Bragging about your work

Do you ever brag about your work? (And, I know, brag has such a negative connotation associated with it.) But seriously, do you?

I don’t. And I know I should. Because no one notices research that they don’t hear about. And few people remember research unless it was talked up and made to sound very important. Which is something that bragging can do really well.

I’m a terrible bragger. I blame it on the fact that I’m female and Canadian. And I only add the second, because one of my friends (another grad student) is American and has pointed out multiple times that in the US they’re taught to think they’re better than everyone else and to brag about themselves (which yes, is not going to be true about everyone or everywhere there, but yeah…). So she finds it much easier than I do when it comes to bragging. I blame being female, because we are socialized more strongly as females to not brag and boast or anything – as these are more strongly associated with males and being “good” traits for males and “bad” traits for females (sigh).

Anyway, the other week, as I was filling out an annual report (for a year that is not even over – double sigh), I was told by my supervisor that we need to brag more. And so, could I beef up my section by trying to make my stuff sound more important. I tried, really, I did. I’m not sure how successful I was. I think my attempt at bragging became more of a “lets just use more words to say what I’ve already said.”

However, I do think that bragging is an important skill for grad students. It’s hard not to do it outright, if you’re going to do it. And therefore it’s hard not to come across as a jerk during it – “Hey world, my stuff is fantastic and super fascinating” or “you forgot to cite my paper which was life changing work.” I’m not really sure what the correct “subtle” approach would be.

But getting your work noticed generally requires you putting it out there first and then telling people to actually look at it. Few people seem to come across work that’s rarely to never cited by others. And so making those first few connections to get your paper cited are crucial (and I have no idea on the best way to go about it).

Probably the best first step you can do (if you don’t brag already) is to start taking note of how you answer the question “what are you working on.” Particularly, if I think back to what I say, I usually make two bad steps. The first one, is downplaying the importance and coolness of my work. And the second, I brush away all compliments as if my work doesn’t deserve them and no one should act as if they do.

So, next time someone asks *you* about your work, make sure you do two things. First, listen to what you say. Are you like me and downplaying your work and brushing away all compliments? And second, make a point to sound upbeat and positive about everything. Even if you are in the middle of getting horrible results.


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