Self Promotion Ideas

In a previous post, I wrote that hard work does not guarantee success. I still believe it, but that begs the question: What else do you need to guarantee success? One answer that many people would agree on is self promotion — making sure that important people know who you are, and what a top performer you are.

That’s easier said then done.  Self promoting with finesse, without coming across as boastful or self-centered, is tricky.  Heres one example, from a reader, of what didn’t work:

“Years ago I was cornered in the hallway by my firm’s president, who said, “I have to talk to you. Why are you the only engineer who gets letters of recommendation from clients?” He was a little put off that I was so successful at getting so many letters. I said, “When my clients tell me I did a good job I ask them to send you a letter since I know you would be happy to hear from satisfied clients?” He wasn’t happy at all, because he feared employees asking for raises more than he enjoyed happy clients.

Are you surprised that this didn’t work?   From my own experience, I’ve found that subtle self promotion works better than direct self promotion. ‘Subtle’ means allowing my manager to reach the conclusion that I am a top performer without telling her so myself.  Here are three ideas that will help you subtly promote yourself:

  • Proactively updating my boss at a regular frequency regarding my progress.  In my update, I would state what I finished, what I am working on, what issues I am dealing with, and what I would need his/her help on. This reduced the need for my manager to figure out how to manage me, allowed me to tell her what I’ve accomplished, and it pre-warnted her of upcoming issues that I might have needed help with. This is also a trait of a top performer.
  • Help others with their boss’s perception of them. I would do this only if I truly believed in them. If I work with someone cross-functionally for a while and she has been a valuable asset, I would take opportunities to tell her boss about her value, either in passing or just sending a nice email about her great performance. I usually do this without being asked by the person. Good karma usually gets paid back.
  • Initiate problem solving ideas. Let’s say you and your manager just met with her boss on a project.  Her boss pointed out an issue that he is concerned about.  Before your boss directs you on how to solve this new issue, work ahead of her. Put in some time to come up with structured ideas, and send your manager an email to initiate the process of solving this issue. In the email, you can present options, get her feedback, and let her know what you will do next. Any manager would love that from their team member.

Self promotion is a critical soft skill for achieving the right recognition and success at work.  Invest time to develop your subtle self promotion skills.  It will be worth it in the long run.

If you are committed to developing your soft skills, like self promotion skills, then sign up for a Soft Skills Gym membership today!

Your Comments: Do you have more examples of self promotion ideas that either worked or didn’t work for you? Please share, as we can all benefit.

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Thanks and best wishes in being recognized for how truly awesome you are at your work!  I am always in your corner.


5 thoughts on “Self Promotion Ideas

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  4. Kate Lin

    Great article Lei. I wanted to hear your point to this counter-point. With regards to initiating problem solving ideas for your manager:

    “Put in some time to come up with structured ideas, and send your manager an email to initiate the process of solving this issue.”

    The counterpoint that I have heard to this is, “yes for the small stuff, but for more complicated problems, if I can solve them, I should probably look for a job where I have my manager’s title / salary / etc.” What is the manager’s value if the person under them is giving them the homework answers?

    1. Lei Han Post author

      Interesting question, Kate. It kind of depends on what you are asking. If you are saying that you can easily do your managers’ entire job, then I would say, perhaps you should look for another job with your manager’s title and salary. There are about six signs that will help you know when it’s time to look for a new job. You can read them here

      This article is not about that topic. If you are escalating an issue to your manager, that means you need guidance and don’t know the answer. My statement ““Put in some time to come up with structured ideas, and send your manager an email to initiate the process of solving this issue.” means that you should go to your manager with some options you have considered, so that the conversation will be structured. That’s better than going to your manager with an open ended issue and no thoughts on how to solve at all. By presenting the issue and some options you consider, you will build a better reputation with your manager as someone who is proactive and take accountability. And you made it easy for them to provide their input.

      If you already have the answer, then there is no need to discuss it with your manager. For many experienced hires, we are hired so that we can own finding the answers to many issues on our jobs. That doesn’t necessarily mean we are ready or even want our manager’s job. Your manager’s job may also involve getting executive support, playing politics, setting strategic direction, team management as well as a higher level of stress. If you think you can and want to do all that your manager does today, then I would agree that you should look for another job with that equivalent responsibility and salary.

      Hope that helps. I look forward to your comments 🙂


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