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September 03 2013

Book Review: Promote Yourself

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By Jean Fan

Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding, just came out with a book called Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success. It’s an insightful read for anyone looking to take control of their career. Instead of waiting to be promoted, make it so there is no reasonable chance that you won’t be. Instead of waiting for your resume to get you a job, learn how to use social media platforms to connect yourself with relevant people in your industry.

In this book, Schawbel focuses on helping you build skills: hard, soft and online. You always have to be learning, especially if you want to stand out in the job market. Before you promote yourself, he realizes, you have to have become someone worth promoting.

What I like about this book is this kind of honesty. Succeeding in today’s world isn’t easy, and Schawbel acknowledges that. Books in this genre can be fluffy (“Just be yourself, and you’ll be fine!”). Promote Yourself does not do this. It encourages you to stay true yourself, yes, but it also pushes you to be better. Instead of merely feeding your ego, it offers concrete rules and strategies that will help you understand the realities of the working world -- and excel in it.

Schawbel is also unafraid of helping people face embarrassing and potentially destructive weaknesses. Addressing the negative perception surrounding self-promotion, he at one point highlights the difference between bragging and self-promotion. A few pages later, he gives you a test:

If you have fewer than three Trues, you’re not terribly obnoxious. If you’ve got 3-5, you’re moderately obnoxious, and if you’ve got six or more, you’ve got some serious obnoxiousness issues and you might want to fix that.

He is also open about how tendency to promote himself can sometimes backfire. He shares this experience with us so we are aware of it and won’t make the same mistake:

This is a lesson I learned the hard way. Everyone I know knows that I’m a big self-promoter. Once I was out with some buddies at a bar and caught the eye of an attractive female bartender. After bringing our drinks she asked me what I do. I launched into a long recitation of all the things I’ve accomplished professionally. When I was done she looked at me and said, “That was really unattractive.”

Most importantly, he’s realistic. Very few people experience meteoric success. Usually, you just have to start from the bottom and work your way up. He’s telling the truth even if it’s not one that people want to hear:

You’re the new kid and you’re walking into an established company with established ways of doing things. Sure, you may be able to change things, but that’ll take a while. In the meantime, drop that attitude and start paying more attention to your performance and making things happen for your company and yourself.

This kind of honesty is, for me, crucial. There are so many books that claim success can come easily -- too easily. It can’t. Success requires hard work and diligence and self-awareness. This book strongly emphasizes this fact, and gives readers plenty of advice on how to embody these characteristics. At the same time, it is optimistic about how much we can achieve and how awesome we can be using the resources we have available to us.

Learning how to express how awesome you are is incredibly important in today’s world. It allows you the power to connect other people and build a community that is every bit as awesome as you. This is the key to success. Promote Yourself motivates you to take action in doing this by offering specific advice as to how to kick ass at your career and build your online presence to support it. After reading it, I have ideas for what to do, rules for how to do them, and a vision for how useful social media platforms can be.

“Visibility,” Schawbel writes, “creates opportunities.” I want opportunities. Don’t you?

To order Promote Yourself, visit Schawbel's website or check out a free webcast of his book launch event.