Anxiety, particularly around self-promotion, can stymie a career. It can stem from too frequently being outside your comfort zone. Equally, it can get worse when you always play it safe and get stuck. If left unchallenged for too long, stretching your comfort zone suddenly becomes a very big deal.
That’s why self-promotion is much the same as any good workout – it’s little and often. It’s not a one-off marathon that will build your career muscles.
Here are a few questions to consider:
1. What would feel like a stretch – but use my strengths?
The point of ‘raising your profile’ isn’t to get noticed by all and sundry. That can feel completely out of your depth or your sense of control. Rather, what is important is to raise it in a way that feels like a stretch, but authentic to you.
If you are deathly afraid of public speaking, first try leading a small group presentation. Ask for presentational training or invest in it yourself.
If you would like to be published, start by offering to write an article for your internal employee newsletter. Get the feedback you need and then work your way up to contributing to industry news pieces. The key is to start where you feel comfortable and then consistently stretch yourself.
Jackie Gittins, who was a senior leader at PwC when I interviewed her for ‘Beyond the Boys Club’ shared examples that worked for her:
‘For some people, it might be a mass email announcing a win. I get asked to speak at a lot of conferences, which helps spread the word. I know my strengths and weaknesses; I am terrible at writing, but a good speaker, so that is where I concentrate my efforts.’
‘When your name is mentioned in a magazine or your name is on the speaking circuit, people aren’t incredulous and looking to find fault with you. It simply reinforces the idea that you are someone who knows what you are talking about.’
2. Where is an audience with whom I could even start?
When asked where a woman who is completely frozen by the idea of self-promotion should start out, Jackie suggested:
‘You could update people in a team meeting, by explaining the win, what it took to achieve and what it means for both your department and the organisation as a whole.’
The point is, you have to start somewhere and the options are endless. Jackie initially found it difficult to accept that she would have to raise her profile to be noticed for her work.
3. What is my lack of self-promotion costing me?
I often tell my audiences that little comes to the woman who is waiting, like I first did, to be noticed by a fairy ‘career-mother’. She simply doesn’t exist!
Unfortunately, no matter how hard you work, too often the rewards go to those who are, shall we say ‘less bashful’ even if less skilled.
In the retelling of her experiences, this resonated with Jackie who said:
‘I’m 45, but it wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I noticed how much male colleagues were drawing attention to their work, the same type of work I was doing. I was put off initially, but came to realise that I had to learn to tell my story in a way that was authentic to me.’