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Self-promotion is a vital facet of communication because it’s the area in which you convey to others your capabilities and experience. It is a form of sales, but must be done tastefully, subtly you might say, if you are not in an interview situation. Although self-promotion is a critical piece of success, it’s an area that many women find uncomfortable. Discomfort stems from the socialization of girls and women that teaches them to shrink from the spotlight and blend in with others. It requires a certain brashness that is more consistent with the way boys are raised rather than their female counterparts, who often learn overtly and by example, to be demur and soft-spoken. While you should seek a style that is comfortable to you, you must let others know what you can do..
Today’s leaders know that self-promotion is a key aspect of their effectiveness in rising up a corporate ladder. People need to see what you do to recognize it. Too often, women believe that if you do the right thing, you’ll be rewarded. I come back to the old story about the tree in the forest: if a tree falls and there is no one there to hear it, did it make a sound?
Signal you are ready for a promotion
How can you utilize self-promotion to signal that you are ready for advancement? Share with your boss the next six things you are thinking about in regard to your business, rather than the last six things that you did. This technique shows that you are assessing how to take the business to the next level, which is a key to promotion. Taking on responsibilities associated with that next level, whenever possible, is also a compelling signal.
“Reality is reality, and perception is too. People have to feel comfortable promoting you,” comments Carole Black, CEO of Lifetime Television. Focus on achieving in her current job and presenting herself so others think she’ll fit the next position has helped Black in her quick ascent through the media world. What specifically did Black do to get people comfortable? She strove to go above and beyond what was expected. She was proactive – particularly in terms of coming up with new ideas and creative ways of thinking. She showed that she was willing to take-on extra responsibility. And, Black proved her leadership ability through mentoring others. These techniques proved to Black’s colleagues that she was capable, conscientious and committed. And, they made her superiors comfortable that she could handle additional responsibility.
You can’t count on the fact that your capabilities will be noticed, so if you have real results to show, find someone further up the food chain who will appreciate them, and share, without being obnoxious. For example, over coffee, you might say, “I was reviewing the numbers and came across something amazing….” Be sure to complement the team that did the work. People respect someone who has the confidence, grace and leadership skills to share credit. Another technique is to do “catch-up” meetings with your boss. Valerie Salembier, Publisher at Esquire, routinely asks for fifteen minutes to review a couple of things. Then, she is able to show her team’s progress or discuss issues that have arisen. She not only gains helpful feedback and builds the relationship with her boss, but also showcases her own leadership and team initiatives.
Stay in touch with those in power
You need to be in touch with people who are in power. Just sitting in your office doing a great job isn’t enough. Janet Gurwitch learned this lesson early in her career through a painful experience, but, thereafter, it helped her to be more savvy and progress more quickly in navigating corporate waters. At Foley’s department stores, Gurwitch was told in a review that she was the strongest performer of 100 people at her level. Therefore, she watched with shock and disappointment six months later when another woman was promoted to the Divisional level. When she approached the General Merchandise Manager (GMM, two levels up), she was told, “I’ve never seen you.” Sixty days later, with her profile raised, she was promoted. Janet feels it wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t gone to the GMM. She concludes, “You need to be politically aware (if not savvy), and let people know who you are.”
How can you self-promote with grace? Take advantage of the natural times. For Gurwitch, it was natural for her, as a buyer (low to mid-level) at Foleys, to be with her boss, the Divisional and the GMM on a market trip. Gurwitch prepared carefully for those opportunities to show what she knew and could do. She notes, “It is usually the buyer’s job to plan the day, so plan it to show your skills. And use elevator time with your colleagues well. That way, when the GMM puts together a Buyer Advisory Group, you are considered.”
Reprinted from The New Success Rules for Women with the author’s permission