A recent article by William Arruda in Forbes Magazine inspired me to think about how self-promotion helps career management.
The majority I speak with don’t enjoy self-promotion. Even though I work for myself and it’s, at times, a necessary evil, I much prefer client introductions and referrals to puffing into my own trombone.
Whether we gladly or reluctantly self-promote, the fact is that today we are all busy — some so busy being busy that we quickly forget everything we do seconds after completion. To the oversubscribed, to-do lists seem to lengthen faster than they can cross off whatever the heck they just finished.
Being busy can create an artificial sense of being productive, which is important to be aware of because the two are worlds apart. The biggest downside of being too busy—rather than being truly productive—is the impact it has on the person hurt because of it. That answer, of course, is you.
“Busy” is a very common reason people I hear for why people don’t do something that is very important: building their personal brand in order to advance their lives and career.
Somehow we find time for emails and PowerPoint and texting and teleconferences, but miss the end objective of why we are doing those things in the first place — to gain ground en route to attaining important goals.
I often coach what I consider a fact that too many people hear as a punchline. Judge for yourself. Is the following statement true or false?
“For the most part, people spend more time planning their vacation than they do their career.”
It is funny, ‘til we stop and think about it. More often than not the answer is true. The reason? People are “too busy.” Too busy to manage their career but not too busy to plan a vacation.
Working at a job is one thing, but letting that job impede a career is never good. The busier we get and more we hop around — whether from task-to-task or job-to-job — we usually forget to do something that is smart and important.
We do not document, much less organize, our successes. These come to us one at a time in the course of daily life and, theoretically, should accumulate. But if we don’t systematically do something to keep track of these accomplishments, they soon disappear. They go from top of mind to out of mind; and from the inbox to eventually the trash.
What’s the easiest way to document wins? Create a repository. Whether that repository is a file folder or a job journal, create a specific destination to archive in writing your significant achievements.
Doing this has five clear benefits:
1. You will acknowledge what makes you special. Most coworkers and clients are too busy (there’s that phrase again!) to notice your daily victories. Because of that, don’t rely on them to be aware everything you do. Instead, self-congratulate. Personal kudos are great confidence builders and self-confidences boosts self-image and self-esteem.
Accumulating these accomplishments in written form also helps identify and reinforce your strengths. Both large and small triumphs matter, as do personal ones. Meeting a tight deadline, despite an overanxious boss or less than helpful vendor, is great stuff. So is staying calm under pressure or coaching a co-worker to be more efficient or effective.
2. You will recognize the difference between meeting goals because of motivation and despite burnout. If you take a minute to record what you achieved—and how good it felt—you are archiving a significant accomplishment. From these you will be able to draw conclusions and make decisions based upon which activities (and co-workers) make you happiest — as well as those you dread.
This self-awareness is critical as you decide how you want your career evolve. Remember that jobs are often just about “doing.” Careers are not. Careers are about filling days, weeks, months, and years doing things that energize you.
Goal recognition stimulus also helps recognize when to take action, and when to prioritize projects with the greatest impact on your career, team, and company.
I like to plot priorities in quadrants along X and Y axes, which helps identify where activities lie in terms of Payoff and Priority. If a job currently seems filled with low payoff and low priority tasks, it probably is boring.
Careers shouldn’t be boring. Careers should be invested in activities that matter to you and maximize the chance to do things that are high priority and high payoff.
3. You will see, in snapshots taken over time, a very clear picture of the kind of work you are doing. This understanding can create positive reinforcement or maybe a time-lapse kick in the pants. Sometimes staring at an archive of facts triggers the awareness that perhaps it’s time to move on to something more challenging.
For example, do you often find yourself in leadership roles? If so, are you content to execute someone else’s plan? If so, what types of projects do you prefer? If you aren’t content with following direction, what’s not working? What is unfulfilling or not stimulating about what those projects entail?
4. You will be far more prepared and positioned to look really good during weekly or monthly meetings with your boss. Armed with documentation based on accumulated facts, you will arrive fully prepared to speak clearly about your accomplishments; and you will be more than one step ahead when it’s time to prepare and deliver progress reports.
5. Preparing a rich, accurate portfolio for your annual review — the one tied to your bonus and possible promotion — is suddenly far easier. If you’ve written down key accomplishments as the year has unfolded, you will never forget all the good things since your last annual review. Instead you will have a complete, robust list of accomplishments.
Doing this should not take long. Assuming you invest five minutes (or less) each day capturing the highlights, you will accumulate approximately 250 entries to draw from. This robust catalog provides a competitive edge because your body of work is chronological, well-organized, documented evidence.
Instead of a vague or generalized conversation, you have amassed the content to professionally build a full-blown presentation that showcases when you saved the company money, brought in business, made customers happy, improved office morale, and otherwise strengthened the organization.
This body of work has external value too. If and when you are invited to interview at another organization, your archived achievements become a great career-marketing tool — a portfolio of professional accomplishment.
The value of the work holds true even if you’re self-employed: A robust job journal greatly enhances your pitch.
Here’s a quick, smart way to journalize your achievements:
1. Choose a consistent place and time of day. The job journal should become one of your favorite habits, a quick and fun reflection at the end of each day. It need not take long: two, three, or five minutes is plenty. Document three things: what you did, how you did it, and why it mattered.
2. Until it becomes an automatic habit, add this exercise to your daily to-do list or reminder calendar. Since the process creates very valuable output, make it a priority. The scant few minutes it takes each day is invested time—and investment time always delivers a solid payback.
3. Do it. Whether you organize your achievements via categories like Gold, Silver, and Bronze or call it the Daily High/Low, don’t cheat yourself out of documenting what soon becomes a mushrooming list of all the good things you do.
Business leaders are always looking for solid achievers to add to their networks. Share what you have done and you will be one.
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