Talking about yourself isn't necessarily easy. That's no secret. Self-promotion can feel awkward and uncomfortable, as no one likes to feel as though they're tooting their own horn.
This is especially true for women, who are too often penalized for self-promoting in the workplace. And this is troubling because, in order to ask for raises and promotions or get the credit you deserve, you need to be able to advocate for yourself.
According to a recent study from McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.org — the nonprofit founded by Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg — women are less likely than their male peers to be hired into senior positions, they have less access to top executives and they don't receive as many challenging assignments that can help them to grow. The research looked at data from 132 companies with 4.6 million workers.
Why is this the case? At first, researchers thought this was because women weren't asking for raises, demanding what they'd deserved. Linda Babcock of Carnegie Mellon University explained to NPR back in 2011 that there's an evident "snowball effect." She said that women are less likely to ask for raises because of perceptions of "aggression," and, instead, typically wait to be offered these raises. Because of that, she suggested, women are slower to grow professionally and, therefore, they are slower to achieve higher pay.
But more recent research suggests that women do indeed ask for raises just as often as men do. According to a poll by global job site Indeed, over 67 percent of women respondents were planning to ask for a pay rise at the time of the research, as they were not happy with their levels of remuneration. And that was in comparison to just 64 percent of men.
But when women do ask for raises, they are 25 percent less likely to receive them than men. As Babcock suggested, their personalities are scrutinized when they do ask. That's right: Women who negotiate for higher salaries are a whopping 30% more likely than men to be deemed "aggressive," "bossy" and "intimidating."
Add to this that women have to cope with mansplaining and manterrupting in the workplace, and they often don't get the credit that they deserve.
Women are forced to be their own advocates in a work culture that too often undermines and ignores their work. But social penalization is a very real consequence.
So how do you self promote in a way that's digestible for others in the workplace and that won't hurt your workplace image? Let's dive in.
What does it mean to be self-promoting?
In regards to the workplace, self-promoting means talking about your experiences, skills and successes in a way that shows your value to the company.
People also self-promote in romantic relationship and friendships, as well.
Why is self-promotion important?
When you share your capabilities and accomplishments, your managers and colleagues understand how you can be an asset to them. Likewise, sharing your capabilities and accomplishments can help your manager to understand how deserving you are of a raise or promotion.
That said, you have to be careful when self-promoting.
"When self-promoting, people face an important problem: Their behavior might come across as conceited, if not fraudulent," according to PsychologyResearch.net. "Although the key motivation underlying self-promotion is to be perceived as competent, situations arise where self-promotion must be successfully integrated with likeability, even though these two motivations may conflict. Probably the most prominent example of this concern is the classic job interview. Applicants interviewing for a job need to appear both competent and likable to impress their potential supervisor, but expressing both of these qualities during the interview may be tricky! For example, to convey confidence and competence, applicants know they must highlight their relevant experience and accomplishments. At the same time, applicants do not want to appear conceited or arrogant to the interviewer."
Be sure to self-promote in a way that makes people want more.
One secret tip to self-promoting is doing so in a way that leaves people wanting to know more. It's important that you don't go chewing people's ears off talking about yourself. Rather, share a short and concise tidbit about your experiences, skills or achievements that are relevant to the conversation at hand — and then let them ask you to hear more.
In other words, if you're discussing a problem that you have at work, and you've faced a similar problem in a past job, you should certainly share that with the team. At that point, they'll likely ask you about your experience, giving you the opportunity to self-promote without imposing it upon others.
How do people engage in self-promotion?
People engage in self-promotion in a variety of ways.
- They may talk about their past experiences that are relevant to the conversation.
- They may talk about their skills that are helpful.
- They may talk about recent accomplishments of which they feel proud.
- They may create a portfolio to display their hard work, with mention of credible bylines or impressive clients.
What is self-promotion in psychology?
According to PsychologyResearch.net, Self-promotion in psychology refers to:
"The practice of purposefully trying to present oneself as highly competent to other people. When people self-promote, their primary motivation is to be perceived by others as capable, intelligent, or talented (even at the expense of being liked). Self-promotion becomes especially useful and prominent when a person competes against others for desirable — often scarce — resources, such as a good job or an attractive partner. People can self-promote their abilities in general or in a specific domain. Self-promotion exists as part of a general yet extremely pervasive human motivation: to be perceived favorably by others. In the case of self-promotion, people want to be perceived by others as being competent. Not surprisingly, then, people generally only self-promote in public, and around people they want to impress, such as superiors at work. For example, someone completing a self-evaluation at work would be much less likely to self-promote if a supervisor would never read the self-evaluation, or if the self-evaluation was anonymous.
Self-promoting isn't easy. But if you pay attention to the aforementioned tips, you can learn to be your own advocate in the workplace.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.