“I thought I was doing a good job at self-promoting, but the feedback I am getting from my management is that I am not. What am I doing wrong?”
This quote is from one of my female clients and sadly it is an all too common complaint. The stereotype is that men are better at self-promotion than women and that women often keep their achievements to themselves for fear of sounding like they are bragging. However, until the playing field is level, there is a need to play the same game whilst self-promoting in a way that is comfortable.
This is a bit like telling someone to do a Rubik’s cube – we know we must be able to, but it’s far more difficult than it looks.
Here is my straight forward 5 step plan to help all women to get themselves noticed for the right reasons and by the right people.
“I am a collaborative team player with a very strong network”. This may sound like a strength but, if you are trying to self-promote, this statement actually has zero value because it is vague. You need be more specific about what you bring to the table. Instead you could say, “I’m known for being collaborative and have a strong network. This allowed me to bring the ABC project deadline forward 2 months early”.
What’s in it for them? Make sure you impact the person you are speaking to.
“ABC project was brought in 2 months early because of the XYZ connections and saved the company £20,000 in expenditure”. Your network is not the point. They may care more about the bottom line.
Link achievements to strategy
Another common mistake is half baking an achievement. Linking to corporate strategy not only makes you sound more firm focused, it’s also the language used to get to the top.
“I know your main focus for 2015 is cutting expenditure by 15% across all supporting business functions. I wanted you to know that Project ABC came in £20,000 under the original budget”. It’s still exactly the same thing, but different in its perception.
Play the game
You may think that your achievements are not worth promoting because you were “just doing your job”. Please open your ears at work. Some men are just ‘doing their job’ too – watch to see how many people they tell. Sadly, it is just not enough for only your immediate boss and team to know how hardworking, dedicated and smart you are.
Use your champions
If no 4 has you thinking ‘I’d rather keep it to myself than sound like a bragger with tall poppy syndrome’, take heart, most women find this uncomfortable. Having champions a few levels above you to bray for you makes it less awkward. Don’t have champions? It’s time to start singling them out. If you have champions, then kudos! Now ask yourself how often do you update them? Are you missing anyone internally or externally?
After working through these 5 steps and talking specifically about her achievements at her company, my client had a light bulb moment and hasn’t looked back since. Her senior management are crystal clear on what she brings to the table and have her in their sights for the next promotion round.
The promotion you want won’t necessarily come knocking. You need to do the ground work ahead of time and make it easier for people to recognise the work you have already done. However much you hate the idea, self-promotion is a big part of this and can help you get to that next step on the ladder.
Sophie Clark is an expert in training individuals and groups to speak with more confidence and impact. She specialises in female focused training to elevate women at all levels with their work and career conversations.
About the author
Sophie Clark is a communication trainer and coach. She specialises in helping female clients improve their work conversations, presentations, public speaking, pitching and networking skills She works with individuals and small groups helping them reach their full potential and appear confident, clear and concise. Her clients have included among many others: HSBC, KPMG, Unilever, Fidelity, LVMH, Coca Cola, Skadden Arps and Goldman Sachs.