Have you ever seen a toddler come running into a room and proudly proclaim, “I DID IT ALL BY MYSELF!”?  It’s cute when it’s a little kid, it’s less cute when it’s a grown adult.  But why?  Sometimes our accomplishments are just as impressive as what we achieved and were proud of as kids.

According to the Oxford dictionary, self-promotion is “the activity of making people notice you and your abilities, especially in a way that annoys other people.”  What about that definition would make people comfortable being self-promoters?!  According to Merriam-Webster, self-promotion is “the act of furthering one’s own growth, advancement, or prosperity”. Doesn’t sound so bad, right?!  And let’s be real, we just need self-promotion.  In today’s world of fast business and social media, self-promotion is a huge factor to getting yourself out there.  You need to present yourself to others as an accomplished, capable, smart and skilled person. What’s wrong with that?

Some people are fantastic at being the center of attention and are just naturally extroverts who have no problem sharing things about themselves.  Others are far more comfortable staying in the background, being introverted, and maintaining a more private approach to sharing their thoughts and ideas.

Oftentimes, women have a much harder time with self-promotion than men.  Sadly, research suggests that when women judge other women professionally, they are more likely to deem them “unlikeable” when they advocate for themselves.  While women of course need to get themselves out there professionally just as much as men, and share their good work with others, women tend to feel fearful of coming across as arrogant, while men experience this hesitation less.

Men are, on average, more likely to assert their opinions in meetings, ask for raises, and apply for jobs they may not be qualified for.  It shouldn’t be surprising that women are less likely to self-promote when it comes to work.

Virtually any career can be derailed by fearing self-promotion.  The societal constructs that have made it more challenging for women to come across as strong in their career while balancing family, relationships, homes, etc. should not be a deterrent to women being confident in saying, “This is me.  This is my business.  Here is why I am great.”

Not promoting yourself will enable you to take jobs you are overqualified for and discourage ambition, increasing chances of boredom or lack of fulfillment in your career.

We all work hard.  We put in effort to learn about our industry, become a successful entrepreneur/worker, and master skills to get us ahead.  So, why is speaking highly of ourselves so dang challenging?  You need to show the world that you are the answer to their problems.  If you aren’t willing to sing your own praises, who will be?  Self-promotion can help lead you to advancements at work, an increase in clients, or even personal developments.

To be effective at self-promotion, there needs to be a delicate balance between showing off your skills and your level of bragging about them.  Here are some tips on how to navigate this balance and find the right tone for self-promotion:

Do your research.  Figure out the best way to promote yourself so you are reaching your unique audience.  The more you know about your audience the more it allows you to adjust your tone and methods of self-promotion to help make sure you’re doing the best you can.

Don’t just act like an expert, become one.  Self-marketing is about showing why you are the best at what you do, which is sometimes hard to do.  When there’s more competition, it may be increasingly challenging to demonstrate your position as an industry expert.  You should always make sure whatever you are sharing, be it in person or online, is accurate, truthful, and well-researched.  Being a true expert and taking time to do your own fact-checking before sharing information can make you far more credible than someone who just reposts or rehashes potential misinformation.

Find the right groups and peers.  Networking in person or on social media can help you self-promote.  Finding like-minded people or groups can help you be sure you are self-promoting to people who actually are interested in what you have to say, therefore coming off as less pushy.  The more you connect with the right people, the more your self-promotion will pay off.  This can also help you find peers in your industry to help build each other up and promote each other.

Be interesting.  Instead of just rehashing all your skills and accomplishments, be sure to share truly interesting things about yourself.  This will help balance out the showing off and bragging.  Try to show off your skills in more fun and unique ways.

Be honest.  This is likely the most important aspect of self-promotion.  It’s very important to be relatable by sharing your thoughts, feelings, stories, and accomplishments.  However, being sure to not over embellish and stay truthful can actually help others relate to you more and find you are modest and approachable.

Some areas you can begin to practice your own self-promotion include promoting:

  • Your skills
  • Your experience
  • Your expertise/knowledge
  • Your problem-solving abilities
  • Your passion
  • Your enthusiasm
  • Your desire to advance
  • Your desire to teach others

Some of these may seem more natural for you to talk about than others.  Starting with any one of them is a great way to get comfortable sharing about yourself.  You can start small and simple with clear facts and build up to more personal, unique traits.  For example, starting off by sharing your career path or experiences can be a great foundation before sharing intimate anecdotes about any ways you may have climbed employment ladders.

Of course, self-promotion can be scary: you may fear success and you may fear failure.  Promoting yourself is a risk because you are putting yourself out there for others to judge.  I have been there myself.  I have had plenty of experiences where I had to advocate for myself to get a job, to be promoted, to be taken seriously, or to grow my personal brand.

It’s been almost two years since I first appeared as a guest on network television as a political strategist. I was terrified, nervous I would fumble my words or make a complete idiot out of myself, never being asked to appear again. To even get on tv in the first place, I launched an intentional social media campaign to be seen as an expert in a multitude of areas, and hired a publicist.

Looking back, I still cringe at those earlier appearances and find myself being self-critical. “I should have said this, or that.” Dang it! But then, I take a pause and recognize the growth I’ve had since then and all of the opportunities that have come my way since… all because I put myself out there through self-promotion and asked for help from people who knew more than me.

Early in my career, I kept my head down and just tried to do good work. What you do and how you do it are critical, because they create an impression, they shape your reputation and your brand. But I quickly learned that wasn’t enough. I thought the work would speak for itself and management would notice and I’d just get opportunities and promotions. But it didn’t.

You are a product in the labor market. You need to be good at what you do. You also are your own chief marketing officer. That means you need to be clear about the value you bring to the market and make sure others know what value you provide. That means speaking up in meetings, taking credit for your work, and raising your hand for growth opportunities. It may also mean speaking at conferences, writing articles or blog posts, sharing on social media, or other kinds of marketing and self-promotion.

Throughout your life and career, other people will have expectations for you and want things from you. If you aren’t clear about your goals and priorities and you don’t take charge, you’ll get sucked into others’ visions of what is best for you.

Take chances, trust yourself, have confidence, and don’t be afraid to chart your own path. Talking about yourself and your accomplishments is scary and overwhelming. Entrepreneur, and author of the book, Brag Better: Master the Art of Fearless Self-Promotion, Meredith Fineman says “Bragging, and Bragging Better is crucial for your career. Whether for a new job, a raise, or confidence, this new approach to “fearless self-promotion” will erase anxiety and provide a roadmap to champion yourself. Check out Meredith’s book for tips on how to brag better, be proud of your work, and help others shine.

Who was an ally or mentor for you as you’ve navigated your career? What made that person stand out, and how specifically did they help you get to the next level of your professional development?

I want to hear from you! Please share your “rise up” story with us in the comments.