Am I Bragging?

The only way a U.S. employer is going to know that you have skills, knowledge, and the experience to succeed in an internship or job is if you tell them! However, what are you supposed to do if talking about yourself feels like you are bragging?

Growing up were you ever told …

  •       “It’s not nice to brag!”
  •       “You can’t think about yourself. You must first think about others.”
  •       “You need to be more modest.”

Hearing these messages or experiencing cultural or familial norms where talking about one’s self is seen as a negative attribute, can make it difficult to figure out how speaking confidently is different from bragging. Let’s look at some of the differences.

When someone is bragging, they often:

  •       demand lots of attention or admiration;
  •       share names about all the significant people they know – but they don’t truly know them;
  •       claim something that is not actually true, like they are the “best in the world;”
  •       look down on other people, judging them in a mean way;
  •       monopolize every conversation and never ask questions of others;
  •       don’t give credit to others when work or tasks have been shared;
  •       never give examples but simply state that they have knowledge, skills, experience, and training.

 When someone is talking confidently, they will:

  •       provide examples to show how they have developed their knowledge, skills, and training;
  •       talk about their experiences and contributions while ALSO recognizing collaborators or teammates;
  •       use examples to illustrate how proficient they are in a particular task or skill;
  •       invite others to contribute to the conversation, asking questions and seeking input;
  •       recognize that there are other people in the room or at the table who have ideas;
  •       focus on creating an atmosphere where everyone feels valued.

When preparing to speak with an employer you can reference the talking confidently points above and also practice speaking out loud about your strengths, skills, knowledge, and experiences. This approach will gradually help to diminish some of the discomforts you may feel when sharing examples and relating your skills and strengths to experiences during an interview. Finally, no one can learn about all that you have to offer unless you find ways to confidently tell them, integrating examples and sharing experiences that show how competent and qualified you are!

By Kay Kimball Gruder
Kay Kimball Gruder Assistant Director of Graduate Student Career Programs and Services Kay Kimball Gruder