When Competition Is Fierce, Self-Promotion Reigns

I never considered myself much of a competitive person. As a matter of fact, I tend to be the one who allows others to shine while I work feverishly in Courtesy of StockVaultthe foreground.

In addition, I don’t often toot my own horn, as some say. I guess it’s part of my upbringing or the culture in which I was raised. It could simply be due to insecurity — questioning whether my efforts are worth public mention. Some may even label it as humility. Perhaps, it’s been a combination of several things that have held me, and so many others, from committing to self-endorsement.

I’ll be honest. I often see it as arrogance when a person notes their accomplishments before others, particularly when it comes to job duties. After all, we get paid a salary, commission, or hourly wage, because we do the job we’re paid to do. Right?

So then: Why does one have to broadcast the very thing that is part of their job description? 

What’s more, why do we — if we earn a living based on certain accomplishments — have to ensure at every moment a superior, client, colleague or otherwise knows what we’ve accomplished to-date?

Is it that necessary to toot our own horn?

That’s a question a couple of friends and I recently discussed.

The answer, in my opinion, is complicated.

Yes — as an employee, business owner, student or contractor, we are responsible for making sure our efforts are being recognized. Let’s be honest, our current economic situation and weak job market has fostered in a lot of ways a more competitive environment. The things we do to land and keep a job these days is a job in and of itself.

I’m talking about self-recognition at work. This is an issue that’s more than just about fishing for compliments and seeking praise to boost one’s self-esteem. 

It’s about staying ahead of the game and giving props where they are due. And if those props happen to fall in your lap, then embrace and recognize the areas you have done due diligence and don’t shy away. Allow others to become a part of where you have exceeded expectations by sharing your good deeds.

What if you haven’t gone above and beyond?

What if you feel you have nothing to shine about? That’s a great question!

Let’s say, you’ve only done what you’ve been asked and nothing more. As a matter of fact, you do what you are asked very well and to a ‘T’. On one hand I would say, “Kudos. Keep up the good work.” On the other hand, I’d question whether you were really in it to win it.

What it boils down to is this. 

If you’re passionate about what you do, talking about your accomplishments should come naturally. It shouldn’t feel forced or contrived. But not everyone is really passionate about what their jobs and there are those who are ostracized from the water cooler discussions because they suffer social awkwardness in the way of self-centeredness.

No matter what category you fall under, here are some practical ways to toot your own horn without sounding arrogant, boastful or conceited.

1. Share your accomplishments with abandonment in performance reviews. After all, reviews are your chance to show how you’ve added value. Now is certainly not the time to shrink back. Your job or pay scale often depends on how well you can sell yourself.

2. If you’re a business owner or freelancer with your own website, write a press release or post updates that highlight your credentials and recent achievements. Websites, even social networking sites like Facebook and Linked In, serve as passive marketing tools. Use them strategically by keeping them fresh with content about you or your company, and you may find your career flourishes as a result.

3. Update your bio and resume to include your most notable work to-date. Pretty simple.

4. “What are you working on?” This is a question that’s bound to surface when around colleagues or prospective clients, let’s say. So as you discuss current and future projects with such individuals, also talk about ways in which you’ve met similar challenges in the past and how you continue to use what you’ve learned. This is a creative way to not only highlight your experiences, but also show how you think strategically. In addition, ask questions of them and be sincere when trying to learn more about their accomplishments.

5. Create an elevator speech — a short speech that summarizes your professional experience. We could certainly write an entire post about delivering compelling elevator speeches. But the idea here is to really consider what you’d tell a person about your professional achievements during a short elevator ride. Keep in mind that you don’t want to bore a person, and at the same time you don’t want to monopolize their time with a Shakespeare monologue. It’s imperative you say just enough that prompts the other person to say something like, “Sounds like I could use you. Do you have a [business] card?”

It’s best to do a little tootn’ of the horn in moderation. If someone pays you a compliment for an accomplishment, acknowledge it and say ‘thanks.’ And keep working hard.

Outright bragging is obnoxious — and people can spot it a mile away. Sharing your achievements out of an act of joy, gratitude and modesty comes off as refreshing. If executed properly and in the right context, self-promotion can be a not so daunting task. Try it and see.

Emily Brown is the key contributor and creator of TheCareerPioneer.com, a blog that delivers articles and posts about job industry trends; plus motivational, retrospective stories about career exploration and discovering one’s passion. She is a journalist. Her work has appeared in Bloomberg News, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and others. Emily lives and works in Washington, DC. She can be reached at info@thecareerpioneer.com. Feel free to drop her a line to say “hello,” seek advice, suggest an opportunity or story idea, or provide news of your own.