Friday Fast Tip: Toot your horn

Don’t assume everyone knows about you or your accomplishments. Getting ahead often requires making those things more apparent. However, I say “toot” your horn, not “blow” it for a reason. No one likes a braggart. Be strategic about your self-promotion.  For example, someone mentions they are working on a new project that requires XYZ skill; it’s the perfect time to mention your experience with that and offer to help. After all, the best way for people to learn about you and what you’re good at is to show them.


For Sale: Me! How to market yourself at work

Most of us get a bit shy when asked to talk about ourselves. Even completing year-end reviews can make us feel like we’re gloating. But in today’s world of “personal branding,” progressing your career, no matter what your profession, requires marketing yourself.

Become a go-to person: The first step is to be someone worth bragging about.

  • Start by assessing your personal strengths and weaknesses. What are your skills and interests, and how do they relay into your job? Do you find there is something you are better at or know more about than most of your coworkers? How can it help them to do their jobs better?
  • Once you discover your niche, become an expert. Build up your expertise both at and beyond work. It is great to take advantage of training available on the job, but taking it a step further to learn through associations, reading, communities of practice, and other opportunities outside work not only shows your dedication to your practice, but is really where true expertise is formed.
  • Offer to help. You are an expert; you have an informed opinion, share it… that’s why people have you sitting at the table. There will be two types of opportunities for you to demonstrate your knowledge: The first, more obvious opportunity is when someone seeks out your help for work related to your expertise. The second is less obvious and requires you to proactively identify opportunities where your expertise could be of use. And don’t let that hard work go to waste, keep a log of what you’ve accomplished, evidence of your work, and emails where you’ve received thanks and praise.

A little gloating goes a long way

  • If you did something great, let it be known… at the appropriate time. A year-end review or a promotion conversation is no time to be shy. Prepare a list of your accomplishments and be ready to answer the question, “Why should you be promoted?” Much like on a resume, your accomplishments should be tangible and meaningful to the audience. For example, “I developed a new process, which contributed to our team spending 20% less time working on administrative paperwork and instead dedicated that time to our clients who reported increased satisfaction.”
  • Too much is too much. There is an appropriate time for boasting, but otherwise humility is something everyone will appreciate. Take the time to compliment others on their hard work. Give credit where credit is due, and focus on doing great work that others can see instead of hear about.

Be visible: No matter how great you are or what amazing things you can do, it doesn’t matter if no one knows you.

  • Take time to get to know your leaders and for them to get to know you. Put 15 minutes on their calendars to tell them about your background and to learn from their experiences.
  • Expand your network beyond your immediate department. It’s nice to build deep relationships with your closest coworkers, but often opportunities will exist beyond your department. If you have the chance to work on a side-project or have lunch with someone new, take it. Don’t forget to drop them a note from time to time too. This is something I have to continue to remind myself to do, but is valuable for maintaining your network.

If you’ve found something you are great at that is helpful to others, there is a good chance people will take notice. Unfortunately, they’re not always the right people or enough people, especially if you work for a large organization where someone other than your immediate boss has a say in your progression. While it may seem unnatural, some “strategic self-promotion,” as Eric Rudolf referred to it, is critical. So take a moment to assess yourself and be prepared to brag a bit when the time is right.