Whether you’re angling for a job change, promotion or just a pat on the back from your boss, learning how to promote yourself at work can give you the edge you need.
Just ask Lauren Bowling, a content strategist in Atlanta. In 2012 the 27-year-old was applying for an administrative assistant position, but inadvertently landed herself a job she was more passionate about because she spoke so enthusiastically about her off-time interests: blogging and social media.
The hiring manager was impressed by the fact that Bowling had over 1,000 Twitter followers — more than the company had — and that she sought out webinars to learn more about how to market herself.
"I didn't get the administrative assistant job, but three weeks later, they called and said they were looking for someone to run their social media," she says. "They thought I’d be a good fit.”
The lesson learned? “If I don’t promote myself, no one else will,” Bowling says. “I’m the expert on me and my story.”
To master the art of self-promotion, check out these six techniques geared toward helping you build a personal brand that projects confidence — not arrogance — and will make others pay attention.
1. Keep Tabs on Achievements
Before you can talk about your accomplishments, you have to pinpoint what they are.
Think back: When was the last time that you updated your résumé? If it's been a while, chances are there are awards you've won, speaking engagements you've rocked and successful projects you've managed.
So keep a running list — whether it's in a Word doc or the Notes app on your phone — and review it weekly, monthly or quarterly. Be sure to include impressive, quantifiable facts, such as saving the company money by bringing an outsourced project in-house, or increasing sales by 10% last quarter.
This way, when you're ready to start self-promoting, you'll know exactly what to highlight, says Leonard Lang, Ph.D., a career coach at Beard Avenue Coaching in Minneapolis, and the author of “Guide to Lifework.”
This can be especially helpful when you're preparing for a performance review, Lang says, since that's a time when you know your contributions will be evaluated. Plus, it's an opportunity to position yourself for the promotion or raise you’re after.
Sprinkle in the term 'we' and the names of other key players in your stories, to keep from sounding like a braggart.
2. Flex Your Storytelling Muscles
Of course, reading off that list isn’t the most palatable way to draw attention to your accomplishments — which is why Lang recommends refining your storytelling skills.
If your boss or another coworker asks you a general question — "How's that big project going?" — instead of blurting out a fact — “Amazing! I’m singlehandedly increasing departmental revenue!” — take the opportunity to frame your success in narrative form, with a beginning, middle and end.
Add in moments of drama, such as problems that you had to overcome along the way, to keep it interesting and sustain the listener’s attention.
By doing this, you're relaying a triumphant story that people will remember — and possibly even retell. The best part: You are the heroic protagonist.
Just don't let that get to your head, and overuse the word "I." Sprinkle in the term "we" and the names of other key players, to keep from sounding like a braggart.
3. Lend a Helping Hand
It may seem counterintuitive, but the Golden Rule — treating others as you’d like to be treated — works surprisingly well when it comes to getting ahead at work.
Helping someone else could be as simple as trouble-shooting with your coworker when she’s at a crossroads on an important project, or offering to make a strategic connection for someone you just met at a networking event.
When you go out of your way to be generous, Lang says, it builds your reputation as a kind and resourceful professional — and that sticks with people.
"Plus, that person you helped will inevitably try to help you in return,” Lang says.
4. Power Up Your Social Media Presence
Now that you have the skills to wow a live audience with tales of your success, it’s important to also keep your online followers updated.
A good place to start is your LinkedIn profile. "Add examples of projects that you've done, PowerPoints or charts, and images that showcase work you've completed — anything to make it stand out," says Donna Schilder, an executive and career coach based in Long Beach, California.
Not only will this beefed-up profile garner attention from recruiters and other influencers in your industry, but it’s also likely to catch the eye of your boss if you're connected on LinkedIn.
As an extra step, post regular status updates that hint at what you’re doing well at work, like a link to the academic paper you published, or a photo from a recent conference. And it's especially advantageous to offer a tip every once in a while, so your connections can take away some value from your posts.
When one of Schilder's clients was reading a leadership book her boss recommended, she posted nuggets of wisdom she gained from it. This move showed her boss that she paid attention to the request, Schilder says, and lent her credibility as a blossoming leader within the company.
5. Strengthen Cross-Functional Relationships
If your job description includes collaborating with employees in other departments, it’s crucial to nurture those relationships — it will give you a glimpse of your company from a different perspective, plus make you a more knowledgeable employee.
So set up regular one-on-one check-ins with your cross-functional partners to make sure the projects you’re working on are running smoothly, as well as brainstorm ways to work together more effectively in the future.
What you're doing at your company isn't as important as what others perceive you're doing, so be proactive in spreading good news.
"Come with a set of intelligent questions, listen to what the person says, and then ask, 'What are your challenges?'" Schilder says.
Once you're equipped with this information, you can then segue into a discussion about how you can fix any issues that have arisen since your last meeting.
After all, the more value you can provide to people in different departments, the more valuable you'll be to the company as a whole. And that's exactly the kind of personal brand that can help you get to the next level.
Did you break a sales record? Hire the employee of the year? Improve a business process that's leading to more efficiency in the office?
Whenever you want to draw attention to something great you’ve done, Schilder and Lang both recommend asking your manager if you can point it out by recognizing everyone who helped you achieve that goal.
Maybe it’s a group dinner for the team of people who helped you develop a successful advertising campaign, or cookies in the conference room for the people who helped you boost customer satisfaction on a specific product upgrade.
Regardless, this move can give your colleagues a morale boost, endear them to you for helping promote their successes — and make them more likely to return the favor.
Remember: What you're doing at your company isn't as important as what others perceive you're doing, so be proactive in spreading good news through celebrations.