Use Self Promotion to Your Advantage

Do you promote the team ahead of yourself? It might be tempting. And it might be a career misstep.

It is easy to fall into the trap that I should always promoting someone else, at some point though, you may think…what about me? Why doesn’t everyone else play by the same rules and watch my back too? The reason is they are probably doing a better job of promoting themselves than you are.

The Center for Creative Leadership, provides an audio transcript, Politics of Self Promotion: Using Visibility to Benefit you, Your Team and Your Organization which outlines five limiting beliefs to promoting your own successes, taken from the book, Selling Yourself without Selling Out: A Leader’s Guide to Ethical Self-Promotion (J-B CCL (Center for Creative Leadership)). How often does someone remind you or your self talk tells you the following are truths:

  • Accomplishments should speak for themselvesSelling Yourself without Selling Out
  • My boss is too busy to hear me talk about myself
  • Team players don’t take credit
  • Not wanting to brag
  • Discomfort promoting yourself

Let’s face it. Bosses are busy. They tend to focus on what is wrong and often forget or overlook the positives. I believe bosses want to reinforce and recognize good work and they need the help of their employees to do it. Too often I hear employees couch accomplishments in terms of what the team did…and I have to wonder, what was your contribution or role in this effort? At a minimum, you should be able to answer this question. In the ideal situation, I should never have to ask the question.

I am not advocating that you dump your team and only center discussions on yourself. Just remember to include yourself and quit playing the martyr role. Martyrs have the “poor me” attitude and love to blame others for their misfortune. In the case of your career, the majority of the successes or missteps sit right with you.

Ultimately, it is your responsibility to handle your own internal promotional campaign. In a previous blog, Mastering the Art of Self Promotion, the case is made for why and how to undertake a new outlook on managing your career. It touches on all five of the limiting beliefs offered by the authors, Gina Hernez-Broome, Cindy McClaughlin and Stephanie Trovas.

Careers are made on your individual contributions, not team contributions. I can’t think of one instance in my career where the team receives a promotion as a unit. Do you have to be a team player? Yes. Should it define you. No.

  1. My problem has always been that doing well at my job usually means that I get loaded to the breaking point with work. Because there’s a culture of not complaining in my department, coupled with very few opportunities for honest performance reviews (the boss has an erratic schedule and is absent a lot of the time), I am leery of self promotion for that reason as well (not just modesty). I have learned that going the extra mile means more work being piled on, not promotions or perks. It’s hard for me because I am a fast learner, a perfectionist and enjoy solving problems; it’s just that I also would like to be rewarded with something other than just… more work! A new title or a meaningful raise might be nice. I don’t know how to communicate my ambitions in an office culture where nobody else is ambitious. It’s the sort of place (a college, actually, which has a very institutional and not business culture) where no one ever gets fired or formally promoted; they just are kept on in their positions until they retire, with minimal pressure to learn any new skills. I also live in an area I can’t move away from (family reasons) that is economically depressed so there aren’t very many competing institutions/companies to jump to. This makes me feel that they believe that I am not a “flight risk” – but then again, I sometimes wonder if they even can grasp the concept of promotion at all. It doesn’t seem to be in the culture here.

    • Hi Donna,

      I encourage you to think strategically about your situation. Often our focus is on the day to day – the tendency is to think we are not making progress.

      For example, if you are taking on new work, try to volunteer for the more meaningful project that develops new skills or expands your knowledge in a particular area, not just the grunt work. You won’t be able to avoid the grunt work entirely, but managing the amount is key. If you believe you are carrying the brunt, it opens up a discussion for you to have with your boss. Ask them to consider reallocating the work load so that everyone in the department can have challenging and meaningful development.

      As you acquire skills, think of them as building blocks. At some point they will become valuable when you move into a new job or organization.

      The limitations you face on moving out of the area to a better job may change in the future. If not, then you may have to rethink and develop a longer term plan on what career options you have and work toward making them happen. Life is always about making trade offs. Family is important and may require you to readjust the level of expectations you have on the job front. Without changing something, we continue to get the same result. If you continue to feel “stuck”, try to focus on things you do outside of work which bring you satisfaction, so that work does not define you.

      Good luck…keep in touch! Lynn