Learn How to “Brag Better” with Meredith Fineman, Ep #29
Kayla: Hey, everybody. Thank you so much for joining us on the Content Callout today. Today's guest is Meredith Fineman, who is an entrepreneur, writer, and podcast host. And she wrote this book which is crazy good. It's called, Brag Better: Master the Art of Fearless Self- Promotion. And I know you may be like me, where, at first, the word brag kind of made your tummy turn, but we go into a great conversation about bragging and how it really is... And Meredith's definition of it, which I'll let her tell you. So stay tuned and take a listen. Hi, Meredith. Thank you so much for joining us on the Content Callout today.
Meredith Fineman: Thank you so much for having me. Thank you.
Kayla: Thank you. So you know what? Let's just jump right into it. Tell us all about Brag Better, and how that kind of came about.
Meredith Fineman: Yeah, so it started 10 years ago, and then Brag Better specifically started seven years ago. So I freelance writer for 15 years. I write about women's issues, business, entrepreneurship, leadership, sometimes how they all intersect. And I started a PR shop about 10 years ago and consultancy called FinePoint. Currently, it is a lot of... I represent leaders, CEOs, founders. I specialize in women in positions of power, but I always say, I will also take men's money. But it's a mixture of executive strategy and leadership and professional development and media relations. So it took a long time to get there. And I think the key touch point for me, when it came to my work around bragging and self promotion and why it's crucial, and then culminating in my book, Brag Better: Master the Art of Fearless Self- Promotion, which came out in June of 2020, was that, about seven years ago, as I was a PR person and had always built my own personal brand, I was writing, I was speaking, I was doing events, and people started to want that, I realized that I had promoted many, many, many different things, brands, products, companies. But what worked was a person. And that very much interested me, coupled with, especially being a millennial entrepreneur, this very intense inaudible personality, which we have seen since be a little problematic, particularly with certain millennial founders and just relying too much on the personalities of leadership. But that was very, very interesting to me as just a category of celebrity that never previously existed. The big talent agencies would never have represented a CEO really before, as a potential A- list celebrity. Say what you want about a Mark Zuckerberg or a person like, but it's just a new category of celebrity. But then I realized that nobody knew how to talk about themselves. And those two things were bothering me simultaneously because I saw the rewards for these shiny leadership that is a learned skill set and something I've taught executives, taught myself, taught and trained thousands of people at this point. But I was watching this trajectory of, particularly women, but not only women, but mostly women, because I was in media and communications, which tends to be very female driven, which is a different conversation. And I was watching the entire trajectory of young women that wanted to work for me that just couldn't talk positively about their work and brag about their work, and then friends where I would hop in and play publicist. And they were undercutting themselves, with just very much selling themselves short and missing the opportunities, that then I would hop in and do for them. And then very, very, very high powered people and some household names. And I was just watching it not change over time and with a career. And that was particularly bothersome. And so in fall of 2013, I booked a client on TV, and she is an incredible person professionally, personally. And she was perfect. And she said to me," I don't know if I'm the best person to go on. There might be someone who knows more than I do." And the problem was she was in a presidential administration on the topic, which, when I tell this story in 2020, I talked about that holding more weight than it does currently. But she was a big deal. She is a big deal. And she didn't do it. So I hung up the phone and I wrote in the margin of the book I was reading," Brag Art", parentheses around the word art. And I don't know, people have asked me in speeches since how that became Brag Better. I think it was just a better title. But I started using that word in 2013. And the very, very early sketches of that book are not dissimilar to some of the layout of Brag Better as it lies now.
Amanda: So I'm going to talk about that too, because I think my memory is a little faulty some days, but I think there's a portion of the book where you talk about how the word brag, in itself, bragging is considered this kind of dirty word, dirty activity. Because a lot of what we talk about on this podcast is marketing products or services. But in this sense, a lot of it is, how do you market yourself? And I think everybody has a different connotation of the word brag. And then I think, especially for women, and I could be wrong with this, but we find it really hard for us to step up and, quote unquote, brag about ourselves, and sometimes are even punished for that.
