Whether it’s during a job interview or when going for a promotion, it’s important to talk about your qualities and professional accomplishments. Achieving this without appearing arrogant, however, is a real balancing act.
Well, academics from the United States might have the answer. The trick lies in what they call “dual promotion”: professionals wishing to highlight their own achievements should also talk about those of their colleagues, so as not to come across as pretentious.
The researchers came to this conclusion by conducting a series of experiments with a sample of 1,448 volunteers. In one experiment, participants were asked to choose between two politicians competing in a hypothetical primary election.
The overwhelming majority (81%) preferred the candidate who had praised his opponent in his speech, according to the researchers’ findings.
This shows how important it is to take stock of the factors or individuals that have contributed to your professional success. Mentioning them during a job interview, for example, can give recruiters a positive impression.
“By combining self-promotion with ‘other-promotion’ (complimenting or giving credit to others), which we term ‘dual promotion’, individuals can project both warmth and competence to make better impressions on observers than they do by only self-promoting,” note Eric VanEpps, Einav Hart and Maurice Schweitzer in their paper, recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Balancing self-promotion and modesty
Self-promotion can be much more tricky than it seems, as people from different cultures do not perceive this kind of “personal branding” in the same way. For example, people in the US tend to be less offended by self-promotion than those in China or South Korea.
What’s more, women are more reluctant than men to self-promote. A paper, published in 2019 in the British Medical Journal, reports that female researchers use positive terms – like “novel”, “unique”, or “unprecedented” – less often in the titles and abstracts of their scientific publications than their male colleagues.
As such, they “sell” their work less effectively, which can, in turn, influence their careers.
Still, modesty can be a good thing in a professional context, especially if it’s sincere. Talking about your projects and achievements without overdoing it is a sign of objectivity and maturity.
These soft skills are often highly valued by recruiters and managers alike, because they make them think that a job candidate will be more likely to listen to advice on how to improve, and therefore more likely to fit in with the company.
The ability to work as part of a team is also a sought-after quality on the job market. And talking about the positive impact your colleagues or line manager have had on your career – in other words, “dual promoting” – can help show you’re a team player…. which should increase your chances of getting the job or promotion you’re after.