I’m bad at self-promotion, yo

by e_e_evans PhD student

It took me 9 drafts to write my UCAS personal statement. Nine. And I don’t mean 9 edits, 9 completely different, total start-over rewrites. Basically, I find it difficult to talk about myself.

Ask me to talk about Star Wars? I’ll give you plot summaries for a dozen different expanded universe novels and a full critical analysis of the films.
Mention Robot Wars? I’ll give you my top 10 robots and all the series winners.
Doctor Who? I can do a one woman re-enactment of the episode “Eleventh Hour”.
Geology? I hope you’re sitting comfortably because I’m about to give you a ten part lecture series with particular focus on volcanology, petrology and the applications of X-ray tomography.
Science fiction? Let me tell you about the last 5 novels I’ve read and what else the authors of said works have also written.
Ask me to sell my skills and/or talents in a 60 second elevator pitch? I’ll clam up faster than a bivalve out of water.

Applying for things have always required a certain level of selling one’s self. It makes sense, who else is going to explain why someone should hire you except you? Except when you can’t do it well at all. And that’s particularly worrying for the perpetually self-deprecating. This type of self-promotion is needed as much for taking part in events and activities as applying for jobs. The outcomes are different but the methods are similar.

More generally, my issue is trying to walk the fine line between “hay, I’m taking part in a thing” and “hay, check out how brilliant I am for doing this thing” and fearing I come off more like the latter than the former. One solution seems to be removing the “I” and “me” from the equation, i.e. “Hay, this thing is something really exciting and interesting, hope you can come along!” Shifting the focus from the self onto the action or topic, if you will.

The other solution is the aforementioned self-deprecating route, i.e. “Hay guys, come along and laugh at me doing a very public thing”. Which certainly works as a way of hiding real insecurities under a facade of exaggerated, artificial insecurities.

Another is to speak plainly and not second guess what people may or (as likely) may not be thinking vis.: “Hay, I’m taking part in an event called Soapbox Science on Saturday 10th September with a group of other female scientists in Swansea City Centre and I’d really like to have some friendly faces in the crowd.”

There, I finally said it.