Career Advice: How To Toot Your Own Horn With Confidence

When I was a little girl, my mom explained to me that my job as a child was to be great in school.  The operative word in that sentence is JOB!  I got up every day and went to school the same way my parents got up every day and went to work.  So when review time came, or in my case report card time, my parents would allow me to post my latest report card on the refrigerator.  I was a straight A student who was proud of my hard work and my parents created a physical and mental space for me to express pride in accomplishments.  The refrigerator was a space in the home where everyone who visited could see what I have been up to.  My parents were proud of me and I was proud of myself.  That’s  a nice memory, but why does that matter now?   It was important to my development because it gave me the ok to toot my own horn and the space to do so.  In that space that my parents created, I learned how to share my success without realizing that that very practice could someday have negative repercussions.

Why Women Mute Their Accomplishments In The WorkplaceAtlanta Blogger, Danielle YB Vason, explains why Every Woman Should Know: How to Toot Her Own Horn with Confidence.

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I’m sure many of you can relate to that childhood memory….but how many of you can relate to the transition that many women experience.  Somewhere along the way, women are taught that sharing our own accomplishments often comes with declines in popularity and other professional ramifications.  In her book Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg recalls, “Jocelyn Goldfein, one of the engineering directors at Facebook held a meeting at Facebook where female engineers were encouraged to share the progress they had made on the products they were building.  SILENCE.  No one wanted to toot her own horn.  Who would want to speak up when self-promoting women are disliked?  Jocelyn changed her approach.  Instead of asking women to talk about themselves, she asked them to tell one another’s stories.  The exercise was communal, which put everyone at ease”.  Why can’t we be at ease talking about our own success?  Are we more at ease in our silence?  These are the questions that we rarely  think about but we must address.

Related Post: Best Career Advice I Ever Received: Don’t Give a Damn If They Like You

How to Toot Your Horn at Work with confidence

How To Toot Your Own Horn. Career Advice for Smart Millennial Women from blogger Danielle YB Vason of She Makes Cents

HOW TO TOOT YOUR HORN AT WORK WITH CONFIDENCE. Career tips for millennial women from Atlanta Blogger, Danielle YB Vason of She Makes Cents.

It’s funny, we get fed conflicting messages all the time with regard to the topic.  On one hand, we are told to “work in silence and let success make the noise”.  Again, why is there such an emphasis of to silence talk of one’s own accomplishments?  On the another hand,  we are told that “closed mouths don’t get fed”.  I’m not promoting cockiness in the workplace, but I am inviting women to be more confident in their achievements and ok sharing them.  I have experienced something very similar to the example of the quiet female engineers.  Women in the predominately female office were always shy to tell stories of success when asked for.  Again silence.  Below are a few examples of how to take the eek out of self-promotion.

Change Your Mind Set. If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?  The same question can go for you and your career.  You can do beautiful work in your perspective industry.  You can make strides in your field, but if no one knows about your successes that can leave the door open for others to take credit for your work, it keeps your reputation pigeon-holed, and often leaves money on the table.  If you can’t clearly, comfortably, and confidently share your career achievements in a professional setting you are also diminishing the worth of your work.  I once advised the owner of a design firm in Atlanta on the disadvantages of this very concept.  “You do beautiful work”, I said, “but it means nothing for you and the development of your brand if not one knows about it”.

Shoot A Brief Email. In theory, your boss wants the best for you because you succeeding makes them look good.  Try sending them an email to shine a light on a recent accomplishment.  For example, if you hit your sales goal for the month a little early, let them know.  If you found a more efficient way to do something in your industry, shoot your boss a brief email sharing your discovery.   Insider Tip: If you work on a team, make sure that you include EVERYONE who impacted the outcome.  You can break out what each person’s contribution was or you can group the win.  Whatever you do, do not take sole credit for a group effort.

Buy Your Name. Purchase your name as a domain and create a website or even a static page that works as a digital portfolio of your work. For example, at one point, my name was Danielle Boler, so my corresponding website should have been DanielleBoler.com.  In this space, which I recommend you update quarterly, you can allow your clients to post testimonials, you can share press that you have received, and post pictures of WOW projects that you developed. Obviously, the specifics of what you feature will depend on your industry and skill set.

