Don’t Promote Yourself – Prove Yourself

This past weekend, Thomas Friedman, author of The World is Flat, wrote an article for the New York Times about how to get a job at Google. While I don’t want a job at Google I found what Friedman says they look for is prospective employees to be of great interest.

Not every organization has or should have the Google culture, so that might lead many to dismiss the suggestions in the article. However, two key points caught my attention:

Humility, the ability to step back and embrace the idea of another is really the ability to put the organization first. Everyone has an ego and a healthy ego requires some feeding, yet in this current era of self-promotion, touting every accomplishment as a major achievement starts to look like a constant need for the spotlight and the requisite applause that accompanies it.

Many people today confuse advancing their image with passion. Passion is a good thing to see but without connecting it to skills and results, it comes off as boasting. This is why it can be such a tricky balancing act. I’ve worked with clients who had hoped that their work would speak for itself (it won’t) so that they wouldn’t have to talk about themselves. Or they point out how they owe everything to the team, and while it is fine to tout yourself as a team player, your contributions can get lost in the group.

Educating people about how you contributed to the outcome is an incredibly useful skill. Being humble enough to embrace the (better) ideas of others speaks to a healthy sense of self and a healthy regard for others.

The last point that Mr. Friedman makes is critical for anyone who works anywhere: the name of your college, your title, your salary, your IQ, your age, your gender (OK, the first aspect is his and I added the others to the list) is no substitute for the ability to do the job. And when you work with teams and the success of those teams is based on those critical, non-technical, interpersonal skills – that is what will matter most.

Years ago I served as an Instructor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School’s Small Business Development Center. I was serving on a committee and we began getting to know one another by going around the table and sharing where we went to school. I didn’t kid myself – this was important to many of people, not just those at Wharton. And it may not come as much of a surprise to people that I was the only one who hadn’t gone to an Ivy League school for a degree of any kind. I wasn’t embarrassed, but I did feel out of sync with the group. I figured my contributions would either be ignored or politely heard and THEN ignored. When it came time to put ideas on the flip chart, mine went up. And when it came time to retain the best ideas, many of mine stayed up.

Friedman writes what I know to be true: the world only cares about what you can do with what you know.

The rest is self-promotional noise.  

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