How to Brag and Not Sound Like a Jerk


By Kathleen Laney - January 17, 2017

No one wants to be called the dreaded b-word. No, not that b-word, the other one. Braggart.

While many of us do it – just take a scroll down your Facebook feed – no one wants to be called out for bragging. While bragging may not be something appreciated by your friends and all those other people part of you Facebook network, it may be the very thing you need to advance your career.

Bragging doesn’t have to be obnoxious, at least when you do it right. When done well, it gives a voice to your value and expertise. It can help you establish a strong professional reputation and increase your visibility in the workplace. If you do it wrong, however, it can destroy you. It’s a delicate balance to walk. If you stay quiet about your achievements, you run a high risk of being underappreciated and overlooked. If you toot your own horn too loudly, you will cause people to cringe.

Today bragging is a necessity, not a choice. So how do you brag well?

Avoid exaggeration at all costs. 

Give just the facts, no embellishments, no stretching the truth. The easiest way to avoid exaggeration is to track your successes and write them down. Create a brag sheet that lists your accomplishments and keep it updated. Sit down at least once a quarter to list your accomplishments and contributions that are most relevant to your career goals. By updating your brag sheet frequently you will have a relevant array of achievements that are top-of-mind to discuss in a job interview or while networking. You won’t regret this exercise. 

Never “humble brag.”

The humble brag happens when you share news or information about yourself that is camouflaged as a complaint or a self-deprecating joke. While trying to appear humble, you will sound like that obnoxious braggart that everyone hates. No one wants to work with that person. Once again, the best way to avoid this is to state the facts. But do so with passion and share in the awe of your achievements. Instead of turning people off, your enthusiasm will be contagious.

Choose the right time.

When engaging in a professional situation – be it an interview, business meeting, or networking event – understand what your goals for the situation. Are you trying to appear likable or impressive? In the case of a job interview or performance review, it is more important to articulate your achievements than become best buds with the interviewer or your boss. In a business meeting or networking environment, subtly sharing a few details about your contributions while developing a good rapport with organizational leaders is the better approach.

Tell a story.

Great stories make life interesting. A great story about your accomplishments will tell others much more about you than rattling off your brag sheet. Furthermore, if you find networking and small talk painful, revealing your authentic self helps form real and genuine connections.

Watch the ‘I’s”. 

Starting every sentence off with the word “I” will bring tears to your audience’s eyes. No one is that interesting or accomplished that others want to hear a long-winded story from a self-absorbed person. Try to include others in your story. More likely than not other people were involved in your accomplishments, so give them credit. Also make sure you don’t do too much talking. A rambling professional doesn’t look professional.

Get a Wingman.

A tried and true method in the dating world, get a wingman. The relationship can even be reciprocal. Bring along a trusted colleague when you attend events to chat up your skills and achievements so you don’t have to do all the bragging. People tend to trust positive claims about a person when they come from someone other than that person.

Putting it all together.

If you are still feeling uneasy about executing this craft, practice discussing your accomplishments in front of friends or family who will be honest. Feedback on how you may be perceived by others is invaluable and can help put you at ease. While such an exercise may sound as pleasant as a root canal, it’s time well spent. After all, learning to brag the proper way is an investment in you. It can be one of the most effective ways of amplifying your visibility among those you need to take notice. Stop looking at bragging as an ugly display of arrogance but as a tool for career success.

This article was originally published in the January 2017 newsletter of the California Public Parking Association (CPPA).

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