guys who were humble and bold.
There’s no conflict between being humble and being bold; there’s no conflict between being modest and taking credit for the good things we’ve accomplished. Want some evidence? Look at these four people:
Moses: “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth (Numbers 12:3).” Moses was the most humble man on earth, yet he boldly confronted Pharaoh, the most powerful man on earth, and God used the emboldened Moses to set his people free.
David: In 2 Samuel 17:8 David was described as being “as fierce as a wild bear robbed of her cubs.” David was also described as a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). As a young teenager, he boldly confronted Goliath who said, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” David replied, “You come to me with a sword, a spear and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. This day the LORD will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you.” A few minutes later, he did just that (1 Samuel 17).
Jesus: In Matthew 11:29 Jesus said of himself, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jesus was humble and bold, never arrogant or full of pride. Time and time again he challenged the establishment, provoking them to such anger that they crucified him.
Paul: Like Jesus, Paul was humble and bold. “For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 28:31-31).” Paul spoke boldly even though there were multiple attempts to kill him (2 Corinthians 11:22-31).
With this in mind, here are three tips to be bolder and more effective:
1. Just do it.
Just as Moses confronted Pharaoh, David faced Goliath, Jesus stood before Pilot, and Paul defied angry mobs throughout the Mediterranean, you can pick up the phone and ask for help, or call a hiring company and tell them you want the job. You can also tell others, especially potential employers, about your accomplishments. I’m not aware of any job seeker who died while networking, interviewing or following up after an interview.
2. Just the facts, ma’am.
Remember Dragnet? Jack Webb played Sergeant Joe Friday on the old TV show, and this quotation was his signature line. Every week the poker-faced detective found himself interviewing some witness who offered subjective opinions instead of the hard facts. He would interrupt the witness in his uniquely deadpan style and say, “Just the facts, ma’am.” Investor’s Business Daily says to take the hype out of your message; stay away from adverbs and adjectives. For instance, instead of saying, “I successfully led an initiative that improved productivity by 36%,” say, “I led an initiative that improved productivity by 36%.”
3. Share the facts – specific, quantified facts – please.
When we do role-plays in my office, clients almost always miss opportunities to slip a fact-based accomplishment into the networking and interviewing vignettes. I’ll hear this: “I moved to Atlanta and ran the plant here for five years.” I’d rather hear this: “After implementing team-building and cost-cutting initiatives in Cincinnati, they transferred me to Atlanta to run the plant and overhaul the operations. We won ‘best production facility’ in my third, fourth and final year at Valvoline.”
This third tip employs peer analysis and third-party proofs; both report that what you are saying is not just your opinion of yourself, but someone else’s as well. If you can put it in the context of, “It may be helpful for you to know…” or “I was fortunate to…” then it is positioned not that you are bragging, but that this information is important for the other party to make a sound business decision about your candidacy.
One final point about delivering the message; your body language and voice have more to do with how the message is received than the words you say. If you leave out the superlatives and state the facts in a neutral tone with comfortable body language, you’ll get your point across without seeming to be full of pride.
Yes, God wants us to humble ourselves before him; he wants us to admit that we are dependent upon him for hope and faith and love – and for strength, courage and boldness too. So when you are networking and interviewing, have a healthy sense of pride in your accomplishments – not a false humility.
“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline (1 Timothy 1:7).”
See you on Friday at JobSeekers, the place where we are both humble and bold!
Copyright © 2016 / Dave O’Farrell / All Rights Reserved