Meredith Fineman: Yeah. So I define my audience as the qualified quiet. People that have done the work, but don't know how to talk about it. That is irrespective of gender and irrespective of level of seniority. That is a term I came up with. It is very difficult to talk about yourself because it is an act of vulnerability. You do not have proper role models. We have a very intense inverse relationship between volume and merit, and we reward loud. And for many reasons, psychological, systemic, and otherwise, the suppression of certain voices tends to have this inverse quality where it's the people who are very thoughtful and very well read and researched and accomplish that get scared around this. This is particularly difficult for women. It's difficult for anyone who's not a white man. I did 20 interviews in the book with 95% women that spans age, race, ability, gender expression, and their points of view, too, it's deeply intertwined with privilege, disability to be heard. And there are a lot of systemic factors there. I'm not going to pretend like if you learn how to talk about yourself, the wage gap and systemic racism will disappear. That's not what I'm saying. It's a skill and it's a tool in your tool belt to advance your career. My argument is it is advance your career. So for women, historically, positive attributes were associated with passive behaviors, particularly denoting silence. So she was coy, she was demure, she was shy. Those were seen as tremendously positive, tremendously alluring. And so that's something you're bumping up against. Also, women are judged on metrics that men are not, from their voice to whether they have gray hair, to how they're dressed, all of those things, how they sound. And so that makes it very, very difficult. And there are real repercussions for being a woman who's decided to put herself out there, whether it's some hate speech or genuine potential threat of violence. So that stuff's super real. However, I have been speaking and training on the concept of bragging being an essential skill. I define bragging as stating true facts about your work strategically and cohesively to advance your career. Whether that is for an internship or a corporate board seat, I know, believe, and prove that finding the vocabulary and the words to tout your work and share your work is an essential skill, and a necessary one, to tell people what you do, because people don't know what you've done until you tell them. I now forgot the original question, but that's some jibber- jabber.
Kayla: Yeah. So one of the things that I keep going back to that you are kind of talking about, and it just keeps popping into my head, is just this idea of self- deprecation. And I think a lot of women, people, have this idea that if they are self- deprecating, it somehow puts them ahead. But I think that that, based on what you're saying, is wrong. It's like when someone won't take a compliment, and you're like," Just take the compliment. I think you're really great. I want you to go on the stage and talk about this." So how do you coach people to stop being like that, to to take the compliment?
Meredith Fineman: Those two things are related. My argument for bragging better, again, stating facts. So stating facts. You've done the work. Bragging is stating facts. We don't have a better word. I use the word brag because it's the only one we have. And having only one word is also emblematic of our lack of proper structure and vocabulary around exactly what I'm talking about. So we are recording this at a time when we were at home. Hello, future of world, if you exist. And I talk a lot about verbal undercutting versus self- deprecation. Humor is a tremendous part of who I am and what I care about and how I communicate. But when we are behind screens, which there's a free extra chapter on brag-better. com on how to brag better from home and online, it is essential that you continue to talk about your work when you can't drop by your boss's office, when you can't get chummy with a coworker and say," Hey, I thought I did a really good job on that presentation. What do you think?" So there's that. But then you have verbal undercutting... And it's fine to be uncomfortable bragging. That's the whole point. That's why I do what I do. If people were comfortable and it came naturally and we did have the right role models and we did have the right words, my work wouldn't exist. And so I'm tremendously empathetic in that. However, the habit of insulting yourself before someone else can, which is... Verbal undercutting and self- deprecation are different. I think self- deprecation can be a wonderful tool when it is advancing your cause and your career, and it is a very, very, very, very fine line. So you have to know how to walk it. But when it veers into verbal undercutting, what do I mean by that?" I hate to brag but," or," Self promotion alert," or," Hey, I did a thing and here it is." You're insulting yourself before someone else can. But also that transfers to your reader, listener, person standing in front of you, you're saying it to, and then they don't know what to do with it. So a core part of Brag Better is treating yourself and your career like you would as a publicist, which is to say that you plan a campaign, you package yourself, you pitch yourself, you understand and practice your narrative. You learn to ask for what you want and you learn to ask for recognition. And those things are hard to do, but they are essential. And press and visibility is built on momentum and a snowball effect. Many things are. And so what's happening when I encounter someone who says," Self promotion alert," and shares a panel video shoes on, I will shut down. Because I don't know what I'm supposed to do with that. There's no clear call to action. I can tell you're anxious, which is fine. There are ways to share that. There are ways to say," This was really scary. I'm nervous to share this, but I'm also excited about it." There's ways to be welcoming and then there are ways to turn people off. And something like," Self promotion alert," I'm just going to close my computer. Whereas if someone says... In Brag Better, there are lots of frameworks for this. But,"I was so excited to be part of this panel. I would love for you to take a look at this video." Then I watched the video, because nobody can be excited for your work unless you are. It's very hard to do. And I see that she's done a great job. And then I think," Oh, I'm hosting a panel this coming week. Maybe she would be a great moderator." And then she moderates and then someone sees her and puts her on TV, and so on and so forth. So you really want to be rolling that ball forward. I will say, again, this is recorded before it's being aired. But in a time when we are at home, self- deprecation... People can't infer things. You have to be really, really careful with humor, especially because it's also an emergency situation. And things are just less funny.
