If you want to get ahead in your career, there’s one thing you absolutely have to do: brag.
You see, you’re the only person who really knows how much you do and how hard you work. For instance, when your colleagues charge the door at 5 PM, they don’t know that you stay until 8 PM. When your boss is on the golf course, she doesn’t know you’re putting out fires at the office.
A professional acquaintance of mine once explained that she often works evenings and weekends to tie up loose ends and make sure events go smoothly. In the middle of a performance evaluation, she realized her boss had no idea how much work she was putting in after hours because he wasn’t there—and she hadn’t been telling him. She made a point of communicating her efforts more clearly and reaped the rewards in praise, pay, and promotions.
It can be dangerous to your career to assume that the people around you are aware of your hard work and accomplishments. You have to promote yourself.
I know—your parents taught you to be humble and that no one likes a blowhard. They’re right. Boasting and bragging are obnoxious. But stay with me. To get ahead, you don’t need to brag like a 10-year-old. You need to boast in a way that strikes the perfect balance between humility and confidence.
Sound tricky? Well, it is—but with these tips, you can master the art of the professional brag.
Offer More Details
To promote yourself effectively, you need to explain what you’re doing without being obnoxious. So, for example, don’t dominate a team meeting with a lengthy and detailed description of every single thing you did over the past week. However, don’t pass up opportunities to discuss important accomplishments, either—simply use a well-thought out, succinct description.
Say your boss asks for a project update during a meeting. An average answer might be, “It’s been a little hectic, but everything is coming along basically as planned and within our budget.”
A better, self-promotional—but still humble—answer could be, “I’ve been visiting the site regularly to ensure the project is progressing and to address any issues head-on. We did hit a snag a couple of weeks ago when we found out that some necessary materials were on backorder. It took some lengthy conversations at odd hours, but I was able to work with our contractor to identify a few other projects we could tackle while waiting on those materials. I also identified a new supplier who could provide the flooring, which was our most urgent need. That’s being installed as we speak. So, we are very close to our projected timeline and still on budget.”
See the difference? The first answer completely glosses over the odd hours and extra effort that kept the project from lagging behind—which your boss and team should absolutely be aware of.
Document Your Accomplishments
You also need to be able to eloquently put your accomplishments in writing. Why? Many performance reviews include a self-evaluation portion, and whether or not you’re actively looking for a new job, it’s a good idea to keep your LinkedIn profile and resume updated with recent achievements, too. You’ll also want to be able to quickly reference documentation of your accomplishments when an opportunity for a raise or promotion comes up—so you can make a convincing case to your boss that you’re the most deserving candidate.
One of the biggest mistakes I see when people attempt to record their achievements is a failure to include enough detail. Yes, in writing, you should strive to be succinct. But if your descriptions are too brief, you aren’t doing yourself any favors.
For example, maybe you list the following in your LinkedIn profile, under your job title of manager for Thetford’s Office Supply:
- Shift leader
- Helped with training
These bullets don’t tell your employer anything about what you’ve actually accomplished or what you are capable of. When you say you “helped with training,” does that mean you showed up to one sole training session and talked for 10 minutes? Or did you help design the curriculum and now present it to each new group of employees?
A better description of the same position could include:
- Supervised 12 part-time associates, including managing schedules, leave requests, and performance evaluations
- Collaborated with management to revamp new employee training, which contributed to a 10% reduction in turnover
When you fail to explain your accomplishments in detail, you leave your current (or potential) employer guessing—and that will never work out well when there are other employees or candidates who clearly spell out their qualifications.
Tell the World
Okay, maybe you don’t need to brag to the entire world. But you do need to get comfortable talking about the work you do with people other than your direct supervisor. Remember, no one really knows what you do unless you tell him or her.
Much of your success in the workplace depends on your relationships with your peers. But it’s not enough to simply be well liked; your colleagues need to know that you’re capable. That’s what opens the doors to new opportunities for collaboration—which can help you get noticed inside or outside of your company.
Let’s say a colleague says to you, “Hey, I had a great time at the fundraising gala. You did a great job with it!” A typical humble response might be, “Thanks! I actually had a lot of help—I’ll pass your compliment on to the team.”
A better way to promote yourself (while still being gracious) would be to say, “Thanks! I’ll be sure to pass your praise along to the rest of the team. You know, I really had no idea how much behind-the-scenes work goes into booking a venue and band for such a large event. It really helped me learn a lot about managing timelines and professional contracts.”
Boom. You just dropped several key pieces of information: You’re a quick learner when you come up against something new, you have valuable project and contract management skills, and you’re a gracious person who passes praise along to her team. Now, your 20-second response has the potential to open the door to further conversation and opportunities.
Being genuine, giving credit where it’s due, and sharing praise appropriately are important behaviors in the workplace. These behaviors will endear you to your colleagues and help you establish a good reputation. But it’s equally important to make sure you get your fair share of the credit and praise when you deserve it—because you’re the only person who can truly and accurately promote yourself.