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Career Coach: Bragging Rights

For her Mother's Day column, Pamela Kleibrink Thompson says that sometimes it's OK to toot your own horn.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson.

On Mother's Day this month we celebrate mothers. Your mom had a lot of sage advice and she taught you many valuable lessons. Mom might have told you that you should never brag about yourself. Recognizing that moms are full of wisdom and usually mean well, I want to tell you that mom was wrong when it comes to bragging. This Mother's Day and every day, honor your mother, but ignore this one pearl of her wisdom.

There are situations where you need to brag, where a bit of self-promotion is necessary to jump-start your career and to keep it going.

There are ways to brag about yourself without offending a client or employer or your mom. We'll take a look at good bragging and bad bragging in three situations -- when socializing and networking, on your resume and during an interview.

Networking

Be ready to tell people who you are at industry events, parties, and meetings of professional organizations. Practice your self-introduction with a friend. Your self-introduction should be short and sweet. Make yourself sound fascinating and memorable. Create an introduction with pizzazz. "I'm Jan, the entertainment marketing diva." "I'm Mike and I draw the funny cartoons your kid watches on Nickelodeon." "I'm Jim and I just directed a short that won the audience favorite award at... " Be sure to ask the other people around you about themselves and listen attentively to their answers.

Don't come across as arrogant or self-centered by dominating the conversation with a long discourse about the great job you did composing the latest music in the most recent video game released by EA. Make sure you give kudos to others on your team and on the project, and you won't come across as being too cocky. Give the other person a chance to brag. Don't interrupt and redirect the attention to yourself.

Resume

Your resume must highlight your achievements and your accomplishments. Make sure you list awards you've won and goals you've reached. What you've done for past employers gives future employers a hint of what you can do for them. You are competing with many others to get the attention of an employer, so make yourself stand out.

If your film or a project you worked on has won an award at a film festival, or if you have been honored by your school or a professional organization, make sure you mention it in your resume, as well as in your cover letter and at your interview.

The only way to be too boastful on your resume is to take credit for something you did not do or claim skills you do not have. Never do that.

The interview is an opportunity for you to tout your achievements and skills. The interviewer wants to know you have the ability to do the job with confidence and a positive attitude.

Interview

An interviewer may say, "Tell me about yourself." This is an opportunity for you to tout your achievements and skills that are relevant to his/her needs. What the interviewer wants to know is whether you have the skills and ability to do the job and also whether you have confidence and a positive attitude.

"My biggest strength is..." is an acceptable way to brag about yourself. Other phrases such as "the accomplishment I'm proudest of is..." or "what I'm best at is..." are also good ways to brag about yourself during the interview. Don't just talk about yourself, but while listing your abilities, show how your skills and abilities can benefit the company you're interviewing with.

You can avoid coming across as too conceited by including your coworkers when you discuss projects you worked on. Employers like to know they are hiring a team player, so be sure to include your teammates when you promote yourself. "With the help of my co-workers, we were able to surpass the expectations of our director by..."

Still reluctant to think about bragging and self-promotion? Some people make a living bragging -- about others. People who work in public relations, marketing and advertising, and agents and managers are all paid to brag about their clients.

You can learn to do your own PR. Write a press release about yourself. I make it known when I speak at an event (see bio below) through this column. You need to let others know what you are doing. You can do this through newsletters and web sites.

My friend Marty sends out a newsletter regularly that includes an article about some aspect of the visual effects business, such as digital cinema and 3D and large format. He sends it to his clients, potential clients and fans like me who might refer him to a client. Whenever I get his newsletter it reminds me of his expertise in the area of digital tools and technologies, as well as business plans.

One of the most effective means of promoting yourself to the world is to have a well-designed, user-friendly website with your contact information and work samples. If you have a blog or web site, make sure visitors can contact you easily by making your email address easy to find. Web sites are one place where others can brag for you through testimonials, recommendations and reviews.

Still don't want to brag? Make friends with journalists who cover your industry and let them know you are available to be interviewed or quoted. Get others to write about you and collect the press clippings.

There are several situations where it is right to brag. In fact, it's necessary for career success. So get out there and toot your horn or help toot the horn of a friend or colleague. If you have learned how to draw and animate, you can also learn the art of self-promotion. Try it. My mom would be proud of you.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson likes to brag about her mother, Sue Kleibrink, who is wise and wonderful. Pamela is speaking at the SIGGRAPH conference on August 12, giving a class called "Get a Job in Computer Graphics" from 8:30-12:15 in Room 406AB. She is currently recruiting for Lucas Animation Studios, Singapore. Contact Pamela for a career coaching session, recruiting or speaking engagement.

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