Self-promotion typically comes with a negative connotation as it can be thought of as egotistical or conceited. This perspective is certainly felt by many women who are taught at a young age to be modest and to let their work speak for itself. However, this approach doesn’t bring women much success in their professional careers. Because they’re less inclined to speak up about the time and effort they’ve spent on multiple initiatives, women may often be overlooked for promotions.
I have fallen into the trap of humility, but after attending a Progress for Her session with Kim Meninger, “Using Self-Promotion Strategies to Advance Your Career,” my views on self-promotion have completely shifted. Vocalizing your achievements and skillsets can actually be a service to others because you’re showing how you can contribute to the team. In addition, your strengths can balance others’ weaknesses, which creates a harmonious team able to move forward efficiently.
With that said, I say it’s time to change the narrative around self-promotion. Below, read some key takeaways from Meninger’s webinar, including why self-promotion is hard in the first place and what steps to follow so you can serve others with your skillset.
Self-promotion has a bad reputation because it’s misunderstood. Some people feel it will come across as bragging if they vocalize their achievements and skillsets. In addition, it may seem inorganic to some as they’ve been trained to let their work do the talking. Some might think they’re just doing their job and there’s nothing special about it, while others spend their time praising others instead of themselves. There is a plethora of reasons why people avoid self-promotion, but understanding its real definition will shift that perspective.
Meninger stated, “Self-promotion is ensuring that others understand what you do and why you’re here; intentionally educating others of your value; building strategic relationships; and allowing others to leverage your work.”
In that context, telling your colleagues about a project you led to the finish line seems important, doesn’t it?
So, you’ve shifted your perspective on self-promotion, but the concept still feels too strange and you’re not sure where to begin. Meninger called out a few traits to keep in mind as you begin your journey:
You now have the definition and the traits of positive self-promotion, but what about the tactics? Luckily, Meninger provided simple actions you can do to begin self-promoting in a non-cringeworthy way.
Now that you’re self-aware and you know what your strengths are, take note of how your skills can serve others. Tune into questions people are asking in meetings and the problems they’re raising. If you have expertise in those areas, offer up your skills during, or after, the meeting. It’s as simple as stating, “I have experience in this area and I think we can work together on a solution.” In doing so, you’re not just sharing your strengths, you’re also coming across as a good listener, a strategic thinker and one who takes initiative.
If you come from a place of service, you will never come off as arrogant or conceited.
Meetings are often a missed opportunity, especially in the remote working environment, to show your strengths so you can serve the team. Meninger noted, “If you’re invited to a meeting, you’re expected to add value,” so use the meeting as a strategic opportunity to show up for yourself and your team.
If your imposter syndrome rules your mind in meetings, speak early before your inner critic takes over. And take a tally count for all the things you were too afraid to say that others ended up saying where it turns out it was a good idea. If you’re an introvert and you’re worried you won’t be able to insert yourself into a conversation, ask the owner for a few minutes on the agenda, ping an ally to help bring you into the conversation, or follow up with people after the meeting to continue the conversation.
Your colleagues will never understand the level of complexity and the layers of skills you used to accomplish something if you act modest and downplay what you did. Don’t hesitate to share the cross-departmental collaboration you managed, or the new program you had to learn or the extended hours you worked to meet the deadline. If you don’t vocalize the level of skill you used, your colleagues won’t have a full appreciation for all you bring to the table.
It's also important to ask yourself the “so what” question. How did the project impact the business or serve others? Understanding and communicating the heart of why it matters will emphasize your value to the team and the business.
You may shy away from strategic relationships because you don’t understand how much value you have, but everyone brings something to the table. Be confident in your skillset, own who you are and acknowledge the value you bring. When you embrace those qualities, building strategic relationships will come easily.
Not sure where to begin? Ask yourself what you’re working on that might have value to someone else or show gratitude for other peoples’ work and see what you can learn from each other.
So, let’s change the narrative around self-promotion, shall we? There is nothing wrong with ensuring others understand what you do and why you’re here; intentionally educating others of your value; building strategic relationships; and allowing others to leverage your work. When you vocalize your skills and strengths to serve others, you become the colleague everyone wants on their project.
Danielle Sutherby is a senior communications specialist at Progress, where she supports Progress’ employer brand efforts, raises awareness of the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) and inclusion and diversity (I&D) efforts, assists in PR activities, and strategizes employee engagement activities worldwide. Danielle is also the co-founder of the first employee resource group at Progress, Progress for Her, which aims to empower women at the company by providing leadership and networking opportunities. When she is not at work, you can find her writing, reading, or acting like a tourist in her own city.
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