Amanda: And I think too, it's like you said, you have that great addition on your website to help people brag better while working from home. Because you do lose... We were even talking. We're planning a virtual happy hour for our crew, our team, because we've lost that camaraderie connection, because we never see each other anymore. We all work from home. So in situations like that, where you can normally be like," Yeah..." Even if you don't normally do it, but you could be like," Yeah. I totally rocked that presentation." Or,"That client was so happy. I was so stoked that they were so happy." Because I find when you're talking about things online, when you're actually physically writing, I feel like a lot of people put those caveats, the humble brags, the self- promotional alert, they have to explain everything before they go into the brag.
Meredith Fineman: Qualifying it. Yeah.
Amanda: Yeah. Qualifying it. Yeah. Sorry. That's a better term. So then tell us why it's important to not just brag to your superiors and your bosses and your supervisors, but it's also really important to brag to your contemporaries and your colleagues. Because I think sometimes people think, when they think in terms of bragging, they think in terms of like," Oh, it's to get a new job or to get a raise." But there's other factors, right?
Meredith Fineman: Nobody knows what you've done until you tell them. And we all walk around in our own heads. There are people who still don't know that I wrote this book and do this work, which is insane to me. But every time you share something, 100% of the time, it's 100% different audience. So whether that is social media, whether it's inner personally. So the pillars of bragging better are to be proud, loud, and strategic. And it's that third one, strategic, that matters here. Who are the gatekeepers to the next level of your career? This is all not necessarily public facing. I work with a lot of people who want to be on stages or on television or get book deals. That's not what I'm talking about here. These are all applicable to your career at any stage. So yes, your colleagues. A lot of people don't know what you do if you do things that are different from someone else. And you have to explain them. If it's technical in a certain way, if it's just a different skillset, and you have to share with people, it's also part of your job. It's part of the reason why you were hired and it's proper communication, and leads to fewer misunderstandings or duplication of work. It's truly also part of your job. And so with coworkers, I also talk while I want to be very, very clear that bragging better is a team sport. There's enough room on the stage, proverbial stage, for everyone, and bragging on behalf of and in service of and passing the mic is an intrinsic part of bragging better. There's a lot in the book on how to do this in service of others or how to just shut up and let them do it and encourage them. But I think it's important among coworkers also to make sure that they know that you are there to help them sound good too.
Kayla: Yeah. It's the idea of momentum. And momentum flows many different ways. It can flow person to person, it can flow towards positivity, and it can flow towards negativity. So yeah, you're using your platform to help your coworkers brag better and move that momentum to them, which, I guess, just helps you be a better leader.
Meredith Fineman: And it's free. It's free and it's easy. And it's part of your job if you're someone that people listen to, and this is intertwined with the privilege conversation, to also do that. But it's a great thing to do. And as I said, it's free. And ultimately, the most selfish level just makes you look better. But also, more voices together breakthrough. That is very proven that repetition, and the more times you will hear something or read something or see something, they're going to remember it. And so I'm all for pulling co- workers into some of your bragging scenarios and vice versa. But yeah, your colleagues need to know what you do so that they can pull you into projects, so that they can advocate for you, and sing your praises as well.
Kayla: Yeah. It's nice when someone advocates for you as well. It's nice to give and it's nice to get.
Meredith Fineman: Yeah, it's a good karma, and also just feels nice.
Kayla: So I want to just kind of go to the other side a little bit more, and people that kind of maybe brag a little bit too much. And what comes to mind for me is some people on social media. I have certain people on my Instagram, and it's obvious that their life is just a highlight reel of fake- ness. How do you avoid bragging on social media and things like that without coming across as shallow?
