Here’s how to sell yourself on selling yourself.
Tom Hanks isn’t “Big” on self promotion – but that doesn’t stop him from doing press junkets to push his projects.
The Oscar-winning “Forrest Gump” actor revealed in a recent TimesTalks Q&A that he thinks media tours for his movies are “the most opprobrious thing that human beings have ever been put through,” and “it is a level or corporate branding strategy to the degree of hackery.”
Yet he still does them. Hanks has also been quoted on BBC in the last week, and appeared at both the amfAR gala and a Healing the Hidden Wounds of War discussion panel – the same time that his new book of short stories, “Uncommon Type,” was hitting shelves.
Publicity tours, industry conferences and networking mixers are a necessary evil for all of us. A 2016 survey from LinkedIn (a networking site) claims 85% of respondents found their jobs through networking. And about 80% of jobs are never posted, but are instead filled internally or through networking.
You’ve got to be your own biggest advocate to get ahead. “Closed mouths don’t get fed,” Michelle Ngome, a networking strategist (or, as she calls herself, a “connection enthusiast”) told Moneyish. She said she was passed over for promotions in finance because she just kept her head down and hoped someone would notice how hard she was working.
“Opportunities come through relationships, and relationships are developed outside of the cubicle,” she said. “No one knows that you’re a leader, or an expert, or that you have this great product unless you tell them. Plus, you never know who you are going to meet, and what it’s going to lead to.”
But that doesn’t mean most of us are comfortable doing it. In fact, a 2014 study from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University found that schmoozing for success makes most people feel “dirty.”
“No matter what profession you’re in, you need to get to know people: you need colleagues, a job, social support,” wrote Maryam Kouchaki, an assistant professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School of Management. “But when you get to a conference and start talking to people, it can actually be really awkward. It can feel uncomfortable and inauthentic.”
So how can you sell yourself on selling yourself?
1. Turn the focus away from yourself. Peter Shankman, entrepreneur and author of “Faster Than Normal: Turbocharge Your Focus, Productivity, and Success with the Secrets of the ADHD Brain,” told Moneyish he asks what he can do for others – not what they can do for him. “I have never considered myself a self-promoter, but I’m great at helping people,” said Shankman, who founded Help A Reporter Out to connect journalists to sources. So rather than leading off a conversation with, “I make this, and you should buy it,” or, “I’m awesome, and you should hire me,” try this: ‘Here’s what I’m working on. How can that help you?”
2. Sell your expertise. While it’s easier than ever to build a website on Wix or launch an online store on Shopify – and then inundate your followers with “click here to buy” posts – Mark Zablow, CEO of Cogent Entertainment Marketing, has found that sharing his expertise gets more feedback than selling his clients. “What works very well for me is to become a credible authority on a subject, where I can then weave in the work that I do,” he said, such as researching beauty industry trends and best practices when marketing a lipstick. He can then give interviews on the season’s most popular shades (including his product), or post a makeup tutorial video (again, featuring his product), versus more demanding “Buy this lipstick!” posts.
3. Prep a few questions and talking points. If small talk doesn’t come naturally, have a few questions in your back pocket for mixers and conferences like, “What brought you here today?” or “What are you most excited about in your business right now?” And if you’re going to a conference, Zablow suggests looking up who else will be there, and connecting on LinkedIn beforehand and sending a note that you’re excited to potentially meet them. “You’ve already skipped a couple of introductory steps,” said Zablow. Now you can open with, “We connected on LinkedIn. Nice to meet you in person. Who else are you hoping to meet today?”
4. Bring a friend to networking events. Don’t hit networking mixers or conferences alone. “It’s much easier to meet people when you’re already talking to someone – especially if your friend is really talkative,” said Zablow. “You’ll also feel more comfortable, which makes you more confident.” Ngome agreed. “It looks more awkward walking up and starting a conversation with someone or with a group when you’re alone,” she said.
5. Schmooze outside the box. Networking will come more naturally if you do it in non-traditional settings. Shankman says he’s made countless connections outside of the gym in the mornings. Ngome also recommends signing up for things like company kickball leagues or volunteering for charity. “The situation is no longer stuffy, where you’re handing out business cards and reading nametags,” she said. “And now when you run into the regional manager in the elevator, you can turn the score from last night’s game into a conversation starter.”
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