Self Promotion or Sharing Knowledge?
by Dr. Sharon Short
Most people would agree that individuals who brag about themselves are obnoxious. “Showing off,” “tooting your own horn,” even “calling undue attention to yourself” are generally deemed unacceptable social behaviors. Descriptors such as “blowhard,” “loudmouth,” and “windbag” come to mind, and none of them are complimentary. This negative sentiment about “putting oneself forward” can create considerable dissonance for someone who is seeking employment and is suddenly expected to become an aggressive self-promoter.
In his book Become a Recognized Authority in your Field in 60 Days or Less, author Robert Bly (2002) describes the marketing of oneself as establishing one’s “guru status,” and in his book he outlines a strategy for positioning oneself as a “guru” in a particular field. In Bly’s words, “Gurus are not born, they are ‘manufactured’ through self-marketing and promotion.” (p. 21).
Many job seekers might find such strategies odious. We do not want to be the kind of people who boast about themselves! Fortunately, in this situation a subtle shift in perspective can make a world of difference. Bly explains that what he means by a “guru” is someone who has gained significant mastery over a specific discipline, and is able to communicate this knowledge “in a clear, understandable, and useful manner to a well-defined target audience” (p. 9). Bly goes on, “You build your reputation as an expert in your field by giving your knowledge away [emphasis added] in a variety of forums—articles, books, seminars, speeches, newsletters, e-zines, Web sites, and information products” (p. 41). If building a professional reputation in order to gain a desirable position can be redefined as sharing one’s useful knowledge with others, then the odium of “marketing oneself” is greatly diminished.
I can enthusiastically endorse the premise of becoming an expert in a well-defined niche and then sharing that knowledge in many different ways. If that is what a guru is, then bring it on! What I can not get excited about “selling,” “marketing,” or “promoting” myself. I am not a commodity to be bought and sold, nor do I want to be regarded and treated as such. Sharing my knowledge, though, is an altogether different and more positive mission. That sounds like something I would be glad to do.