All Articles Tagged "Bragging"
Walk into any lounge or bar in DC at 5:15 PM on a weekday, and there’s a good chance that it will be filled to the brim with young professionals, looking to hide out from afternoon traffic or perhaps meeting up with friends to take the edge off of a long work day. Some of these people will work in the federal government, some will be lawyers or work for non-profits, and others will be accountants or financiers. No matter. It’s likely that when you go up to a bar seeking out a stiff drink to wash away the shittiness of your last team meeting, that someone will ask you the inevitable.
What do you do?
In large cities like DC, NY and LA, this question is a way to weed out the boys from the men. How you answer determines how (some) people choose to interact with you, fair or not. The most annoying thing about this question is that it’s not really a genuine attempt to get to learn more about the ins and outs of your profession. No. It’s a filler conversation, a way to critique how high or low on the totem pole someone believes you to be, and gives that person a road map for dealing with you with the appropriate level of interest. If they like what they hear (read: if it seems like you have a high profile gig) then the business card gets whipped out with the quickness. If not the conversation will be deaded faster than pigs in Chinese rivers. I’m sorry, but I don’t want the contact information from anybody who thinks I’m just a stepping stone. The next time someone asks what I do I’m going to say “urban fiction author” or “video vixen” and see what the reaction will be.
I believe a part of the reason why people are so anxious to spit info to random strangers (and have them do the same) is because as a whole, Americans have allowed the work day to melt into social settings in a way that’s creepy and weird. Some of that is due to fallout from the Great Recession, but I think some of it is just folks liking to feel like “big shots,” and doing whatever it takes to appear that way. Take the person who eats lunch at their desk, all the time, instead of busting out of the cubicle just so it ‘appears’ that they are grinding, all while getting paler and paler as a scary hump develops on their back from hovering over the fluorescent glow of a computer screen. Or take the cornball who uses nothing but bullshyte jargon in and outside of the workplace in a desperate attempt to sound smart. These words are used with such smugness that it puts even Donald Trump to shame – leverage synergy ‘generate mutually beneficial returns, matrixed – seriously, GTFOHWTBS. Nobody wants to hear about how you “leveraged synergies across the matrixed organization to generate mutually beneficial returns,” because nobody can figure out what the hell that means!
What would happen, I wonder, if in all the bars on the Hill and in SoHo and in Hollywood, people initiated conversations by asking something like, “how was your day?” or “what do you like to do for fun?” or “that bowtie is fly, can you teach me how tie one?” These less invasive queries could possibly produce an interesting discussion, and maybe even a new friend in the process. To me, that sounds like a better way to meet new people without seeming like a total douche bag. Wondrous things happen when you put your business cards away.
It’s amazing how often I’ll tell someone good news and get the response, “you’re happy, right?” It’s probably because I’ve told them in my classic, monotone, don’t show too much emotion, Visine commercial voice that I’ve become accustomed to when it comes to sharing something positive. It’s sort of a buffer I’ve developed since I realized that people will try to rain on your parade faster than an anti-LGBT group at a rainbow pride event if their lives aren’t going equally well. And so, for the most part, I celebrate in solitude, share the news with people around me when I get around to it, most times downplaying the achievement, and block out their reaction like they never said a word to begin with.
I could probably take this defense mechanism back to grade school and high school days with non-immediate family making me feel like certain accomplishments were never enough, but I don’t feel like going that deep today. Besides, ever since they realized it was possible for someone to survive New York for years without having a breakdown, going broke, being murdered, or getting knocked up, they’re pretty much in my corner on anything I do now. Unfortunately, I can’t always say the same for some members of the support system known as my so-called friends.
I remember a few years back when I was stuck in a job I hated with another girl who started at the same time and was equally miserable. We had grown very close and were both on a GTFOH mission to find new jobs pronto. We sent each other potential positions, looked over each other’s resumes, and shared whatever leads we had, but the race to the exit got a little more real when it seemed like I had a leg up in the competition. I remember I’d sent my resume for an open position directly to someone I’d had contact with before at the company and within a couple of hours I received a call for an interview. I raced over to her desk to tell her the news and was met with a “that’s good” that would be the equivalent of someone trying to convince their child getting sixth place in a race was still winning. I was shocked, angry, and hurt because I thought if anyone would understand why this was a huge deal it would be her. Instead I heard her slamming things at her desk, walking around with a red, puffy face, and if I’m not mistaken, crying by the end of the work day, as I ended up coming by and assuring her that she would find something soon. Ironically, I didn’t get that job and she ended up leaving the company before I did, which of course was all good because the shoe was on the other foot.
A similar thing happened to me not long ago when I was telling my best guy friend about my current position. As a little back story, I’d quit my job with a previous employer, moved back home to freelance full-time, and had no clue what was going to be next for me. Everyone knew how perplexed I was about the situation at first and they didn’t seem to mind hearing those stories of desperation, but when I had something good to tell, it appeared to fall on deaf ears. When I told him I’d be coming on with MN full-time, the phone went dead silent. I mean, check the phone to see if we were still connected silent. Then he followed that up with, “dang everybody is on a come-up,” followed by a quick anecdote of another friend of his who’d recently gotten a new position. Then it was, “I’m happy for you B.” I said thanks in my monotone voice, thinking you could’ve kept that, and unfortunately he kept going about how he thought it was a mistake for me to have left my other job so he’s glad it worked out for me. He ended up on my blocked call list for a few days, but not before I turned into my customary role of comforter trying to convince him good things come in pairs, threesomes, or however that cliché saying goes. I was sensitive to the fact that he’d fallen on hard times and was in desperate need of a new career path, but I really just wanted to scream, “can I get my 15 minutes?”