Meredith Fineman: Let's break that down for a second. Because again, I define bragging better as stating facts about your work strategically and cohesively to advance your career. A lot of people have a lot of things to say about influencers. A new report came out yesterday that influencers and the influencer market drove$ 8 billion in sales in the last year, and that is a real, very real serious metric. Sometimes, it's interpersonally bothersome. If it ever makes me feel inadequate or some kind of way, I usually just unfollow the person or mute them. I unfollow many, many people just because I don't need that energy. But I'm also curious. I actually would like to delve, for a second, in deeper with the specific person you're talking about without revealing any inaudible details. Because I'm curious about something. So if you're thinking of one person, can you tell me, in vague- ish terms, a little bit more about that person?
Kayla: I guess it's just lots of selfies and being like really into themselves, and it kind of comes across as fake. I don't know. It's kind of hard to explain.
Amanda: I feel like that kind of goes into some of the key elements that you have listed, though, for your tips, where you say it should be based on gratitude, pride, presentation, and showmanship. And I feel like, to delve a little bit more into what Kayla's saying, is that I think sometimes, you don't see those four factors. If anything, you only see the presentation or the showmanship. And you don't see the gratitude or the pride. Or sometimes, it just doesn't feel genuine, because maybe they don't even feel genuine. Because I think the thing that goes back to what you're saying is, you're talking about bragging in the terms of stating facts, whereas a lot of people sometimes are breaking in terms of, not necessarily facts, but what they want you to believe or the image that they're trying to present.
Meredith Fineman: Yeah. I push back on some of that in that... I want to be careful about how I word this, but I push back... I argue for bragging better for sake of career. If someone likes to post pictures of herself and it doesn't have any effect on your life, and you have some judgements about how that might make you feel, it's determining what role that plays in your life. And is it something that matters or you should just let them do what they're doing and go on? If that person wants you to do that sort of thing in order for you to advance your career, and that person is in charge of giving you a raise, that's a different conversation. I think that social media is a tremendous tool. It is also a wasteland of just fake things and people wanting to share their experiences and maybe seem a different way. That is a hard thing, and that is not effective unless that person is selling skincare or camera lenses or whatever. I break it down terms of the granular of your career. On the whole, people that are worried about bragging too much, it's not really physically possible. It's the self- awareness piece that is the common denominator. And I talk about how this is tied to imposter syndrome. That it only strikes people who are good at their jobs that maybe they're not good at their jobs. It's a self- awareness thing. It only strikes people who are aware of how they present and sound that worry about bragging too much. But I always will pinpoint, if a specific person bothers you in the way they're sharing, why? And is that highlighting something about you? Or is that highlighting something about the system? What I'm saying is, examining some of those reactions, particularly when it comes to someone who's comfortable with sharing, in any kind of form, because when someone is comfortable sharing themselves or their work or whatever, that can feel inherently threatening, which I don't know enough about the situation to say that's happening here. But there's a lot in the book on what being confident about your work and, particularly as a woman, how people are going to react to that.
Kayla: Yeah. I think what you said of self- awareness is really important. And it kind of ties back to this piece of advice that I heard that I think is really cool, which is, don't be jealous of the work you didn't do. And sometimes, when people are sharing things like that, it does go inside of you and think like," Oh, I'm not good enough." But also, if you didn't do the work, then it's a conversation with yourself to try to reconcile with yourself why you're upset about that. Anyways, when I feel all those feelings, I just think back to that and just hold that.
Meredith Fineman: Yeah. It's worth examining. And sometimes... I'm a very jealous person and a very competitive person. That's not a really great combination. And that's sometimes why I have to unfollow a lot of people, because it makes me feel inadequate about myself. And that's a me problem, not a them problem. But it'll highlight an insecurity that I have, or I'll feel jealous that I feel like they're more successful than I am or whatever. And just being careful of that too. It's so easy to fall into that on social media. And one thing that I'll do, if I'm in a particularly bad mood, I use Instagram the most. And I happen to love it, because I mostly use it for fashion and dogs and beams. Those are the three categories of things I look at on Instagram and repost them, and that's fun. But if I'm in a particularly bad or sad mood, I'll go through all the individuals I follow. And if I'm like," You made me feel bad about it. You made me feel bad about it. You made me feel bad about it." So that's an option also.
