How Bragging Is Essential To Your Success


As academics, we have been trained to value objectivity. The communication strategy behind delivering our research often demands that our personalities take a back seat so the evidence can speak for itself. The professional development we receive as Ph.D. students focuses on coming up with compelling narratives about our research. And it all starts with the famous “dissertation pitch” that aims to demonstrate our ability to synthesize a complex topic into a two-minute monologue or single paragraph, and turn an obtuse subject into an interesting discussion topic that appeals to researchers across disciplines. If you have ever been fortunate enough to go on an on-campus interview, you probably spent three days talking about your research from multiple angles. The hiring committee asked about your dissertation topic, your approach and methodological choices, your teaching experience, your future research plans — and asked you very few questions about yourself.


While academic job searches are all about fitting into a mold in which personality plays a minimal role,  alternative careers for Phds start on the opposite foot.  Employers want candidates who have compelling life experiences and a wide variety of passions and interests, and have been successful outside of their immediate work environment.


For that very reason, you cannot rely on your intellect and credentials alone to impress a potential employer if you intend to pursue non-academic employment. Having a Ph.D., strong intellectual acumen, and strong work ethic are not sufficient. On the contrary, you need to be prepared to provide evidence that mirrors the brilliant, exceptional, electrifying, fascinating, multifaceted individual that you are. To achieve that, you need to step away from the detachment of the researcher and embrace your inner enthusiast. In other words, you need to learn how to brag.




Having taught you to envision yourself as anything BUT a product, your academic training might have shielded you from a harsh reality: in this Kardashian era of unabashed self-promotion, job searches have become multifaceted marketing campaigns aimed at communicating one’s value across a wide variety of platforms. Leaving academia means that you will have to step into this new world and face the imperative question of how you are going to sell yourself and your background to find your job. While reading these lines, you are probably thinking: “I AM NOT A PAIR OF SHOES OR AN APPLIANCE! I AM A MULTIFACETED HUMAN BEING WHO VALUES HONESTY AND INTEGRITY!”


We could not agree more.


The truth is that smart self-promotion does not have to be about lying or manipulating others. Instead, it is all about coming up with creative and original ways to demonstrate the best representation of who you are while communicating clear messages in alignment with your values and strengths. In order to achieve that, you don’t need to treat yourself as an object or a commodity. As you explore alternative careers for Phds, you need to look at yourself objectively and examine your aspirations, values, and skills to come up with a series of clear messages that are as close to who you are as possible, and that are as compelling as possible to potential employers.


What do we mean by bragging? The answer is simple: apply the skills you already possess and have honed for talking about your research to talking about yourself.

  • Make a list of your past achievements and elements of your own personal history that truly differentiates you from your peers.
  • Apply the dissertation pitch method to your own story. What are you all about? What’s so great about you?
  • Dig into your personal and professional history, reflect on your strengths, and always be prepared to provide a compelling narrative about yourself that is effortless and genuine.


SMART bragging is about coming up with narratives about yourself that highlight your strengths in a sincere and authentic manner. Go ahead. Brag. And make sure to leave your humility behind as you investigate non-academic career options.

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