The title of this post illustrates my own ambiguity on the topic. It’s fair and necessary to let others know about your accomplishments (marketing), but it’s easy to descend into ‘hey look at me’ (promotion). Not sure how well I can show the distinction. Self marketing is an essential skill though, and it is worth the effort to build a technique that fits you.
The starting point for this is that many good employees feel under appreciated, under paid, and are often passed over for interesting assignments and promotions. Why? Their boss just doesn’t know what they have done for the company.
How can that be you ask?
Most managers are busy, and they have an expectation that when a task is assigned it will get done. They may see you working late or through lunch (and appreciate it), but even with a small team it’s easy to lose track of who is working hard and effectively versus those that just work hard, and then again those that just spend a lot of hours at the office.
Now you may think that isn’t fair. Perhaps not, but it is the reality. That leaves you with a fork in the road:
- Work hard and do things that need to be done without being asked, and hope someone notices
- Do the above, but make sure you track it and share it with your manager at some point.
Assuming that you are taking the latter option, how do you do it? I’ve seen three main strategies:
- Log your accomplishments, times you came in on a weekend, extra hours, great ideas, etc, and share them at review time (note that sounds a lot like a private blog!). Sound technique, the only downside is that you only get to alter perception once a year.
- Do somewhat the same, but in less formal fashion – perhaps dropping in to see the boss once a week to ‘check-in’ and casually mention any extra effort. This often goes along the lines of ‘I had a heckuva time getting up Saturday morning for stuff with the kids after leaving here at 2 am’. Or you can be more direct, as fits you.
- Letting everyone know that you did something extra – lunch with colleagues, team meetings, chance encounters with others
You can combine those as you want, and many use all three. You might see those as pushy, or even devious, but it all comes down to how you deliver it AND how it’s perceived. This often depends on the person you’re working for – do they get and appreciate the value of you sharing your accomplishments, or do they see it as sucking up or worse?
As a manager, I like to hear about times when an employee has done something well, because I don’t always know and I want to make sure to keep the rankings of who delivers up to date in my head. At the same time, as soon as it starts to feel like they over emphasizing every line of code they did, I start to apply a filter, which comes close to zeroing out the value. The same if I see it as taking credit for work or ideas that weren’t really theirs (and that does happen – especially if the ‘other guy’ isn’t speaking up).
As a manager, I want the insight, within these rules:
- Never exaggerate
- If all I hear is good stuff, then you’ve moved into self serving. Share some missteps too.
- Never take credit for work done by others
- Plus points for making sure I know about good work done by someone else on the team
- Don’t try to manipulate me, but do learn what I value and what I don’t
Maybe you start to see that how you deliver is as important as what you deliver, and for those that are just giving up on the idea that the boss is all knowing, the first attempts are usually painful and awkward. Remember that it’s to be expected. Just keep working on it until you find a method that works (and remember to adjust when you get a new boss).
It’s amazing to me how much difference being good at this can make. Many years ago I worked for a company with many offices, most staffed about the same and doing about the same work for their area. There was a manager at a nearby office that was seen as being very, very good, but I had seen him and my own manager work, and in my view my boss was as good, if not better. Why was he perceived as so much better, when in fact the tasks were either done or not done? It came down to two things:
- He was co-located with the next level manager, giving him plenty of ‘hallway opportunities’ to share that he had just completed a task a couple days ahead of schedule, etc, etc
- He made it a point to make sure people knew when he did anything ahead of schedule
Said differently, he was the only one talking, so the assumption was that no one else was going anything exciting or trying to excel. That was far from the case, but most of those others dismissed it as ‘politics’ – and that was my own view as well. Looking back now I see that he was just playing the game better than the rest (which is mildly negative, but it is a competition), and that the people he worked for weren’t very good managers or they would have done more to compensate.
Some managers will work hard at seeing accomplishments (good ones), and many think (different ones) that if you don’t get it and do your own marketing that you truly don’t get it, and that in itself moves you down the list of good to great employees.
Changing focus some, as a reader/consumer of content I tend to look at it exactly the same way as I would as a manager. If every post and tweet is a ‘look what I did’, I will probably filter you out. On the other hand, if you take time to post about stuff that is just interesting and not about you, I read that and appreciate your effort (and by implication, your knowledge and skill that let you write it) and then I’ll also read with interest/patience about things you do that you want to share.
For example, yesterday I posted some notes from the South Florida Code Camp. Part of that was to share that I did a couple presentations – demonstrating competence and participation. But instead of just writing that, I tried to share more thoughts about the trip. Arguably that just means more about me, but for me blogging is first person. I could write it as more of a report, but I think that is less interesting to most people, and definitely less fun to write. Think about that for a minute – was it useful, did you find it interesting to hear about the trip, or did it just smack of shameless self promotion?
I prefer a low key approach, others tend to more aggressive (blatant?), and it’s interesting to me that people often accept a style of marketing from some people that they wouldn’t from others, in effect adjusting for the personality of the one doing the messaging. I can’t say that one is right and the other is wrong, but can say that the more conservative strategy is to err on the side of caution. Hard to undo the damage if you cross that line (which you can’t see).
Have you found a way to effectively market yourself at work? Or seen a technique that really worked well? Or a technique that just seemed over the top?