How to blow your own horn, without embarrassment or apology


Like it or not, self-promotion is one of the best tools for people to get ahead in the workplace. And it can be a particularly important way for women and people from underrepresented groups to make sure that their accomplishments are voiced, known, and ultimately recognized.

But for people who aren’t natural self-promoters, this behavior can feel uncomfortable, scary or just plain weird.

Gender and racial stereotypes can impact our perception about an individual’s competence and ability. Women often more heavily defend cultural expectations for women to be modest than men. This attitude can do real damage. We need to focus on why it’s important that we self promote; because at the end of the day, your accomplishments won’t speak for themselves.

Learning to promote yourself takes practice. Here are the steps.

1. Reframe how you think about self-promotion

  • Many of us shy away from promoting ourselves because it seems like bragging. But it’s not bragging if it’s based on facts.
  • Self-promotion actually is: sharing the truth about what you’ve accomplished.

2. Acknowledge your own biases

  • If you find yourself judging another woman for “her bragging”. Ask yourself: ‘Why am I being judgemental? Would I be this judgmental of a man?’
  • There is a study, showing that women who self-promote are viewed as less socially attractive, less competent, and less hireable than their self-promoting male peers are.
  • Most women have been socialized since we were young to respond negatively when women talk about their successes — but noticing a judgmental thought can be a first step in changing your attitude.

3. Practice saying the things you’re proud of out loud

  • We can make a habit out of self-promotion by practicing with our colleagues, friends, or family.
  • Rehearse your elevator pitch, so you can always have two to three accomplishments in your back pocket. As you practice saying your achievements out loud, that’s when it’s going to start to sink in and feel more natural to you.
  • If self-promoting is unfamiliar territory for you, you may find it difficult at first to come up with things you’re proud of — relax, this is normal. To start, ask yourself questions to help start the process, including ‘What have I done that’s remarkable?’; ‘What project or projects have I recently finished?’; ‘What’s something that I’m uniquely good at?’; or ‘When was the last time I felt proud about an accomplishment, and what was it?’

4. Keep track of your achievements

  • Having your achievements tracked makes it easy for you to go to leadership and say, ‘Here’s everything I’ve done over the last quarter’
  • This list will come in handy during performance reviews, when asking for a raise, or during job interviews. The format doesn’t matter, the point is that you keep a running list of things that you’ve achieved and that you’re proud of.

5. Learn to accept — not deflect — compliments

  • Getting more comfortable with praises from other people will make you feel more confident praising yourself.
  • If you’re the type of person who typically deflects compliments, come up with a one-liner that you’re comfortable saying in response. It could be ‘Yes, it was quite a challenge’ or ‘I’m excited to have accomplished that.’ Or just ‘Thank you.’

6. Build a culture at work that celebrates self-promotion

  • Even if it’s not a culture that supports this, there are always people around who do it and do it well. Look around and find out who those people are, go to them and say, ‘Hey, I noticed that you’re really good at championing your accomplishments. I would love to get better at it. Have you always been this way? What helped you get there?’
  • You can also shift the culture of your workplace by helping other people get their accomplishments heard. If you’re a manager, ask your direct reports at your next meeting: ‘How would you like your work to be recognized?’

Developing a culture of self-promotion can have a ripple effect throughout your organization. By being more confident and being able to self-promote, it’s going to help encourage someone else to do the same. Because we are creating the space to say it’s okay for us to be proud of ourselves.