Although it would be great if your work could completely speak for itself, the reality is you must also advocate for yourself so that your great work can get noticed, and so you can advance as far and as quickly as you would like.
Because there’s a fine line between self-advocacy and blatant self-promotion, and women can be penalized for the same confidence and assurance that wins men praise, you need specific strategies to share your success. A few well thought out, concise statements can help ensure you will be ready to rise to the occasion when opportunities to share your unique skills and talents present themselves, even unexpectedly.
Choose your focus
There are many key competencies and achievements you could highlight, but you will be most effective if you can home in on a select few. What you showcase will depend, of course, on your strengths, but may also be influenced by organization culture and priorities. If your organization is experiencing significant change, it will make sense to speak to your flexibility and tolerance for purposeful risk taking. If major expansion is up ahead, you might focus on your work ethic, positive attitude and willingness to help carry the load.
The focus of your success statement might also be influenced by the person you’re talking to and where their greatest interests lie. In a conversation with a marketing executive, you might focus on creative problem solving and customer-centric strategies; with a finance leader, a bottom-line orientation might be a better fit.
Career coaches most often suggest highlighting your ability to drive strong results, excellent communication skills, collaborative success, an ability to think beyond your immediate scope, and critical thinking and analytical expertise.
Gather the data
To ensure your brief statement is both powerful and memorable, reinforce it with a strong data point. You won’t have time to lay out a comprehensive argument here, but a succinct fact can transform a would-be brag into meaningful content. To have these data points at your fingertips, you need to consistently track and condense them over time.
When you complete a project, think about one or two key elements from the effort that can help explain its success, even if the person you’re speaking with knows nothing about the project. Your focus will be on connecting the dots between your activities and important results for the organization.
Make a (success) statement
After you’ve invested the time to consider the strengths and results you’d most like to highlight, and gathered supporting facts, it’s time to put words to your work. Literally crafting and writing out a few statements you can share in various circumstances with various people will ensure you aren’t left tongue-tied when you find yourself riding the elevator with your boss’s boss or chatting casually before a meeting. Although this approach can sound contrived at first, the more you own your success statements, the easier they will roll off the tongue.
For example, if you served on a committee that looked at decreasing waste, you might say, “I’m excited about the headway our Sustainability Committee made this quarter by making it easier for employees to recycle right where they work. We’re on track to decrease trash volume by about five percent and expand the collaboration company wide.”
In one, reasonably brief comment, you’ve demonstrated your strong verbal communication skills and highlighted your team mindset, focus on results and excitement about your work and the organization. That’s hard to resist. Answer any follow-up questions with the same straight-forward and confident communication style and brief remarks that then let the other person make a graceful exit.
You can also use the opportunity to brag about someone else’s contributions so you do not appear self-absorbed and to make it clear you can see beyond your own scope of work.
Into the (lime) light
While you may feel uncomfortable at first showcasing your own talents and results, being able to advocate for your ideas is a key competency that is expected of leaders, especially as you move into more senior positions. Not being able to step up in this way can actually indicate to others that you are not ready to advance. Leaders must be able to share their ideas, explain how they contribute to organization priorities and communicate effectively in both formal and impromptu situations.
The process of crafting your own success statements will help you thoroughly review where you are making your greatest contributions, help you identify areas for greater growth, and enable you to position your skills and professional development as significant assets for the organization.