How Do You Humbly Brag About Your Successes?

I’ve been in my position for three years and I feel like I’m ready to move up. I have a lot of strengths and make great contributions at work, but the problem is no one seems to notice. I know I should be making my successes known, but I have no idea how to do that tactfully. Any advice on how to “humblebrag” in the office? Thanks! –Nicole L., New York, NY

If you don’t feel properly acknowledged at work, the root cause could be that your colleagues don’t have a clear understanding of the value you bring to the table. But here’s the thing: You have to be crystal clear on how your work directly contributes to the success of your organization before you can expect anyone else to get it. The first step is truly knowing your worth. After that, as you mentioned, your job is to make your achievements known and, frankly, women aren’t all that great at this part. We like to assume that if we’re doing a good job, people – especially those in management – already know. But the problem is they often don’t know – in part because they’re too busy worrying about their own achievements. So…here are a few things you can do:

The first is to be the person who presents the work. Whether you’re pitching an idea to a client or your company’s top brass, when there’s a presentation to be made, find a way to have a speaking role. Then, don’t try to wing it. Practice until you’re able to make every key point succinct and you’ve thought through how you’ll respond to likely questions and objections. I know speaking is scary to many people, but it’s required to move up. If you want to get noticed, you have to put yourself in the spotlight. There’s no way around it.

Second, get yourself invited to key meetings. If you know your boss is off to headquarters to meet with her boss, for example, suggest an impactful reason for you to be there too. Maybe you can prepare a quick update on an important client win thereby making your boss look good. Maybe there’s a set of numbers you can explain better than she can – whatever. Just pitch something of real value that you can add to the discussion. Then, once you’ve had an opportunity to network with the executive suite, keep looking for subtle ways to stay in touch. You could create a follow-up report on the meeting, for example, listing items discussed and who’s responsible for action items. You could also forward an article of interest related to a competitor or project similar to whatever they’re working on. Again, value is the key word here. As long as your contributions are focused, relevant and occasional, this slow drip tactic will keep you visible – which means you’ll have the benefit of top-of-mind awareness when new opportunities arise where you’d be a fit.

Third, understand that mentors are great, but you need sponsors too. The difference between mentors and sponsors is that mentors are concerned with your professional development, whereas sponsors are concerned with your professional achievement. This is huge because nine times out of ten, the decisions affecting the trajectory of your career will happen when you’re not even in the room. Therefore, having decision-makers who are willing to champion you behind those closed doors can make all the difference in your reputation and future opportunities.

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