The world can often appear full of self-promoters. But many people still find communicating their qualities and skills quite hard.
And that presents a dilemma for modest professionals. If they put themselves out there, they might betray their personal values and feel inauthentic. If they don’t, though, who will? There are ways to highlight yourself online and offline without coming across as self-promoting. Here are a few:
1. Consider your personal presentation. Think about the ways you present yourself in your job and how you are perceived. This could include everything from your job title to your voicemail message to how you behave in meetings. Next, think about how you could do these better, and draw up an action list. You might say, "This month, I am going to ask two questions in every team meeting." Look also for opportunities outside your regular job. Industry events may need speakers, and panels may need members. Put yourself forward. The idea is to get yourself more exposure with people you already know and first-time exposure with people you don't know.
2. Think about your online presentation. Platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter provide the opportunity to network and get your message out. If you're not using them, consider it. You can also blog and contribute to publications that are read by your industry. Here, it's a good idea to focus on issues that affect your sector, that you have expertise in, and that interest you. If you want examples of this done well, look for individuals who have become spokespeople for their profession or completely transcended their job by using social media — those whose tweets have gained them hundreds of thousands of followers and turned them into intellectual celebrities.
3. Don't expect instant results. People who are well known online and offline have usually put in a lot of work, even if they make it look easy. You need to stick with it, even if only 15 people read your first LinkedIn post. Because this is a long slog, it is a good idea to treat this as a project with goals and milestones. You might also find yourself an "accountability partner" — someone at work who wants to do the same thing. This will make you much less likely to give up.
4. Engage. If people respond to you online — even to disagree — get a conversation going. And be generous. If you like someone's work, recommend it on LinkedIn or Twitter or tell them. Similarly, offline, recommend colleagues who you know are good to others in your network. Not all of the people you endorse will return the favour, but some will — and often in surprising ways.
5. Draw up a list of people to target. Think of who the agenda-setters and big hitters are in your industry. But also consider people who have interesting and quirky views and those who are rising stars. Next, think about what you bring to the table. You don't want to target people by begging them to share your blogpost. Rather, tell them something interesting and useful that they may not already know.
6. Do not let online networking become a substitute for face-to-face networking. They are not the same, and ten minutes of face-to-face time with one person is worth dozens of new digital connections. So get out and meet people.
7. Consider the appetite for self-promotion. The appropriate level of self-publicity varies greatly from profession to profession, from industry to industry, and from country to country. If you work in sales or marketing, it's probably a given that you promote yourself. But a less overt approach may be advisable in other professions. Everyone promotes themselves to some degree, but you need to use your political skills and social antennae to ensure you blow your trumpet at the right volume.
8. Do good work. Doing good work is rarely enough to get you noticed on its own. But if you do some of the above and do a really great job, people really will notice you.
Rhymer Rigby is an FM magazine contributor and the author of The Careerist: Over 100 Ways to Get Ahead at Work. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Neil Amato, an FM magazine senior editor, at Neil.Amato@aicpa-cima.com.