UnknownAre you sitting doing your job quietly while everyone else is getting all the glory? Do you wish that more people paid attention to what you know? Are you upset when obvious phonies get all the attention?

It sounds like the beginning of a Charles Atlas ad that promises to turn the 98 pound weakling who gets sand kicked in his face to a super buffed guy who gets all the babes. But at work it is truer today than ever before.

If you can’t promote yourself, why would anyone else do it for you?

Oh yes, you can say that self-promotion is a waste of time. Eventually someone will notice what you do but that just isn’t the case. Unfortunately, people who don’t promote themselves rarely get anywhere. This is why effective self-promotion is one of those skills that a leader can’t do without.

Now I’m not one to ask how to do this because I actually suck at it. I would rather learn something from someone else than talk about what I’m up to. I just can’t figure out the right balance. That’s why I’m not very good as an entrepreneur, not very good at sales unless I’m dealing with someone who makes decisions based on evidence versus personality.

Now several weeks ago, I admitted I wasn’t very good at networking and it’s all part of the same gene. I haven’t figured out how to network well and I’ve not figured out this self-promotion thing yet. I think I’ll have to develop a process.

If you have any ideas on this, I would love to hear them.

PS: As I finished this and went looking for an image to steal and post to accompany the article, I discovered that there is a Dummies book on Self-Promotion. MUST BUY.


  1. What a great topic. While I’m not a complete klutz at self promotion…I’m not a natural at it either. It is absolutely essential. Afterall, no one is going to market US for US (as you say). I recently worked with a master of self-promotion in my workplace, for whom self-promotion was literally hard-wired. For him, self-promotion was as natural as breathing – and it worked well to elevate him amongst peers and superiors and put him on the fast track to stardom. Sadly, it all came tumbling down when his passion for self-promotion led to lies, misbehaviour and bad things. I’ll pen a couple of the lessons that I learned from him about self-promotion:

    – Effective Self-promoters adapt their methods to the corporate culture – are you in a “team comes first” culture or a “everyone for themselves” culture? Is it laissez-faire or bureaucratic? Does promotion come with tenure or skill or both?

    – Self-promotion behind the scenes is highly effective: and probably draws less scrutiny than overt self-promotion.

    – Self-Promoters spend a lot of time figuring out what their target audience wants and delivers it…with ample fanfare. My colleague went as far as to buy an expensive coffee maker for the CEO of the organization and ceremonially present the “first cup” to the CEO. Hey, it worked! (the CEO didn’t want coffee, by the way, he wanted doting minions)

    – Self-Promoters must be willing to “tick off” colleagues while promoting themselves to higher-ups and withstand/adapt to any backlash or alienation that results.

    – Self-Promoters must know which battles to fight and which to “let go”. Like a skilled surfer, a mature self-promoter waits for the right wave to come along – ideally the wave with the most value to them. Self-promoting at every opportunity may become obvious and be met with backlash.

    – Self-Promoters cash in their chips when their employment stock peaks. They bounce around – rising as quickly as possible before moving on to the next opportunity. First because they are able to generate those “next” opportunities through self-promotion, and second because they may hear the louder-and-louder sound of knives being sharpened after a while, and bolt before career catastrophe strikes.

    – Self-Promoters need to spread their nets rather widely to ensure that changes in leadership don’t lead to their own downfall.

    So, self-promotion is a skill. It is risky. But when done well, it is an essential ingredient in career success.

    • Wow, you should be blogging. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten so detailed a comment. I particularly like the wave idea. In fact I think it could be a good analogy for self-promotion, catching a wave. Know how to look for good waves. Climb onto one, don’t get dumped off. Know when to stop. Moving to another beach. Great analogy if only I knew anything whatsoever about surfing.


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