Be Your Own Superhero: A Case for Self-Promotion at Work


No one likes a bragger, I get it. But if you never talk about your accomplishments you may be doing your career a serious disservice. I encounter many people who do amazing work on a regular basis, and I’m often concerned when I don’t see them talking about it.

Transparency and visibility is incredibly important, especially in growing or large organizations. We would all like to think that our work will speak for itself, but most of the time it doesn’t. If you’re lucky, others will sometimes take notice and speak for your work. But you shouldn’t count on it, nor should you count on anyone else to talk about your work with the same passion as you.

You are your own superhero

Any good manager will talk about their employee’s work and bring attention to their success. However, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to talk about every employee and every project. If you want your hard work acknowledged, you need to take control. Some might call this being your own champion, but I like to call it being your own superhero. Most people can visualize superheroes easier than champions.

Some people may say it’s not in their nature to talk about their work. While I understand it may not feel comfortable or natural at first, it’s a critical skill you must develop. So you better get out that cape and spandex, because no one else is going to rescue you.

Do the other 50 percent

There are two parts to every project. First you do the actual work, whether it’s crafting a plan, acting on that plan, or both. Regardless, most people envision the completion of their project and stop when they reach that point. What they don’t know is that their end goal is actually only 50 percent of the job. The other half, and arguably most critical, is telling the story.

Think of it from a business perspective. It’s not enough for a company to create an amazing product. They must tell others about it and make it clear how the product will benefit customers’ lives, ultimately resulting in a sale. In the same way, you can work hard and meet every goal you’ve set out for your project, but without the creation and delivery of the story, it has little impact. Determine the appropriate audience and tell your story in a way that will demonstrate the value it provides.

Choose your battles

The key to humble self-promotion is to choose your battles. We all have a list of daily to-dos, and I guarantee you no one wants to hear about them. Don’t be that guy. Focus your self-promotion opportunities on your key accomplishments. If you’ve set a goal for the quarter and you’re making progress, let your manager know. Subtly work it into conversations here and there with co-workers.

Once you achieve a substantial goal, take the time to craft the story. The size of your company and scale of the project will dictate the correct timing and manner to tell it. If your project affects stakeholders, prepare a solid presentation and deliver it with confidence. If you present it to management and don’t feel like it’s received proper attention beyond leadership, don’t be afraid to ask for an opportunity to present your story to others. Dialogue will help create awareness of your need for support from your manager. On the other hand, it may also spark some important insight from your manager on why now might not be the right time.

Don’t forget your sidekick(s)

It’s not all about you. While self-promotion is a critical skill, it’s also incredibly important to talk about those who helped you. In most situations, you didn’t accomplish your goal or project alone; someone either supported you or facilitated it in some way, or you were leading the charge of a group effort.

Use “we” often when crafting your story, and do your part to highlight the efforts of all those who contributed. The only thing worse than a bragger is someone who takes credit for someone else’s work. (No need to create enemies.) Don’t worry about your contribution being overlooked. It will be exemplified through your team and your ability to lead them.

Acknowledge your character development

In addition to your accomplishments and milestones, don’t forget about your developing skills and strengths. Don’t wait for your annual review to talk to your manager or others about your growing skill set. If you are improving in an area, talk about it. If you’ve added a new skill, show it off.

You are never the same person today that you were yesterday. Marketing yourself does not stop once you get hired or promoted. You need to continue to market yourself within your organization. Self-promotion can be scary, but in the end management will appreciate your candor, self-awareness, and determination.

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