Self-Promotion Without Bragging
From Career Tips, 2018 Volume 3, March 2018
Often when I’ve done workshops on how to promote yourself, someone will comment, “but I don’t like to brag.”
This is a common misconception that holds people back. They confuse self-promotion with bragging, and avoid doing what is necessary to be sure critical people in their network or company clearly understand the value they bring to the table. The attitude is that self-promotion is pushy, and why shouldn’t everyone just recognize the good work I do?
Effective self-promotion isn’t bragging, bragging is bad self-promotion.
I was talking to someone recently who was in line for a major promotion. His prior boss had strongly recommended it, his current boss supported it, and he provided internal references for additional support. What could go wrong?
During his annual performance appraisal, at which he received recognition for his strong performance, having exceeded aggressive revenue goals, he was informed that the promotion request had been denied.
What went wrong?
He assumed that everyone knew exactly why he deserved this promotion. The feedback he received was that the nomination committee perceived a lack of support and 'champions' for his promotion.
What could he have done to avoid this?
The long term strategy is to be sure that you are consistently finding ways to express value in appropriate venues. (More about this shortly.)
The short term action he could have taken would be to interview every person he would be putting forward as support for the recommendation. (And with his own boss, who it turned out gave a relatively lukewarm recommendation.) Have a deep conversation to get clear on exactly what value THEY have seen him add in the past, and remind them of the work they did together.
Refresh them on any challenges that he helped solve, and the results of the work. Make sure they are prepared to provide unqualified support for the recommendation, and are equipped with the facts to back that up. And if any seem that they might provide only lukewarm support, find someone else!
This is exactly what anyone in an active job search should be doing with any reference they would supply in an interview.
So how do you approach that long term strategy?
One way is to be sure that you never answer literally the question “What do you do?” Always imagine that instead you were asked “Why should I pay your salary?” or “Why should I buy your services?"
This will require a change in mindset, and may even feel awkward, especially when the person asking is a senior office at your company. But that’s when it is most important not to get trapped into giving the literal answer!
I recommend keeping a list of recent accomplishments at hand, perhaps in your top desk drawer at work. Look at them from time to time to keep them fresh in your mind, and then use them to give more effective answers to “What do you do?”
And then get used to following a similar approach to status reports, self-appraisals, introductions to new staff, networking meetings, etc.
If you consistently present the value you are adding, you won’t have to worry about finding opportunities, new opportunities will find you!