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How to sell yourself

Lynn Elesy

Careers Commentator
Feel uncomfortable about self-promotion or not sure about crossing the line between modesty and boasting? Here are some suggestions to make it easier.

Being able to sell yourself to a potential employer is essential for landing a good role. However, don’t worry if you find the idea of self-promotion uncomfortable – many people do. To overcome your natural tendency for modesty, you need to allow an employer to get to know the ‘real’ you and what you are capable of, without making you feel awkward. Here are a few tips to help you out.

Take stock of your strengths

Modest people often downplay their abilities, and sometimes fail to mention them to recruiters, because they don’t view them as anything special or because they feel that they would be boasting.

Sound familiar? Now is the time to start by rec­ognising that you have skills and strengths worth talking about.

Think about the different activities that make up your life. Now write down the skills used to do them.

  • Write essays and give presentations for your degree course? These are examples of your written and verbal communication skills.
  • Play rugby or netball? Teamwork. And, if you are captain, organising, leading and motivating others.
  • Fit in a part-time job alongside your course work? Examples of time management and prioritising.
  • Add any extra qualifications or courses you might have completed
  • Finally, ask your friends, family, tutors and mentors what they think you are good at.

You now have a list of skills and examples you can refer to when applying for a job. Keep them handy for applications and interviews.

The difference between boasting and providing useful information

If you are worried about over-selling yourself remember, you are simply providing recruiters with evidence that you are the right person for the job.

Recruiters aren’t mind readers. Unless you tell them about your skills and highlight what you are best at, they won’t know – and will probably hire someone else.

So approach an application or an interview with the attitude that you are simply a source of useful information. Your skills and examples are potential assets for an organisation.

Actions speak louder than words

Rather than stating: “I’m good at managing my time”, talk about times when you managed your time well. For example:

Managing my time was important last term. I mentored high school students, worked part time as a barista but also did my coursework. I handed in all of my work on time, met all of my volunteering obligations and still worked my café hours, although I did swap shifts with colleagues on a couple of occasions.”

Your actions demonstrate that you are good at time management, without having to say so.