How to Toot Your Own Horn at Work

I’ve read the same articles you have. I know women are more reluctant than men to tout our own accomplishments at work and that our lack of self-promotion often causes us to fall behind in salary and career advancement.I’m a big believer in women speaking up on their own behalf. So, after powering through a busy period at a previous job, I thought the time was right to remind my manager that I was a great asset. I typed out a list of my recent accomplishments and asked my manager if we could spend some time reviewing it during one of our weekly check-ins.100H“Sure,” she said, and motioned for me to go ahead.I read off my contributions to the first project on the list.“Great,” she said. She waited for me to continue.I took a deep breath and talked about a second project.“Okay,” she said.The whole meeting continued on like that. I found myself wishing I’d accomplished less just so I’d have an excuse to end it early.It turns out that spending 20 minutes talking about how you’re doing a great job can be pretty darn awkward. For my manager’s part, she seemed to agree that I had made valuable contributions; she just didn’t have a protocol for how to respond in that moment. She wasn’t sure if she should reinforce me at every pause—you’re right, it was awesome how you wrote most of that big client report!—or wait for me to finish before sharing her thoughts. She also wasn’t prepared to react to my presentation with anything other than a noncommittal thanks as she didn’t want to over-promise anything at the end of the meeting.The next time I toot my own horn at work, I’ll be doing things a lot differently. Here’s what I’ve learned from this experience and what I’d recommend:

  1. Put your list of accomplishments in an email and send it to your manager ahead of time. Give her something to think over beforehand, so she’ll be more prepared to respond.
  2. Focus on what you want in terms of your future development, not your past victories. Instead of asking for a meeting to review previous accomplishments, frame your meeting request around professional development. Use your recent successes as a jumping-off point to talk about how you can add even more to the company moving forward. Say something like, “Since I started working with the marketing team, our ROI is up by 20 percent. I’d love to manage my own campaign the next time that opportunity arises. Do you see an opportunity for me to do this soon?” You can also highlight stellar work you’ve done in one area while pointing out another area where you’d like to grow: “I’ve written a number of well-received client reports, but I haven’t presented my work in front of an audience. It would be great if we could be on the lookout for public speaking opportunities for me.” Go into your meeting with specific, actionable requests that follow directly from your current work while remaining open to your manager’s feedback. You’ll be planting ideas in your manager’s head about how you can grow—and in the process, your manager will get the message loud and clear that you’re doing a great job and you’re ready to take on more responsibility.
  3. Be strategic about when you time your meeting. A new year is a perfect excuse to set up a professional development meeting. Tell your manager, “I’ve been thinking about how I can grow with the company in 2015, can we meet soon to discuss it?” Even when January passes, giving any time-related reason for your meeting request can go a long way towards making the meeting higher priority and less awkward. Asking to meet around your two-year work anniversary, or following the end of your company’s busy season, sounds entirely reasonable. You can go into the meeting confident that your manager will be more receptive.

Do you have any other suggestions for making advocating for yourself at work less awkward? Share your successes and challenges in the comments!