Your hard work, dedication to your job and long hours speak for themselves. Come promotion time, your boss will see you're the best candidate for a leadership position, right?
Many women think this, and then watch as those big promotions go to those more willing to toot their own horn at work -- often men.
Self-promotion is important for both sexes, according to Ronna Lichtenberg, author of Pitch Like a Girl: How a Woman Can Be Herself and Still Succeed and president of management-consulting firm Clear Peak Communications. "Everyone needs to let other people at work know they are someone who is ready to tackle new challenges and deserves the support they need to get things done," she says. "That support can range from a higher salary to a more important job to just being positioned properly."
What Self-Promotion Is -- And Isn't
According to Lichtenberg, self-promotion is "taking the lead to let other people know about good things you have done, can do and are doing…. There is a way to do it that is thoughtful of and sensitive to other people's feelings, which like many other people, I call pitching, and there is a way to do it that feels self-centered and inappropriate."
This distinction is important to make, because many women feel that the only way to promote themselves is to be obnoxious and strain relationships, says Lichtenberg. "Also, they are worried that people won't like them if they seem like they are self-promoting too aggressively, and research suggests that is true -- that in fact, other women can be particularly harsh critics," she adds.
Fear of being judged can lead to insecurity, which makes it hard to self-promote. But faking confidence is almost as good as feeling it. "No one else knows your heart is pounding and your knees are a little wobbly," says Lichtenberg. "After forcing yourself to do it a few times, you'll find it gets easier."
Use Your Strengths
So how do you self-promote while remaining true to yourself?
First, remember that not all women are the same. "Some women have what I would call a ‘blue' style, which means she focuses on tasks and doesn't look for a lot of person-to-person connection at work," Lichtenberg explains. "A blue woman wants to get to the point, writes emails without greetings or salutations and believes in win/lose.
"A ‘pink' woman likes to know the person she is doing business with as a person, believes that having a bonding moment first can make work done on tasks go faster and more effectively and believes in win/win," she adds.
Because of the differences among women and the various people they're pitching, there isn't a single right way to do it for everyone, other than learning about your individual strengths and how to leverage them, Lichtenberg explains. "The key, though, for pink, blue and striped styles is to spend a lot of time thinking about the other person's needs so you can explain your needs and desires in a way that makes it possible for them to hear it," she says.
"Spend some real time on what I call ‘visioning' -- being clear about what you really want," Lichtenberg advises. "From there, you can move to really understanding the value of what you are offering in the marketplace. The more homework you do about what Me Inc. offers, how it stacks up to the competition and how you can improve the value of your offering, the better off you will be when you have to quickly pitch yourself to someone else."
The women best at self-promotion are those who are interested in others and show it by starting conversations. "They know that sharing something about themselves is a way to connect to other people and is, if done correctly, doing someone a favor rather than a disservice," she explains.