I have a client who is so articulate, compelling and charismatic that she could pretty much sell you anything. Unless it was selling her own professional services or asking to get paid to do them!
“I can sell anything but myself”, she says. Other people have variations on the theme: “I have trouble articulating what it is I can do” or “I can ask for a raise for people who work for me but when it comes to discussing my own salary, I am at a loss.”
Why is that? Of course some people are just plain shy. Even the idea of talking about themselves is abhorrent, much less asking for something. There are also people who are not shy, but still go into freeze mode when it comes to making the ask.
And yet, we know that there are times when we have to promote ourselves and ask for what we need. Others may sing your praises but can you count on them to get your story right? As an example, I have some wonderful colleagues who have always been generous in promoting me, but they really know me as an Olympic marketing expert – work that I no longer do. It is my job to equip them with the tools they need to continue to promote me for the business coaching and development work that is now my passion.
I am of the belief that you need to take personal responsibility for promoting yourself in a manner that is natural and works for you. And it starts with exhibiting self confidence, even if you do not feel it.
If this is you – not feeling confident but you still want/need to promote yourself – here are some tips that may help get you rolling:
- Get your story right – at the risk of sounding like a broken record, it really does all start with having a personal career story that reflects the “why” you do what you do, not just the what, how and when. Get it so you believe it first, then crisp it up and get ready to take it out into the world!
- Develop a list of the people in your network – think beyond the obvious and be strategic according to what you are currently looking to do (get a new job, start a business, etc). Then prioritize that list and keep it as a living document that you revisit and update on a regular basis. And START NETWORKING – begin with the people that are easiest for you to approach and use them as a training ground.
- Pick a friendly venue – if it is easier for you to start promoting yourself to someone whom you are comfortable with inviting to your home or meeting in a coffee shop, do that. If it is intimidating meeting someone in an office setting, you can build up to that.
- Dress the role you want – if you are looking for an office job, dress in business attire even if you are just meeting a friend. This is true for both men and women – you don’t want the person you are meeting to sit there the whole time thinking “really? Dressed like that he thinks he is ready to work in X?”
- Act the role you want – we all know the old adage “fake it till you make it”. Maybe faking it is not in your definition of a natural approach, but use those first test grounds to act the role you want, in whatever way you can. Want to start a consultancy? What would it take for you to look and sound like a consultant?
ASK! A belief in fundraising is that one of the biggest reasons people don’t donate is because they are not asked. I believe the same is true of asking your friends and colleagues – your network – for what you need. Set the stage, relax and just ASK. The person may say no or it may not be something they can do, but you will not know until you ASK!
Your immediate network of friends and colleagues is a great place to get started. Practice may not make you perfect but it will move you along the continuum towards being able to promote yourself and ask for what you need.