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It’s Time To Market Yourself

It’s Time To Market Yourself

    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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