Why self promotion is an essential leadership skill

Ever been in the position where you knew you were ready for a promotion? You'd blown all your targets and KPIs out of the water. You had gone above and beyond in basically every aspect of your job. Everyone you worked with thought you already had the job title you and your boss both agreed that you should be going for. Then promotion time comes around and... nothing.

That feeling of doing all the right things, but not getting promoted is like a punch in the stomach. 

Most of us have grown up with the idea that hard work will get us noticed, will get us to that dream job and mean we get what we know we deserve. 

But if the decision-makers don’t know how great we are how are they supposed to know that we are ready for our next challenge?

Getting noticed is step zero in the road to getting ahead in your career

For many of the women, I work with the idea of actively self-promoting who we are, what we do and our achievements is extremely uncomfortable. But for all of them, success has hinged on this final lynchpin of the leadership formula. Even if you aren’t after a payrise, the opportunities only get given to those who get noticed.

I’ve known of individuals who are extraordinary but management have explicitly told me that they haven’t seen the person perform in a specific way and that therefore the individual is not ready for the next opportunity. That opportunity incidentally would then open the door to a promotion. 

The higher up the ladder you go the harder it is to get those opportunities and promotions without actively working on senior management becoming aware of what you do. Entry-level promotions are often at the discretion of an area manager. But as you get higher up, who you know becomes increasingly important.

Unfortunately, this is when we fall into the territory of the ‘old boys club’ that so many of us hate and what to change.

But there is another way.

Start by realising that (self-)promotion is an essential leadership skill. Your team and organization needs to be visible, and this is best driven by the individuals working there. This is about influencing stakeholders, decision-makers and people who can help not just you, but your organization thrive. 

Once you start to realise that self-promotion is not just about you, but about the success of your organization and your team, it can then feel a lot less uncomfortable when you put the following steps into practice. 

  • Treat self-promotion as a knowledge exchange. This is about helping others learn from and benefit from your contributions rather than just talking about how awesome you are for the sake of it. You will find a more receptive audience if you take this approach. And bonus: when you focus on helping others suddenly it is so much easier.
  • Don’t wait for others to notice what you do. However amazing you are, you won’t get noticed if you don’t talk about it. 
  • Be yourself. Turning up as your authentic self is much more powerful and inspiring than being someone you are not. 
  • Talk about your strengths and what they bring to the business. But also talk about the work of others. I’m sure it is a given that we shouldn’t take credit for other’s work (and indeed if anything the women I work with have the opposite problem), but always try and give appropriate credit to your team while talking about yourself: at the end of the day your team is part of your leadership competency that you are promoting.

But how can you self promote? Self-promotion comes in many forms and really depends on the industry you are in. The following are some general areas that apply across multiple areas:

  • Volunteer for work that brings you in contact with different teams in the workplace. This is a great why to stand out and shine, but also to broaden your network.
  • Build your work network. Have coffee room chats with people you don’t know, attend social events (yes even if you aren’t social!) and treat them like work – you are there to network and get to know people.
  • Attend business events to represent your business and get noticed outside your organization. This is particularly powerful if your leadership will also be there and watching you ‘perform’.
  • Engage in public speaking. This often fills many of us with dread but is a way to boost your profile and that of your business. And don’t forget to tell your boss about it!

There are many ways to find the best, most comfortable and honest way for you to self-promote as an individual. In all cases it takes determination and practice.

If you want a helping hand in the steps to self-promotion, download the Leading Women in Tech Guide to self promotion below.

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