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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

How to Brag at Work (Without Sounding Like a Jerk)

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When it comes to having a successful career, there is no substitute for hard work. But on the other hand, hard work won’t do you any good if your accomplishments are going unnoticed.

If you’re anything like me, you probably believe your work should speak for itself, and that the idea of tooting your own horn sounds, well, obnoxious. But waiting around hoping your good work will catch the boss's eye could be preventing you from getting the recognition—and possibly the promotions—you deserve at work.

But how do you let people know about your good work without sounding like a jerk? Here are a few techniques I’ve found successful.

Track Your Successes

If someone were to ask you, “What did you do this month at work that you are most proud of?” would you be able to answer? Maybe not—it’s very easy to get stuck in the day-to-day grind of work and forget to take note of all the great things you do for the company.

So, make a plan for how you’re going to stay on top of them. While this won’t necessarily get your successes noticed, it will help you be more aware of them so you can know what to share with other people. Try one of these systems to get started:

  • Set quarterly goals and check your progress monthly. This is my preferred method—I find it helpful to lay out ahead of time what I want to achieve so I can measure my success against those goals. This will make sure you have clear benchmarks to track and milestones to celebrate.
  • Start a career journal, and at the end of every day, quickly jot down what went well and what you’re looking forward to tackling tomorrow. Capture your day-to-day successes, while also keeping your progress in the context of larger projects and how you’re helping your organization move forward. (Or, use this worksheet to track your accomplishments daily—it only takes 10 minutes to fill out!)
  • Take a look at your job description. For each duty, say to yourself, “I know I am doing this well because…” and list a specific example that illustrates your success. If you’re hoping to move up in the company, you can also do this exercise with the job description of the title you want.

Add Accomplishments to Your Meeting Agenda

Next time you meet with your boss, add an “Accomplishments” section to the meeting agenda. This might sound obvious, but it has been a powerful way for me to make sure I let my bosses know when something has gone extraordinarily well (without feeling like I am bombarding them with random cheers for myself).

I usually frame this in terms of progress on a major project and how it affects the organization overall, then I mention anything specifically that I did (my community-then-individual method of sharing good news). For example, “The new site launched successfully this week. Jessica and Mark were really helpful in ensuring the content was good to go, and we’re getting great feedback from our audience! To get extra eyes on our work, I was able to secure syndication partnership with ABC Magazine, which has brought in additional traffic.”

Not only is this a good way to keep yourself accountable for reporting your successes, it’s great to set the expectation that you’re achieving great things and that you want your boss to hear about them. Nothing beats having someone look forward to hearing about your great work.

Volunteer Your Expertise

One of the best ways to establish your contribution as an employee is by helping your co-workers solve problems. So, when you notice an ongoing problem or challenge that’s related to something you’re good at, offer your services. Don’t just volunteer for anything, but offer to help in an area where you can demonstrate your excellence at a time when it’s clear your talent is needed.

For example, at my company, Idealist, we’re trying to figure out how to better support organizations that use our site to post jobs. I work on the job seeker end, and realized that there could be ways to make a stronger connection between those two audiences. I offered to help brainstorm ideas with the project lead, who in turn suggested my involvement and expertise to the executive director. Win!

In short, let other folks talk about how helpful and smart you are. In other words, let them do the bragging for you.

Tackle Low-Hanging Social Fruit

There’s no need to share your accomplishments solely with your co-workers—you can also leverage social media to share your successes and build your brand. LinkedIn is made for this—you can list your projects and any key achievements you’ve had your various jobs, making it easy for others to see all you’ve done.

Meanwhile, Twitter and Facebook are perfect for mastering the fine art of the #humblebrag, à la, “It’s not easy raising $20,000 in a year, but someone’s gotta do it!” Or, forget being humble and just enjoy the semi-removed nature of sharing good news online. Go on. Try it now and see how many people support you, want to connect with you, and begin suggesting other great opportunities and resources to help you rock your career.

The important thing to consider when sharing any accomplishment is to focus on celebrating your success in the context of your company, career, and professional growth, rather than making it sound like you think you’re better than others. Because, well, that would be bragging.