Whether you impressed a big client, had your first quarter in the black, or just landed an investor, celebrating and promoting wins is crucial for the ongoing success of your small business venture. However, for some business owners—particularly women and minority entrepreneurs—highlighting personal success in front of others can be a challenge. In fact, management consulting firm, Accenture, found in their 2012 report, The Next
Generation of Working Women, that women are less likely to speak up in professional settings because of the existing likability-bias in society.
Studies show that self-promotion is one of the greatest challenges for women when pursuing career success. This obstacle often gets in the way of promotions, raises, and even investor backing. In fact, less than 10% of venture capital (VC) backed companies are owned by women, largely due to the incorrect perception that women are less ambitious and competitive than their male counterparts. This perception often leads to women being passed over for leadership which makes navigating entrepreneurship a balancing act for women. In this environment, skillfully crafted self-promotion is crucial for any woman who is networking, fundraising, or running a business.
Despite the implicit challenges that come with self-promotion, talking about your hard work and accomplishments is not selfish; it is equal. If you are looking for ways to highlight some of your recent wins, use these tips as a guide for celebrating your hard work and furthering your career.
How to Self-Promote to Your Peers
1. Track Your Work
Before you can promote yourself or your small business, the first step is producing work that speaks for itself. Bragging without the work to back it up can come across as insincere and arrogant. Earn the respect of your clients and peers by only speaking about your hard-earned accomplishments. Track your work using a work diary or performance tracker and bring it with you when presenting your accomplishments.
2. Make it Relevant
No one appreciates an unsolicited boastful comment, so look for opportunities to showcase your strengths in conversations. Peggy Klaus, author of
BRAG! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It, suggests making your self-promotion relevant by weaving your impressive accomplishments (which she calls “brag bites”) into “bragologues,” a term she coined for narratives that touch on your successes. Make sure to include relevant information in your bragolouge such as specific clients, industries, or experiences that will help your peers learn about your accomplishments in context.
3. Skip the Qualifier
When crafting your bragalouge, take care to avoid qualifiers such as “Sorry to brag, but…” or “I don’t mean to brag, but…”. These introductions let your peers know that you are about to boast about your accomplishments and regardless of your sincerity, they are likely to be received poorly. Instead, strategically weave your success and accomplishments into your story so that your intentions are better understood.
4. Stand On Your Merit
Although practicing positivity is a great way to self-promote, unfortunately, it is not always a natural response. As a species, humans often resort to
rankism, the act of putting others down in order to build ourselves up. In your self-promotion, take care to stand on your own merit rather than making negative comments about others. This comes across as petty and can cause tension with your peers.
5. Show your Enthusiasm
Another suggestion Klaus presents is to highlight accomplishments with pride and enthusiasm rather than as matter-of-fact statements. After all, the success of your business and your career are up to you. As Klaus says,
“…we are all entrepreneurs, even if you don’t work for yourself. You are the CEO, marketing manager, sales force, HR director, and while you may have mentors and sponsors and cheerleaders along the way, you’re it. The truth is: If you don’t self-promote, you won’t get promoted.”
6. Rehearse Your Story
In her book, Klaus suggests practicing your bragologue so that next time you are in an elevator or at an event, you can casually converse and self-promote at the same time. The best way to do this is to keep a running list of your top accomplishments and use them to craft brief and interesting stories to share in daily conversations. Make sure to choose successes that you are proud of and enthusiastic about.
7. Accept Compliments
Lastly, if you are in a position where your hard work and achievements are noticed and praised, accept the compliments. The inability to accept a compliment can be due to a lack of self-confidence, which has been called the “imposter syndrome” by Pauline Claunce and Suzanne Imes. This challenge is a common occurrence in those who don’t believe they deserve to be in the position they are in. If left unchecked, this lack of confidence can lead to a success handicap.
Promoting yourself and your brand is one of the toughest parts of starting your business, particularly if you are a woman. As you interact with peers, practice self-promotion in a way that is humble and consistent as you continue growing and achieving greater success in your business venture.