Lean In.  Do you remember that example of the Facebook meeting when the female engineers were asked questions about their progress on the products they were building?  Well instead of echoing their silence, you should “lean in” and answer the call.  In fact, try to be the first person to answer this type of question.  In many instances, it is rare when bosses give you their undivided attention for you to share your achievements, so don’t waste their time and your opportunity with silence.  Going first presents you as a leader and I’m sure that once you begin sharing your success story, others will follow suit.

Toot Your Own Horn At She Makes Cents

The Biggest Mistake Women Make During Career Introductions

As an avid reader of the Cosmo, I have been a fan of Joanna Coles, former Editor-In-Chief, since her early days of at the magazine.  She expanded the content to career advice, finances, and other less traditional “Cosmo” topics making it my all around go to along with Forbes and Inc.  That’s right, I am a Cosmo girl.  My fan girl experience, with regards to Joanna, went to a level 10 when she liked and retweeted something I wrote back in 2014  about rock star women in business.  I felt like that was a small example of how supportive she is of women and their careers.  She is one of my celebrity mentors (in my mind) that I actually have never met but learn so much from.2

Career Advice from Joanna Coles

While watching episode 1 of So Cosmo, Joanna imparted her wisdom on a group of unsuspecting millennials visiting the Cosmo office.  During an introduction exchange between Joanna and the group, one woman introduced herself  by her first name only.  Joanna explains, “First rule of Joanne Coles, women in particular should always say both names [when introducing their selves].  Women always go, hi, I’m Julie.  You have to go hi, I’m Julie Thompson.  Men never ever worry about doing that.”  She further goes on to explain her rationale behind the “first rule of Joanna Coles” to relationship expert, Matthew Hussey, who overheard the exchange between Coles and the millennials.  “It is very important.  It’s my signature thing. Cause you think of yourself as Matthew Hussey, but if you were a girl you would just think of yourself as Matthew.”


Hello, I am….

In that moment, I replayed several instances when I introduced myself to clients as simply Danielle when my male counterpart would introduce himself first name last name.  While doing a little research about introductions, I found that when people properly introduce themselves by first name last name, the other people is more likely to rememer you and your name.  Remember my whole, Hi nice to meet you, I forgot your name already phase??  Perhaps this would have helped everyone back then.  What I like about the “first rule of Joanna Coles”,  is the expression of assertiveness  and dominance in the first introduction.   It’s like “leaning in” before anyone has even had time to make any judgements, good, bad, or indifferent, and letting them know you are  a boss chick in the room.  If this is the first rule of Joanna Coles, I can’t wait to see what else I learn from my celebrity mentor.She Makes Cents Logo

{Monday Motivation} Attract What You Expect

Happy Monday Lovelies! I hope it has been was a good one.  I thought I would send you a little evening inspiration on the first full day of our “Spring Forward”. The #MondayMotivation can be applied to your career, finances, love life, and friendships. It’s never too late the be the person you want to be.

Attract What You Expect

I take this quote to be a suggestion to be selective on who you bring into your inner circle.  You can’t move forward if you surround yourself with stagnate people.  Surround yourself with people who motivate you to keep moving not those who want you comfortable where you are.  Another interpretation could simply be the Law of Attraction.  For example, people who believe in doing affirmations to help them reach their goals.  “I am a money magnet; therefore, money flows into my life abundantly”.

Reflect What You Desire

I desire to be credit card free by June 1, 2016.   I have to continue to be diligent about paying extra over the minimum payment and not making any more purchases that can’t be paid off in full before the billing cycle.  To do that, my actions must reflect my desires. 

Inspirational Quotes

Become What You Respect

Be the type of person that you want surrounding you.  For example, if you desire to deal with people who respect your time, don’t be the woman to show up late for anyone else.  This is the ultimate, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

Mirror What You Admire

Use the best qualities of those you admire, put your own twist on it, and you will not only reflect admirable qualities, you will be the woman you want to be.

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SMC Book Club: Leave Your Mark

Feed your mind or it will starve… – Danielle YB Vason

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Back in college my roommate/future doctor, Safiya, diagnosed me with what we now refer to as “Shiny Penny Syndrome”. Shiny Penny Syndrome is when you are focused on one thing and something else steals your attention. It’s exactly what happens when I see pretty shiny things or when dogs see squirrels. Well, let just say that the shemakescents January book selection was my latest shiny penny. I was walking through my favorite book store on the hunt for a Christmas gift when I saw the cutest book cover. Mint green, coffee cup, and red lipstick stains immediately caught my eye!   Then I realized the author was Aliza Licht aka @DKNYPRGirl, solidifying the book “Leave Your Mark” as the first shemakescents  book selection of the year.

