“No way,” my colleague said. “I don’t need to show her what I’ve done. She knows.”
I argued my case for a brief moment and then realized that convincing my colleague to promote herself was a lost cause. She’s just not that kind of person. She would rather people see her great work—she does great work—then point it out to them. She doesn’t like to “brag,” in her words.
If you’re like my colleague and don’t feel it’s necessary to promote yourself, consider the following points.
1. The philosophical question, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” comes to mind in the instance with my colleague. I reason if your manager isn’t around to hear or read of your accomplishments, she won’t hear it; there’ll be no sound. All the good work you’ve done may go unnoticed and unrewarded.
So bring your boss into the forest so she can hear the tree fall. Of course a tree makes a sound when it falls, but the sound doesn’t reach human ears. Only when human ears hear the tree will they believe it made a sound.
2. It’s okay to promote yourself in a tactful way. The wrong way to self-promote would be to announce during a meeting that your customer said you’re the best thing since sliced bread. This will cause your colleagues to turn to each other and mouth, “What a braggart.”
The correct way would be catching your boss alone and making her aware of the flattering email you received, without going into detail ad nauseum. If you are more introverted, simply forwarding the email to your boss would be fine (it also creates a paper trail for future recall.)
3. If you don’t promote yourself no one will. Do you think your colleagues who are eyeing a promotion that is suitable for both of you is going to promote your greatness, instead of his? Hell no. Additionally, he might make it clear that he is the best person for the job by touting his accomplishments any time he can (even when it’s not warranted).
You are the captain of your ship, so don’t let anyone else steer it. By no means am I saying to look for opportunities to self-promote. No, promote yourself when the time warrants it.
4. Your chances of advancing at work will be greater if you promote yourself. My colleague believes her results speak louder than words, and this may be true; but the spoken word can better reinforce her results than if she were to say nothing…or not send an email.
Advancement comes to those whose performance are recognized. You may be equally strong, or stronger, than one of your colleagues; but if your colleague tactfully promotes himself, he will probably get the nod when it comes time for advancement at work.
You may feel the same way my colleague does about self-promotion. You may be a person who believes self-promotion is bragging. Read this article from Susan Cain’s Quiet Revolution: Success without Self-Promotion.
But ask yourself this: will I kick myself for not at least forwarding an email to my boss? Is it possible that she would appreciate knowing about my accomplishment? If the answer to these questions is yes, promote yourself in a way you’re comfortable with.