Over the past year, countless organizations have created COVID-related content to let the public know how they’re responding in “these unprecedented times.” While some articles and ads have been inspiring or moving, some organizations have overpromoted to the point of being obnoxious. Rather than taking a partnership approach, they’ve chosen a selling approach, and it lands all wrong at a time when the country is struggling.
Individuals in transition easily misstep in this area as well. They hear that they need to build a personal brand and share their expertise while searching for the next step in their career. But when it’s not coming from a place of humility and a genuine desire to serve others, it just looks like self-promotion.
I have nothing against self-promotion as long as it’s done with good intent and at the appropriate time, and isn’t over the top. It is certainly not wrong to hope that creating helpful content and sharing hard-won knowledge will lead to additional business, a job, etc., but the main focus should be on your audience. What do they need to hear? What need can you fill (without you selling something to them)? When you realize that what you’ve learned over your career has the power to touch people’s lives and impact your industry, self-promotion becomes an unappealing approach.
I’ve found that one of the best ways to learn the skill of sharing your expertise without crossing the line into self-promotion is by seeking out and respecting others’ expertise. I have been helping professionals in career transition for 40 years now, but I continue to rely on others to teach me and help me grow. When someone brings me up to speed in their area of expertise, it accelerates my own learning. It makes me better able to help those I serve.
I observe that most people are surprised by the steep learning curve that comes with finding the next step in their career. Many go into the process assuming they already have all the knowledge they need to do this and won’t need anyone else’s help. But when you find yourself in unforeseen circumstances or outside your comfort zone, having the humility to admit you don’t have all the answers is essential to growth. Asking someone to coach you helps you master something that you don’t have years to master. Learning from others’ expertise allows you to see clearly so you don’t miss the forest for the trees.
The experience of relying on the wisdom and knowledge of others can develop the humility and sense of gratitude that fuels you to share your own expertise in a way that is genuinely helpful to your audience. Rather than trying to differentiate yourself in a self-promotional way that serves no one but yourself, you are setting yourself apart through your generosity and desire to positively impact others.