This past week I’ve heard the same sad story over and over again…
People who reached out to tell me that they had been heads down, put in long hours, took personal time to learn a new skill, and then sat back and hoped all the efforts would impress their teammates and bosses.
They got passed up for the promotion they had been coveting.
I get it, because I’ve been there too…
I once spent 3+ years in a job. During that time I too was heads down and hard at work. But despite all my efforts I never received a promotion. Meanwhile all the people who joined after me got promoted!
I finally realized that putting in more hours and working harder wasn’t going to help. There was only one thing left to do: speak up and showcase the work I had done.
I learned how to promote myself.
I know what you’re thinking, “Ew self-promotion is slimy… It’s what politicians do!”
Yes it’s true, but that’s one style of self-promotion.
Or maybe you’re thinking, “ZOMG that sounds scary, I’m not an expert. I’ve only been coding for 2 weeks, 2 months, or 2 decades.” Or, “I’m new to a role… Who would want to hear from me?”
And maybe you took the plunge but it didn’t work out, “Ugh Poornima I’ve tried that, and it just falls on deaf ears!”
Yup there are definitely people who just don’t care, and no matter how often or loud you speak it seems like they aren’t listening.
I’ve personally experienced all of this, and decided to try a different approach…
I started by sharing my work inside my company. To kickoff the talk I’d begin by providing some motivation as to why people should listen and how it would help them.
Since I was on a small team I realized that if something happened to me, no one else would know the code base, and it would set them back. You often hear of this as the bus factor. So I’d start each internal talk by merely saying, I want to share the work I’m doing to educate others, and spread the knowledge to avoid any hairy situations.
This got their attention, and once I had it, I then moved on to explain the impact of my work on the team, company, and to our customers.
When people understand the impact of your work, they naturally want to support you, because it makes them look good.
There are those who may want to undercut you, but it’s hard to do when you’ve assembled a group of decision makers, not just one!
Own Your Work
During my talks I’d give credit where credit was due, but I learned to say things like “This is the work I did.” And, “This was my contribution.” Followed by, “Here were the results of my work.”
Finally, I walked them through a step-by-step process for how they could come up to speed quickly.
Share It Internally and Externally
Often people will just share their work inside their own organization. That’s a great first step, especially if you are nervous. I decided to take it a step further. I shared everything I did (that wasn’t proprietary) with others.
And no I didn’t worry about being a so-called expert. I shared what I knew, and owned up to what I didn’t. Surprisingly no one called me out. They were just impressed that I had the chutzpah to speak as a junior engineer.
Can you guess what happened next?
People wanted to work for my company! Others wanted to hire me. But most importantly people started to see me as someone who was credible that they could learn from, and once that happened I didn’t think of self-promotion as being slimy, sleezy, or scary.
So I leave you with two choices:
Choice A: Stay heads down, and hope that someone will recognize your work, because you’re scared of speaking up and being called slimy or sleezy.
Choice B: Showcase the work you’ve done, how it benefits people, and teach others how they can do it too.
Let me know your choice in the comments below, and feel free to share additional strategies that have worked for you!