Self-Promote without Feeling Like a Show-off

Berger, JonahOf course your work should speak for itself, but you can’t assume it’ll always be heard and appreciated. “People are busy, they don’t have time to pay attention to everything—and sometimes even good work gets overlooked,” says Jonah Berger, Wharton School professor and bestselling author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On. “Don’t over-claim, but also don’t be ashamed to be a good spokesperson for your accomplishments.” Here, Berger’s advice about wielding the megaphone, so you can talk yourself up—and feel good about it.

WHY MOST OF US ARE BAD AT SELF-PROMOTION
“Whether we’re in a work environment or elsewhere, many people find self-promotion difficult. We worry people will think we are bragging or vain, or that they’ll like us less because of it. I don’t think women are better or worse at it than men, but because women tend to be more attuned to the people around them, they may be more concerned about what others will think.”

TIP #1: REFRAME WHAT YOU’RE DOING
“I have helped lots of companies and organizations market their ideas using the framework from Contagious: Why Things Catch On, but I often get a little gun shy when it comes to marketing my own ideas. But promoting the book has helped me get better at it. Reframing it as helping others by sharing the science, rather than self-promotion, has helped a lot. If you have something useful to share, you’re not tooting your own horn by sharing—you’re helping others.”

TIP #2: PAY IT FORWARD
“It’s often the people that have the least to promote that do the most self-promotion. But if you have something good to share, think about how you can get it out there in a non-promotional way. Sometimes reciprocity circles help. You share good things about someone else and they return the favor.”

TIP #3: SAY THE RIGHT THING IN THE ELEVATOR WITH A HIGHER-UP
“Put yourself in their shoes. No one wants to be bombarded every time they get in the elevator. Show your value without bragging. Ask them how they are doing. How they feel about an upcoming project. Give them the opportunity to ask about you. Build the connection before you self-promote.”

TIP #4: BE SMART ABOUT YOUR ANNUAL REVIEW
“Write two annual reviews. Be blatantly honest in the first one both about what you did and what you want to achieve. Keep that one for yourself to motivate you next year, but then use it to write one to share with management, framing things in a positive way.”

TIP #5: PREPARE PROFESSIONAL ANECDOTES FOR A JOB INTERVIEW
“Show your value. Don’t tell someone how great you are, show them. Demonstrate with specific stories how you would be a valuable hire.”