Self-Promotion to Professional Success
By Chelse Benham
“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and
above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for
something and that this thing must be attained.” – Marie Curie, Polish-French
The U.S. Department of Labor reported that the current unemployment rate in the
United States is 5.7 percent. Although, there were increases in certain sectors of
the workforce such as construction, retail trade, health care and social assistance
there are also an estimated 8.4 million unemployed people in America today.
Because of the staggering numbers of people competing in the job market,
applying the latest techniques for self promotion is a sensible decision. Self-
promotion is a crucial element to your success in finding a job, moving up to a
better one and negotiating a raise.
“People have overcome the mentality of self-censure that prevents self-
promotion. First they need to have a clear career direction on what they want the
outcome to be when marketing themselves,” said Lourdes Servantes,
placement specialist at The University of Texas-Pan American’s Career
Placement Services Office. “Know the importance of networking and how to
do it effectively by joining professional organizations. Basically, it all comes down
how you carry yourself and this means how you speak, dress and what you have
to say on issues relevant to the job. People want to know how you have
integrated into your work environment and the accomplishments you have made,
not your job description and daily tasks. The more well-rounded you make
yourself the more marketable you are.”
Pat Kendall, president of the National Resume Writers' Association, notes that
more than 80 percent of resumes are searched for job-specific keywords. And
according to Tracy Laswell Williams, certified job and career transition coach and
accredited resume writer, knowing that resumes are being differentiated on the
basis of specific keywords can give you an edge in the market place.
In an interview on Quintessential Careers Web site, Williams said, "It has been
my experience that many people (especially busy, overworked recruiters and
hiring managers) have a hard time summarizing information on their own.
Without a focused and persuasive summary at the beginning of your resume,
you're missing a great opportunity to sell yourself by leaving it to the reader to
form an overall impression of your qualifications."
Katharine Hansen, author and editor of Quintessential Careers, writes in her
article “For Job-Hunting Success: Track and Leverage Your Accomplishments”
about the necessity of stressing your accomplishments not your responsibilities
during any self-promoting activity whether it is interviewing, annual review or
Echoing that sentiment, resume writer JoAnn Nix recently gave this advice in an
interview on the Guru.com Web site: "A resume should be accomplishment-
oriented, not responsibility-driven. The biggest mistake that I see in the resumes
people send me is that they list responsibilities. That doesn't grab anybody's
attention. People aren't interested in your responsibilities. They already know the
general responsibilities of a position so they don't want to know what you do from
day to day. They want to know that you're a mover and a shaker: How you
contribute to the organization, how you show initiative, that you can be a key
player. That's what they want to see."
For example Nix suggests that in less than two sentences you should focus on
the scope of your responsibilities, size of budget, geographic territory, the
number of team members you led or were a part of, product lines and reporting
relationship relevant to each of your roles.
Bottom line, if a job activity cannot be portrayed as an accomplishment, it may
not be worthy of mention in your resume, cover letter or in an interview advices
Hansen offers some brainstorming techniques to use to help list some
accomplishments that set you apart from other job candidates.
• In each job, what special things did you do to set yourself apart? How did
you do the job better than anyone else did or than anyone else could have
• What did you do to make each job your own?
• How did you take the initiative? How did you go above and beyond what
was asked of you in your job description?
• What special things did you do to impress your boss so that you might be
• And were you promoted? Rapid and/or frequent promotions can be
• How did you leave your employers better off than before you worked for
• Did you win any awards, such as Employee of the Month honors?
• What are you most proud of in each job?
• Is there material you can use from your annual performance reviews? Did
you consistently receive high ratings? Any glowing quotes you can use
from former employers?
• Have you received any complimentary memos or letters from employers
• What tangible evidence do you have of accomplishments -- publications
you've produced, products you've developed, software applications you've
• Think of the "PEP Formula," Profitability, Efficiency and Productivity. How
did you contribute to profitability, such as through sales increase
percentages? How did you contribute to efficiency, such as through cost
reduction percentages? How did you contribute to productivity, such as
through successfully motivating your team? Quantify. Employers love
o Increased sales by 50 percent over the previous year.
o Produced total meal sales 20 percent higher than those of the other
servers in the restaurant.
• Use superlatives. As Donald Asher notes in his excellent resume
reference for college students, “From College to Career,” you can impress
employers with words such as "first," "only," "best," "most" and "highest."
• Describe a Situation or Problem that existed in a given job, tell what action
you took to fix the situation or problem, and what the result was.
Bob Rosner, contributing reporter for ABCNews.com offers some keys things to
keep in mind when promoting yourself. In his Web site article “Working
Wounded,” Rosner suggests the following things to evaluate:
Do you keep track of your own strengths and accomplishments?
Most of us are just trying to survive our to-do lists. Who’s got the time or
energy to compile lists of our accomplishments as well? A way around that
is to let others create the list for you. Just keep a file of letters, e-mails,
annual reviews, notes from bosses and others and other proofs that you’re
doing a good job. Then your accomplishments testimonial will be ready
when you need it.
Do you target your information to your audiences? Self-promotion is
irksome when the promoter is doing what is referred to as an “ego dump”
— listing accomplishments that are irrelevant to the situation. That’s
altogether different from reciting accomplishments pertinent to the
occasion. Citing relevant successes to your boss during a review, to a
meeting when you are pressing a point or to a prospective employer is not
only acceptable, it’s strategic.
Do you find excuses to stay in contact? Smart promoters find excuses
to “touch base” by sending or calling contacts about things they might find
useful: a newspaper article, a bit of information, an item on the Internet. At
the same time they briefly fill the person in on something they’ve been
Do you give others a chance to help? My wife is a writer and her most
lucrative project came when I mentioned her career in passing to a person
I was working with. Once he knew of her accomplishments he was eager
to use her services. There’s a lesson there for us all: The more you keep
colleagues, clients, vendors, friends and family informed about what you
are doing, the more they can help you find that next opportunity. The key
word here is “informed.” You don’t have to brag about your activities —
merely talk about them at appropriate times.
Tory Johnson, CEO of Women for Hire and co-author (with Robyn Spizman and
Lindsey Pollak) of Women for Hire: The Ultimate Guide to Getting a Job,
indicates that women may have the hardest time promoting themselves.
According to Johnson there are many negative connotations about self-
promotion such as being considered conceited a show-off, a braggart or
egotistical. All of these according to Johnson keep most people, especially
women, from feeling comfortable and confident when talking about themselves.
She offers some suggestions for handling self-promotion in a confident manner.
• One way to never be caught off guard is to always be prepared with
a mini pitch about yourself. The more you say it and the more you
practice it, the more confident you'll feel about delivering it.
• When there are many highly qualified candidates vying for the
same positions, it often comes down to attitude. The candidate with
the best outlook, the most positive personality and the more
passion for the position usually gets the job.
• Your self-promotion should never include any negatives. Keep all
professional conversations positive and proactive. Leave the
Healthy self-promotion is a necessary part of the survival strategies to get ahead
in the professional arena. Who is going to toot your horn if it’s not you? Although
self-promotion can border on the arrogant, if properly handled with sincerity and
confidence, it can open the door to success. It takes an understanding of your
strengths and a willingness to share those with others in an appropriate and
relevant manner. It’s all in the presentation.
“Self-confidence is the result of a successfully survived risk.” – Jack Gibb, author