How to Promote Yourself Without Bragging

Lemme guess.  You are frustrated.  You do a great job and want recognition.  You know you can do so much more and deserve a promotion.  Your peers agree.  Why does it always seem that you don’t get promoted until you are long overdue?  Why does it seem like everyone else gets picked first?

Because it’s not about getting picked.  By waiting for recognition, you are delaying it, leaving money on the table and robbing your organization of a precious resource – your underutilized talent.  Shame on you!

It’s called “the tiara syndrome” and it’s not entirely your fault.  After all, you probably waited for guys to ask you out, to dance, to get married.  “Pick me,” you quietly wished.  And at school, you probably waited for teachers to call on you before you shared the answer, rather than “rudely” shouting it out.  These are the rules and you follow them: That’s why everyone likes you so much.

Then, you get to the workplace and you expect it is the same way.  You don’t want to make enemies or step on anyone else to get ahead.  So you do your best and wait to get noticed.  Only it doesn’t happen.  Worse, people who you know aren’t as good are getting promoted ahead of you.  So frustrating!

Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 4.28.08 PMSo, what you need are some non-pushy ways to let people know what you have contributed.  Here are a few easy things you can do:

1. Regularly review your results.  Part of the problem with self-promotion is not knowing, objectively, how you are doing.  Do the math.  Work it out.  Don’t just list completed tasks, figure out what tangible benefit the organization is getting because you are here.  Remind yourself why you were hired in the first place.  This is about you but put it in terms the company cares about.  Get it right in your own head so you can feel confident.  Document it so you can pull out your results at any moment and be able to discuss them.  You can even use Linked In for this – update your list of accomplishments for this position and if you have something big, like a completed project or a new skill, then do a status update.  You never know who might be looking for just that skill at just this moment!

2. Reward your team publicly.  Make sure the superstars who work for you are recognized around the organization.  Their success equals your success.  Put high performers into the spotlight as much as possible: Send them to important meetings, get them in front of executives, and have them represent you whenever feasible.  This makes you look good as a boss and promotes your team’s accomplishments.  The best part – You will get the credit, too, in a very unselfish way.  And your team will get comfortable promoting you because they know you are promoting them whenever possible.

3. Manage your manager.  Schedule a quarterly meeting with your boss.  Review your goals and key performance indicators.  If you don’t have any, set some and review them at each session.  Bring your list of results to every meeting.  If you find yourself working on things that keep you from working on your goals, bring this up.  Make sure you and your manager are on the same page with what you are supposed to be doing and what your actual results have been.  This will keep your boss focused objectively on what you can do instead of on subjective “noise” like whether people like you or other company politics.  Don’t hesitate to ask for feedback as well.  Since most managers are hesitant to give negative feedback outside of the annual performance review, you can use this to your advantage.  If you are meeting regularly and documenting all of this positive feedback, it makes it really hard for surprises to pop up down the road.  This will also keep you top of mind and ready at any time to capitalize on opportunities for promotion.

4. Promote your peers.  Schedule monthly lunch meetings to “catch up” with people in different departments and especially with competing peers.  Get to know them on a more personal level in social, non-confrontational situations. Ask them what they are working on and write down what they say. Find ways to help them with their current projects, if possible.  Build their trust.  Tell them about great work other peers are working on and what you have completed recently.  If possible, find ways there may be synergies in your work so you can help them be successful.  In time, when you have built a stronger relationship, ask about their broader career/life goals (people rarely ask each other this or give each other a forum to discuss this).  Find ways to help each other reach personal goals.  When you meet with other peers, be sure to promote this person to them!  The benefit of this is it makes it really hard to be competitive with each other when you have a good relationship.  And added bonus – now you can feel good about taking time for lunch with peers because there is an important purpose to it!

5. Give and get endorsements when times are good.  The best way to brag without bragging is to have someone else do it for you!  And they probably already are!  So, write down those positive comments people give you.  Don’t wait until you need them -it only takes a moment to journal them now and doing so will allow you to pull them out later during a review or interview.  Ask people to provide Linked-in references whenever they are particularly happy with something you have done or at the end of a big project.  Think about clients, outside vendors, and peers.  You may want to provide specific language or points you would like to see covered – people appreciate this more than a blank sheet when writing references.  Don’t forget to reciprocate for them as well.  Never hesitate to ask for feedback: Most people will only give you the positives and you can use that.  Even if you think you will be at the same company for the rest of your career, collecting and publishing your endorsements is critical for your career growth and success.

All of these tips are easy to do and don’t involve bragging.  Just remember: Part of doing your job is letting others know what you are doing and how well you are doing it.  Instead of assuming it’s up to others to recognize and “pick you”, reframe it as “taking responsibility for yourself and your career.”  That way, when it’s time to fill the next big role, everyone will know you are ready for it.

© Kelly Watson

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