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When self-promotion goes wrong

It is natural to ‘big yourself up’ when posting an online profile of yourself, but it is much better to only write things that a have a strong correlation with the actual truth.

2013 is the year you want to power yourself to your career goals, using all the online avenues available. If you find yourself describing your characteristics as innovative, creative and driven, you are not alone in making a potential fool of yourself. Self-marketing in a noisy, insecure world, leads not only lonely hearts disciples claiming a good sense of humour.

Management guru, Tom Peters, started talking about the ‘brand called you’ in the 90s and many scoffed, but he was actually ahead of the game. Everyone now owns their own online brand and every digital comment becomes part of a wider sales pitch.

In his new year message to the nation, prime minister, David Cameron, went to great lengths to explain what a good job he was doing, saying: “I want to reassure you of this; we are on the right track. On all the big issues that matter to Britain, we are heading in the right direction and I have the evidence to prove it.” He then told us that he thought very hard about the country’s security, “when I sit in No 10 Downing Street.” This false modesty has spawned its own term, “humble-bragging” and is very prevalent on the internet.

The bigging up we see online smacks of desperation, but may be understandable in worrying and stressful times, but many people are obviously feeling so vulnerable that they make grand and exaggerated claims. Self-esteem is one thing and perma-hype another.

Martin Seligman, the father of the ‘positive psychology’ movement, opposes the idea that, from childhood onwards, we need to hold a high opinion of ourselves, saying; “Children need to fail. When they encounter obstacles, if we leap in to to bolster self-esteem, to soften the blows and congratulate them with congratulatory ebullience, we make it harder for them. Failure and feeling bad are necessary building blocks for ultimate success and feeling good.”

The internet encourages hype and exaggeration, which tend to seep into our personal profiles and even our Cvs; the internet gives the impression of a bunch of braggarts, boasting of dizzying levels of innovation and creativity. There is nothing wrong with gilding the lily, but a bit of modesty is refreshing and can go a long way. You don’t have to be fluent in every language you speak, nor does every degree course have to result in a first.

Admitting to poor social skills is unlikely to get you an interview, but neither, necessarily, will your claims of dynamic leadership, because, like the boasts of David Cameroon, they will immediately smack of self-serving vanity and insincerity.

Nigel Phillips

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