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09/17/2015

Shocker! When you self-promote you actually help others


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As a career coach, I work with clients who are top professionals in their fields. Despite their accomplishments and the desire to have more visibility in their careers, many struggle with self-promotion and self-advocacy. They come to me hoping to learn to articulate their value proposition and accomplishments to key stakeholders (i.e. managers, prospective employers, clients) without being perceived as boastful or bragging. 

The shocking thing is that most of my clients are confident individuals yet they get stuck when it comes to talking about themselves. Shying away from self-promotion prevents them from getting assigned to desirable projects, obtaining greater responsibility, and earning more money.

Let me give you an example. Sarah works for an equity research department at a large bank. She recently stepped outside of the scope of her responsibilities to help a team of people in another department who needed her expertise. The research she provided helped that team win millions of dollars of business from a new client. 

Sarah shared with me that she would love to tell her boss that her efforts helped her colleagues land a big client, but she feared that he wouldn’t care since it “had nothing to do with him” and “didn’t directly affect him.” Sarah also didn’t want it to seem as if she was bragging and thought it would be easier to say nothing at all.

This way of thinking is getting in Sarah’s way and also might be what is holding you back from sharing your accomplishments with others.

The truth is that self-promotion gets a bad reputation. In fact, while writing this article, I struggled to find a definition for self-promotion that didn’t include the words “showing off,” “bragging” and “boasting.” So I would like to try to break this train of thought and show you that when your brand grows through self-promotion you actually end up helping others along the way.  Here is how:

 1.  When you look good, your team and your boss look good; you are helping!

Let’s take Sarah’s situation. Remember, she didn’t think her manager would care and thus would just perceive her as a show off. I helped Sarah see that if she did something meaningful for the firm, this has direct positive impact on how her boss is viewed. By helping another group land a big client, Sarah now armed her manager with political capital - goodwill - and elevated his brand. 

2.  Knowledge is power and you are the information source

In business, the more you know the better your decision-making, and thus the stronger your career path. Everyone knows this and everyone values those people that give them information. You can be this information source.

Let’s revisit Sarah’s situation again. If Sarah doesn’t tell her boss that a group within the firm landed a big client, he will be out of the loop and operating with only partial knowledge. Sarah has the power to make her boss look good by giving him information he couldn't otherwise get. The trick is in the delivery. Here is the right and wrong way to share her information:

The wrong way:

“I did a lot of work for department XYZ and thanks to me they got new business.”

The right way:

“I want to keep you in the loop that department XYZ landed client ABC thanks to some of the work our department did. They were working on closing this client for some time and it was actually some analytical work of mine that sealed the deal. It’s a nice little win for us. 

See the difference?

So please remember, the act of self-promotion has the power to not just help you but to help your key stakeholders.

-Helen Dayen

Helen Dayen is the founder and CEO of Dayen Group. She is a career development & communication coach.

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