I don’t even have time to get into the “that’s cool” responses my ex would give me when I said I got a promotion or had a new opportunity before he started whining about his lot in life, and most of you are probably thinking why haven’t I just asked for my time to shine? It’s probably because of another issue I’ve always had with sharing good news which is feeling like I’m bragging. I’m not surprised that arrogance is the quality I despise most in people because somewhere along the line I learned that it’s not good to be boastful about your positive qualities or skills or accomplishments. Unfortunately I never learned the fine line between dimming your own light so others can feel good about themselves and not being full of yourself. I took the former route and felt as though when people didn’t meet my excitement with the same level that I anticipated, I must’ve been wrong for making them feel bad.
Even now, despite recognizing the way in which I share my random bouts of good news and needing to be excited to tell people anyhow, I’ve more so resolved to just keep things to myself, deciding that receiving no response at all is better than a lackluster one. Unfortunately that’s not fair to me. If I can throw parties, send cards, and relish in others accomplishments, I deserve to have the same from time to time. That’s why I’ve begun to realize it may not be the way in which I tell share my news that needs to change, but with whom I share it. And it has. So often people will ask why I didn’t tell them something and it’s because I don’t have time for pity parties when I’m ready to pop bottles. I don’t want to feel like I’m taking away from someone else when I’ve had something given to me. And I don’t want to have to reduce my excitement just so someone else can feel less disappointed about their own circumstances. One thing I can say for sure is that anything I’ve ever accomplished has been done through my own hard work and so if my achieving something makes someone else feel bad, I can’t take responsibility for the wrong choices they’ve made or the work they haven’t put in, or whatever season in life they’re going through. I haven’t quite put that lesson into full practice yet but I’m most certainly working on it as one other thing to add to my list of accomplishments. And then I’m gonna tell er’body. Just kidding.
Do you find that it’s hard for others to be happy for you at times? How do you handle it?
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It’s the photo album on Facebook with 500 photos of your high school classmate’s bourgeois wedding. Or the album full of every purchase an old friend has made from Christian Louboutin. Or the endless statuses about all of the promotions your cousin has gotten at the dream job she just landed, how many celebrities she’s met since moving to New York, and how her life could easily be fodder for SATC 3. Twenty years ago, maybe even 10 years ago, all of this would be considered obnoxious bragging. Now, in a society where anyone can invent himself or herself to be anything with a few online social media profiles and a camera, what was formerly known as bragging is sometimes called personal branding or self-marketing. Have we made bragging obsolete, especially since today’s corporate world basically requires that you show, prove, and toot your own horn a little ( ok, a lot) more than generations past ever had or wanted to?
When I was younger, my mom went to great lengths to make sure that my siblings and I didn’t brag. If a friend from school went with us on a shopping trip, we were not to buy anything if the friend couldn’t buy anything. When we accomplished something at school, no matter how big it may have been or how excited we were about it, we were required to be humble, only telling a select few close family members. Bragging in my household was heavily reviled, as is the case in many traditional Southern families. Such disregard for other’s perceived feelings was a slap in the face to an upbringing that emphasized staying in good social graces.
Like my parents, I still honor the values of humility and consideration of others, and I try to infuse that into my own method of self-branding. Finding a balance between the necessary self-promotion for professional purposes and thoughtfulness of your followers, friends, and contacts is the key to creating a successful personal brand that draws people to you while driving you toward your goals. Letting your pride get the best of you online can cost you valuable connections, wreck the brand that you have worked hard to build and, as in the case of journalist Khristopher Brooks, lead you to lose the opportunities that are the whole point of investing so much into a personal brand.
Even though what we now know as personal branding or self-promotion has been around for decades through “quieter” means, such as résumés and curriculum vitaes, many young, new professionals and job seekers do not completely understand what personal branding is, especially when it comes to social media. Before social media can even come into the picture, you’ve got to know what your brand is about, and that might take some soul searching. Job search coach Meg Guiseppi created a great 10-point guide to help you in this process. Knowing what goals and values are important to you will help you to create a personal brand that you can be passionate about.
After you’ve done the hard work of discovering exactly what your brand is, use social media to enforce what you stand for and demonstrate what you have to offer. Whatever you do, be consistent. Social media expert Lauren Huston makes the point on her blog that when the values that brands claim to have conflict with what that brand does on a day to day basis, trust is lost and high numbers of followers and fans are not as impressive. It’s ok to have a status here or a tweet there about accomplishments that demonstrate your success in your field, but if your personal brand touts the value of authenticity and you’re constantly on Facebook dropping names of major clients without out mixing up your statuses to include some bits of knowledge that can help your audience, you’ll seem more pretentious, less authentic, and yes, even a little obnoxious.
A great personal brand is personable and human, yet professional and helpful at the same time. Keep this in mind while composing your next 140 characters, and you just might get a direct message that’s the opportunity you’ve been dreaming of.
Follow Nichole on Twitter at @ReasonsAndRoses or on her blog, ReasonsAndRoses.com.
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