In defense of self-promotion

As some of you may know, I listen to LOTS of podcasts and I enjoy recommending ones which I particularly enjoy in my “Podcast Rec Mondays” series. The last one that I recommended was The Bittersweet Life, and today I want to talk about its most recent episode, “SOCIAL” ; in it, one of the hosts, Katy Sewall, interviews Jessica Spiegel (Italy Explained ) and Pam Mandel (Nerd’s Eye View) about social media & whether or not one needs it to be successful in the modern world.

I agreed with most everything that Jessica and Pam said – particularly when the 70/20/10 rule was referenced (you can find something similar here– basically, it’s the idea that the majority of your content should be about things relevant to your audience’s interests and the smaller percentage should be about your product/brand), and I agreed with Tiffany’s perspective about promoting oneself. I wanted to write this post, though, because Katy represented a viewpoint that I encounter a lot: that (and I don’t want to put words in her mouth, so listen to it for yourself) putting yourself and your work forward feels squicky.

I get it: taking a stand, promoting yourself as an authority, and saying, “I know this stuff, and you should listen to me” or “I made this thing- look at it!” feels not only slightly impolite and pushy, but also scary. Regular readers of this blog (or pretty much anyone who has met me for five minutes) knows that I suffer from a serious case of Impostor Syndrome. However, I possess enough rational mind to know that, yeah, in the words of Zoolander, I do know some stuff good.

Here are two ways that I think about promotion of my skills:

The party 

Imagine that you want to give a party. You plan the food, the music, the decorations (if you’re being fancy), the activities (if you’re trying to kill your introverted guests). You clean your house, for goodness’ sake! You do everything that you can to prepare for your guests, and when the appointed time arrives you wait for them. And you wait… aaaaaand you waaaaaait. Suddenly you realize that you forgot to invite people. Yep, that’s right, you went to all of this trouble to prepare your home and throw a great party, but you didn’t tell anyone. There are lots of people out there who would have loved to have attended your party, but you didn’t give them the chance.

You see where I’m going with this, right? We work so hard getting degrees, gaining experience, publishing, practicing, planning, and GETTING GOOD at what we do, but for some reason we’re reluctant to share the benefits of all of that with people who really want to know. We do all of the work, but then we don’t invite anyone to party with us because why? Are we afraid that we don’t really know our stuff? Are we afraid that people will think that we’re arrogant? Those questions sound really strange in the context of the party metaphor: “Wow, can you believe that she had the nerve to INVITE US TO A PARTY??” ;)

The best person for the job

I’m just going to say this plainly: sometimes you are the right person for the job. Not someone with more experience, not someone who’s been doing the thing for 25 years, not someone who has a higher rank. Sometimes you are exactly who the job needs. Sometimes you can do it better than anyone else. Do you have the right to not put yourself out there? People who are looking for someone to do the job will look around and, from the candidates that they are able to find, will choose the best option. Please give the someone-seekers the opportunity to find you! In my own situation, I have a somewhat unique set of skills at the University of Virginia. To my  knowledge, NO ONE else does what I do in terms of social media training/reputation management/digital presence, etc. No one. Because I put myself out there and advertise my skills, I get calls from all over the University from people who need help. There very well may be someone (or several someones) out there in Mr. Jefferson’s’ University who are even better at this than am I but, because they aren’t letting people know, they don’t get those calls. I do. And, if they are better at this than am I, then shame on them for keeping their talent from benefiting the University community.

I’m not sharing this because I’m mad at Katy or want her to think that I’m a jerk (I like her and hope that she still likes me!!!), but I really want people to understand that, while I understand not wanting to be the equivalent of the loud guy yelling annoyingly about mattresses on TV, you really do the world a disservice by not offering to share your expertise.

Now, sharing it for no money is a whole other topic, which we won’t get into today. So, as Katy and Tiffany say, “We’ll leave it there”. :)

Thoughts? Differing perspective? I’d love to hear from you.

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