For Women Only: When is Talking About Yourself Helpful to Your Career?

While reading an article from the Huffington Post by Marcia Reynolds titled, When Women Talk about Themselves, They Earn More, it reminded me of something my actress daughter said jokingly that characterized many people she met in the acting business in Hollywood, “I’ve talked so much about me, why don’t we talk about me?” I have two reactions to the Reynolds article. First, I don’t believe that women who talk about themselves earn more than those who don’t. 

She presents no data, only her impressions from interviews. Second, I think it is bad advice for a man or woman. Although she says that most women don’t like to self-promote and she states flatly that self-promotion is not bragging, I would suggest that there is a very fine line between self-promotion and bragging and that it is difficult for most people to differentiate between the two. I don’t like people who brag and don’t think others do either. To make my point the author says, “In my own career, I survived many layoffs and zigzagged up the corporate ladder through a number of high-tech companies, taking on greater and more interesting challenges each time I moved. I learned early on that self-promotion is not bragging (the author’s opinion). 

Flaunting (emphasis is mine) my unique core talents helped management determine how best to use me.” I don’t like her already!  Do you? Wouldn’t you hate to be stuck talking to this woman at a cocktail party or even during a break at a management meeting?  Listening to fingernails scrape a blackboard would be more tolerable. Reynolds states that, “They (female executives) possess special and critical traits that qualified them for their roles.  Yet they become totally helpless when I ask them to tell me what makes them special.”  I would not know what to say if someone asked me what made me special because I don’t think of myself that way. I don’t think many others do either. I would think that anyone who would have a ready answer to the “special question” would not be as special as she thought she was.

The best advice I can give to women, or men, who want to advance and enjoy doing it is to focus on making other employees successful. As Lao-tse wisely said many years ago, “When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves.’” By focusing on contributing to the success of others, you will gain their trust, respect and support all the way to the top. Save talking about yourself to someone who cares. Maybe the person staring back at you in the mirror?

Posted by Aubrey Daniels, Ph.D.

Aubrey is a thought leader and expert on management, leadership, safety and workplace issues. For the past 40 years, he has been dedicated to helping people and organizations apply the laws of human behavior to optimize performance.