Articles // March 10,2023

The subtle and ethical art of self-promotion for building your own personal brand

By Chandrani Datta, Edited by Sripriyaa Venkataraman

“People don’t get promoted for doing their jobs really well, they get promoted for demonstrating their potential to do more”- Author and equity strategist Tara Jaye Frank’s words ring true in today’s world where self-promotion is integral to our work and existence. Gone are the days when just doing your job well was enough. How does one stand out when everyone is doing as well as yourself? How do you get noticed and ensure that you receive validation and recognition, opening the door to greater growth in your career? Enter the subtle art of self-promotion.

Self-promotion has always been a delicate art, and in today’s business world, it’s more important than ever for building your own personal brand. With so much competition out there, it’s not enough to simply be good at what you do. You have to be able to get the word out about your accomplishments and capabilities.

Why talk about yourself?

The most deserving causes cannot promote themselves on their own. If you have a cause that you believe in, you need to be vocal about it.  you do not share your own experiences, no one else will become aware of them.

By sharing your story, you will make new connections and expand your professional network. Self-promotion enables you to advance in your career, negotiate a raise, establish a partnership, and create an impact. Women have always had a difficult time opening up about their skills, and accomplishments and negotiating their way around in their careers. According to a study conducted by Catalyst, a global non-profit organization, women who actively self-promote are more likely to be promoted to leadership positions than those who don’t. The study found that women who self-promote are more likely to receive stretch assignments, leadership training, and mentoring opportunities. Women in leadership often talk about how they have had to train themselves to ask for what they want and how well they have been working for some of their greatest accomplishments.

Self-promotion is a crucial skill for leadership and for building your own personal brand. When you step out of your comfort zone and speak about your experiences, you learn how to motivate others to join your cause. Meaningful progress occurs when you inspire others to come along on the journey with you.

Given the times we live in, the first thing to keep in mind is that self-promotion is not inherently bad. In fact, it’s necessary if you want to get ahead in your career. The problem arises when self-promotion becomes self-aggrandizement. You might come across as a narcissist, obsessively talking about  It’s one thing to highlight your accomplishments and skills, but it’s another thing entirely to boast about them to the point of making others feel inferior. This might lead to others unfollowing you on social media and real life. This is why a fine line between effective ethical self-promotion and aggressive self-promotion is essential.

So, how do you strike the right balance?

Striking the balance between us and them

The key is to focus on the value that you bring to others, rather than just yourself. When you’re promoting yourself, it’s essential to frame your accomplishments in a way that shows how they benefit others. Mary Nisha Thomas, Global Talent Development Leader, EY GDS, Client Technology says she realised over time how important it is to ask for what excites her in any collaboration. This means helping the listener understand how the partnership can bring better results because of her involvement, sense of purpose and skills. A partnership on any project would require the subtle art of ethical self-promotion where we need to tell our collaborators and clients what we bring to the table and how it can benefit them.

Being specific and value-oriented always helps. For example, instead of saying “I won this award,” say “I won this award because I was able to deliver exceptional results for my clients.” This approach not only showcases your achievements but also highlights the value that you bring to your clients or customers.

Another important consideration when it comes to self-promotion is transparency. It’s important to be honest about your accomplishments and not exaggerate or misrepresent them. If you’re caught in a lie, it can be incredibly damaging to your reputation and your business. Instead, focus on highlighting the things that you’ve genuinely accomplished, and let those accomplishments speak for themselves. This means giving examples and setting context to narrate a story which tells the audience that you are being authentic in your accomplishments. Narrating about your accomplishments like a story means using examples, illustrating challenges you overcome, and acknowledging the contributions of others who have helped to display authenticity and relatability.

One way to ensure that your self-promotion is ethical is to focus on building relationships rather than just promoting yourself. When you’re networking or promoting your business, it’s essential to approach it from a place of genuine interest in the other person. Following the herd mentality to promote yourself because everyone is talking about themselves will come across as inauthentic and mechanical beyond a point. Instead of just talking about yourself, take the time to listen to others and find ways that you can help them. By building relationships based on mutual benefit, you’ll find that self-promotion comes more naturally and feels less forced.

It’s also important to be mindful of the context in which you’re promoting yourself. This also means being sensitive to understanding whether the other person is in a mind space to hear about your achievements and skills at a certain time. The tone and style need to be adjusted depending on whether you’re speaking with colleagues or senior executives and it’s necessary to gauge the ambience.  For example, if you’re at a networking event, it’s appropriate to talk about your business and what you do. However, if you’re at a social gathering, it’s generally not appropriate to launch a sales pitch unless someone asks any specific questions about it. Understanding the appropriate context for self-promotion is essential if you want to avoid coming across as pushy or obnoxious.

Another way to ensure that your self-promotion is ethical is to be humble. While it’s important to showcase your accomplishments, it’s equally important to acknowledge that you didn’t achieve them alone. Take the time to thank those who helped you along the way, whether a mentor, a colleague, or a family member. This not only demonstrates your gratitude but also shows that you understand the value of collaboration and teamwork.

Self-promotion is an ongoing process. Consistency in subtle ways of promoting your work goes a long way in building relationships, delivering results, and showcasing your skills and accomplishments. By taking a long-term conscious approach to self-promotion, you’ll find that it becomes more natural and less forced over time. It will also help women executives and leaders boost their self-esteem and become more confident about their abilities. The more mindfully you present yourself, the more comfortable you become in your own skin.

Self-promotion is an essential skill for business leaders, but it’s one that needs to be approached with care and consideration. By focusing on the value that you bring to others and being transparent and authentic in the way you promote your skills and work, you can build your personal brand and identity. For more ways to build your personal brand, get in touch with us.

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