How to master the art of self-promotion - Michelle Gibbings

Thanks to CEOWorld Magazine, in this article Michelle shares how mastering the art of self-promotion is crucial in today’s competitive job market. 

In today’s competitive job market and ever-changing workplaces, mastering the art of self-promotion is crucial, yet it’s a delicate balance.

Promote yourself too much, and you risk coming across as arrogant and alienating colleagues, while if you do it too little, you can miss out on opportunities and career growth. The aim is to strike the appropriate balance where self-promotion is a career accelerator, rather than a derailer.

Know the warning signs

Firstly, assess whether you under or overpromote yourself, noting that your approach may vary depending on the audience you are with. For example, you may underpromote with people more senior than you but overpromote with your peers and team members.

Personality, cultural norms, gender, identity and organizational culture all play a part in helping or hindering how comfortable a person is in engaging in self-promotion. These factors interact in complex ways to influence a person’s approach.

For example, personality traits such as extraversion and narcissism are positively associated with self-promotion. Same too for people coming from individualistic cultures that emphasize individual success. At the same time, societal expectations and stereotypes about gender roles have resulted in some women feeling less comfortable engaging in self-promotion than men. Individuals with a strong self are often more comfortable promoting themselves, while an organization’s culture and the individual’s boss can either reward or discourage such behaviour.

Using the table below, challenge yourself and discover your approach across five key variables: value, recognition, feedback, relationships and outcomes.

You want to identify if there are factors that are hindering your approach, so you can strive to adopt a balanced approach.


Find the balance

Finding the balance starts by knowing your audience and the context.

Across three studies, Professor Irene Scopelliti and colleagues found that self-promoters overestimated the positive outcomes their behaviour would elicit and underestimated the negative. They advised that the “optimal point on this trade-off may vary depending on the audience, the history between the interacting parties, and the situation”.

A separate study from the University of Amsterdam supported that position, discovering that an employee’s self-promotion was more effective when they had a narcissistic leader.

Different people have different tolerance levels for self-promotion, which means that what’s effective with one person may not be with another. For example, some individuals may prefer more direct forms of self-promotion, while others may respond better to indirect forms.

Similarly, the context matters. For example, when you are in a job interview it’s expected that the candidate will seek to promote their skills and experience. In contrast, different cultures may have different norms around self-promotion and its suitability.

Establish credibility and share credit

To self-promote successfully, you must do the groundwork to establish credibility as a competent, trustworthy professional and team player. This process starts with consistently delivering high-quality work, meeting deadlines, and being easy to work with and effective.

While promoting yourself is important, it’s equally important to acknowledge and promote others and express your gratitude to colleagues who have helped. Likewise, when receiving compliments or recognition, be gracious and humble. Sharing credit, recognizing other people’s contributions, and being gracious enhances your reputation.

Build strong relationships

Building solid relationships with your colleagues and superiors can also help you successfully self-promote at work. Establishing strong relationships allows you to create advocates who will speak on your behalf and support your career growth.

In three experimental studies, Professor of Organisational Behavior Jeffrey Pfeffer and colleagues discovered that using a third party to make positive comments can shield the person from adverse consequences.

The researchers found “People whose praises are sung by others are perceived as more likeable, and this likeability leads, in turn, to a greater willingness to do favors or expend extra effort on behalf of that individual”.

Strategically Assess your Position

Before effectively promoting yourself, you need to know your value to your organization. What are your unique strengths and contributions? How have you helped the company achieve its goals?

You will want data and evidence to support your position—for example, quantifiable and objective metrics, such as revenue growth or project completion rates. Plus, tangible examples demonstrate where your efforts have had a positive impact.

Selective and Receptive

To avoid the trap of arrogance and overpromoting, you want to be selective in what, when, and how you share. It helps to frame your accomplishments in a way that highlights their value to the organization and acknowledges your colleagues’ efforts.

You can share successes directly or indirectly and internal and external to your organization. Remember, however, that while social media is a powerful tool for self-promotion, it can also be a double-edged sword, so be mindful of what you post and how others may perceive it.

Seek feedback from your colleagues and managers. Ask for constructive criticism on your work and how you can improve. Doing this helps you grow and develop professionally and shows that you’re open to feedback and committed to improving.

Proactively Practice

To avoid the trap of underpromoting, you want to be proactive and practice. Like any skill, self-promotion can develop and improve over time. Consider seeking support from a coach, mentor, or trusted colleague to help you establish effective self-promotion strategies and overcome any barriers or challenges you may face.

Lastly, seek out opportunities to showcase your skills. For example, you can volunteer for high-profile projects or offer to take on more responsibility. Doing this provides opportunities to showcase your skills and abilities and can also connect you with high-level decision-makers in your organization.

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