Is modesty holding you back from your dream job?

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Newsflash. British people are uncomfortable with saying how good they are.

When LinkedIn surveyed 2,000 workers from a range of sectors, it found that half of them – yes, half! – thought their own modesty was holding them back. Cultural norms are very hard to overcome. We are taught to be reserved and that boasting is bad, so we don’t do it. It all adds up to us being bad at selling ourselves.

But job interviews are different. Your potential employer wants – needs – to know what you can do and what you are all about. Yet many people fail to extol their own virtues, even in the forum of a job interview, often handing the job to a rival simply because they are unable, or unwilling, to promote their own skills.

Don’t downplay achievements

I coach people in both the UK and the US and I see the difference clearly between the two. People in the UK are fearful of seeming arrogant, so they tend to downplay their achievements. The key to overcoming this is to remember that you need your potential employer to buy into you. They need to see everything about what you are offering, in the very same way you might scrutinise a bag, coat or computer before you buy it from a shop. It’s not about being arrogant. It’s that you are making your new employer’s purchase (hiring you) as smooth and easy as possible for them by letting them know why your assets and strengths make you the better choice.

Make your own brag list

One of the easiest ways to talk with confidence about your strengths is to identify a list of your achievements in your previous role. What have you done that was above and beyond your responsibilities? Have you improved a process, saved the company time or money, introduced a new idea or provided expertise in an area no one else could offer?

Perhaps you’ve launched and managed a Twitter account for your company because you had great social media experience or you identified a new supplier that saved your company money. Maybe you’ve created a training manual for new starters or introduced lunch-time talks in your office. Have you got feedback from colleague or clients praising you for your efforts, dedication or a job well done?

It’s easy to overlook your achievements as “just a part of my job” but it’s important that you identify these specific accomplishments as they will set you apart from the crowd and demonstrate in a tangible way your value to your future employer.

Get excited

Remind yourself why you want that dream job. Too many people go into an interview worried about getting caught out somehow and so are less enthusiastic about their own achievements. Never lie or embellish about your experience but be positive and confident about what you know you can bring to your new employer. Find opportunities to talk about achievements that directly relate to the needs of your new employer.

There is no one else like you

Remember there is no one else in the world like you. Your unique set of skills, experiences and values mean that you bring something to the role that no one else can. Try to look past stereotypes about what kind of qualities you think are desirable for a job. Turn any qualities you perceive as weaknesses into assets. Maybe you’re shy but articulate, disorganised but creative or indecisive but a great team player. Embrace your individual style and approach and be confident about your ability to bring something special to the role.

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Aimee Bateman is a corporate recruiter turned careers champion and founder of

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