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Are You Good at Blowing your Own Trumpet?

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How often do you boast about your latest achievements? Do you boast at all? Or do you hide your light under a bushel and play down your achievements because you were told that it’s better to be modest than an arrogant blowhard?

I was thinking about this yesterday after reading a few articles in the ongoing corporate gender wars. Why don’t women earn as much as men? Why are there so few female CEOs? One of the things that stuck out for me was that a number of defenders of the status quo insisted that it was women’s own fault that they aren’t getting ahead: women don’t ask for pay rises or promotions as often as men, or they just aren’t as demanding in the workplace. But an explanation for that could be socialisation.

Generally — and I am painting very wide brush-strokes here — as they’re growing up girls are taught to be demure. No screaming, shouting or unabashed competitiveness for the little princesses, please. So it could be that by the time they are adults, these messages have been internalised, and professional women find themselves hanging back, not demanding more in the workplace for fear of “rocking the boat.” Whatever the case, both women and men can be terrible at putting themselves forward, and this can harm their career as they get overlooked when it comes to promotion time.

If an artist or web designer has a portfolio where they can showcase their work, what is the equivalent for the humble desk-jockey? Do you keep a running tally of all the awesome spreadsheets you’ve put together at work? Or perhaps you email the boss every time you’ve had a good idea. Both of those things are unrealistic, and would probably get irritating for your colleagues pretty quickly. So how are you supposed to show off your good side without launching an all-out marketing blitz?

At work, of course it doesn’t help to pretend that you single-handedly raised the previous month’s sales figures, or are responsible for a jump in profits. Unless you work alone, your achievements are the result of cooperation and the collective efforts of the company as a whole, no matter how much individual effort you put in. But what you can do is keep a note of what you have done that goes above and beyond your job description to be more productive, or take your idea for how the company could improve to your boss. By all means keep stuff in writing, or at least on your hard drive. That could be useful when it comes time to negotiate a pay rise.

For freelancers, things are a bit easier. You can always set up a blog to highlight your best achievements (and give your clients a little publicity bump) or keep regular updates on your LinkedIn page. But again, you don’t need to record every little thing you do in the course of your work. You need to be discerning about what you choose to highlight. Naturally, your best work should make the cut, or your biggest projects. These don’t necessarily need to be your highest-paying projects, but those that allow you to showcase your skills and expertise. Don’t forget to note any flattering feedback you’ve received from elsewhere, as this also helps improve your profile.

You don’t have to take out full-page ads in the local press to show how amazing you are, or keep your boss updated on the minutiae of your professional development. But it’s always a good idea to keep a personal record of how your are improving, what you have accomplished, and maybe even what you hope to do next. It isn’t arrogant or boastful to show what you are good at, and it can’t do any harm to have to have the milestones of your career at your fingertips. As the concept of a job for life is consigned to the dustbin of history, being able to show what you have achieved throughout your working life rather than just at your latest post may become as important as sprucing up your resume when it comes to job-hunting.

[Image by TheMechanism]

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