“Let’s get out a pen and paper and take five minutes to write down what makes you remarkable,” I told my coaching program participants as I ran Google’s BeRemarkable exercise with them. Then I called upon Michelle,* one of the eleven program participants, to walk us through her list. As she spoke about all the things that make her awesome – being the first in her family to complete a master’s degree, going through long IVF treatment to have her two beautiful children, being a dependable employee who always delivers on time – her eyes welled up. “It is hard for me to talk about what makes me remarkable.”
Gender Differences in Self-Promotion
This struggle with self-promotion is not unique to Michelle. In fact, a study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research showed a large gender gap in self-promotion – with men rating their performance 33 percent higher than equally performing women. The many women I have coached over the years have consistently noted imposter syndrome and hesitancy to advocate for themselves as their biggest roadblocks. When we peel back the onion, there are a combination of reasons why these hard-working, overachieving, ambitious women have a hard time with self-promotion.
“Pepsi and Coke don’t hesitate to put out an ad, then why do we feel guilty when we self-promote?” –Andrea Martin, leadership coach
Why Women Struggle with Self-Promotion
- Myth of Meritocracy: Our education system is designed to reward hard work with good grades. Unfortunately, women often carry what they have experienced during school to the workplace, believing that, if they work hard, they will automatically be recognized and rewarded by their organizations. When these women see lesser deserving colleagues advance to higher positions and pay grades, they find themselves disappointed, disillusioned and unsure of their next step.
- Double Standards: Women often hold a higher performance bar for themselves than they do for their male colleagues. This is aggravated for women of color or those with intersectional identity, who believe that they are not worthy of praise if they deliver anything less than brilliant.
- Imposter Syndrome: Imposter syndrome is a constant feeling of inadequacy and incompetency despite evident success. Though 70 percent of people have experienced imposter syndrome at some point in their lives, it disproportionately impacts women, who suffer longer and more often from feelings of fraudulence. This leads to lower self-confidence and hesitancy to speak up about one’s achievements.
- Social Penalty: Women are expected to be nurturing, collaborative and communal, and continue to bear increased backlash or social penalty for promoting themselves or displaying “unlady-like behaviors”
- Lack of Strategy: Growing up, we are seldom taught how to talk about our accomplishments without appearing rude or boastful. In addition, our brains tend to remember negative examples where someone promoted themselves in a cringe-worthy manner, and we try to avoid being that person at all costs. Therefore, many women just don’t know how to get visibility for their work due to lack of positive examples and practical strategies to tactfully self-promote.
Why Advocating for Yourself is a Must for Career Growth
If you aspire to grow in your career, it is necessary that you not only do the hard work, but also talk about it. Bringing visibility to the results you achieve and the value you bring to your organization opens up doors for greater visibility assignments, salary raises, promotions and opportunities to do higher impact work. Self-promotion is also an excellent tool to bring visibility to your team’s efforts and attract top talent for your organization.
“We think marketing is necessary for a business to grow, but we hesitate to market ourselves in the workplace. This squashes our career growth.” –Richa Bansal, career acceleration coach and founder of Pinkcareers
OWN IT: Formula for Mastering the Art of Shameless Self-Promotion
Ready to learn how to advocate for yourself? Below is a step-by-step formula that can help you master the art of shameless self-promotion: OWN IT.
- Open: The first step to becoming comfortable with self-promotion is to open up your mindset. If you are someone who feels that talking about your accomplishments is boastful, then reframe your thinking. Instead, think that by playing small, you are not maximizing the value you can bring to your team, your organization or your clients. Adopting this service mindset will help you maintain a sense of integrity and authenticity while advocating for yourself.
- Wins: Maintain a list of achievements that you can use to promote yourself and your team when an opportunity arrives. Did you finish the project $50k under budget? Put it on the list. Made a process change that saved two hours of testing time per equipment? Add that to the list. Created a template that makes it easier for the team to complete monthly reporting? Make note of it. The key here is to remember that you don’t need game-changing accomplishments; small wins matter.
- Numbers: Where possible, quantify your wins. Instead of reporting you came under budget this year, report that you came 10 percent under budget this year. Rather than saying you improved customer satisfaction, say it improved the customer satisfaction score by 200 basis points above the goal of 90 percent.
- Internalize: Once you have listed your quantitative wins, it is time to internalize those accomplishments so that you can speak about them with confidence. Daily self-affirmations are one of the most effective tools you can use to retrain your mind and believe that your wins are a result of your hard work and talent. Some powerful self-affirmations to use are:
- I believe in my skills and in myself.
- I am at the table because I have something valuable to contribute.
- I am confident and people around me can feel it.
- Tell: Now it’s time to talk to others about how awesome you are! Find opportunities to tactfully highlight your wins and those of your team. A weekly 1:1 with your manager and a monthly meeting with your skip manager are both great times to talk about your quantitative results. Another great way to broadcast your accomplishments is through a monthly newsletter or email blast that you can send to all your key stakeholders. Last, but not the least, make sure that when asked directly, instead of being humble or externalizing your results, you talk about your qualities and wins with confidence and pride.
No one is more invested in your career than you. If you want to get to the next level in your career, you need to first believe in, and then speak up about your strengths, abilities and results. It is only through self-promotion that doors to great opportunities will unlock.
*Name changed to protect privacy.
Richa Bansal is a seasoned professional with a decade of experience excelling in the corporate world on her own terms. She is currently a senior program manager with Amazon, where she leads large-scale programs to help Amazon hire the best talent on earth. She previously worked with Schlumberger, leading a global engineering team to deliver multi-million dollar projects for global oilfield clients like ExxonMobil, Shell and bp.
As one of the only women in the room for most of her career, Bansal has seen firsthand the struggles of women as they navigate the corporate ladder. In 2019, she founded Pinkcareers to deliver no-fluff career advice to women and close the gender gap in the C-suite. Bansal has partnered with over 20 Fortune-500 companies, universities, and the Government of Canada to deliver her leadership programs, and coached over 50 women on the power of personal branding, prioritization, self-promotion and managing up for accelerating career growth while creating a more balanced lifestyle.
Bansal earned a bachelor’s degree from IIT Delhi in India, a master’s from Purdue University, and an MBA from Rice University. When she is not working on Pinkcareers, she loves to travel the world with her husband and two little boys. To learn how to work with Bansal, reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oil and gas operations are commonly found in remote locations far from company headquarters. Now, it's possible to monitor pump operations, collate and analyze seismic data, and track employees around the world from almost anywhere. Whether employees are in the office or in the field, the internet and related applications enable a greater multidirectional flow of information – and control – than ever before.