As a twenty-something trying to feel my way through the muck of corporate America, I didn’t see the need to promote myself. Newly armed with a degree from an expensive, prestigious school, and gifted in the areas of writing and speaking, I thought the people writing my yearly performance reviews would just “get” that I was great at what I did and I’d work my way through the ranks, eventually breaking the glass ceiling.
I thought that way for a long time, until I noticed a pattern: each time I came up for a raise or promotion, I was passed over. Those always went to the people who were the most vocal about their accomplishments (and often, it seemed to me, the most obnoxious). These people consistently voiced their opinions during staff meetings; they repeatedly volunteered projects; and they went to great lengths to make sure all the managers knew about their current or next big assignment.
In my naivete, I called them all the derogatory terms we associate with people who talk openly about their accomplishments: butt kissers, brown-nosers, and egomaniacs. I even justified their promotions by saying that they must have been in cahoots with management. Now that I’m self-employed (and oh, so much wiser), I realize those people weren’t braggarts; they were master self-promoters.
Self-promotion v. bragging
Self-promotion is a dirty phrase for those of us who were taught that talking about ourselves is bragging. Not so. Bragging means you inflate your sense of self by looking down on others. Self-promotion, on the the other hand, means you’re confident in and willingly articulate, your skills, talents, and ability to make a viable contribution to something bigger than yourself. And it’s absolutely vital if you want to make an impact in business, at work, or any other area where your success or failure depends on people knowing who you are and what you stand for.
If, like most people–especially women–you wrestle with promoting yourself, it’s time to get over it. Here are five, easy ways to help you get comfortable tooting your own horn.
- It’s not bragging if other people ask. Bragging is telling other people how great you are when they haven’t asked. Answering their question by promoting your assets is self-promotion. For example, if a hiring manager asks, “Why should I hire you?” a confident self-promoter would say something like, “There are several reasons. Here are the top three.
- Talk about results. There’s no shame in the truth. Did you consistently make record sales in your last job? Are you a spectacular networker who has a knack for connecting people? If so, say it. If you can back up your statements with numbers and concrete results, you’re not bragging. You’re merely talking about what you’ve already done.
- Let other people brag for you. Do clients rave about the results you’ve achieved for them? Did previous employers say you were an indispensible part of the team? Own those compliments. Letting other people brag about you is one of the easiest ways to overcome the potentially icky feeling that you’re bragging. Try it. The next time someone says, “So, tell me about yourself,” think about what those who know you best would say, and respond with something like, “Clients tell me I’m the most down-to-earth CPA they’ve ever met.”
- Find a cause and promote it. This works especially well if you’re self-employed. Find a cause you’re passionate about, and use your platform to move it forward. For example, as a writer, I’m passionate about education and literacy. If I’m reluctant to talk about myself, I can find an organization that supports either of those issues and write blog posts, articles, or speak to groups about the topic. I’m still getting my name and company in front of prospective clients, but I’m able to take the emphasis off of promoting “me” and still make a difference for an important organization.
- Feel the fear and do it anyway. The only way through it is to do it. Think about what you do well, remember what others have said you do well, and be ready to talk about it when the occasion arises. Your next raise, promotion, or new client will likely depend on it.
Do you struggle with promoting yourself? How has that fear kept you from getting ahead? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on Facebook.