SheMakesCents.com Book Club- Leave Your Mark

Leave Your Mark in 2016

Drawing invaluable lessons from her experience, Licht shares advice and inspiration with a particular emphasis on communicating and building your personal brand. Join #teamSMC as we dive into this sassy, relatable, and knowledgeable guide to the contemporary working world, where personal and professional lines are blurred and the most important thing you can have is a strong sense of self.

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{Business Cents} How Your Memory Can Help You Stand Out

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Photo Credit:  Professional Women’s Business Network

I say that first impressions are everything but I would also  like to add that the little things matter too.  Let’s try a little experiment.  Raise your hand if you have experienced this statement:

Nice to meet you.  I’ve already forgotten your name.

Did YOU forget the name or was YOUR name the one forgotten?  I experience both sides of this example on what seems like a daily basis when meeting with new clients.  I’m embarrassed to admit that; however, I have made the ability to recall names or better yet face/name recognition on my priority list of things to work on.  Remembering someone’s name makes them feel important, shows you are engaged, and makes you more likeable.  Todd Smith, in a blog post entitled The Value of Remembering Names sums it up nicely in a series of questions that hits close to home.  “Have you ever met someone for the first time who hardly looked you in your eyes, said the standard nice to meet you greeting without any authenticity behind their words and couldn’t remember your name five seconds later? What impression did this person make on you?

How Your Memory Can Help You Stand Out

Apparently, you tend to hear your own name instead of others when you are introduced to a new person. It takes a conscious effort to hear the other person’s name and in the world of shortening attention spans, people who actually make the effort to learn the name of another person, stand out.  I am working on it and one thing that helps is using the person’s name when speaking about them.  Remember, you want to stand out in a positive way and doesn’t it feel great when people remember you?   Check out these 10 Simple Tricks to Remembering Names that can help you make your  first impression be a lasting one…. you know, the good kind.

What are your tricks for remembering someone’s name?

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What Salary Are You Looking For?

I talk about money every day and while the subject can be uncomfortable for some, I find it proactive and therefore worth the temporary discomfort.  To me, it is better to have “the talk” early with yourself, your family, and within your relationship because you are more likely to be successful when everyone is on the same page.  However, in my current job, I have found the subject of salary negotiations to be the hardest subject to bring up.  I kick myself every day for not engaging in salary negotiations BEFORE accepting the job, which is a mistake that research has shown is most made by women.

copy-of-how-to-answer-this-question-1In an article for Reader’s Digest, an unnamed HR professional from New  York admitted, “If we ask ‘What salary are looking for?’ say you’re flexible, or say it depends on the responsibilities of  the job.  Try not to name a salary unless we really push you, because that gives us a leg up in negotiation”.  I think this is excellent information because once you sign on the dotted lines, there is little room for renegotiating. 

What is your approach to salary negotiations?

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{Business Cents} Public Resignations- Bad Business Move Or Branding Opportunity

If you haven’t heard of Marina Shifrin yet, you won’t be able to forget her after seeing her video that has gone viral since it was posted last week. Forget the two weeks notice,  Shifrin, 25, quit her job while “dancing” to the  song Gone by Kanye West.  For  almost two years I’ve sacrificed my relationships, time and energy for this job, in which my bosses only cared about the quantity and views of the videos they made,” explains Shifrin, former employee of a New Media Animation.  Some may consider it a bad business move to make a major career decision so publicly, but believe it or not, she has  received several job offers based off her creativity.  In some ways, the video will help to “brand” her.  Her chances of being hired are greater  if she choses an innovative career path like social media, but for the more traditional of companies, this could signal what many people refer to as “Millennial Entitlement”.   I would never have the guts to do something like this, but I she is on my rock star list at the moment.  Life is too short to waste doing something that makes you want to quit your job at 4:30am…alone in the office… via youtube.  Time is the only form of currency that you can’t get back, so spend your time doing something that makes you feel awesome! 

 …. and of course her former bosses have a responded with… another video.

Do You Think This Was A Bad Business Move?

