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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 January 21, 2020

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

    The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

    Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    How to Self-Taught Effectively

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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