Kayla: Yeah. I think it's really good though that we're having this discussion and actually talking about these real things that probably everybody feels in your career, through your discovery of self- awareness, through thinking about how you want to present yourself, your personal brand, all of that stuff. So do you have any advice on how to present yourself and your personal brand, on a website, resume, bio? Writing about yourself is hard.
Meredith Fineman: Yeah. Yeah. So a lot of Brag Better about control. You want to be in control of the narrative that you tell about your career. You never want to leave it up to the reader or someone else to infer who you are and what you do. There are a couple of reasons why that's dangerous. I'll give a few examples. So if you don't have a cohesive bio, which a lot of people leave out a bio, because it's very hard to write about yourself. I tell everyone to do a quarterly calendar reminder to update your bio. Everyone should have a long, a short, and a two line bio. Long bio is everything. Short is a paragraph. Two lines is two lines, if you can get it down to two lines. And I have written about that before so you can figure out where to put everything, but there's a lot on that in the book. So let's say you, and this has happened to me before, for example, you don't have your bios done cohesively and someone asks you for a short one, but you send the long one because you don't want to deal with it or that's all you have and you don't have these updated and whatnot. And so then, that person is going to just cut it down into what they think is important about your career. And I have been in situations where I see a short bio of mine. I'm like," Well, they're missing my book." But I didn't tell them what was most important. I didn't make it easy for them. And so then, I missed this huge opportunity, because I was speaking at a conference, and my bio is in the pamphlet, and 1, 000, literally, didn't see that I had written a book. It was just a tremendous missed opportunity. So it's this idea of controlling the narrative around your work. You want to tell people who you are, what you're about, and why you're good at it in 30 seconds or under. Attention spans are very, very short. And you have to... The two things that breakthrough are repetition and consistency. So on the whole, whatever you decide your quote unquote personal brand has to be, I think of it more of telling the story of your career has to be told from you, and you have to tell people what's important there. So what does that mean on a granular level? So let's say... So I've talked a little bit about your bio. Please include all awards. It's an original bragging spot. People are primed to receive all of your latest and greatest, and I don't see that changing, and a lot of people miss it. It's very difficult to write about yourself. You can hire many people, including me and my firm, or many other writers to write your bio and make sure that everything is in there. Because again, you want to make sure you are stating facts about your work strategically and cohesively to advance your career. So if you leave out really key awards, which I've seen people do because they thought maybe it was too braggy, even though they literally did it, it's stating facts. Hello. You did the work. You may as well tell people. It makes a difference in terms of who is going to hire her. And then they went with someone else. So again, you want to make sure that you are setting yourself up for success. So that's what it looks like in, say, a bio. And it needs to be up to date. And that quarter calendar reminder. And maybe you do a running Google Doc or note on your phone of your wins, or you ask people who are close to you about what they think that you've done that's great. Because a lot of times, we don't value what we're best at, because we're good at it and we don't see it as valuable. Whereas someone else who has a tremendous trouble with something that is very easy breezy for you, that's an important thing to brag about. And then another thing to do is to finally get that personal website going. A lot of people think it's you dancing across the screen. There is nowhere that a one- stop shop of you, that you can, again, control the conversation around your work. I've done a lot of different things, and some of them are in fashion, some of them are in business, some of them are in audio, some of them are in writing. And you need to pull together everything in one place. Even if you haven't done that many different things, it doesn't matter, or even if you're graduating from college, but you've run a couple clubs or you were involved, or this was a piece you wrote for the newspaper and you're really excited about it. LinkedIn is not enough. Twitter's not enough. Instagram is not enough. Your bio's not enough. You have to make it so easy for someone to say yes to you. So do you own the domain of your name? You can go to Domain or GoDaddy, any of those places, see if it's available, buy it. I always tell people. com,. net,. org, and.co, if you can. It's about$ 10 a year for each and consider really setting that up. Because it also is a place where you have control, but it's one of the only ones where you can showcase your personality through design, and really own that space online.
Amanda: So given that the economy has kind of been crazy for the last year or so, as we've been dealing with everything that the world has been going through, so joblessness is a very real thing for people right now. So is that something you do suggest? I know personally, from just talking to people, a lot of people are switching careers. So even if your quote unquote old accomplishment, awards, everything like that, do you think it's still valuable to include that information, even if you're applying in an industry where it doesn't apply?
