The Art of Self Promotion

Heroes must see to their own fame. No one else will.

Gore Vidal

Self promotion really is an art form to be mastered if you want to be successful in business. For most people, witnessing someone outright bragging is a turn-off. It often reeks of desperation and insecurity. Early in my career, I never really knew how or why to toot my horn. I valued being humble and always assumed that the people that mattered would just somehow know what my contributions were and reward me accordingly. I was wrong.

As a former management consultant, people are the company’s asset. Your brain and skills are “sold” to clients as a premium service. People are the product. Because of this unique business model, it’s critical that people know your value. Your value (actual or perceived) impacts what projects you get, what connections are made on your behalf, and how people perceive you and your work (e.g., are you a “rockstar” on your way to being an executive?). Inevitably, this perception also impacts your ratings, pay, bonuses and promotion potential. So what happens when you fail to convey your value? It’s not pretty. Your ability to promote yourself has real-world implications on your career trajectory and bank account.

I remember years ago, I traveled overseas with a team of other consultants for a project. We worked a long day and after the team dinner, everyone else except me and a more senior manager hung around in the restaurant to continue working. Aside from my main project, I had a number of unrelated “side projects” that I had volunteered to lead or support. Although I was weary from jet lag and the day’s work, I’ll never forget what the manager said to me before she went to bed.She said, “You’re doing all of this extra work but no one knows about it. No one will ever know you’re doing this.” That comment will stay with me forever and made me really rethink what I was spending my time on and how I was selling myself. Fast forward to today, I’m older and much wiser, and have learned how to navigate my way in a more strategic and smart way.

So, how do you get your achievements known without being annoying and alienating yourself from your peers? Here are some things I’ve learned from my own journey as well as others:

Focus on What Matters.Not all of the work that exists is valuable to your organization. Sure, it may need to get done and from that perspective, it’s important, but ask yourself if it’s of strategic value to the people that matter.

Find At Least One Advocate.Find someone of influence to be your hype-man or hype-woman. These are well-respected people that will speak on your behalf in conversations and meetings that you aren’t even aware of.

Be Visible. Related to the above, have lunches or coffee chats with people in the organization. This is where you can share what interesting projects you’re working on in a more organic and personal way. Besides fellowship, these chats help to inform your contacts so that they are better prepared to speak up for you in a positive light if the occasion arises.

Don’t Alienate Your Peers. Never self promote at the expense of others. People will notice what you’re doing and it will likely backfire in a major way. Your accomplishments will shine on their own and shouldn’t require you to dim someone else’s light.

Best of luck!


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Aji OliyideComment