Earlier this week, I posted “She Got the Promotion. You Didn’t. Here’s Why.”
One reason I suggested you may get passed over for a promotion is if you’re not selling yourself.
“You forgot to sell you at work,” I wrote. “She sold herself like a pro and the boss bought it.”
In response, one of my Twitter followers, Natalia, tweeted, “@iamsusannah How do you sell yourself? Teach us!”
I’ve always been good at selling myself. Why? I’m not sure.
Because I figured no one else would. Because I’m a natural born hustler. Because I’ve spent a fair amount of my career hanging around pimps, prostitutes, and porn stars, and, boy, do they know how to sell themselves.
Here’s how you can sell yourself — at work, in life, to the world.
TIP #1: It’s not you, it’s “you.”
One of the biggest challenges for those who are selling-themselves challenged is an inability to separate who they truly are from who they are as a product. There’s you — imperfect, conflicted, fallible — and then there’s the “you” you’re selling — awesome, cool, superhuman.
Don’t sell yourself well? Think of “you” as a superhero version of yourself. Make a list of your best qualities. Dress the way SuperYou would dress. Talk the way SuperYou would talk. Be SuperYou. Role play. It’s a part. Experiment. This is play.
When I used to be on TV, I would get very nervous beforehand. Then I would think about how I only had to be “Susannah Breslin,” not Susannah Breslin, for 22 minutes on a half-hour TV show, if you subtract the time they need to run the commercials. I can be my idealized self for 22 minutes. That’s how it starts.
TIP #2: Annoy others.
It’s not enough to just be. There’s too much competition. You need to network, communicate, and engage with people as the “you” you want to be, and you won’t get there by hiding.
Recently, I heard about a job opening. It would be a very cool job working with a very cool group of people. The situation gave me the opportunity to suggest anybody for the position. I suggested one person.
It was the person who had annoyed me the most.
I’ve known her for about a year, and it was because she kept bugging me, kept sending me emails, kept reaching out to me — and, in doing so, selling herself to me — that she was the only person who came to mind and the only person I suggested.
This is stupid. Because I have 4,000 followers on Twitter, and I have a blog on Forbes.com, and there should be way more people who I should have been able to suggest. But because she was the only who waspersistent, she was the only one I suggested.
She is young. She is a millennial. She gets it.
TIP #3: Be a unicorn.
People try to sell themselves, their products, and their services to me all the time. Mostly, they do this through emails. I would say 99% of them do it wrong.
They pitch dull ideas, uninteresting products, unoriginal versions of themselves. They think they’re adding a new spin, or a groundbreaking product, or a forward-thinking service, but it’s the same old thing.
One thing that’s great about the internet is that it’s a marketplace where anyone can sell anything. One thing that sucks about the internet is that this digital marketplace gives everyone the opportunity to hawk their crap.
You want to be a freelance writer? Wow, nobody’s tried that before. You have some new app that’s like five others before it? Congratulations. You’re working with an expert in a field wherein better experts already exist? I fell asleep reading the first sentence of your lame pitch.
Be a unicorn.
What is original? What is unique? What does it mean to be a unicorn? Find something nobody else is doing. Create something that did not exist previously. Be that new chimera the rest of us are too afraid to dream is real.
Gloria Feldt, Contributor 2 days ago
You are right, Susannah, No Excuses (see www.GloriaFeldt.com if you don’t get the humor). And good wishes to you as you go through your chemo.
The unicorn metaphor is a good one. But how does one become a unicorn? I think women are so socialized to be helpful, responsive, and to care what others think about them that conformity is the default position. What specific tips can you offer for deciding what sort of unicorn one wants to be and then becoming it?
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joshakruschke 2 days ago
Buy hooker clothes and act sexy…. Wait maybe I should read the article, not just the title, before I comment.
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jpbrody 1 day ago
If you’re going to thrive, you had better learn how to sell yourself.
Fairly early in my career, I was the Director of Development for a small non-profit. I did the direct mail appeals, arranged special events, re-designed the pitiful collateral materials and made them more money than they had made in a while in their direct mail.
One problem: The president’s name was on everything I wrote. I ghosted for him, as is customary in those kinds of situations. I was the writer and I was good at it.
The first inkling I had of a problem was when the chairman of the board wrote the president, congratulating him on the wonderful materials that he (the president) was putting out.
Not much later, my contract was not renewed and even an offer of a freelance type of arrangement was refused.
I guess the president continued his usual fine job; meantime, I was out hustling for work.
You don’t have to be arrogant (although it helps). But you had better make SURE you’re getting credit for the work you do.
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Anon 22 hours ago
I know a fellow that recently took a job as the executive chef at a 5 star hotel in Dubai. During his 2 first weeks he just observed the staff. In the beginning, some workers would come up to him, introduce themselves and tell him how impressed they were with his credentials and how happy they were to be working for him. Others stayed in the background and just went about their duties. As it turns out, the most competent workers were the ones that stayed in the background. The weakest were the ones that approached him after his first days on the job. Selling yourself is done by doing a good job, not being the first to kiss the new boss’ feet.
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Robert Jacobsen 21 hours ago
It took me about 10 years of my career to understand that selling and marketing yourself was vital to my career.
I discovered this by accident – I was extremely competent doing something that was not valued or even respected by company management and had difficulty breaking out of that box. I had allowed others to define who I was which limited my value and opportunities.
I transferred to a different division, which set my career back more than a few years, but one that exploded the box. To avoid being put into the same situation, I re-branded myself and sold myself as a unique value proposition and backed it up with action, which now is a widely-recognized reputation.
The principle of offering unique and outstanding value, building a reputation for delivering it across the management team (not just my manager) and reinforcing it through your day to day behaviors.
A key point though is that you must walk the talk. Promises don’t cut it – consistently great performance which backs up the sell message must happen for it to be effective. Integrity is essential.
Never underestimate the value of a monthly status report with your accomplishments. Not only does it help you manager know what you’ve accomplished, but it also helps you focus on accomplishments that matter.
Briefly for me, I approached it this way.
1) Find a area of unique and essential value which you are able to do. I call it “the next big thing”. If there are none, find an area. Ideally, that area should be one that is growing or is expecting to grow, should be business-critical and essential, is an area you have skills in or can build those skills, is something you would enjoy doing and is something you can be passionate about doing.
2) Show interest and initiative. In most cases approaching your management about interest and need may be advised – in some cases, just gradually move in that direction, building your skills in any way you can and focusing on filling the need and providing value.
3) Raise the value bar through exemplary service, quality, responsiveness. Deliver beyond expectation every time.
4) Broaden the scope of the unique value area – can you do more of this, add other things of unique value which can be combined with it.
5) Continually build your skills and experience, while watching for new areas of unique value to leverage. Always look for the “next big thing”. I work in a technology field and some of these NBTs can take years before they get adopted so there is time to learn skills and knowledge.
Susannah, I wish you the very best in your struggles. You are an inspiration.
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