Quick, answer this question: Did you click this out of curiosity or because you were shocked. Maybe a little of each That title makes me sound very big-headed, doesn’t it? That thought was my first reaction to an article I read at ForbesWoman.
Geri Stengel wrote a terrific piece on the ways women can brag their companies. It’s worth a read. You’re supposed to toot your own horn as a professional woman or entrepreneur. You do great work. You gotta say so. You know you should. I know it, too, but it’s hard.
Especially if you were raised to be a good girl, a credit to your race or both like me. The message was: do amazing work then wait to be recognized for it.
Half of it is good advice. I really believe that giving my best effort every time at whatever I do has been one of the keys to my success. Because, the way you do anything is the way you do everything. It just stands to reason.
Speak up for your career
The other advice, well, not so much. There are lots of reasons why you won’t get the recognition you richly deserve. Circumstances, clients, bosses, co-workers and all manner of things can conspire to keep you out of the limelight. Don’t let one of them be you.
Truth is, until you’re comfortable and ready to speak up about your own accomplishments and contributions, no one else will. They won’t know (because you never mentioned it). And, when you finally do drop the fact that you single-handedly (insert groovy thing here), it’s be anti-climatic. Water under the bridge. You get no bounce in credibility or esteem. Yes, brag about your company (yours or your employer), but please also brag about you!
You need to share your great stuff with people for two incredibly important reasons:
- It builds connection. What’s the first thing folks yell when they hear an incredible story? Oh, you never told me that! Why didn’t you tell me that before? Am I right? Sure, the other person is excited and happy for you. Look from a different angle and there’s also a little hint of wasn’t I special enough to for you to tell me, for me to know that? They missed a bit of reflected joy (and maybe glory) that you could have shared with them.
- You earned the praise. Duh. You put your time, energy, passion and faith into achieving that goal and did it. That calls for celebration and respect.
Respect your own efforts if you want anyone else to. After I burned out on law, it was a very long time before I would admit to being a lawyer. I didn’t use my title or mention it in conversation. I almost convinced myself I wasn’t one. I didn’t respect the sheepskin but clients did. I’m using my JD again now. Otherwise, it would be like saying my legal education was worthless and that’s certainly not true. Tens of thousands of dollars, thousands of hours of study over three grueling years was not nothing. You deserve to be praised for your hard work. (Not entitled, just deserving).
Bonus reason: Uh, you’ll earn more. Studies suggest that a women lose approximately 500K over the course of their work lives because they refuse to negotiate. People can’t see the value and profit you’ve contributed if they don’t know what you’ve done in the company, especially if you’re new in the division or company. Inform them.
As for entrepreneurs, talking credibly and comfortably about how you’ve solved your clients problems successfully is critical for building trust, which leads to pretty nice things like income, referrals and new opportunities.
Your String of Diamonds
The hard part is talking about yourself. I know. I still don’t like it, so I decided to psych myself out. What I call ‘reframing to a positive’. Sometimes giving a funky picture a new frame helps. I hope this exercise will comfort you the way it does me.
I love diamonds. Marilyn was totally right. So, I decided to visualize my accomplishments as a string of diamonds on a golden thread. The strong, shiny chain is littered with big stones and small chips, each one with a story. When I imagine the necklace it’s so pretty, I can’t help but admire it. It glistens when brought into the light and I can appreciate it’s true beauty. Then, it’s not so hard to share.
This is still a work in progress. I just started reflecting on my string of diamonds this January. So far, I notice that I’m more aware of how others are sharing their gems. Great for figuring out how to gracefully work things in or how I don’t want to sound.
The more I visualize the chain, the more it feels like I’m giving a gift when I talk about my expertise and experience. And, I’m having more fun with it. I don’t mind talking about personal accomplishments like being in an Amex radio commercial or being the first black president in the history of my sorority. It’s all good.