Career Advice

Expert advice: Boast in the right way

Being competent is not enough, you also need to show off your skills. This is necessary to get a job – and to land the good assignments in your current job.

You constantly have to work on your personal brand. Being good at your job, your profession or your assignments is important, but it's not enough.

If you have a job, sometimes you have to run around with your hands in the air and boast about your successes. This will give you more of the same type of exciting assignments. It's not enough just to say: "I'm good at my job". You need to draw attention to yourself by pointing specifically at what you do well, rather than using meta words like dynamic, results-oriented and flexible that lack specific meaning and context.

Boasting the right way

Margaret Thatcher once said: "Being in power is like being a lady. If you have to say you are, you aren't". The same goes for your work life. If you want to develop in your job, have a higher salary or be recognised for your efforts, you need to advertise yourself. But you need to do it in the right way, so that people around you find out for themselves that you're good at what you do.

The problem is that self-promotion can quickly become too much. And to paraphrase the words of the Iron Lady: If you have to say you're good, you aren't. Show that you're good instead of saying it. The message is not that you should never promote yourself or boast – it’s just you need to do it in the right way.

Use the "not" test

Don't use typical meta words such as results-oriented, unique, motivated, dynamic, creative, flexible and responsible - neither in your current job nor if you're looking for a job. These words don't say anything about you, because they’re used everywhere, indiscriminately and by everybody.

The best example is "results-oriented". So, you actually focus on what you're paid to do? Nice job. It's silly to promote yourself for something that's automatically expected of you. The same goes for "motivated". It's good that you are, but it's not unique.

So don't write: I'm a competent project manager, but instead write: As a project manager, last year I was in charge of a change project, in which 1,000 people had to improve their customer-service skills. Make it specific!

You can also turn it around and insert a "not" in front of the meta words. I do not consider myself to be results-oriented, and I'm not flexible. Then you'll know that these are words that suit everybody. Because very few people would claim not to be either results-oriented or flexible.

Rewrite clichés to specifics

Flexible – in the job I will use my experience from being in charge of multiple tasks, as I'm used to working in an unpredictable environment with many agendas. Let them know how you're flexible in the work situation.

Cooperative – I will use my ability to work with many different people, both internally and externally. Show how you're cooperative.

Dynamic – according to the dictionary this means "characterised by change and development", so write that instead. That is when you've created change and development. Show that you're dynamic.

Boast on all platforms

We're all unique individuals, but we don’t all have a unique professional profile. Instead of describing yourself as unique, show your surroundings what characterises you. Then the workplace, your colleagues and future employers might see you as unique.

If you have a job, promote yourself where there are more good and interesting assignments. You can do this by pointing out to your manager that you'd like more assignments like the one you did last week, where you applied your skills within UX design, current flows, project management or something else.

In addition to promoting yourself to your boss, you can also use digital platforms such as Yammer, LinkedIn and Facebook to create the picture of yourself you want other people to see. Use these platforms to talk about your successes. 

Use IDA's career tools

Be visible in your career

Your task is to find out what makes you unique and special on the labour market. And then learn to describe to others how exactly you're unique and special.

If you're an engineer specialising in statistics that can be used to build bridges, answer as follows when someone asks what you do: I build bridges, because I'm an expert in load-bearing structures. Don't say: I'm a dynamic and motivated graduate engineer with unique competences within load-bearing structures.

One thing is certain, making yourself visible is a much better for your career than making yourself invisible, so think about how others see you.