How to Promote Yourself and Be Promoted


I aspire to a higher level of responsibility but all too often see others with less skill being promoted over me. I don’t want to come across as immodest, but how do I get the recognition and advancement I deserve?

In business today, if you can’t get excited about your accomplishments, no one else will. Humility has its place but it will not get you noticed by those who can further your cause.

People who can’t promote themselves, can’t advance their agenda. Self-promotion is the ability to convey authenticity with grace and impact and to connect with others through interesting story telling. It’s the skill of talking about yourself in a natural way without coming off as a self-aggrandizing braggart.

Self-promotion should be continuous. It’s not reserved for special occasions such as performance reviews. Here are some tips on how to ready yourself for advancement through the ranks:

Develop your unique story.  Never assume others will tell your story the way you want it told. Only you know who you are, what you’ve accomplished and where you want to go. So develop your own story – create pithy, colourful, convincing narratives about your accomplishments. Make it conversational, not canned. Practice (learn your scripts) until you are comfortable selling yourself.

Make it relevant.  Tailor your story to specific opportunities, and make it pertinent to the listener’s interests more than yours. The quality of your message will always be more important than the quantity. Be credible, and thus believable. Leverage the power of relevant, timely humour but don’t be a comedian (especially if you’re not good at it).

Learn to schmooze.  In Yiddish, shmuesn means having an informal chat. Schmoozing is the art of engaging others thoughtfully. It’s listening to find common ground (and remembering those details), to carefully draw people out, and to seamlessly plant positive seeds about yourself. The more you discover about them and what’s important in their lives, the greater the opportunity to position your story and make it compelling.

Keep it personal.  Never forget: First impressions are lasting impressions. You make a positive impact on others when you begin sentences with “you,” not “I”; when you genuinely smile, nod and lean in their direction; and when you remember their names and a few significant details about their hopes, dreams and challenges.

Build your leadership brand.  Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room. Don’t stand on the sidelines awaiting an invitation to get in the game. Step forward and get involved in challenging projects and assignments.

Be effective, not just busy.  Being busy can be self-affirming and addictive, but it’s your accomplishments that get you noticed. The more you are seen as a doer of work, the less you are viewed as a potential leader of others. When you get sucked into day-to-day minutiae, you lose your ability to see the big picture and the time needed to look ahead, beyond routine work, in anticipation of what challenges your department or company may face in future. Stay unencumbered and thus capable of addressing more important things in an active manner. That too will get the attention of the gatekeepers who can determine your future.

Prove your worth.  Once you’ve been noticed, you need to deliver on your potential. Develop and strengthen the skills necessary to get where you want to be. The proof is in the doing; leverage yourself through actions, not words. Your story tells how your past will add value to the organization; your performance demonstrates it.

We all know people who are intelligent, hard-working, caring and trustworthy. But those characteristics alone won’t get them promoted. It’s what they actually do in crunch time that makes the difference in how high they will rise.

The day you stop promoting yourself is the day you stop advancing. Opportunities rarely go to the most qualified, but rather to those who can promote themselves the best and who are in the right place at the right time. This may seem unfair, but it is not accidental.

This article was written for and appeared in The Toronto Globe & Mail, September 2/11.