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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

October 14, 2016

My male colleague aggressively promotes himself and is considered a leader. I want to do the same, but as a woman I feel like I’ll be judged negatively. What should I do?

Julie Q. Brush

Thousands of articles have been written about the differences between the sexes: physically, emotionally, psychologically, behaviorally etc. Another common comparison is the difference in how men and women are treated in the workplace – sparking intense debate on the topic of inequality. This post will not rehash or debate these issues. Instead…it will address a path for you to be happier and more fulfilled in your current situation.

Man or woman, we are all trying to navigate our way through this changing profession. These changes have generated uncertainty and anxiety – as many of the old norms and familiar ways have dissipated. Consequently, professionals today are employing a vast array of strategies and tactics to get ahead and stay ahead. Promoting oneself is an important and necessary part of building a successful career. But many professionals view it as unsavory and in some cases…vulgar. So there is fear to engage in the act and negative judgment towards others who aren’t as bashful.

Your male colleague is doing what he can to compete in his work environment. And there’s nothing wrong with that. You view his success through self-promotion as a bad thing because you fear you will be treated differently if you do the same. Maybe you will, maybe you won’t. But you’ll never know until you buck up and start tooting your own horn. Don’t direct your ire at him…forget about him. Focus on YOU. And put that energy into your own promotion strategy. Because if you’re not going to do it, you can be darn sure no one else will.

Promoting oneself does not have to be crass, arrogant or pushy. It can, and should be a positive thing. But many professionals shun self-promotion because they believe it will produce a negative reaction and taint their reputation. Also creating fear is not knowing what to say, how to say it or the best time to raise the topic. In order to conquer this fear you must have a plan. You must be organized. You must be self-aware.

So what’s the path to healthy self-promotion?

Know What’s Relevant and Worthy of Promoting.

What have you achieved professionally that is notable? What outstanding traits do you possess that are important for career advancement or enhancing your reputation? What makes you a leader? Not everything merits a shout from the mountaintop. So it’s important to know…specifically what you’d like to communicate and why it’s relevant for your career and to everyone around you.

Determine The Best Situation And Context To Promote Yourself.

Use your judgment to determine what environment is appropriate and will make you feel most comfortable. If you don’t want to tout your successes at happy hour, think about your annual review. If you want increased visibility, ask your boss to meet for 30-60 minutes each quarter so you can provide a status of what’s on your plate and what you’ve accomplished. Also, I recommend sending an email every so often when you’ve hit a goal, closed a deal, finished ahead of schedule – and in the process, make sure to pat others on the back for a job well done too. Remember, one of the best ways to promote yourself…is to promote others.

Create Messaging That Makes You Feel Good.

  • Know the fear.

An effective message hinges on the right content, the right words, the right tone and the right delivery. Identify the fear you feel when envisioning your self-recognition. So how do you feel? Scared? Horrified? Sleazy? Like an imposter? Are you afraid of being perceived as too aggressive? Too hard-edged? Too boastful? Too arrogant? Once you understand your fears, you can get to work on a message you can communicated with greater ease and one that can mitigate these fears.

  • Know the facts.

A great Message About Me all starts with the truth and the facts about what makes you awesome. In addition, identify the qualities you believe add value to your employer and colleagues. Why are you an MVP? What are some examples? By starting with the facts, you will have a solid foundation around which to build your narrative.

  • Create the message.

Now it’s time to build that narrative. Determine what you want to say (the words) and how you want to say them (the delivery). And then practice. By perfecting your pitch, you feel more at ease and natural when it’s time to take the stage.

There’s nothing bad or wrong with promoting oneself. For a successful career and self-esteem, it’s essential. And while it may be true that men and women can be judged differently on style and tone, that shouldn’t deter you from finding a style, tone and message that works for you. So forge ahead with confidence and humility – and you’ll soon appreciate…that you’re someone worth talking about.

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