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Workplace is no place for modesty

Get the word out about your good work.
Get the word out about your good work.
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While other job search consultants and career coaches write and talk a lot about tips to make your resume stand out and helpful interview techniques,  I will spend a lot of time writing about confidence, because the reality is degrees, accolades, and accomplishments really don't amount to much without it. What matters is that one has the courage and savvy to promote one's skills, abilities, and talent. Hundreds of thousands of individuals in America have bachelor's degrees. A smaller number have MAs, PhDs, and MBAs. Those who succeed, despite what the economy looks like, are those who master the art of skillful self-promotion.

Simply put, self-promotion means that you let those in positions to hire, advance, or otherwise affect your career know that you consistently do good work. And in a world where conventional wisdom advises modesty, letting others know that you're an awesome employee takes confidence.

I learned this lesson the hard way several years ago, when I worked as a career development coach at a vocational school in Atlanta. It was by far the best job I ever had, as it allowed me to help others develop professional skills and find fulfilling work which utilized their unique skill sets and strengths. The only downside to the job was my partner in the department, a woman who spent her days telling everyone about the number of sales she closed, new clients she brought on, and projects she had coming down the pike.

While she bragged, I sat silent. And stewed. My response to what I considered to be her obnoxious behavior was to put my head down and work more diligently. I was quiet. I equated silence with diligence; my coworkers equated my silence with attitude. Never mind, I thought. Surely management would reward me for my purposeful, diligent efforts at eval time. Guess who got the raise and accolades when eval time came? Hint: it wasn't me.

As children, we are taught not to brag, but to be self-deprecating and humble. Unfortunately, those who taught us to be those things are likely not the people who have the power to make or break our careers.

It's dog-eat-dog in the workplace. Employers seek, hire, and retain driven, results-oriented, decisive individuals, the type of people who confidently celebrate their contributions to the team while still acknowledging the efforts of the entire team. Having the savoir-faire do skillfully promote your successes at work can literally determine whether you keep your job or join the ranks of the unemployed.

Not sure you can do this without sounding like a braggart? Try these simple suggestions for starters.

  • Send weekly email updates to your manager or supervisor detailing 3 to 5 departmental highlights, accomplishments, or successes for the week. You can also use these to announce upcoming projects or events
  • Consider your area(s) of expertise. Offer to spearhead a training session or write a how-to guide for employees on how to do this thing
  • Offer to take on more projects or to assist a coworker whose plate is too full
  • If you find or develop a way to complete a task more efficiently, share the tip with the entire department via email

We are always our own best advocates in the workplace. Don't assume anyone will notice your stellar performance. Take responsibility for letting others know what an exceptional job you do, even if it means you literally have to brag about it.