I’ve had many roles in not-for-profit organisations, including national president (chair); leading a board of volunteers from across the county. Although I’m not exactly reticent about my love for these organisations, I don’t shout about the achievement of being National President of JCI as much as I probably should. The more I come into contact with other people looking to take on board roles later in their careers, the more I realise how valuable that experience has been and should not be played down.
Just a selection of the experience I gained through JCI includes:
- How to participate in and chair meetings effectively using Roberts Rules of Order.
- Using good governance to manage finances, reporting and operations.
- Understanding the importance of engaging those around you and strategies to achieve this.
I did all this whilst in a full-time (rather demanding!) job. How many people can say they have done this? It takes sacrifice, focus and commitment. I’m not sure why it took me so long to realise how remarkable this is. It was only when I heard more and more stories of pointless meetings, uninspiring leaders and frustrating relationships that I came to understand that the skills I’ve learnt are anything but run of the mill.
What is it that makes us play down our achievements? These are some of the things which I think may have affected me:
- Culture – Brits aren’t generally boastful.
- Gender – Women tend to underplay their achievements.
- Personality – Bragging is not generally in reserved introverts modus operandi.
Overcoming any of these things is difficult, but we should.
Researching introvert behaviours recently, I connected with the insight that introverts remember things in a different way to extroverts, relying more on long-term memory, which can be harder to access. Certainly when I started writing CVs and applications for non-executive director roles, I had to sit down and think hard about examples of my achievements – they were there, just not things I could come up with off the top of my head. Some tips I’ve found useful associated with this:
- Write your name on everything. I used to write a lot of procedures and guidance documents in previous roles (generally helping to make the organisations work more efficiently). It never occurred to me to put my name on it as the author. But it makes sense – it allows others to see and appreciate what you’ve created, even if you’ve not shouted about it yourself.
- Write down all of your achievements. When you do something great, write it down. This “brag list” will help you in future applications and interviews (for promotion or a new role), serve as inspiration during your next big challenge or simply bring about a confidence boost (even just a smile). That feeling of “I have this experience”, “I’m good at this” and “yes, I can do this” is so powerful in moments of self-doubt.
- Use your experience. If a problem comes up, think about how you can use your past achievements to solve it. Communicate with your colleagues that you have experience in a similar situation and suggest how this can be used in the solution to your current problem. Chances are they might not be aware of your past accomplishments (as you probably haven’t told them) and will be happy to use your expertise.
What experiences have you had that you need to shout about? Be proud of what you’ve done. Articulate it. Use it. I’ve experienced what happens if you do – you will improve your own organisation, create a more pleasant environment for those around you and help other people to be better. And although I’ve used the word “brag”, that’s more for you, the communication can of course be done in a subtler, more introverted way.