If you're like most people, the idea of self-promotion makes your stomach turn. But in today's business climate, the reality is this: unless you make your accomplishments known on a regular basis, you may find yourself with a pink slip because your managers don't realize the value you bring to your organization.
Do you assume that your boss sees your every move and notices your every contribution? Think again. She's just as worried about job security as you are, and focuses more on justifying her own existence than on tracking your accomplishments.
But how do you toot your own horn without coming across as an arrogant jerk? Here are a few suggestions.
1. Be sensitive to your environment
If your manager is scrambling to meet a deadline, or upset about a project gone awry, it's probably not a good time to dazzle him with tales of your accomplishments. Instead, offer an encouraging word or some real relief for their situation. If you can find a way to eliminate or alleviate his immediate pain, he'll remember it later on when it counts the most.
Similarly, make sure that what you're saying is relevant to the conversation at hand. If your colleagues are sharing what they did over the weekend, don't hijack the conversation by blurting out that you just won a big promotion.
Use your common sense and pick the right time, audience, and situation.
2. Adapt to your boss's priorities and style
Get to know the specific goals that matter most to your manager, and tie your accomplishments to those objectives. The more you can demonstrate that you're there to help your boss, the more valuable you'll become.
Understand your manager's style. If he's numbers-oriented, think like an accountant. List your successes and quantify them (more on this below). If she's more relationships-oriented, let her know how your accomplishments benefited clients, colleagues, team members, and others.
Discern your manager's preferred communication channel and communicate primarily in the same way. If she prefers email as a means of communication, use email. If he's the talkative type, include a lot of detail in what you say. But if your boss speaks in concise phrases, keep your own communication to-the-point and as brief as possible. It's amazing how well this works in establishing rapport and improving positive interaction.
3. Learn to tell good stories
Every successful public speaker knows that the key to being memorable is to tell a great story. Stories stay with an audience long after talking points have bitten the dust. So put the power of story-telling to good use when you toot your own horn.
Here are three ways to structure a story around your accomplishments, as suggested by Chip Heath, author of Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.
-- The challenge plot: Tell how you overcame an obstacle to arrive at a goal.
-- The creativity plot: Talk about the moment an idea came to you that changed everything.
-- The connection plot: Demonstrate how you brought a team together to accomplish a greater goal.
4. Regularly communicate your wins to your manager
At the end of each work week, send your manager an email detailing what you did that week and what you expect to accomplish next week. Follow up with a brief phone call or meeting. This type of regular interaction will set you apart from your coworkers, who are probably more comfortable hiding in their cubicles, hoping not to have to meet with the boss!
Schedule a monthly lunch with your boss. Leave the office for some quality one-on-one time. Have something noteworthy to convey during the time together, and listen carefully to the goals, objectives, hopes, and fears expressed. They're your cue to what should be on your agenda.
Whenever you get an email or voicemail from an appreciative client or colleague, forward it to your boss with a short note, something like "Thought you'd be happy to know that Mary loved what we did with her project." A win for you is also a win for your boss. And, you never know, she may forward it to her own boss, making both you and herself look good to those higher up in the company.
5. Make it a habit to keep track of your accomplishments
Be sure to set aside five minutes every day to ruminate on what you accomplished that day. Keep a brag file and add to it constantly. What should go in? Letters of recommendation, thanks from grateful clients or colleagues, absolutely anything that establishes the added value you bring to your organization whether it's within or outside your job description.
Whenever possible, quantify the impact of your accomplishments to make yourself look good. Career expert Penelope Trunk explains, "Numbers at work tell a story, and you pick numbers that tell the best story. You never lie, but you cannot tell every piece of information in the whole world, so tell the ones that suit you best."
See if you can turn your accomplishments into specific, measurable results. Where has your effort increased revenue, profitability, or customer loyalty? Where has it decreased costs or employee turnover? Where has it improved operational efficiency, or customer or staff retention?
By regularly broadcasting your accomplishments in a tasteful way, you will not only increase your job security, but you'll position yourself as a valuable contributor to your organization's success.
Carmen Van Kerckhove, president of the diversity education firm New Demographic, specializes in working with corporations to facilitate relaxed, authentic, and productive conversations about race. She has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, and has visited as a guest lecturer at Harvard, Princeton, and Columbia, among many other colleges and universities across the country. Carmen publishes Racialicious, an award-winning, influential blog about race and pop culture. She also hosts the podcast Addicted to Race and publishes the blog Anti-Racist Parent. Carmen is of mixed Chinese and Belgian heritage. She was born and mostly raised in Hong Kong, but also spent much of her childhood living in Shanghai and Belgium. Carmen graduated from Columbia University with a BA in Political Science. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband. Learn more about Carmen and her courses, programs, products, and services at http://NewDemographic.com.
© 2011 Carmen Van Kerckhove
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