by Meridith Levinson

Self-Promotion Do’s and Don’ts

Nov 20, 20083 mins

Self-promotion is a critical self-preservation strategy when companies are laying off employees by the thousands. But beware of going overboard with the self-praise. It’ll do more harm than good.


I’m beginning to realize just how batty a recession can make people, even otherwise confident, grounded people. Last week, I wrote about how office scapegoatingincreases when the economy is bad. Professionals desperate to hang onto their jobs resort to throwing their coworkers under the bus. It’s social Darwinism at its ugliest.

This week I wrote about the importance of promoting yourself and your work around the office, when 1.2 million people are out of work and layoffs seem to be announced every freakin’ day.

The crux of the story is, if you want to keep your job, you better make sure the managers at your company know how valuable you are, so here are eight techniques for promoting yourself without being obnoxious.  (How’s THAT for a nutshell?!)  

Even though the story focuses on subtle (not smarmy) self-promotion techniques you can feel comfortable employing, I realize how easy it might be for anyone to go overboard with the tips I offered—out of the same desperation to keep one’s job that drives the scapegoaters. Too much self-promotion at work could backfire: You could end up losing your job for being a jerk, or your boss could call you on your boastful behavior. 

So consider this a warning to keep your self-promotion efforts in check. In addition to exercising restraint, you’ll want to avoid the following hallmarks of bad bragging, which I wasn’t able to weave into my story and which will do more harm to your self-promotion efforts than good.

One-upsmanship: This is when you try—consciously or unconsciously—to demonstrate your superiority over your co-workers. They say they’ve done one thing, and you say how you’ve done it better or faster. You’re basically trying to top them—again, whether consciously or unconsciously. One-upping your colleagues lacks class and tact, and it won’t win you any friends.  

Non sequiturs: This is when, in the course of a conversation, you take any opportunity to talk about yourself or your accomplishments, regardless of whether it fits in the context of the conversation. Self-promotion via non-sequitur is obvious and ugly.

Dropping names: This is another obvious—and lame—attempt to impress people and prop up your ego. It rarely works.

Me, me, me, me: Self-promotion can easily come off as a litany of “I’s.” ‘I lead a global team of 5,000 IT professionals. I oversee a multimillion dollar IT budget. I got my MBA from Harvard.’ Big deal! Focusing on yourself bores your audience and is self-aggrandizing.