Many people are not comfortable with the concept and practice of self-promotion. However, no matter how good you are at your job, without self-promotion your achievements may be overlooked.

So how can you promote your achievements without looking smarmy?

For many professionals, but in my experience especially IT professionals the idea of self promotion smacks of selling and becoming the centre of attention which makes them uncomfortable, however, if your nature is to be the background person who does the work and lets other people take the credit, it is likely that those other people will get the promotions and the pay rises that you deserve.

It is in both yours and your organisation’s interest that the right rather than the loudest person gets the promotion as this allows the company to grow in the hands of the competent professional who can guide it in the right direction for the future.

When you approach it with authenticity and integrity, self-promotion helps you build the credibility, confidence and social capital you need to get people to follow your lead and move forward in your career. Read on for tips on how to sell yourself without smarminess.

Focus on the work

Even leaders who see the value of self-promotion are often unsure how to proceed. Like most behaviours, self-promotion can be overdone to one’s detriment. To strike a balance between bragging and modesty, stay focused on the work and the value it brings to the Organization. Talk about the outcome, talk about what you personally did to accomplish it, but at the same time, avoid overusing the pronoun I when talking about your work. That way, you won’t come across as boastful.

Tell a Story

Don’t think of self-promotion as bragging. Consider it an opportunity to tell success stories. Everyone loves a good story, especially one with a happy ending. Good stories captivate an audience and help them remember the accomplishment. Let the story—not you—do all the work. Your story should include how you steered the process toward the desired outcome.

Communicate your or your team’s success stories to as many people who would be interested in hearing them, in as many forms as makes sense, such as in a company newsletter, in an e-mail to appropriate departments and teams, and when you are asked to speak about recent projects at a meeting. If your story is a good one, word will get around. The important thing is to focus on what was accomplished and to talk about your accomplishments in a way that will help others who are working on similar projects be successful.

Team Up

For leaders who naturally shy away from self-promotion, the key is to use tactics and behaviours that are effective and maintain a sense of authenticity. For example, leaders who are uncomfortable touting their accomplishments may want to find a colleague with a similar struggle. That way, co-workers can promote each other, so each gains greater visibility in the workplace.



Schmoozer. You are highly social and know everybody. You like to see and be seen, particularly with “the right people.”

Your challenge: Make sure that you are not perceived as a phony with little substance and a big agenda. Your interactions should be meaningful and genuine with everybody.

New mind-set: Self-promotion should be targeted, intentional and sincere.


Worker. You are highly competent, work-oriented and productive. You view social activities, networking and self-promotion as time wasters.

Your challenge: Expand your view beyond the task and take a broader view. See how connections enable you to have stronger impact.

New mind-set: Self-promotion contributes to workplace effectiveness.


Anti-braggart. You see self-promotion as bragging and obnoxious and will go to extremes not to be perceived that way. Overly modest, you often deflect praise and are quick to take blame.

Your challenge: Ensure that your skills and your work are viewed and valued accurately by others. Stop downplaying your contributions.

New mind-set: There’s a difference between bragging and authentic self-promotion.


Selective Marketer. You know the value of self-promotion and have had some positive experiences as a result of touting your work, your group or your talent. Even so, you are unsure of how to consistently or strategically market yourself without overdoing it.

Your challenge: Integrate self-promotion into your routine work and communication so that it is appropriate, useful and consistent.

New mind-set: Self-promotion is an ongoing leadership task, not an occasional activity.

Source: G. Hernez-Broome, C. McLaughlin and S. Trovas


Think of Self-Promotion Strategically

Plan what you communicate and how. Be consistent with your promotional strategies, maintain your credibility and be sincere.

Connect With Others

Build relationships with colleagues inside and beyond your department. Take the time to make the rounds and talk with them about your work. This will give you an opportunity to share the projects you’re working on—and the value they’re bringing to the company—with more people, thus raising your profile in the organisation and making more people aware of what you’re doing.

Create Opportunities to Promote Yourself

Step into the spotlight. Volunteer to facilitate meetings or for projects that will showcase your strengths. Join an industry association. These actions lend themselves to increasing your visibility.

Be Honest With Yourself and Your Colleagues

Your promotional efforts will be more effective if people in your organisation respect you and your credibility. You have to be honest about your strengths and weaknesses. You have to be proactive, and you can’t ignore problems. If you can curtail difficulties by planning ahead, you’ll increase your credibility. Value people at all levels of the organisation and highlight their accomplishments, too.

Reframe Your Beliefs About Self-Promotion

To overcome any aversion you feel toward selling your accomplishments, it’s helpful to reframe your beliefs. When you look at self-promotion from a positive perspective, it will feel more natural to you. Here are some examples of several misconceptions about self-promotion and how they can be reframed.

Misconception: Team players don’t take credit.

Reframed: Visibility benefits the team.

Perhaps you’re part of a corporate culture that values the group over individual effort. Or maybe you’ve been burned by others taking credit for your work. If self-promotion seems to conflict with your group’s orientation, then it’s time to realise that it can, in fact, benefit the group. At times, your efforts may highlight your individual role, while other cases may warrant your promoting another group member or the group as a whole.

Misconception: Senior management doesn’t want to hear about me.

Reframed: Senior management appreciates information and talent.

Senior management doesn’t need every detail about you and your current task, but it does want to know that you are engaged in your work and in the goals of the organisation. Have a clear statement in mind about a key project or component of your work so that if you’re asked about it, you can take advantage of the moment to demonstrate your credibility as a communicator and leader.


Misconception: Self-promotion is a waste of time.

Reframed: It’s part of the job.

Many people say they don’t have time to talk up their work. In fact, effective self-promotion can save time for you—and others—in the long run. When you talk about your successes, you create the opportunity to prevent redundant work. People will know what you’re working on and what’s been done.

Misconception: My boss doesn’t have time to listen to me talk about my accomplishments.

Reframed: My boss’s job is to keep tabs on my progress.

Your very busy boss doesn’t want to have to pry things out of you. Tell him what is going well, what challenges you’re facing and what help you need. Your job is to keep your boss informed.

Choosing the self-promotion strategies that suit you will make the activity feel more natural to you. And when self-promotion feels more instinctive to you, it will come off as genuine—and not as bragging—to others, too. Be proud of your accomplishments, share them with your organisation and watch new career paths open up to you.


If you would like to get some help with your career challenges, please answer a few questions at to schedule your complimentary consultation.

Margaret Buj is an Interview Coach who’s helped hundreds of professionals across Europe and the US to get the jobs and promotions they really wanted. Margaret also has 9 years of experience recruiting for a variety of positions at all levels across Europe and in the US, primarily in technology and e-commerce sectors. If you want to find out how recruiters read resumes, why you are not getting hired, how to sell yourself successfully in a job interview, and how to negotiate your best salary yet, you can download her FREE “You’re HIRED!” video course.



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