I have a love-hate relationship with self-promotion. Even the words make me feel a bit icky. I am generally proud of my accomplishments and want others to know about them, but I feel uncomfortable about TELLING others. It feels arrogant and sleazy (which is the great Salesperson Stereotype) even when it probably isn’t. I would much prefer other people just magically discovered my successes, or even just kept them to myself. To be honest, I simultaneously enjoy and feel a little embarrassed when I receive praise for my accomplishments. It is this weird discomfort that makes me want to both beam and blush at the same time.
I don’t consider myself a shy person. However, as noted in previous posts, I am an introvert and continue the battle against impostor syndrome. Both of these make me hesitate to share my success and self. The introversion makes the social engagement of receiving attention feel exhausting, while the impostor syndrome makes me feel undeserving. Add in North American gender norms (the “demure woman”) and cultural stereotypes around what it means to be a salesperson, and it can feel kind of uncomfortable.
This discomfort with self-promotion is not limited to introverts, women, or people who suffer from impostor syndrome and is likely more prevalent than you would think. We all have things we want others to notice because we are proud, and should be, but we want to share in a way that feels both genuine and effective. No one likes a braggart. Also, the sharing of self and success opens you up to judgment from others which can be a scary thing. What if other people don’t think I deserve this success? What if they think I am bragging or arrogant? Does my success matter enough to share? Maybe I should just not say anything…
Self-promotion is a good thing
But self-promotion is important regardless of whether you are an employee trying to get a promotion or an entrepreneur trying to build a business. Sharing yourself and your accomplishments gets you noticed by other great people. It helps shine a light on ways you can help others and do great things. If you don’t make an effort to tell others about how great you are and what you are capable of, how will they know? The answer is, they won’t.
Sharing of success and self doesn’t have to be sleazy. You don’t need to shout from the rooftops. You do need to think about what you are trying to achieve for yourself and how you can show your expertise in a way that feels right to you. Doing great work is part of it, but I think telling people about your great work is also important. How can you get past your own barriers and share how awesome you are? The following are some tactics that have helped me:
- Identify your self-promotion barriers
- Get over misconceptions of the “salesperson” and what self-promotion looks like
- Think about self-promotion strategy
- Know who your champions are and utilize them
1. Identify your self-promotion barriers
In order to address something that is holding you back if you need to reflect on it. Think about how you feel when you consider promoting yourself or sharing success with others. What stops you? What is it that makes you not what to share? These are the three things that I think are the most common barriers to self-promotion:
Lack of Confidence
Lack of confidence can come in many forms, whether it is impostor syndrome, shyness, or straight-up self-esteem issues. It can be very powerful and often stops you from speaking up about the great things you do. When you know this is something that you struggle with, it is easier to recognize when that jerk in your head is talking nonsense and putting you down. It is not easy to ignore, but the more often you recognize when it is stopping you from doing something or sharing yourself with others, the easier it becomes.
Lack of Strategy
You may feel ok about sharing your successes, but they often just get buried in the day-to-day because you don’t really have a plan in place on how to share them. I think self-promotion requires some forethought around how you are framing yourself and through what mediums. If you don’t think about it or have a strategy on how you will include self-promotion in your routine, it won’t happen. For example, this blog is a form of self-promotion for me. I post every two weeks and share some of my expertise. I have a document with a list of when I post on social media and ideas for upcoming posts. I know how long it usually takes me to write, when I need to start working on a post, and I have reminders set up in case life gets hairy. Without this strategy, it would be much harder for me to be consistent in my posting.
2. Get over misconceptions of the “salesperson” and what self-promotion looks like
The salesperson stereotype is built into our North American culture. We all picture some guy with a toothy white smile, ill-fitting beige suit, trying to convince us that the 1989 Toyota Corolla will change our life. We also have all had that person on Twitter than posts about themselves and their amazingness constantly…that we unfollowed. We don’t want to be one of those people. But, just because there are people who sell themselves in ways that don’t resonate with us, doesn’t mean that all sales or self-promotion is bad.
The truth is, almost every interaction you have with another human is a “sale”. We are constantly persuading, influencing or moving others in some way. When you have a debate with a friend about whether the Oilers will make the playoffs, you are selling them your opinion. When you ask a colleague to donate or volunteer for a charity you are involved with, you are selling them your passion. When you tell someone about the really cool web app you built, you are selling your talent. And that is ok. It is great in fact. It is the selling of self, of you, and what you have to offer others.
A book that goes further into the social science of selling and the concept that we are ALL salespeople is To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel H. Pink. It is worth checking out to get further examples and perspectives.
3. Think about a self-promotion strategy
Having a plan can help you move past the discomfort you might have around self-promotion. It sets a path that will be made up of approaches that feel genuine to you. Think about:
- Who you are promoting yourself to;
- What you want them to remember about you;
- What you think you are an expert in;
- What organizations or activities you are involved in; and
- How you want to present yourself.
These are all facets of framing who you are and how you can help others. The strategy you come up with needs to encompass both your in-person and online interactions with people.
Interacting online can be easier for those who are shy or like to take the time to compose their thoughts before sharing them. This can be as simple as a Tweet or as effortful as a blog. How you present yourself online is important because it is often the first place people will look to find out more about you and measure your credibility. Most employers, including myself, check social media activity and your Linkedin profile to find out more about you. When was the last time you looked through your social media history? Consider reviewing it and ask yourself: What story does this tell about me? Is there anything you should take down? When you post in the future, what types of things will you share? The things you post say a lot about you and your values so think about how it reflects on you.
Be intentional with your networking, and even everyday interactions. Each one leaves an impression. What impression do you WANT to leave? This comes down to decisions about how you dress, your body language, the types of things you talk about, questions you ask, and how you treat people. You never know who you are going to cross paths with, or who you might end up working with (or for!), so think about how you want to be remembered. People tend to want to work with people they like so I generally believe that if you are just a nice human things will go well for you.
4. Know who your champions are and utilize them
You don’t have to do all the work of self-promotion yourself. There will be people in your life who are just as excited about the neat things you are doing as you. They care about you, they know that you are great, and they will be strong advocates for you. Know who those people are and don’t be afraid to ask for their help. Are you putting on a workshop? Reach out to these people and ask them to share it. Are you recruiting volunteers for your favourite charity? Ask them to spread the word! Also, be an advocate for them! Share and be shared.
Most of us work pretty darn hard and all of us have different measures for success. It can be hard to promote ourselves and share pieces of our lives that make us feel vulnerable to judgment. That said, it is important for people to know what you are capable of and for you to push past the discomfort that can come with self-promotion. Identifying the barriers that stop you from sharing your success and self can help you overcome them. In the same vein, reframing the vision of what sales look like can be powerful in clarifying and creating a strategy to share your awesomeness. Finally, utilizing the champions in your circle, and being a champion back, will help raise awareness around all the neat things that you and the people you know are doing.