Meredith Fineman: Yes. For sure. It's all about spin. In public relations, what they call spin is basically fitting the narrative to a way that's going to be advantageous to you. So there are always two ways of looking at things. You're applying for a job in a different industry that you don't have experience in. You could see that as," We'll, I have no experience in that industry." Or you could see it as," My experience in a different industry actually gives me these three skills that most people with a background in this industry I'm breaking into do not have, and here's why they are applicable and important. And here's how they will actually be more helpful than someone who has experience in this particular industry." And that's also not a lie. There are a lot of skills that you can bring, no matter your background. I think for a lot of things, unless they're highly, highly technical, it usually just requires the same amount of flexibility, decisiveness, relentlessness that can make you good at many things.
Amanda: The soft skills.
Meredith Fineman: Yeah. The soft skills.
Amanda: Yeah. Okay. Great. So given that you have had 15 years in PR, you've written this book, you've now talked countless times, was it easy for you to start bragging about yourself, to be putting yourself forward with this type of material? Was it easy for you to refocus and look at Meredith as a product?
Meredith Fineman: Yeah. I feel like I always have, which might be some sort of strange diva attitude. But I credit a lot of it to having a very vocal mother. A lot of how we brag, particularly as women, has to do with how gender is performed to us and what we see around voice and women and visibility, and were you told to be seen and not heard? And so thinking about that, I do toe the line between my products, my speeches, me, the concept and framework of bragging better. But no, and I think the natural progression of it, whether also because being a millennial and understanding the brand of me, and the greater me, not the me, me. Just that idea is something that... And presenting yourself online. And also, especially given the bearing economic factors that have happened over the past couple decades, cobbling together a career and being able to cohesively tell that story was something that came more naturally to me and then people wanted. And so I still get nervous about it, and I'm still a person, but I care mostly that we start to change who we listen to. And as much as I'd like to be optimistic and say," We can get the loud people to be quiet." It's not the case. It's a matter of getting that qualified quiet to turn up the volume. And really, we've reached a crisis of truth and accountability and reason. And so also making sure that our media and our stages and our televisions really reflect what we look like on the whole, we, as in a diverse group of people, is really, really important to me.
Amanda: So if you are one of those lab people that you were talking about, how can you be a better ally to the qualified quiet and making sure that you're sharing that kind of stage presence?
Meredith Fineman: Yeah. First, recognizing that it is a skill to have, and it's one you possess that maybe some other people don't. And asking people how you can help them. Everyone is on a different bragging trajectory and journey. I've definitely bragged too hard for friends, let's say. You got to check in with people and ask how you can help them. But whether it's," Hey, can I share your work in this upcoming meeting?" Or," I really liked that article you wrote, is it okay if I send it to an editor I know at X, Y, and Z place?" Or simply just echoing someone's sentiments in a meeting or on a Zoom call is very, very powerful, particularly if you are a man, please. One reason why I really, really, really wanted this book to be irrespective of gender was because we desperately need men to be echoing the voices of women, and everyone really, but that really matters. Just ask someone. A lot of this is just saying," Hey, how can I help promote your work?" And sometimes it's like," I don't want you to." Then that's fine also.
Kayla: Yeah. Maybe a gentle push maybe?
Meredith Fineman: Yeah.
Amanda: The thing that I love about your book is that it's all very logical. There's steps, there's paths, well, there's exercises, right? There's homework. I'm a nerd. So I like homework.
Meredith Fineman: So I started working on some e- learning, I'm working on some masterclasses, I'm working on some other, inaudible brag better workbook and whatnot. Yeah, there's going to probably be more homework. But yes, I really cared. So something that bothers me, my book very much toes the line between professional development and self- help. And I have trouble reading both of those categories of books for a bunch of different reasons. I think that the professional development ones tend to be really hokey and or dry, and very male driven, and then the self- help ones tend to be too gooey and emotions based. And so I wanted something that... Be confident is bullshit. It's so unfair in a quarterly review to tell someone to be more confident. If you're listening to this and you were telling someone who you managed to be more confident, it's unfair. People need specifics to grasp onto, especially when things are scary, like talking about yourself. And so I really cared that this book was not based on emotion, but it was based on tactics.
