The Art of Self-Promotion
I sat there smiling as my job slipped away. Scott, the creative director for a New York advertising agency, interviewed me for freelance work writing direct mail copy. He looked through my portfolio; saw that I had written two books, one on direct marketing, and glossed over the half-dozen postcards I had written.
"Well, you've written books, so obviously you can write."
My smile broadened. He was really impressed. I was this close to asking about the dress code, what my hours were, and where I'd pick up my checks. Then something strange happened.
"We deal with promotional pieces for a large bank. We're looking for someone to tell a story - draw the reader in, engage his interest, and give a clear call to action. You've done a lot of work with postcards, which is a little different."
Where was this going? Wasn't he bowled over just a minute ago?
"Tell you what. I'll look for a project that I think you could do well with. I'll call you in a few weeks."
That was it? This interview was deteriorating in front of my eyes. Desperately, I offered: "Just give me a chance and I'll show you what I can do."
We shook hands. Back to the streets, the classifieds, headhunters, and more interviews. Because I had written something very lengthy (a book) and something very short (postcards) Scott came to the conclusion that I wasn't prepared to write the medium-length copy his company specialized in.
And I watched him formulate this deduction, smiling, as he concluded that I wasn't ready to join the team.
So, what do you do in such a situation? I thought of the old saying: "Honesty is the best policy." Then another phrase swam into vision: "The art self promotion."
Are these two ideas mutually exclusive? Can you embellish while still maintaining your integrity? To resolve this, I asked myself the following questions:
  • If given the opportunity, could I do well at this job?
  • Am I confident that my employer would be happy with my work?
  • If I, you know, embellished a little to help him (or her) come to the right decision, wouldn't that be OK?
An interview is a meeting that gives a company the chance to put a face on the resume. While a resume lists your experience and education, an interview breathes life into those words. How well you handle yourself - as I found out that day - is often the difference between getting the job and hitting the streets.
We've all heard the advice: "It's Alright to exaggerate a little on your resume. Everybody does it. It's almost expected."
So why not put your best foot forward in an interview? Having worked in sales, I learned that often your prospect will want your product, but won't want to make a decision. Decisions are painful. The talented sales person helps to make the decision process easier. He's not trying to bamboozle the prospect (or at least he shouldn't if he wants any repeat sales), he's just putting his product in a favorable light, making the right decision come a little easier.
Now, there's a difference between an embellishment and a flat-out lie. I'm not suggesting that you should waltz into a hospital and pretend you've been through medical school because you've watched a lot of ER. But if your skills match the description of a potential job, there's nothing wrong with making the interview work for you.
An interview is a sales call. The product is you. Who knows you better than yourself? If you're convinced that your talents and skills would be a valuable asset to your prospective employer, then it's your job to sell this idea.
To be sure, this sounds easier than it actually is. Most people find it hard to sell themselves. We're brought up to believe that this is "bragging" or "gloating." In fact, if done correctly, selling yourself is a win-win situation; you get the job and your employer benefits from your skill and labor.
There are three steps to becoming successful in sales: 1) studying, 2) experience, 3) repeating step two over and over.
Step one is the easy part. Go to your local bookstore and pick up a book on selling. There are hundreds of them in print - personally, I like Selling for Dummies. The book helps you get over initial fears, project warmth and confidence, and close the sale. It even has a section on interviewing.
Next comes practice. It's the rare sales person who finds success immediately. Selling is a skill that must be honed. The only way to sharpen this skill is to practice, practice, and practice some more.
Interview often. Even if you think you landed a job, even if you're working in the career of your dreams, continue to interview. You never know when a better job is just around the corner, and you'll want to be prepared to meet it head-on.
Practice your sales pitch. Be ready to answer any question. Get comfortable with tactfully promoting yourself. There are a number of public speaking organizations out there that can help you with this. Join a local Toastmasters group. By practicing your skills in a warm, encouraging atmosphere, your interviews will become effective and persuasive.
Modesty is like wine - both are fine in moderation. By learning to sell yourself, you'll land the job of your dreams before you are well aged.
1999, by Brian Kunath
Written By: Brian Kunath
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