Google “self-promotion” and up come the haters. In a flash, you’ll see countless negative articles and posts. From “Why Self-Promotion Is a Terrible Idea” to “The Braggart’s Dilemma” to “Please Shut Up,” there’s no shortage of spewing. Even Harvard Business School chimes in with a paper disproving the now fashionable practice known as “humblebragging.”
Here’s the problem: In today’s intensely competitive, hyper-social work world, self-promotion is no longer just a professional responsibility. It’s a career survival skill.
Employers must know your real value. Otherwise you’ll frequently find yourself on the losing end professionally. You won’t get the job, the raise, the promotion, the respect and recognition you deserve.
Promoting Yourself Correctly: "Express to Impress"
Your career success depends on your ability to promote yourself correctly. To reach your true potential, you have to “express to impress” to those who matter most: higher-ups and hiring managers.
Yet many people—maybe (gasp!) even you—have a blatant inability to suitably self-promote. They can’t express their value in a way that wows without also bragging or being obnoxious. As an employment and job search coach, I’ve come to consider this skill gap a deadly deficiency. Left unaddressed, it kills careers.
6 Ways To Get Self-Promotion Right
Are you valuable? Of course you are. So let’s get started. Here are six ways to get self-promotion right.
1. Don’t assume that your boss knows exactly what you do.
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In the real world, you’re at the mercy of your manager. Why, then, do you assume he knows exactly what you do?
Whether you work six feet or 6,000 miles away from your boss, it’s unlikely he has more than a general idea about what you do beyond the minimum he expects. He probably has countless other responsibilities than his direct reports, and perhaps just like you, is stretched too thin.
And you think he knows all about your abilities and accomplishments? Not a chance. It’s up to you to actively promote yourself.
2. Embrace the difference between articulating your value and bragging.
As a kid, you were likely taught that modesty is the best policy. “Don’t brag,” said grown-ups repeatedly. Better to let others discover your greatness on their own.
The problem is, in all probability, they won’t. Besides, when done properly, self-promotion is not bragging. It is informing.
My stand is this: By time you entered high school, you should have been taught by parents, teachers, coaches, mentors, and other elders how to appropriately express your value to others. I say this in particular for women, who among other things, continue to struggle for equal pay for equal work.
3. Adopt an accomplishment mindset and narrative.
An accomplishment is the successful completion of a project or task that you’re proud of, that prompts you to hold your head up high around the workplace.
To prove your indispensability to an employer, you need an inventory of your on-the-job accomplishments—the things that express your commercial value to the business.
Commercial value? That might be a new concept to you. However, in any position in any workplace, you’re seen first as a commodity, not a person. Accordingly, you have to be able to roll your accomplishments off your tongue anytime, anywhere, to anyone. Consider it your new professional mindset and narrative.
4. Quantify your worth.
You were hired because someone believed that you’d produce more value for the company than you’d cost. In other words, someone trusted that you’d either make or save the company money.
Consider, for instance, a payroll clerk I once worked with. In the first run he ever did at XYZ Company, he cut 6,000 paychecks alone, on time, with zero returns. Think of the cost savings created by an error-free check run of that size.
Yet I had to pry the information out of him. Why? “Because,” he said, “I was just doing my job.”
My point: You needn’t be a bona fide revenue generator or accomplish earth-shattering feats like inventing the iPhone to quantify your worth.
Also, recognize that your soft skills aren’t necessarily easy to come by. Maybe it’s your amazing ability to put people at ease or to do things super efficiently. Those are intrinsic values that others might not have, and that can significantly contribute to the mission of a business.
5. Source and shape your success stories.
This is where the heavy lifting comes in. Unless you are just starting out or have a superhuman memory, you’ll need to expend energy and effort to track down your past accomplishments.
To begin, look at old resumés, business planners, performance reviews, and journals. For fun you can even Google yourself.
Then you’ll need to reach out to all the people you know—family, friends, managers, co-workers, customers, coaches, teachers, vendors, and on and on. Email won’t work here. To bypass generic responses, you must do this by phone. Period.
Focus on end results, problems solved, projects completed on time and on budget, and the impact you had on individuals, groups, and organizations. You’ll learn that you accomplished more than you even realized.
6. Master the three-part accomplishment statement.
What are you supposed to do with all that amazing information you’ve collected? You’re going to craft every one of your accomplishments into a single three-part statement with a distinct beginning, middle, and end.
You’ll convey what you did, what that resulted in, and the value or net result. The trick is to keep it simple yet still tell a compelling story. For example: “Created a digital filing system that resulted in 300 man hours saved per week, enabling the company to save $6 million annually.”
The hard-and-fast rule here is that no statement is an accomplishment until it has a net result.
Finally, make this your professional mantra: “It’s not who I know. It’s not even what I know. It’s who knows what I know that makes my career.”
Tomorrow is too late. Get self-promotion right today. In informing decision makers of your value, you will reach your true potential, and realize the success you so greatly deserve.
Promote! It's Who Knows What You Know That Makes a Career
by Rick Gillis.
About the Author
Rick Gillis is a nationally recognized careers expert and employment coach specializing in trends and technologies in the modern job search. A onetime workplace radio and TV host, he is a sought-after keynote speaker and the author of five books. His new book is Promote! It's Who Knows What You Know That Makes a Career. For more information about Rick, visit rickgillis.com.
Watch a video of some of the concepts in Rick's book.