There is no I in Team but there is a ME.

Otherwise known as the “what’s-in-it-for-me” factor. Let’s admit it there are very few people whose actions are truly altruistic.  So for those of us who aren’t Mother Therese (ie. the rest of us) nobody does anything without expecting some sort of return.  And guess what, that’s OK.  It is OK to admit it and most importantly OK to understand that most folks expect some kind of a quid pro quo.  If we are honest in this exchange and with expectations clearly set, all parties can mutually benefit and in fact be an asset to each other no matter what each other’s’ goals may be.

How people perceive you has always been critical to a successful career. Now add in the internet, social media, and the unrelenting hum of 24/7 business, and the ability to brand and promote yourself effectively becomes absolutely essential for young professionals to land the job, earn the raise, or get that much deserved promotion. It is only with the ability to promote yourself that managers and executives can see Gen Y workers as invaluable employees, game-changing managers, or the people whose names are synonymous with success.

Research shows that people who are comfortable with promoting themselves are not only more successful in landing a job from an interview, but go on to build stronger networks – within their organization and outside of it – and are more successful in business and throughout their careers. That’s not to say that humility is no longer a virtue. But false humility can leave you languishing. Indeed, there’s a distinct difference between tooting one’s horn to stroke a needy or insecure ego (which is, after all, why braggarts brag) and sharing information that educates relevant people about who you are, the value you have to offer, and how you’d like to add more of it.

Self-promotion is about strategically building your ‘personal brand’ to ensure that those who can help you accomplish more in your career will know not just who you are, but the value you have (and want) to contribute.  Platforms like what we are building here at the SDS allow our contributors to do just that! Go ahead!  Brag! Shout it from the mountain tops.  Let people know just how awesome you are.  We will promote you and you in turn will promote the outlet and together we all win and establish ourselves as thought leaders in our individual space…Win win!

Below are five principles to promote yourself with confidence – without being branded a braggart.

1. Don’t promote yourself. Promote your value. Reframe your experience and expertise in terms of the value you have to contribute. Doing so enables you to shift from making your toot about you, to how you can better contribute to the success of others as well as your organization’s bottom line.

2. Share examples, not your ego.  There’s nothing as powerful as a well-told story to share a message without stating it directly, so there’s nothing as powerful as an enthusiastically shared example of something you’ve done that conveys your accomplishments, capabilities and aspirations. We all gravitate to people who are passionate about what they’re doing and want to do.  Likewise, we all repel from those who incessantly name-drop or push themselves and their ideas on us. Sharing what excites you enables you to share your value without being a walking (and wearisome) advertorial for ‘You, Inc.’

3. Be relevant. Be mindful about who your audience is, what they care about and whether or not what you have to share is relevant to them.  Don’t blow your own horn just for the sake of making noise. Be strategic in what you share, whom you share it with and how you communicate your experience. If those you’re speaking to cannot perceive relevant value in what you say, you may be labeled as boastful, boring, or (more likely) both.

4. Toot the horn for others. Publicly recognizing the accomplishments of others not only serves to promote their value, but can be a highly effective way to subtly highlight your own. On top of that, when you float someone else’s boat, they become more inclined to float yours with a reciprocal toot. It’s a “win/win” all around.

5. Reframe disapproval.  However humbly you may toot, you always risk disapproval.  So be it.  Those who criticize are generally saying much more about themselves (their insecurity, misguided humility, and fear of being left behind) than they are about you.  Letting fear of disapproval (failure or losing face) determine what you say or do is a sure-fire way to never achieve the success you want – in work or in life.

You have potential to fulfill and value to add – it’s your responsibility to make sure those who can help open doors, make connections and create opportunities for you know what a talented human being and invaluable resource you are! So enough with false humility. Enough with playing safe and small. There are people (possibly even someone very close to where you are right now) who will benefit from knowing more about you.