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{Business Cents} Habits of Successful Business Women

I was going through some old papers when I came across my notes from the Spring 2006 Career Night hosted by my alma mater, Spelman College. The theme for the evening was “To, Work, To Live, To Love: A Conversation about Finding Passion and Balance in a Chaotic World”. In the midst of my note taking style, which looks like a cool info graph, was valuable information. Then I was absorbing information with the mindset that I would be an attorney in a large firm. Now, I can see how the advice from panelist Yolanda Bivens, Andrea Brown, and the ever inspiring Allegra Lawrence can apply to most industries.

Check out their tips!

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{Business Cents} Every Woman Should Have a Professional Mentor

I know that everyone can benefit from a mentor-mentee relationship; however, I believe it’s even more imperative that every woman has a professional mentor…and a good one at that!   While I know it is easy to assign that “role” to a public figure like Oprah, it is likely more beneficial to you and your career if you find someone who is actually willing to spend time with you.  It was about four years ago when I realized for myself how important this type of mentorship can be.  As I was transitioning careers, I decided to form a “dream team” of coincidentally women mentors.    My theory was that alone, each of them had an ability or network that the other did not, but together they formed a diverse and complete dream team.Professional Mentors and Why Every Career Woman Should Have One from Top Atlanta Blogger, Danielle YB Vason of She Makes Cents

Things to Consider When Finding Your Mentor

  • Does your mentor have the time to spend with you? This, in my opinion, is the most important.  I had a great dream team of movers and shakers, but it was also so very hard for some of them to squeeze me into their schedules.  Although the intentions are good, you aren’t gaining anything from this relationship if you aren’t even spending time with them.

  • Is this someone who will hold you accountable? For you to truly succeed, you need to have someone who is so concerned about your goals and career path, that they aren’t afraid to be bluntly honest, call you on your “stuff” and maybe even kick your butt, if needed. 

  • Are you learning tools that will help you get to where you want to be? The lessons may not always be explicit or intentional, but you have to be able to decipher how you can use what you are learning to thrive without compromising your character or integrity.

  • Are they respected in their field/company/community?  I learned the importance of this when I was conducting a cattle call of interviews on a panel with other choreographers in Atlanta.  A number of the young dancers assumed that their relationships with their mentors would help give them the extra edge.  So dancer after dancer took the “opportunity” to name drop not truly understanding the reputation of their mentors in the industry.  The lesson I learned: Just because your mentor is known, doesn’t mean that they are respected.  What Traits Do You Look for in A Career Mentor? from She Makes Cents

{Business Cents} 25 Killer Tips from 25 Powerful Women Business Owners

From O Magazine Interviews Over The Past Decade

Be Open to Anything “A friend asked if I wanted to do a food trade show with her. I brought a few products with me, not expecting to sell or anything—and suddenly we got all these orders! I had no idea how we were going to package or prepare so much so quickly, but I never say no unless I completely understand why it can’t be done. I think how you approach obstacles is a big part of being successful—you can’t give up.” —Alisa Barry, Chef and Owner, Bella Cucina Artful Food

Make an Announcement “I sent out an email to everybody I knew, announcing what we were doing. For me, the act of saying ‘I’m starting a literary magazine’ was as brave as actually doing it. When I said it with confidence, people believed me—andI believed me.” —Maribeth Batcha, Publisher, One Story,a literary magazine

Build Your Own Board “I had to learn so much. I took classes at the local center for nonprofit management and read everything I could get my hands on. I realized the smartest thing I could do would be to surround myself with an advisory board of people who knew more than I did.” —Meredith Blake, Founder Break the Cycle, a domestic violence prevention program
Take Ownership “There’s no store without the concept, so from the very beginning, we trademarked every single thing involved in the look of the store.” —Ninel Pompushko, Founder, T-Shirt Deli, a custom t-shirt store in Chicago. Read her story

Hone Your Business Skills “There’s a perception out there that you can’t be an artist and a businessperson at the same time. Artists are told ‘Don’t bother with math.’ But you have to balance passion and analytical skills. Knowing the business side of my job gives me the ability to take risks in every aspect—from dealing with banks to new designs—and I love that.” —Annie Morhauser, Owner and Creative Director, AnnieGlass, which produces luxury, handmade glass table art
Do It Yourself “When we opened, we used our savings and did all the renovation work ourselves—stripping the floors, sanding them, plastering and painting.” —Miko Branch, Co-Founder, Miss Jessie’s Salon Read her story