Amanda: Well, and it was also based on a ton of examples in interviews. It is nice to hear that somebody who, like you were talking about, in the presidential administration say," Yeah, maybe I don't." And you're like," No, no, you're an expert. You're going to go be on TV." Or when you're talking about the leader who was nominated and won awards, but then who's like," Maybe I don't deserve them." And you're like... It's nice to see that type of reflection at all levels, as opposed to just thinking," Okay, well I'm a lower level worker, so this is why I have trouble doing this." So obviously, if you're a high powered CEO or a leader, you got it made. You're confident. You've got it. So for me, that was nice. There's a lot of relatable factors there.
Meredith Fineman: Well, thank you. I really appreciate that. And yes, some of the best brags, I talk about this all the time, are from the most junior people. Some of the best sharing I've ever heard was from very junior people. It's never the household names. If anything, some of the really, really, really high powered people, and some of this tends to be a generational issue, have just horrifically terrible times stating any of their work. And that is also upsetting. But I also watch more junior people look at those people and say," Well, they must be good at this." But it's like, no, actually, they're also terrible at it.
Kayla: Before we wrap up, can we talk about your podcast? Because I think that's a really cool idea for a podcast.
Meredith Fineman: Of course. Thank you.
Kayla: Yeah. So can you tell us about that?
Meredith Fineman: Yeah. So my podcast is called, It Never Gets Old: A First- Hand Account of All Things Second Hand, Resale, Vintage, Consignment, and Sustainable. I'm an expert in sustainable fashion by way of secondhand. Vintage consignment, resale, thrift, longtime collector, flipper, seller, buyer, adviser, stylist. And so it's something I've done obsessively and passionately since I was 11. And I have written about it, I've spoken on it. And then I have this audio project, this podcast, and it's been really fun to do deep dives on brands, or talk specifically about trends I see, or having people not understand, at the beginning of COVID, that I bought supplies that were sold out everywhere on secondhand websites. The power of the secondhand multi- billion dollar universe is really, really interesting. And it only continues to evolve. And for a long time, it was just about getting designer stuff for less. But it also is, and proves to be, one of the fastest growing sectors in retail and in industry that is just a hot mess. But also that gen Z, people are more eco- conscious than ever, but particular when it comes to shopping, gen Z is very, very eco- conscious. And a lot of that means that they're buying way more secondhand than any other generation before. And so it's an exploration into the apps and the selling platforms and the big shops. But also, I've hung around consignment stores my entire life. And so I just love it.
Amanda: Well, and consignment tends to be more furniture, clothes, home decor, that type of goods. But your podcast also delves into secondhand cosmetics, secondhand skincare. Because I think as women, me, anyways, I'm guilty, I spend so much money on products, but then I'm like," Oh, it didn't work." And then you've got this three quarters, half full jar, or full jar, you're just like," Well, I'll just put it in my medicine cabinet." And I think there is a very sustainable factor of being like," No, it doesn't work for you, but it could work for someone else." And that's like a-
Meredith Fineman: Yeah. Free idea. There's a space for sure, for someone to build only a secondhand beauty and skincare platform. It's happening. It happens in some of the sites. But yeah, in terms of makeup and beauty and quote- unquote wellness and skincare, those are exploding resell categories, which means that you can buy them for less, secondhand, and you can sell them. So if you ever have something that is an expensive cosmetic, you can almost definitely sell it online. I've been making money on my closet for 20 years. And so I've also made money on candles and skincare and shampoo I didn't use. And so there's usually a market for everything. A lot of this is unregulated and blah, blah, blah, disclaimers about bacteria, and you got to sanitize stuff. I was talking to someone about this last night who was like," You've bought second- hand underwear?" And I was like,"Well, it had the tags on." But if you want it to only buy secondhand things that was all still new in the box, whether it's because a boutique couldn't sell its goods and doesn't have a direct line to a TJ Maxx and so they use the resellers, or something was discontinued and they have to offload all the product, or it's someone who's a makeup artist and she gets gifted a lot of things and is selling them, you can find anything, really anything.
Kayla: What are some of the best platform is to go looking for stuff like that?
