Skyrocket Your Career! Subscribe to John’s “Got A Minute” video newsletter: SUBSCRIBE

“My son just got a great paying consulting job with a major accounting firm right out of college and he is not going to have to be a salesman,” or so said the rather proud mother who apparently didn’t know that Junior would never make partner unless he could sell.

selling yourselfA colleague contemplating starting her own consultancy thought she would be successful except for that “selling and marketing thing.” Unless she has a partner who can bring in the business by selling, starting the company may be a non-starter or, at worst, a career and financial setback of significant proportion.

“I just am so uncomfortable selling myself. I just do not like doing it,” the candidate apologetically confessed as if there was another way to find a job without this great indignity.

Selling one’s self is a big career management stumbling block for an astounding number of people, I have learned over the years. It seems that some people maneuver their whole lives to avoid having to sell themselves. Even for those who seem immune to the perceived shame of self-promotion face their own set of problems – doing it effectively.

When you are looking for a job, either being recruited or networking to find work, you have to sell yourself. As I have written here before, the best-qualified person gets the job only 35% percent of the time. Typically the successful candidate is that individual who did the best job telling their story, selling him or herself and demonstrating the value they would bring to an organization.

Another way to put it is that they connected the dots.

Here are two things to remember:

First, it is OK to brag a little about yourself. But don’t wing it, that is to say don’t extoll your value without doing homework – researching the employer and then carefully identifying your top “value” assets. A value asset is a strength you have that the employer is seeking. You can frequently divine these opportunities from the job posting or a recruiter’s summary. Then, prepare yourself by thinking carefully about your relevant accomplishments, including evidence of your success (quantifiable accomplishments) and be prepared work it into the conversation or answers. Winging it, unless you are a master at extemporaneous speaking, is just not worth the risk.

Second, do not assume that when you point to a value asset in one of your answers that the recruiter or employer will automatically get it. You have to connect the dots by saying something like, “I think I can help you solve this challenge because I was successful in a similar situation in a previous position. Then provide the evidence, but be brief, be focused.

Of course, you must be engaged in the interview, asking follow up questions to reaffirm your value. Plus, employers want more from a candidate than someone who sits compliantly in an interview and answers questions. Almost anyone can do that. As you ask questions, more than likely you will uncover more opportunities to drop an example of another value asset.

Know your strengths. Prepare your value asset examples, ask questions, actively listen and then deliver more.

Selling yourself is not a sleazy proposition. We are not, after all, talking about the car or aluminum siding business here. It is what successful people do every day.