When you were growing up, were you taught that bragging is bad or that it isn’t polite to talk about yourself?
Instead, you may have learned that if you worked hard enough, kept your head down, and focused on your goals, people would see your sterling results and you would be duly rewarded.
Well, in the professional world, things play out a little differently.
Sometimes, the only way you can give a voice to your hard work and results is to speak up. Why? Your manager and colleagues may know you’re a hard worker and assume you get things done. But they’re also busy with their own responsibilities, so they’re probably not keeping close track of yours. Your ego—well managed, of course—can help you fill them in.
In fact, in my opinion, being able to speak to your accomplishments and competencies is just as important as your ability to do the work. Your ego can be a great asset in your career, if you know how and when to use it—like in these five situations.
1. When You’re Interviewing for a Job
I once coached a client to say in an interview, “I’m really good at working with customers and I will do a great job in this role.” He flinched at the suggestion, responding with, “I can’t really say that, can I?”
Yes, you can. And you should. Research shows that narcissism goes a long way in job interviews. Individuals who engage with the interviewer with a little self-promotion receive more positive ratings than those who take a modest, self-deprecating approach.
Remember, managers want to hire confident employees who know they can get the job done. So before an interview, read the job description thoroughly and think about how you will perform well in each aspect of the job. Then, boldly share that information.
2. When You’re Negotiating a Job Offer
I’m an advocate for negotiating all job offers, but I also know that negotiating can be intimidating—because you may feel like you’re asking for something you don’t deserve.
This is where you should call on your ego to help. It will remind you that negotiations are not a zero-sum game. Yes, you are asking for a better compensation package, title, or assignment with your prospective employer—but you are also going to provide value in return for the benefits you receive.
Let your ego help you talk about not only what you want as far as compensation, but also how you’re going to benefit the employer by citing the accomplishments and wins you’ve already achieved.
3. When You’re Prepping for a Performance Review
When I work with clients, I’m always surprised at how much they think their boss knows about what they do. The reality is, your boss is busy! He or she has a lot going on. And that means all the nooks and crannies of that successful project you worked on may not be as obvious to him or her as they are to you.
So, call on your ego to help. When it’s review time, don’t expect your boss to do the math. Review the results and accomplishments you achieved, even if you think he or she is already aware of them. (Hint: use this handy worksheet to get started.)
Even if an accomplishment was a group effort, don’t be bashful about taking credit for what you achieved within your role or contributed to the victory. Talk about what you did and how it helped make your team, boss, and organization more successful.
4. When You’re Asking for a Raise
Studies show that men tend to attribute their success to competence, while women usually credit success to good luck.
If you attribute your success to luck, it’s going to be very difficult to ask for that raise—because you simply “got lucky.” Or “anyone could have done it.”
This is a great opportunity to let your ego boost you up. Let it remind you that your accomplishments are not a matter of luck; they’re the result of your critical thinking and hard work. Then, identify a measurable, quantifiable result that you helped the organization achieve. That’s a cold, hard fact you can use to negotiate your raise—and that’s not about luck at all.
5. When You’re Jockeying for a Promotion
You’ve been toiling away at work, because you have your eye on that executive track prize. You know if you just wait patiently, when that next opening comes up, your manager will put your name forward as a candidate.
But wait! Your ego can help you out in this situation, too. Instead of waiting for a promotion opportunity to come up, let your ego help you make your intentions known ahead of time. Talk with your manager, mentor, or HR representative and tell him or her, “My goal is to get on the executive track.” Ask what it will take to get you ready for the next promotion that opens up. Then, start working on those skills. You’ll be able to start preparing for the new role while building your visibility and credibility. And when the time comes, you’ll be ready.
Sure, no one likes an egomaniac. But you don’t have to be one to let your ego help you out in your career. Use it to help you identify and promote the good work, solid results, and major accomplishments you’ve achieved—and watch your career benefit.