Talking up our skills and achievements isn’t always something that comes naturally as women. In fact, many of us downplay our successes due to societal conditioning as children. Boys are taught to be assertive and promote themselves, even if they find doing so uncomfortable, while many girls are told this is immodest. Being popular and liked by behaving in a humble and self-deprecating way is more important.
Perpetua Neo, a London-based executive careers coach and psychologist, says we need to learn to be our own cheerleaders and do ourselves justice in order to land the jobs, and backing, we deserve.
“As women we need to own our skills, gifts and accomplishments,” she says. “Research has shown that when men are given a job they haven’t yet acquired the skills to do, they’ll take it and learn; whilst women turn down jobs they have the skills for, for fear they aren’t good enough. This gap needs to be bridged, at a very fundamental level.”
Here, Perpetua’s top tips for selling yourself.
Highlight your USP
“Ask yourself— or engage someone to guide you through this— what is the story you’re telling yourself regarding selling yourself. Often we’ve been taught to be ‘humble’, ‘modest’ and not too pompous. Unfortunately, if you don’t highlight your unique sellingpoints, no one will coax it out of you slowly. You cannot just think, ‘it’s in my CV’— your interviewers aren’t going to remember every point, and it is your job to sell yourself. Ask yourself, too, ‘What will I gain if I sell myself short?’. Do you want that outcome?”
Think of yourself as a friend
“The simplest exercise will be to imagine, if this were my friend, how would I showcase them? Speaking about yourself in the third person or as a ‘you’, can be helpful. Another that also builds confidence is to ask your friends, peers and mentors for feedback— what you shine at, and what you could do differently. You’ll be surprised at the different perspective you’ll get, and the courage after the initial ‘icky’ feeling of asking such questions about yourself.”
Keep pushing through the discomfort
“Getting over the discomfort of showcasing yourself is a muscle. It’ll feel tough at first, then it gets easier. The trick is to go through the discomfort. If it feels too much for you, then hire a coach and/or psychologist.”
Learn to tell a great story
“We remember stories, not facts; stories release oxytocin which bond us together. Often, however, we tend to be chronological, which makes your interviewers lose interest. Understand different storytelling mechanisms— e.g. sequencing, The Heroes’ Journey— and practise showcasing yourself in a way that does you justice!”