PQ

Outsourcing brags allows us to remain humble and mild-mannered while still being recognized for our accomplishments, big and small.

“He was like a cock, who thought the sun had risen to hear him crow.” — George Eliot

In all competition, we learn universal truths: 1) Nobody likes a sore loser, and 2) even fewer people like an annoying braggart. For the most part, the world would agree with the philosophy of David Von Drehle when observing U.S. Olympian Jesse Owens’ performance at the 1936 Olympics that “quiet excellence can be a most eloquent statement.” Yet while we might be more comfortable letting our fine work speak for itself, this may not be the safest strategy in working toward job security. In today’s competitive job market we must set ourselves apart from the rest of the pack.

How do we publicize our competencies to our superiors without the risk of being labeled big-headed or irritating?

In Robert Lee Hotz’s recent article for The Wall Street Journal, “The Science of Bragging and Boasting,” he explains that boasting triggers the same sensation of pleasure in the brain as food, money or sex. In fact, researchers have found that people are willing to forgo financial incentives in exchange for an opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings.

Despite the intense pleasure we might experience by sharing our professional accomplishments in the workplace, however, Elizabeth Bernstein would encourage us to refrain. In her WSJ article, “Are We All Braggarts Now?” Bernstein acknowledges that although we must promote ourselves in a competitive job market, we risk alienating ourselves from our peers by being perceived as a braggart. In Bernstein’s article, a graphic includes five suggestions on how to shine without being a braggart. One of the suggestions is to outsource your bragging.

Outsourcing brags is a common practice: Consider for a moment stars on Yelp, likes on Facebook or recommendations on LinkedIn — the expressed approval of others renders our accomplishments more credible than when we brag about them ourselves. In fact, we all have likely experienced outsourced brags early on in life; has your mother ever bragged about your excellent spelling bee victory (from the fourth grade) in front of a captive audience of relatives when you were 30 years old? This is an outsourced brag, albeit embarrassing! Outsourcing brags allows us to remain humble and mild-mannered while still being recognized for our accomplishments, big and small.

This all raises the question: To whom do we outsource our brags? Our mothers? No, even better, to our law librarians! Of course!

Your law librarian can serve as your public relations agent when it comes to sharing your accomplishments and sparing you from being labeled the office egotist. While law librarians may not be prepared to handle scandals of Charlie Sheen proportions, they certainly have long been engaged in outsourcing brags and can make you look like a rock star.

The librarians at Stanford’s Robert Crown Law Library have been outsourcing brags through their daily internal newsletter, “SLS Today,” since 1999. Stanford Law Library’s deputy director, Erika V. Wayne explains in her 2004 AALL Spectrum Magazine article, “The Simple Elegance of Shameless Self-Promotion,” that the newsletter is emailed to faculty, staff and students with the latest law school news showcasing the work and achievements of Stanford’s community and alumni. The librarians meticulously manage hundreds of news alerts following their community in LexisNexis, Westlaw and BNA to locate their patrons in the news. The librarians uncover content that would otherwise go unnoticed and unappreciated. While much of the newsletter’s content is owed to the outstanding expertise of the librarians, material is sometimes supplied directly from library patrons who would like to tout their accomplishments in less blatantly self-promotional manner.

Like Stanford’s law library, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Law Library circulates an internal newsletter. The law librarians include noteworthy information relevant to their judges and court staff. Similarly, some larger law firms have internal newsletters or blogs run by their marketing department or law library. The librarians may contribute to the publication ensuring attorneys’ accomplishments and firm victories are duly noted. Internal newsletters engage and inform the entire workplace community while providing individual members an opportunity to shine.

If your institution lacks a newsletter, don’t despair. You may still want to outsource your brags to the law librarian at your workplace and even at your old law school. Your workplace law librarian is constantly interacting with your peers and superiors; these interactions provide plenty of opportunities for your law librarian to share your excellent work with the rest of your colleagues. Your law school librarian may also be engaged in highlighting alumni achievements for your law school newsletter or alumni magazine.

Outsourcing your accomplishments not only spares you from being perceived as an annoying braggart; your accomplishments generate positive publicity for you and your institution. Sharing your accomplishments with your law librarian does not make you an annoying braggart. In fact, outsourcing your brag allows you to remain within the confines of Von Drehle’s philosophy because you can quietly communicate your excellence to the law librarian who can then eloquently state it to the rest of your professional community.

Grace Feldman is a member of the Northern California Association of Law Libraries, or NOCALL.

Beyond the Shelves is a monthly column written for The Recorder by members of the Northern California Association of Law Libraries.