Wednesday, 03 February 2021
Self-promotion is a vital career building skill – however, according to a poll in our Know Yourself Before You Can Promote Yourself' webinar, less than one in ten of us think we're any good at it. Conversely, a whopping 81% of us find promoting a friend or colleague easy-peasy. So why the disparity? Maybe because people often confuse self-promotion with showing off.
The first step is to acknowledge that promoting oneself (log in to access the Promoting Yourself workbook) and bragging are two very different kettles of fish. The second is to understand that by not embracing a bit of self promotion we can often miss out on golden opportunities. Learning how to promote ourselves need not be daunting either: it’s simply a lesson in discovering who we are and what we're all about.
According to everywoman webinar speaker and management coach Sara Parsons, being able to promote yourself is also crucial because none of us really want to have to rely on other people doing it for us. What if it never happens? Or what if that person doesn’t promote the aspects of ourselves we'd really like them to promote? "Discovering who you are in order to promote yourself is about looking at and framing yourself – you strengths and your weaknesses," says Sara. "We hear it all the time, men are better than we are at promoting themselves. Men put themselves forward for things even if they’re not 100% sure they can do it. Women tend not to." So really, we have a duty to ourselves and other women to get that ball rolling.
But how do we go about recognising our own strengths when we’re all so used to being so modest all the time? Here are five exercises from Sara to get you started.
Go on, try it. Write down all the things you’ve achieved and helped out with, during your career and your life in general. Have you done voluntary work? Have you ever trained someone? Did you learn to drive in the space of a month? Have you ever been responsible for changing the way a company operates, even in a small way? Get it all down on paper.
Sara highlights an experience she had recently with her 18-year-old daughter: "She had just found out she had a Skype interview for a ski instructor job. She said 'Mum, I don’t know what to say!' So we sat down and talked about what she'd achieved, including work experience and how’d she taught and helped out in lots of ways in our community. By the end of our session she had loads of examples. On the other hand, my 16-year-old son, who had about a third of my daughter's experience, had no trouble talking about what he'd would have said in the same interview!" The moral of the story: you’ve done way more than you think you have – you just have to spend some time recalling it all. Plus it feels good when you see it all written down!
How would you describe yourself generally? Trustworthy? Chatty? Sad? Moody? Get in all down in black and white and if there are areas that you’d like to work on, you can. Next, describe your working style – for example, do you micromanage? Are you hands on? Hands off? Approachable? Not approachable? If you’re finding it hard to pinpoint your working style, think about what your colleagues might say about you. Now, describe your strengths. You're allowed to go to town here! Are you creative? Organised? Calm and level-headed? Do you make people feel comfortable? These are all skills you can bring up when promoting yourself.
Someone compliments you on a great presentation, you reply: "Oh no, it wasn’t that good, I didn't prepare for it very well, I could have done better. Plus, I was all flustered when I got up there in front of everyone" Let's face it we've all done it – we think it comes across as humble and likable. But responding with a negative when someone gives you a compliment can actually leave the other person wondering whether they'd got us all wrong in the first place – and no one wants that.
Now jot down a few examples of when you've put yourself down rather than talk yourself up and reflect on how that might have come across to the person giving you the compliment in each scenario. Now reflect on how you felt. A bit flat actually? There's an easy cure for using occasions like this to promote rather than negate your achievements and it goes like this: pause and say thank you. Or even go one step further and say 'Thank you, I did a lot of research on that presentation so I’m really glad you liked it'. So much better and not in the least bit show-offy!
Think of a meeting you were in with someone you didn't know very well. If you were asked to describe that person what would you say? How did they come across? Were they dynamic? Shy? Negative? Did they speak positively to their peers and bosses but talk down to their reports? Did they introduce themselves and describe their role in the company/project or were you left scratching your head about what they actually do? This exercise is to get you thinking about how you come across to people you don’t in your business. As Sara puts it, "We don’t think enough about how we come across in situations like this and we always need to be aware of what first impression we make." Sarah suggests another exercise: make a point of introducing yourself in your next meeting. It's the perfect time to give a bit of yourself to new people, so introduce yourself and tell them what you do. For example 'I joined this project because I worked on X before and we did X together.' No one will be any doubt what your role is, who you are or that you can be counted upon to do a great job after that.
It’s not just about saying the right thing, self promotion is hugely dependent on the first impression you give. So think about what these three specific areas say about you:
Your working environment: what does your desk communicate? Does it say you're organised and in control? Does it say you're creative and inspired? Does it say you're friendly and family-loving (those wedding shots are a giveaway)? Does it say you're a bit scatty? Or worse, does it say nothing about you at all? Ideally, you’re looking for a mix of the first two or three things.
Your dress: are you dressed for your environment? Clothes are so important, so take a cue from how inspiring colleagues and bosses are kitted out.
Your body language: Are you open (facing the person? Smiling)? Are you closed (arms crossed? Checking your phone while you talk)? Are you ready to talk?
From looking at your desk, dress and body language, people will make an impression of you and promote you or not promote you based upon this – so really think about this.
Once we take the time to start practicing and reflecting on these five simple exercises we're really on our way to building up a personal dossier of all our strengths and skills, which will be ready to call upon at a minute's notice – at work or in an interview perhaps. Self-promotion can be natural and easy when we know how – and it's in our power to embrace it right now.