9781594832826The last Young Women in Energy (YWE) Book Club met to discuss Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It, by Peggy Klaus. With a group of almost all new faces, we quickly began to discuss and debate Klaus’ central thesis: one must master the art of bragging, without becoming a braggart, in order to progress in one’s career.

To get the bragging juices flowing, the ice-breaker asked participants to share the most interesting personal or professional thing they have done in the last 5 years. There was an even split among the attendees between personal and professional achievements. Personal achievements included conquering sky-diving, getting married, and visiting Vegas 30 times (yes, seriously). Professional achievements included starting and selling a small company for profit before age 30, working internationally in Singapore, and completing an MBA. Obviously this is not a group of slackers or unadventurous women.

Klaus divides her book into nine engaging and often funny chapters focused on different opportunities to brag:

 

Chapter 1: Bragging Myths We Live and Die By
Chapter 2: What’s So Good About You?
Chapter 3: Bragging In and Out of the Office
Chapter 4: Techno-Brag: Tooting in the 21st Century
Chapter 5: Job Interviews: Bragging Your Way in the Door
Chapter 6: Performance Reviews: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Chapter 7: When You Don’t Have a Real Job
Chapter 8: When You’re Out on Your Own
Chapter 9: Brag Nags and General Questions

We tackled the first chapter, in an attempt to bust some myths commonly associated with bragging. The group paid special attention to the first myth, “A Job Well Done Speaks for Itself”. Haven’t we all fallen victim to this myth - that our outstanding performance will get us noticed by our boss, our boss’s boss, and our boss’ boss’ boss? Klaus tells us to think again, and shows how important it is to continuously showcase our accomplishments and look out for number one, ourselves. Many in the group struggled to agree with this point; for one participant this challenged the very core of her cultural upbringing. One participant aptly asked, “If a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound?” In the world of bragging according to Klaus, if no one knows you did it, you didn’t.

The discussion continued towards a debate on perceived work ethic - is building relationships any less challenging than head-down work time and is one tactic more advantageous than the other? Participants more skilled in relationship building openly shared their career had unquestionably advanced more quickly relative to peers who tended towards more head-down work time. One participant, through trial and error, found time spent worrying about project details prevented her from connecting with the “right” people. She found that doing the job well didn’t always get you the credit you deserved and thus, switching tactics was a must.

Yet, confidence and connecting with the right people isn’t always met with cheers from your peers. In fact, being called a kiss-ass or having accomplishments downgraded to a result of “knowing the right people” are just a few of the unfortunate consequences experienced by some participants.

A quote by Klaus states, “People want to listen to others who are excited about who they are, what they do, and what they are saying”. While difficult to deny the truth of this quote (we love a good storyteller), some participants felt the book has a strong extrovert bias. The tips and tricks are undoubtedly helpful no matter who you are, but it seems Klaus’ theory of getting ahead is to fit into the extroverted mold North America seems somewhat obsessed with. Reluctantly, we agreed. She has a point given we’re not going to change the local culture of hiring and promotion anytime soon. Yet, we discussed that to an introvert, this book may seem as if they need to make considerable personal and professional adjustments in order to be successful. This seemed to be a perhaps unfortunate and unnecessary consequence.

Chapter 6: Performance Reviews: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly focuses on the ever-needed, but much loathed, “compliment sandwich”. It seems for all our bravado as a group (the book group and society as a whole), we really don’t like to hear bad things about ourselves. One participant continues to harbor some resentment to a colleague who provided very honest feedback, even though she requested it. And she’s not alone, we all tend to shy away from constructive criticism for fear it makes us less, when in reality, it can make us so much more.

While we set out to become better braggarts (in the good way, of course), the irony is not one participant needed much assistance to toot their own horn. Perhaps Klaus’ tips and tricks had subconsciously started to take effect, but this group of women knew how to share information about themselves in an engaging, honest and enjoyable way. To anyone sitting near us, I believe we would have come across as strong, not arrogant; confident, not egotistical; and genuine, not misleading (in our own humble opinion, of course).

 Join us on Thursday, June 4th for our next YWE Book Club. We will discuss The Confidence Code, by Katty Kay & Claire Shipman. All YWE members are welcome to attend, please email bookclub@youngwomeninenergy.com to RSVP.