The Art of Self-Promotion #BeX

Me!By Justin Honaman

Ambitious <adj>: Having or showing a strong desire and determination to succeed; intended to satisfy high aspirations and therefore difficult to achieve.

Tenacious <adj>: Not easily dispelled or discouraged; persisting in existence or in a course of action.

What does self-promotion mean to you? Is it a topic with which you are familiar, comfortable and passionate about? It means ensuring that your manager is aware of your accomplishments. It means seeking feedback and credit, where appropriate. It means proactively networking with influential figures inside and/or outside of your business. It means ensuring that others on your team are recognized upward and across, and that their accomplishments are celebrated. When they win, you win.

Self-promotion demonstrates that you are ready for the next challenge or, at a minimum, have a desire to take on additional responsibilities. Self-promotion is your outward demonstration of self-confidence. It is also you demonstrating a vision for the future – a desire to make a difference. It is balancing confidence and assertiveness with professionalism and personality.

The result is that others take notice. Others come to know you, your interests, and your passions. Others are invited to buy into your brand. You are top of mind. And others are interested because you are interesting.

The challenge with self-promotion is that it sounds and feels unnatural. The key is making it part of your routine in a tactful, relevant way. It starts with knowing your audience. For example, when I make strides in my personal pursuits outside of work (music, writing, speaking, etc.), I share these accomplishments with a small subset of my total network. These are individuals that appreciate my passion for these interests and recognize them for the value they bring to others. Some in my network that do not know me well might perceive this information as being boastful or arrogant. Therefore, I do not include them on my list for these updates and communications.

The same thinking may be employed at work.

What you accomplish at work and what your team accomplishes together may be perfectly appropriate to celebrate and communicate to company colleagues and associates but completely inappropriate for Facebook and LinkedIn colleagues. Organizational leaders love to recognize and celebrate wins, especially over the competition! When we sign the next multi-year contract, my business colleagues will appreciate and celebrate the win. But to someone working in another business altogether, with no context of the accomplishment, it is a wasted communication.

Saying less is saying more. If you are on Facebook, you inevitably have friends who post status updates covering every aspect of their lives. At some point you tune them out or un-friend them. Whether at work or outside of work, what you say and how frequently you communicate correlates directly to others’ interest in listening to you.

By using facts and figures, you are able to take the focus off of you and center the message on the accomplishment of results. When I communicate major team accomplishments at work, I mix numbers with relational and personal recognition. I am also selective about frequency of messaging, sometimes saving news to bundle into a larger communication.

I was recently at breakfast with a colleague who is an up-and-coming leader within a major non-profit where I volunteer my time. We had begun a conversation on self-promotion and as we sat down, he asked, “How do I make others aware of my desire to do more, to step up, and to take on more responsibility, without it appearing to be an overt strategy to ‘take over’ or ‘one-up’ others?”

Great question! Essentially, he wanted to know how to self-promote without appearing overly confident, competitive, or boastful. I asked him who he admired within his organization. I asked who he would most like to receive coaching and advice from if the opportunity presented itself. I asked who he could reach out to and engage as members of his personal advisory board. We then discussed a list of questions that he could ask that would demonstrate his knowledge of the organization, his interest in the long-term vision, his passion for the mission, and his overwhelming desire to be a part of leading and growing the organization in the future. These questions serve as his mechanism for artful self-promotion. He was able to express his interest in doing more while subtly explaining that he feels like his capacity is greater than his current demands. Who owns your career? If not you, who?


  • Communicate Up: Does your boss or manager know what you are truly passionate about? Does she know your true strengths? Does he understand the vision you have for your career?
  • Communicate Out: How much time during the week do you dedicate to professional development? How much time do you spend building relationships outside of your current team, meeting with leaders in other parts of the business, or meeting with colleagues in other parts of the business altogether? How much time are you investing in developing your intra-company network? These are all relationships that might provide some bit of insight, advice, or counsel that could prove useful in your career progression. If you don’t reach out, how will other leaders know you? How do you ensure that the “full schedule” does not stop you from investing strategically in new relationships?
  • Coach The Team: How do you assist your team with self-promotion? First, when someone new joins my team, I provide him or her with a lengthy list of organization leaders with whom to meet – individuals that support our team and who are also making a significant impact in the organization. I want to immediately kick-start their internal company network. I encourage the new person to make it a point to meet everyone on this list at some point in their first 90-120 days on the job. What steps are you taking to assist your team in developing their reach within the organization, thereby establishing a platform for their own self-promotion now and in the future?
  • Think Beyond The HR Process: Most talent management processes are structured to provide visibility into talent within a specific business group. The formalized process may include regular talent roundtables at which people leaders present their team, recognize top performers, and help place talent in open boxes on the organization chart.It may also include formal talent mapping and tagging. The challenge with these structured talent processes is that they typically do not cross over into other organization segments. For example, if you are in supply chain and your aspiration is to work in strategic brand management or sales, you are most likely not even going to show up on the talent management snapshot reviewed by leadership in that part of the organization. The only solution is for you to invest in developing relationships with leaders in that part of the business so that you can learn more about their organization, understand the types of skills and abilities needed in specific roles, and educate them on your passions, your strengths, and your value proposition. This is all part of active and effective self-promotion.
  • Accept And Appreciate Support: Accept others who choose to help you with your own self-promotion. When you are recognized, appreciate it. Wins do not come often enough for most, and many are not recognized publicly. When given the opportunity, take it and appreciate it. And pay it forward. If the opportunity exists, identify the other individuals who played a part in your win. Celebrating others is a great leadership character trait and will strengthen your brand.

BOTTOM LINE:  If It's To Be, It Must Be ME!