“I Don’t Want to Oversell Myself”

I’ve used that phrase a lot in the last year, usually when I’m in the process of interviewing for a position I’m not *completely* qualified for. It’s often used in the context of some specific component of my experience, whether it’s with a particular technology in a given market. So yes, I have experience with B2B client work but “don’t want to oversell myself” since it’s been limited and most of my work has been on B2C campaigns and projects.

My reason and rationale for adding that qualifier is that I don’t want to put anyone in a difficult experience. Instead of overplaying my experience with photo editing software, I’m just going to be honest with whomever I’m talking to and say that hey, it’s limited. If I’m upfront about that before I’m hired for anything then I’m not getting into a situation where I’m out of my depth and not creating any ill will in the person who hired me and finds out I’m not actually what they were looking for. It’s a waste of everyone’s time, so I’m just going to put it all out there.

There’s also an element of the creeping self-doubt and forced humility that makes a large part of my personality and nature in this statement. If you want to know what my internal dialogue is during moments – really any time – where I’m asked to talk about my own accomplishments for any length of time, it’s that of my paternal grandmother saying “Don’t make a fuss.” The Lutheran Church doesn’t emphasize “mortal sins” very much but bragging on yourself is, at least as far as I was raised, one of them. You can say you did something, but best not make it sound like you did it well, much less better than anyone else.

I realize that this humility may be costing me opportunities. There are dozen of other people who are applying or being considered for the same positions I am. And many of those people, even if they also don’t have the requisite experience in a specific area, are absolutely willing to exaggerate to get what they want, regardless of the consequences. When I see a job I applied for six months ago is still listed I have to wonder if the company just hasn’t found the right person or if they hired someone and found they had oversold themselves in some way and have been let go when it was discovered they weren’t as qualified as they said they were.

My thinking is driven by both a sense of responsibility to be honest and a feeling that I shouldn’t overdo it on the self-praise, thank you very much. There are drawbacks to that approach, of course, but I’d rather get a relationship off on a foundation of honesty than to find myself in a position of having to backfill lies and half-truths in order to keep my head above water.