Self-Promotion Without Guilt

5/1/2020
Guisselle Nuñez

Self-promotion is the action of promoting or publicizing oneself or one’s activities. Why do so many of us, women in particular, feel guilty or uncomfortable doing it? Or avoid it altogether? Successful self-promotion requires building a plan and practicing it consistently.

Self-promotion is both strategy and art. It requires self-awareness as well as knowledge of your environment. The failure to master this skill can have dire consequences in the workplace in the form of missing out on promotions and better assignments.

The key is distinguishing between self-promotion and bragging. Bragging is talking about yourself, or your achievements, in a way that makes others feel lesser than you. Self-promotion, on the other hand, is information sharing in a way that helps people see how you might be able to help them. Your communication should be as much about the person you are speaking to as about yourself. It should be about building reciprocal and mutually beneficial relationships.

A friend of mine, a Latina city attorney, declined to participate in a press release, to be written by her employer, that would have promoted a national award she had received because she considered it to be “bragging.” Had she been more aware of her personal barriers (be they gender or cultural), she might have realized that highlighting her achievement would have made a powerful statement about her accomplishments and those of her organization, rather than indicating her lack of humility.

Research shows that women tend to be more risk averse than men and also tend to undervalue their skills. Was there a time when you had a chance to apply for a better job? Perhaps instead of going for it, you listened to that little interior voice telling you that you were not ready. The origin of that voice can be personal, gender driven, or cultural. Another friend was appointed interim superintendent of a school district. She was promoted internally, and the promotion came with a pay raise. She refused the raise, even after her boss urged her to accept it, mainly because she wanted to be “nice” and save the district money. But upon subsequent reflection, she did not feel good about passing up the raise and realized that turning it down came from her upbringing and had cultural and gender implications. So self-awareness is crucial, because successful self-promotion requires building a plan and practicing it consistently. Your messaging must be strategic, purposeful, and genuine.

As a brand specialist, I see the huge impact on clients when they learn how to create, implement, and maintain their brand. When applied properly, self-promotion feels more like sharing and like offering help. In self-promotion, the first sentence is about you. The second sentence is about how you serve others. How can you promote yourself and communicate your accomplishments, skills, and experiences to benefit other people? When we share ourselves and believe in our message, we are credible and want to serve our audience. This is how self-promotion becomes a win-win.