Farmers say they have 40 years to bring in the crops. The reality is that this is true of all of us. We, have, each of us, effectively 40 years from the time we begin our careers until, for whatever reason, we are done.
As children we are taught, appropriately, of course, not to brag. But as we get older, we need to be un-taught; we need to un-learn that juvenile lesson. In fact, we need to be taught from the time we arrive at middle school, move into high school, college, and ultimately embark on our various careers that consistent professional self-promotion is a mandatory skill set required of all of us for a successful career. I especially would like to see young girls and women embrace this message.
At any given point in time—regardless of where you may be on your own personal career ladder—you must be able to express the value you are delivering today and what you will deliver tomorrow.
Here are six key points you need to know to successfully promote yourself.
1. Don’t assume your boss knows exactly what you do. Regardless if you share air in a cubicle with your immediate supervisor or work virtual 6,000 miles apart, understand that your boss has far more on her mind than you may ever be aware of. She has other employees, inventory considerations, sales presentations to be made, problems and vital issues that include meeting with her own supervisor. And you think she knows exactly how you are performing? Really?!
If you are expecting a slap on the back, it’s probably best if you initiate that process yourself.
2. Embrace the difference between articulating your value and bragging. You know, in your gut, when you are bragging. Your blood pressure will go up. You’ll feel it. But expressing your commercial value—that’s another consideration altogether.
The “art” in articulating comes from practicing and then progressively getting better at professionally communicating your day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month, even year-to year worth to your boss. How do you do this? I don’t know. This is because I don’t know your company, the relationship you have with your supervisor(s), the politics, chemistry, or culture at your company. So for this aspect, I leave it up to you how to best manage your environment. I’m confident you’ll figure it out.
What I do know is that once you acquire an accomplishment mindset, the game changes.
3. Adopt an accomplishment mindset and narrative. The accomplishment mindset comes from reflection on what you do on the job and the impact your efforts have on people and the business. Reflection means you are going to make time to think about all you do, all that you contribute. This is a skill that is by no means difficult to acquire.
Upon reflection, an administrative assistant may come to realize that her greatest skill is her ability to put new clients at ease and in a buying state of mind upon arrival. An engineer can reflect on the value he delivered to the community when driving across a bridge he had a hand in designing.
What have you done lately? Think about it. You have done some great stuff! How do I know that? Because you are at work.
4. Quantify your worth. Probably one of the most difficult aspects of communicating your value is in the quantification of what you do. A salesperson has to do this monthly. You? Maybe not so much. But realize that someone is able to quantify your value or your company would not know what to pay you. Makes sense, right?
It’s time for you to actively think about the value that happens as a result of your efforts. It may be as simple as “created a more accurate flow of information” (this is NOT simple) or it might be as exotic as “designed and implemented a new system of property lease documentation management that resulted in a multi-million dollar reduction in litigation costs.” Notice that “a more accurate flow of information” may have contributed to the “reduction in litigation” accomplishment. Do not dismiss what you do as not as significant as what others do.
5. Source and shape your success stories. In order to share a story of success, you must be able to speak to the specifics that made your effort uniquely valuable. You must be able to share the details. You must be able to tell the how, what, where, when, why, and who that validates your achievement. The best way to begin this effort is to think about what the problem was that you solved and then back your way into the details of that achievement.
Did I happen to mention reflection?
6. Master the three-part accomplishment statement. Upon determining the how, what, where, when, why, and who, summarize this detail into a single three-part sentence that reads something like this:
(1) I was responsible for (fill in the blank)________ (2) that resulted in (3) ________.
Notice that Part 3 is the net result—the value statement. Without a stated value, you are just blowing hot air.
Let me give you a simple, non-business, example:
“I went golfing.” (So what?)
Versus: “I went golfing and scored a hole-in-one.” (Wow! Tell me more.)
Results matter when it comes to creating dialog and that is what you seek.
When next you run into your boss at the coffee machine, tell her what you have been up to lately. Your success is her success.
BTW, don’t be shy in sharing (appropriately and professionally) your successes further up the line. Hey! Promotions happen.
Rick Gillis is a careers expert and employment coach specializing in trends and technologies in the modern job search. A onetime workplace radio and TV host, he is a keynote speaker and the author of five books. His latest book is “Promote! It’s Who Knows What You Know That Makes a Career” (CreateSpace). For more information, visit rickgillis.com.