Meredith Fineman: Any big purchases... Well, so I always encourage people to shop local and to get to know your local consignment and resale store owners. That is a really important culture that is disappearing, because of COVID and also because of the big tech platforms. So that's something that I really care about. And those are often older women, second or third career, and just fun places to be. And then you have room to negotiate and you can ask the store people to look out for certain brands for you. And sometimes they'll hold things before they go on the floor. All of those relationships have led to me buying unbelievable things for myself and for clients and for shoots and whatever. So when it comes to the online platforms, I love Poshmark because I love nothing more than haggling. And Poshmark allows you to negotiate and place bids and whatnot. I think it's more user- friendly than an eBay, which has never been my number one, but a lot of people like it. And then for any real big ticket items, I do a ton on fakes, a ton on authentication, on what the world of replica counterfeit goods looks like and what it means and how to spot it. So anything really big ticket, something like the real real that has in- house authentication, is what I would go with.
Amanda: Very cool. Well, thank you so much for joining us today. Meredith, it's been a fascinating conversation on several levels. So tell everybody where they can find you, where they can find the book, all the things.
Meredith Fineman: Yes. So I am everywhere, on meredithfineman. com, Meredith Fineman on Twitter, on Instagram. But please consider purchasing Brag Better: Master the Art of Fearless Self- Promotion wherever you get books. If you go to brag- better. com, there is a list of black owned, independent bookstores that are carrying the book. I ask that you consider buying from your local bookstore. You can listen to me, narrate the audio book on Audible, wherever you get audio books, which I narrated in a closet in quarantine, which was a hellscape. Or you can request the book from your local library and get it on Kindle, basically wherever you get books. But they're expensive, so also libraries have that in libraries are great. And yeah, so Brag Better on all platforms. And I'm pretty findable on the internet, which I guess is part of the point.
Amanda: Yes. Let's plug your podcast one more time.
Meredith Fineman: Yes. So It never Gets Old. INGOpodcast. com. You can find it wherever you get podcasts. We're currently on a hiatus, planning new seasons and other things. But there are, I think, like 60 episodes that you can listen to and learn a lot and make money on your closet. So it never gets old is what it's called.
Amanda: Wonderful. Thank you again, Meredith. We really appreciate your time today.
Meredith Fineman: Thank you.
Kayla: Hey, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us on the Content Callout today. We just had a great conversation with Meredith Fineman, and she had a lot of really awesome points about bragging better about yourself. For me, the key takeaway was when she started talking about being self- aware and also about making your bragging fact- based. It was a new revelation for me, because this is something that I really struggle with. Amanda, what did you think of that chat?
Amanda: Yeah, it was so great. Reading the book was so wonderful. And like I said, it was so many relatable examples where I was just like," Oh my God, I can see myself in that person," which is crazy cool, especially because they were talking about CEOs and high leaders. So it's nice to see that it's reflected and that there are practical tips of ways to do it. Also, I love her other podcast, It Never Gets Old, and it's so great to listen and have an inside track on secondhand thrifting and the consignment industry.
Kayla: Yeah. So thanks again for listening, guys. And give us a, like, a follow, a share, and we'll see you next time. Bye.
Meredith Fineman has been a freelance writer for 15 years. She writes about women’s issues, business, entrepreneurship, leadership, and how they intersect. She has built her own personal brand—writing, speaking, and doing events. As she was cultivating her business, she was watching the trajectory of women.
She saw young women that couldn’t talk positively about their work. She also saw friends undercut and sell themselves short. In the fall of 2013, she booked a client on TV. This woman was perfect for the job, but she didn’t do it because she didn’t feel qualified enough.
That’s when Meredith realized that many people need to learn how to brag. What is her definition of bragging? How can it change the trajectory of your career? Find out in this episode of Content Callout!
Outline of This Episode
- [0:37] All about Meredith’s book: “Brag Better”
- [4:15] The word “brag” in itself
- [7:03] The idea of self-deprecation
- [11:49] Why you should brag to your colleagues
- [14:43] Can you brag too much?
- [20:25] Bragging better is about control
- [24:48] Skills can apply anywhere and everywhere
- [26:10] Was it easy to start bragging?
- [27:55] How to be an ally for the qualified quiet
- [31:17] Meredith’s podcast: It Never Gets Old
- [35:44] How to connect with Meredith
Resources & People Mentioned
Connect with Meredith Fineman
- Meredith’s personal website
- It Never Gets Old podcast
- Secondhand Society™
- Connect on LinkedIn
- Follow on Twitter
- Friend on Instagram
Connect With the Content Callout Team
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