How do I promote myself at work without sounding like I’m bragging?
You’re going to have to step outside your comfort zone to get promoted.
If you’re the type of person who feels uncomfortable talking about yourself, or if you struggle to articulate your unique contribution to a project because you recognise that the success of a project comes down to a team and not one single person’s effort, then you’re going to have to step outside your comfort zone to get promoted.
Most of us have had the experience of seeing a mediocre colleague get promoted ahead of someone who is perhaps more talented and deserving, simply because one is better at self-promotion. Speaking up about your unique talents and achievements is not bragging and is often needed to get ahead. Here are my top tips for helping the more modest amongst you to sell yourself at work.
Update your boss frequently
Use your boss as your champion by instigating a regular pattern of communication with your line manager. Instead of waiting for your manager to notice your achievements, or invite you to a one to one meeting, or request a report, take the reins and establish a routine for review yourself. Drop your manager a brief update email stating where you’re at, the challenges you’re overcoming and what the key highlights are for that week.
If weekly is too frequent, decide what frequency would be relevant. Whether it’s weekly, fortnightly or monthly, providing a regular update on highlights and challenges is a great way to give unprompted feedback to show that you’re on track. Highlighting to your manager that you are not only coping, but actually excelling at your current job, is a great way to get selected for up-coming new projects.
Look for feedback and offer advice outside your team
Most people work cross functionally nowadays. Whether you’re collaborating with IT, the contact centre or the sales force, a great way to raise your profile is to seek feedback from a colleague you work alongside. Ask them how they perceive the value you add to the team or project, ask them if they know what you do and use it as an opportunity to explain the contribution that you make and what you do with the work that’s allocated once you take it back to the marketing department. Don’t forget to also offer advice outside your team. If you’re easy to work with and can be seen as the ‘go to’ person for marketing queries, then you’ll quickly get a reputation for being helpful and responsive and word will spread.
Make a single question count
The level that you’re at might actually depend on who you have direct access to internally. For example, if you’re a marketing executive of a FTSE250 company you might not even work in the same office as your marketing director. Putting logistics aside, spend some time thinking about how you can get more senior colleagues to notice how you’re contributing to your organisation’s success. Prepare a couple of smart questions that you’d like to ask them and then, when they make an appearance, find time to stop them as they’re passing through (or email in advance) to ask their thoughts or opinions on an issue relevant to the business or your work.
For example, “I’ve been doing some research into x competitor’s service and I wondered if I could talk to you for 5 minutes about how we can make our offering more attractive to acquire market share” is a great way to get their attention and time, especially if you have solutions to offer.
By having a question, idea or example that will benefit your company, you’re going to stand out and you certainly won’t be wasting their time.
I’ve lost count of the number of companies I speak to where employees race to the exit at 5 pm. Last year I attended a discussion group where Michael Bloomberg (CEO of Bloomberg and ex-Mayor of New York) highlighted that staying late in the office was how he’d developed his early career. In one of his first jobs he was regularly the first to arrive at work and last to leave and the only person in the office alongside that company’s director. Having no one else around during these times meant he could start to ask questions or share information that he thought the director would want to know, showcasing his engagement, tenacity and passion for the company.
Using a couple of these steps and getting over your aversion to self-promotion is a sure fire way to make sure that you’re remembered for the right reasons, making it easier to get promoted.