By David J.P. Fisher
“Don’t toot your own horn!”
It’s an admonishment many of us heard growing up—a call to stay humble and avoid narcissistic tendencies.
But does it still serve today?
In a world filled with social media profiles, online communities, and blog bios, how do you balance humility with sharing your unique voice?
If you don’t toot your own horn, who will?
I’ve found many people struggle with just that question.
And it paralyzes them when they are asked to write about themselves, which happens a lot in today’s professional world.
Whether it’s completing a social media profile, a blog bio, or an introduction for a speaking gig, we’re called to talk about ourselves more and more.
That makes it critical to find a balance between the conflicting impulses of not bragging too much and putting yourself out there confidently.
I know marketing professionals who can write entire websites for other companies, but can’t write a paragraph for their LinkedIn profile.
So how do you get past this impasse?
You Know You Best
The first step is to acknowledge that you do get to have ownership over your personal brand.
Not only do you have control over it, but you are uniquely suited to share it.
People are looking for information about you online.
Instead of making them fill in all of the gaps about you and your career, you have the right and responsibility to influence how people view you.
Be authentic and genuine, but don’t avoid your awesome qualities.
If I’m looking you up, it’s because I want to find out more about you.
You don’t have to “pad your resume,” but don’t shrink from sharing the successes, skills, and experiences you’ve accumulated.
That’s not being boastful, that’s being honest.
Once you accepted you have the right to share your message with the online world, the hard part begins…the actual writing.
At least when you are writing about someone else they can give the raw material to work with!
But this is just you, a keyboard, and, well, that’s it.
Four Tips to Help You Write About Yourself
There are a few tricks that can get the wheels rolling and make this process a lot simpler.
- Decide what your overall message is. Before you even start to write about yourself, jot down a few notes about what you want to emphasize: Is it your experience, your professional accomplishments, or maybe your non-profit work? This can, and will, vary depending on the forum (a Twitter bio will probably have a different focus than a speaking gig introduction). A few minutes of strategy can save you a lot of time down the line.
- Create some distance by pretending you’re writing about someone else. I’m not suggesting a psychotic break, but one of the ways you can easily write about yourself is to imagine you are interviewing another person. We usually don’t have problems writing about other people, so acting like an outside observer can create a different perspective.
- Write the questions now and answer them later. Instead of pretending you are writing about someone else, you can also pretend someone else is asking you the questions. Consider the questions the reader would want to ask you. Write those questions down. Put them aside for two or three days. Then look at them as if you had just been emailed those questions and write your answers.
- Get other people to do it for you. If you are really struggling to write about yourself, there’s nothing wrong with getting some help. Most people, however, ask the wrong way. They ask open questions such as: “What am I good at?” or “Why do you think people like me?” That just creates a bunch of platitudes that don’t really help. Instead, approach a coworker or friend and ask if they would complete one of the sentences to help you brainstorm some ideas.
I am good at______
I am known for _____
People enjoy working with me because ____
You don’t have to use their answers wholesale, but they will give you some great material for the process.
Too often we zoom past the chances we have to write about ourselves.
We forget that in our busy, noisy world a little bit of writing might be all our reader knows of us.
Take a few minutes, and do the process, and yourself, justice.
image credit: shutterstock