Office Hours: How to Self-Promote Without Feeling Like a Show-off

Talking yourself up when it’s expected, say, during a job interview, is one thing. But doing it during a team meeting or one-on-one with your boss can feel silly, phony, even slimy. As a result, many women don’t do it—and hold back their careers.

So how do you take credit for your work and feel authentic to yourself? Here, three executive women offer their advice:

Lisa Heritage McLin
Vice President, Channel Sales and Channel Chief, Rackspace
TX Conference for Women Board Director

“Frame it as serving your organization and team as well as your career. Leadership needs to know where you are in the overall journey of creating the end result (strategy plan) you agreed to—and you are simply communicating your progress. They might take some of your ideas to help their teams, which serves the company even more. 

“Leadership also wants to know when customers, partners and other employees are pleased with your work, so think of it as your responsibility to pass along any accolades you receive. Doing this shows that you are proud of your work and how you are supporting the company.

“You should communicate this as the opportunity naturally occurs. When you come from a place of serving, it’s not bragging; it’s serving the higher good of sharing—and this gives you the exposure you deserve!” 

Carol Fulp
President and CEO, The Partnership, Inc.
MA Conference for Women Board Director

“It’s important for women to be proud, yet not too confident in their accomplishments. It’s also important for women to be strategic when taking credit for their work. I recommend using these five emotional intelligence skills to avoid being overly self-promoting: 

1) Self-Awareness – Recognize your worth, but have a realistic self-assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. Ask yourself: how do you present yourself to others? How do others perceive you? 

2) Self-Regulation –  Pause and reflect before acting. Take a moment and be mindful: What is the purpose of your self-recognition? What do you hope to achieve? Be open to making adjustments and be flexible when needed. 

3) Motivation – Be authentic and showcase loyalty. Those qualities will be very clear to your audience. Actions speak louder than words here. 

4) Empathy – Be mindful of your audience. Ask yourself what are the needs of others? What are their backgrounds? How well do they know you?  Find the balance of being thoughtful while recognizing your accomplishments. 

5) Social Skill – Lead teams through finding common ground and building rapport. Listen to and understand the people you work with. Build trust and work to gain allies.  Finally, have fun!”

Karen Courter
Senior Director, Global Contact Centers, Applied Global Services, Applied Materials

“I know it is hard especially for women to self-promote—I had to get used to it. But it can be done. One easy opportunity is the annual review, when most of us have to write a self-assessment. In this document, I am not shy!  Some of us expect our managers to remember everything we have done; we think ‘my work speaks for itself.’ But chances are your manager is not going to remember everything you have accomplished over the year, so put it in writing! 

“As a leader, you can also take credit for your work by giving others credit. I make sure I am always promoting the work done by my people, I celebrate the team’s successes, I send kudos emails that my team receives to my leadership team and I am constantly sharing the results achieved by my organization with my leader. A leader is only as good as his/her people, so by showcasing the great work my team is doing, I am taking credit for my work without sounding like ‘look at me, look at what I am doing.’ What’s more, by recognizing and encouraging my team, I increase their motivation, so the overall results improve and consequently I get recognized as a strong leader without having to sound like a braggart.” 


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