If you want a promotion, you have to convince your supervisor that you are the best employee on the team. If you want venture capital for your business, you have to convince investors that you are going to make money. If you want to go out with the girl or guy of your dreams, you have to convince that lucky individual that you are worth the time.

It’s up to you to convince them, and you’re going to have to go beyond just telling them how great you are. You’re going to have to market yourself.

Set Your Goals

Like most marketing projects, marketing yourself will be a lot more if you know where you’re headed. Your goal doesn’t need to be absolutely concrete — you don’t have to set out to make sure that everyone knows that you’re the best choice in a particular niche. That’s called ‘personal branding,’ and while it can be a useful tool for marketing yourself, it’s not the end-all-be-all.

I’m not dismissing definitive goals, but even something as general as making sure that working to get a promotion in the next couple of years can provide you with an idea of where to start. There is something to be said for goals as simple as making sure the cute cubicle-dweller in the next office over knows your name, of course.

Without even a vague goal, though, it can be hard to figure out what you really ought to be doing next. If a promotion is your priority, maybe offering to take on a little extra work is worth the effort — knowing your goals can make your next step a lot clearer.

Talk To People

Word-of-mouth marketing is incredibly powerful. Even if you don’t particularly have a reason to seek a particular person out, it’s worth talking to that individual about your plans, your goals and how the two of you can help each other. I’m not suggesting that you should add ‘Pompous Bore’ to your name tag at social events, but it is okay to talk about yourself as long as you don’t go overboard. After all, you never know who your fellow conversationalist is going to talk to next: “Oh, yes, I was just talking to Brad. He really wants a chance to shine, Mr. CEO.”

Think About Your Reputation

If you have no reason to follow through on something besides the fact that you said you would do it, you should still do it. Having a reputation for integrity and the willingness to follow through on your commitments can be better than a million bucks in the bank when you’re doing business.

When you look at the way a credit score is computed, this becomes completely clear: even if you owe a lot of money, you can have a great credit score. It’s a matter of whether you pay your bills when you say you will and you keep your financial promises.

Your reputation isn’t just a financial issue, though. It can affect your ability to look for love just as much. Once again, you never know who’s listening.

Don’t Stop at Bare Basics

You don’t have to go the extra mile every time. You don’t have to cook a surprise dinner for your significant other every night or perfectly package a client’s order every time. But it’s worth raising the stakes fairly regularly.

Just as a fancy dinner every night would get boring, doing only what you absolutely have to day-in and day-out makes you appear lackluster at best to whoever is watching. You’re only appear exceptional if you do something out of the ordinary.

But don’t let your efforts slip below the bare minimum while you’re putting together that exceptional effort. In my experience, slipping up on one minor project can have a much bigger impact on the way people view you than even pulling off a truly amazing effort.

And while bragging may not be particularly attractive, you can definitely get away with a lot more of it if your work is continuously good that if you’ve had a few setbacks, no matter how minor.

Be A Real Person

There’s plenty of advice here, and you’ll find plenty of other personal marketing advice if you go looking for it. And if you take all of it to heart, you’ll feel like some sort of robot who has to say two perfect things to your significant other before breakfast, hand out a stack of business cards on the way to work and stalk the CEO so that you can ‘run into him’ at the gym.

That’s not how real people behave, and I think you already know that. The best thing that you can do with this advice is think about it for a while, rather than trying to implement major changes in your lifestyle. Sure, you might need to make an effort to be a little more outgoing or something along those lines, but if you boil most of this advice down to its essentials, marketing yourself is a pretty simple task.

First, be a good person and a good employee (or whatever role you have). Your reputation will follow naturally. Second, be open. Talk to people about what’s going on in their lives and tell them about yours — just like you naturally do anyhow. It really can be that simple. You don’t have to have a perfectly optimized website or the best resume on Earth.

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