"Brag! The Art Of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It," by Peggy Klaus (Warner Books, 2003; 194 pages. Hard cover, $17.47).
Did your parents ever tell you it wasn't nice to brag, that no one likes someone who's full of herself and it was much better to be humble?
Join the club. The problem is, now that we are grown, we sometimes have a hard time realizing that there is, in fact, a time and place where bragging, if you want to call it that, is actually a good thing, if done correctly. Today, we call it marketing ourselves, putting on our best face, and showing potential employers and clients why we have the background, skills and personality to give them just what they need.
If you cringe when faced with job interviews, performance reviews, new-business cold-calling and other work-related situations where you have to sell yourself, "Brag! The Art Of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It," by Peggy Klaus is for you.
This book is a Work & Family Choice Book Pick because it offers lots of practical tips for anyone striking out in the business world, either on their own or for an employer. Instead of a feel-good narrative to boost your self-esteem, it briefly analyzes why so many of us have a hard time trumpeting our successes and then gives concrete steps we can take to develop our own "bragologues," or ready-made self-promotion presentations.
The author, Peggy Klaus, is a communication and leadership coach whose clients have included JP Morgan Chase, Levi Strauss, American Express, Disney and more. She is the president of Klaus & Associates in Berkeley, Calif. In her book, she presents the self-marketing program she uses to help Fortune 500 clients and others get ahead in the business world.
I have to admit that when I saw the title of the book, I was a little taken aback. Brag? I agreed with those she quotes as saying "bragging is egocentric, disgusting, obnoxious, self-aggrandizing and just plain wrong." But Klaus opened my mind to a "middle ground" where self-promotion can be a sincere, personable presentation of why you believe you are truly the best person for the job/contract/promotion. "Brag" doesn't have to be a four-letter word, she says, if you do it with finesse, by recognizing the needs of the person you're speaking with, by using anecdotes to allow your own personal experiences and personality to shine through and by keeping a genuine, positive attitude. In other words, don't just blow a lot of hot air: back up your qualifications with specific stories and allow your "true" self to show.
Klaus's practical program starts with a "Take 12" self-evaluation questionnaire to determine your experience, strengths, accomplishments and personality traits. She then explains how to use the results of this questionnaire to develop "brag bites" and "bragologues," short and long presentations about yourself, and a "brag bag" of accomplishments you can pull out whenever you need. She suggests how to handle "techno-bragging" via e-mail and voice-mail. She also discusses both formal self-promotion (at interviews/performance reviews/new-client meetings) and informal self-promotion (while sitting next to someone on a plane, for example.)
In short, whether you wince at the idea of bragging or just need a brush-up on your self-promotion technique, "Brag!" is a good resource for putting your best foot forward.