The Recruitment Underground Blog

Career Skills, Training and Transitions

Don’t Brag. But…

Posted by jamesseetoo on July 1, 2009


No one likes a braggart.  They are usually loud, obnoxious, full of tall tales (lies) and you can usually spot one at a party a mile away because all the people around him will be rolling their eyes in disgust looking for something, anything that will offer the least little avenue of escape.

So now that I got that off my chest, let’s talk about something that I see a lot of in recruiting.  And this is both on resumes and during interviews.  There are just too many people who are afraid to tell you what they’ve accomplished.  They’ll say, “I was part of a team that did ‘X'” or “We did ‘Y””.

And I always want to say, that’s great, now what did YOU do?

Were you the person who was leading the scientific breakthrough that now enables us to sequence the human genome?  Or were you the person who made the best coffee in the world and kept the team running which then led to the breakthrough to sequence the genome?  If that’s the case, I want to know – there’s always a place for a person like that.

Remember, the person interviewing you or reading your resume is not a mind reader.  We don’t know what you did and when it’s a technical resume like a scientist or a computer engineer, we might not have the level of expertise to let your work speak for itself.

I remember a time when I thought the same thing.  After all, the people on my team knew what I was doing so I thought everyone did.  Then came my review where I did an “okay” job and people I had never directly worked with were evaluating my performance and they didn’t know what I had done.

So here’s a key thing I learned then and there and please remember it.

“IT AIN’T BRAGGING IF YOU DID IT”.

And yes, I do know that all caps means you’re shouting but you can bet the next year I made sure everyone knew what I was working on and what I had accomplished. No, I didn’t stand by the water cooler telling everyone what I did but I did make sure all the key stakeholders and then some had progress reports.

Now that’s not to say that you should ever lie about what you’ve done.  Never.  There’s an old saying that goes something like this: “Never lie, there’s too much to keep track of.”

But remember, if you don’t let people know what you’ve done when you’re in a job and when you’re looking, people will not know.  Your work might speak for itself with people you’re around on a daily basis but your work might end up being evaluated by people without the same type of expertise (like maybe HR people?).

So if you don’t claim the credit for your own work rest assured, someone else will.

Remember, your skills are your job security.

Best,

James Seetoo

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3 Responses to “Don’t Brag. But…”

  1. Suzanne said

    Hi James,
    Great advice. I learned this pretty early- after my first review at Qiagen. It is true that come review time, you have to be your own strongest advocate. If you don’t, know one else will.
    Thanks for the wise words.
    Suzanne

  2. jamesseetoo said

    Hi Suzanne,

    I absolutely agree but I’ve found that a more effective strategy is to let people know what’s going on throughout the year. A simple Powerpoint presentation outlining project status with bold bullet points and if you know what you’re doing, a graph goes a long way to impacting the perception of the impact you’re making outside of your immediate working circle. It’s a great personal marketing tool.

    Best,
    James

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