Careful Self Promotion Can Lead to Promotion

Mon, May 08, 2006

CIO Need more signs that the economy is moving toward full recovery? Not only are traditional indicators such as valuations in the capital markets and levels of hiring trending upward, the positively personal ones are rising, too. We’re getting more and more queries from clients who ask, “How can I get myself more noticed?”

Not too long ago, some of these same folks were asking how they could lay low so they might keep their jobs. Now with the economy heating up, executives are on the make. People are looking to move up or out and are seeking advice for the best way to do so. How to move up is a great aspiration, but it must be done carefully. Self promotion the wrong way can be harmful to the executive’s career.

Be Seen, Be Heard, Be Careful
The issue of self promotion is a tricky one. From childhood we are taught to be respectful of others and not call too much attention to ourselves. This is good advice for kids and adults but when it comes to getting ahead in the world, if you do not cast a light on yourself, few others will. “Stripped of nonessentials, all business activity is a sales battle,” wrote business executive Robert E.M. Cowie. “And everyone in business must be a salesman.” Integral to sales is promotion and when the product is you, you must promote it.

The challenge is to do it appropriately and professionally. Here are some suggestions.

Do your job. Most importantly you must perform well over time. You should meet or exceed job expectations. For example, show how you can do more with less, or be willing to take tough assignments, ones that no one else wants. Demonstrate that you work well with others. Also show that you can do your work on time and on budget. Most companies notice consistently positive performances. (Hint: If you fail to perform, forget promotion; such publicity would only reveal your lack of ability.)

Plan ahead. Promoting yourself is an exercise in career development. You need to figure out where you are now and where you want to go in the future. Your challenge is to find ways to hurdle the gap. Part of the hurdle will involve gaining new skills and training, but it will also involve letting your supervisor know that you want to move up.

Argue the business case. The worst way to position yourself is to call attention to yourself by jumping up and down and shouting, “Hey, boss, look at me, aren’t I doing a good job?” No! Consider your advancement a business proposition. Itemize your skills as well as your accomplishments. Position yourself as an asset who is worthy of investment. Think about what you bring to the enterprise and what more you can do for the company.

Look for opportunities to lead. Demonstrate initiative. Suggest ideas for improvement, and if they fit the business case, be ready to implement. That is, back up your ideas with actions. One way may be to volunteer (that does not mean work for free) to head a project team or spearhead a new initiative. Demonstrate that you have what it takes to assemble resources and people as well as push for execution.

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