Earlier this week, I was reading an article from Harvard Business Review on the perils of self-promotion.
In it, executive editor Sarah Green Carmichael laments the flood of self-help and self-promotion article pitches the magazine receives on a daily basis. Annoyed, yet also intrigued, she dived into a range of self-help literature to better understand the mentality behind the trend.
Of particular interest is a quote from psychologist Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, who suggests that low self-confidence rather than an eager ego is what drives success. He writes “wanting to be good at something is incompatible with thinking you are good at something”, and that the best approach to furthering your life and career is “not to have high confidence, but to have high competence”.
Steeped in research, the point Chamorro-Premuzic makes is a strong one. Nevertheless, both writers are too quick to dismiss the potential of self-promotion. The truth is, to make the most out of any situation, we must be both capable and confident.
That will not sit easily with some people. They will dismiss self-promotion as self-adulation, cockiness, showmanship. Such interpretation is likely inspired by personal experience.
I get it. There’s a certain irony that comes with self-promotion in that to do it well it must be subtle, and come from a place of authenticity.
Beyond the obvious opportunities it can inspire, the internal benefits of self-promotion are bountiful. Through it, you can:
Better Understand Your Audience
A strong self-promoter contributes rather than controls a conversation. They understand every intricacy of what they offer, and so can employ their expertise and experience to keep discussions flowing.
Rather than pouncing on any opportunity to speak, they listen to those they are talking with, hear their concerns, and then respond with knowledge and passion.
Through this you establish your reputation as a problem solver, someone who can be trusted on to provide helpful advice and resources when they are most needed.
Communicate More Effectively
We’ve all worked in environments where inter-department relationships or hierarchy impact our confidence to speak up when we feel we have something to say. It’s a tremendous problem that limits any business’s ability to grow. Self-promotion can go a long way in solving the issue.
Not only does it inspire those who might feel throttled to raise their concerns, it allows them to call upon their skill set and abilities to justify them.
Just because one employee is higher on the office food chain than another doesn’t necessarily mean they are infallible. The more self-promoters summon the courage to demonstrate this, the more effectively companies will communicate, and the better they will become.
Learn to Value Your Work
This is the big one.
Most of the people I know who are averse to self-promotion are so for the simple reason that they don’t recognise the value of their own work.
Self-promotion deals with this by making you get out of your own way. To make an impression on someone, you must push aside your fears and doubts long enough to recognise your value. When they do, you will as well.
If you’re still hesitating, think of it like this: if what you can offer has the ability to change even one person’s life for the better, not offering it will only make two people’s lives a little worse.
Which would you choose?
Now, here are a few tips for what a strong self-promoter should avoid doing at all costs:
- Don’t talk for the sake of talking. Finding every opportunity to show off your knowledge is nowhere near as impactful as finding the right time.
- Don’t be pompous. Don’t use complex words to sound smart. It doesn’t work. Be anecdotal, but avoid anything that sounds like you’re showing off.
- Don’t make it about you. Make it about what you offer, and avoid starting every sentence with “I”.
- Don’t take all the credit. Refer to your sources. It shows that you’re learned, without being braggy.
For all this, it’s important to keep Chamorro-Premuzic’s point in mind. High competence is still what matters most when grasping an opportunity. Faking it until you make it is all well and good, provided that if you do make it, you have the ability to back up such assuredness and deliver.
Now it’s up to you to find the balance, put yourself out there, and make the most of what you alone can offer.
You’ve got this.