How to self-promote without feeling icky

Oct 17, 2022 | Coaching & Mentoring

Self-advocating is an important skill to get ahead and help your team and organization.

“Why do I have to brag about myself?  People can see how hard I work.”  I hear it all the time and I, in fact, have uttered these same words.  I was taught as a young school girl that bragging was self-indulgent and if I just worked hard, I would get ahead.  The reality is far from the truth.  Most people wear a lot of different hats and interact with many people on a daily basis – both personally and professionally.  Therefore, even if you are Superman, your work might only be on someone’s radar for a mere few minutes of their day… if you’re lucky.  Instead of looking at it as bragging, try reframing it as an efficient way to keep your manager and other team members informed.  They already have a lot on their plates, let’s not make them have to research you too!

Let’s Jump into how self-promotion helps your leadership team, helps you, and get you started with some practical tips to implement it naturally and authentically.

How does self-promotion benefit your leadership team?

  • You give them the cliff’s notes.  Your leadership team is going to be asked to write up your review and/or recommend people for promotion and raises on top of all of their other responsibilities in the business.  Make it easy for them by giving them the cliff’s note version.  It’s no different than providing an executive summary on the reports you do at work.
  • You gift them peace of mind.  Leading a team or organization can be a busy and stressful place. You are often worried about the success of the organization, the wellbeing of your people, and all of the other things drowning on your to do list. Help your manager feel assured that their people have their back by sharing what is going well so they get a little extra sleep at night.
  • You allow them to succession plan.  Leaders have to look ahead at what positions are opening up or will be created.  By sharing what you are doing and how you are doing it, you not only help them consider what skills and/or interests of yours might be a good fit for future positions, they can start to think about who can backfill you so they don’t have to feel stressed about losing you in the current position.
  • You help them get ahead. Remember that you are part of your manager’s story.  Your success is your leader’s success (with due credit if they are a good manager) and if you aren’t sharing your wins, you are actually hurting your manager.  Don’t be selfish.  Share and celebrate together.

How does self-promotion benefit you?

  • Counteract recency bias and develop your brand.  By developing a method to self-promote often, you are building your own personal brand so even a small mishap in recent days doesn’t take you off-track in how your manager and leadership team see you.
  • Decide where you want to go next.  How you talk about your work will help your manager develop a vision of what to assign to you next regardless of if you are talking day to day work or a promotion.  Forward thinking on where you want to be in the future can help you prioritize how to talk about your successes.  For example, if you prefer to work in a more creative space, then make sure you highlight how you used creativity in that most recent success story.
  • Provide a reason to promote. Providing examples of your success gives your leadership team clear bullet points to demonstrate what you have done within the organization when they are justifying a promotion or raise.
  • Raise the voice of others.  Self-promotion doesn’t have to be ONLY focused on yourself.  Consider how you can share your wins to promote yourself and authentically draw attention to the actions of those around you – especially those with lesser heard voices.  This will up the feel-good factor for you and it’s a great way to connect with others at work organically.  You can be a part of making your organization more diverse, equitable, inclusive, and a place where people feel belonging.

How can I self-promote without it feeling uncomfortable?  The easy answer is to be authentic.

  • Highlight what you loved in your project.  This is a great way to give your manager direction on what you might want to work on next or show case some skills or interests they may not know about you. Tap into that child-like excitement that came up for you when you learned to tie your shoe for the first time!  Example:  I loved dusting off analytical skills when I created that report for the $10M deal we just signed.
  • Make it about you – and a teammate.  It’s often easier to brag about someone else so why not use that energy?  Example:  Lisa had such a creative approach to project X and I really enjoyed getting to dive into the copywriting side of it with her when I developed the campaign slogan.  If you use this method, make sure you are being authentic about you and the other person as it will definitely feel icky to you and others if you are not.   This is a critical skill for managers and leaders to master so that you give your team credit and visibility for their work upward.

PRO TIP:  This also gives you an opportunity to self-promote to both your own manager and the other person’s manager so you have more cross-functional visibility if from different departments or area’s in the company.

  • Celebrate the win. People love to hear positive feedback so don’t hold back with your manager or leader.  Example:  I am so excited that the company landed Client X this year!  It was really rewarding to lead the team that came up with the proposal idea that the client loved.
  • Thank them for the opportunity.  As a manager, you often hear a lot of grievances from employees so change the tone of the day for your manager. Example: Thanks for trusting me with Project X, I was able to decrease internal cycle time by half with my programming.
  • Ask for what you want – and help them say yes! If you really enjoy working in a particular area or using a certain skill, highlight it to your manager with a clear reason to say yes. Example: “I would really love to lead more cross-functional teams. I loved leading the sub-team on Project Y and helping incorporate all of the different perspectives to arrive at solution Z.”

How can I make my self-promotion have more staying power in my manager or leadership team’s mind?

  • Make it relevant.  If you know your manager or leader is interested in a specific project, skill, or shared hobby, address those areas first if you can and layer in the self-promotion around those topics if applicable.
  • Know the financial impact.  Where possible, add in the financial measures of what you are doing to help them see the breadth of your value. Even if you are back end of the house, use simple calculations to help you quantify your work.  (See my post on your how to prepare for your annual review here for more tips.)
  • Keep it fresh. A theme is good.  A broken record is bad.  One way to self advocate for an area you are interested in is to keep your career goals written down somewhere you can quickly access them and then jot down something you are celebrating at the end of each week that would lend itself toward your main goal(s).  This will help you have something top of mind to share with your leadership team so you are ready for the quick pass in the hallway or close of a zoom call.
  • Repetition at the right time is good.  I know, I know, I just told you to keep it fresh but also recall that there is a thing called recency bias and your leadership team will likely forget things that happened earlier in the year.  Consider how you can remind management of an earlier win if relevant to what you want next by connecting it to current events.  It could be as simple as saying something like, Project Y is on track but, admittedly, I miss the exhilaration I had when leading the team on that million-dollar Project Z back in February.

Self advocacy can be tough for a lot of people.  Changing your perspective on how you view it can help you do it more confidently and naturally.  I highly recommend you disregard the view that you are bragging and start to consider how it can help your management team feel confident that things are running well, make smarter decisions, and get a better night’s sleep.

As always, if you need help building your self-advocacy skills – or understanding what you want to advocate for in the first place, don’t hesitate to reach out.  And, if you are a leader or organization that wants help developing a culture that promotes self-advocacy, I’m here.  Do not hesitate to contact Livthentic for an exploratory discussion or schedule directly on calendly.  I see your spark and want to help you grow it into a flame. You can also join our mailing list to stay in touch or follow us on Linkedin, Facebook, or Instagram.

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