Be Prepared for the Unexpected “A good thing to remember is that once you open your door to the public, you never know who’s going to walk through. I’ve had people bring in shopping bags of every shape and size imaginable, overflowing with pictures. At first I panicked, but now those are my favorite projects. They let me puzzle the pieces of someone’s life together.” —Anne Goldenthal, Owner, Album Arts

Don’t Quit Your Day Job “It was pretty obvious that I would have to find a way to support my music habit. So I went to work as an assistant at a Wall Street investment bank and wound up as a VP and business manager of corporate research. I would do the radio show on Saturdays and tuck whatever gigs I had as a musician into whatever time was left.” —Laura Cantrell, Musician Read her story

Ask Around “I put ads in the paper, went online, and went to decorators, but I had no luck. One day I went to a fabric store and asked the owner if she knew anyone. She did, and now that person is our lead seamstress.” —Nan Barbera, Founder, Prince & Company, a luxury bassinet maker

Educate Yourself “To get the full picture of how to run a retail business, I applied to the Gap’s retail management training program. Essentially, the company paid me to learn design, marketing (which is how to get publicity for your products), planning (meaning, have enough money on hand to pay the bills), and production (how to buy zippers from one factory and buttons from another and ship them to a third where they make the garment).” —Jordan Veatch-Goffi, Founder, Doce Vida Fitness
Take Charge When the 735-room, filthy, decrepit Times Square Hotel (a.k.a. Homeless Hell) went bankrupt in the late 1980s, I wanted someone to turn it into quality supportive housing—with employment services, a clinic, and caseworkers right in the building. Not a shelter but permanent, dignified housing. Because I’d been development coordinator for Catholic Charities of Brooklyn, I knew what questions financiers, tenants, and the city would need answered, and I wrote up a plan. Everyone I talked to was too overcommitted to take it on. They all agreed, though, that someone really ought to do it. Finally, I thought, ‘Oh, someone is me.'” —Rosanne Haggerty, Founder, Common Ground, a nonprofit that aims to end homelessness Read her story

Don’t Be Afraid to Be Different “I didn’t have a showroom. I was totally freaked out about that: I live above a restaurant, and buyers had to walk through a side door near the dining room to get to my tiny apartment. But people loved coming over. I’d serve cookies and have a fire going. They said it was a relief from the other showings they’d been to. Sometimes when you’re forced into doing things in an unexpected way, you make a big impression. And with so many people out there, being yourself is the only way to stand out.” —Lana Bilzerian, Knitwear Designer

Ask for Help “I couldn’t make all the cookies in my own kitchen, and I didn’t want to pay for an expensive industrial mixer, so I called a local restaurant that served only lunch and dinner and asked if I could use their mixer in the mornings. They said, ‘yes.'” —Debbie Godowsky, Owner, Cookies Direct, which sells care packages to send to kids in college Read her story

Split Your Time “I couldn’t quit my job, but I did take a lower-paying position that had more flexible hours. Then I signed up for night courses in flower arranging at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and at Parsons School of Design. I started taking orders out of my house.” —Katrina Parris, Founder, Katrina Parris Flowers Read her story

Take Rejection in Stride “I knew how to make up a business plan. Much more daunting was the idea of getting a bank to lend me $1.5 million. I was turned down 32 times by male bankers. My 33rd presentation was to a female banker in New York. She didn’t even let me finish my pitch before agreeing to give me the money.” —Catherine Hughes, Founder and Chairperson,Radio One
Get Feedback “We wanted to see if our cakes would sell, so for months we held tasting parties for friends and family. We asked guests to write comments anonymously on cards. Mostly, people said nice things, but they also said ‘too moist,’ ‘too sweet,’ and ‘needs to be more pineapple-y’—which sort of got my mom’s back up. My mom worked on the recipes until people thought the cakes had just the right amount of moistness, sweetness, and flavor.” —Norrinda Brown, Co-Owner, Brown Betty Dessert Boutique Read her story

Build a Network “I’ve participated in a number of stationery shows, and along the way I’ve struck up informal relationships with other entrepreneurs. We compare notes across the aisle; it’s good to talk to others who are going through the same thing, and together you can brainstorm ways to partner on future projects.” —Kim See, Founder, Kemse & Company, which specializes in multicultural stationery design

Follow Your Customers My taste wasn’t completely resonating with my suburban customers. My sales weren’t as good as they could be, and the people who were buying had come up from the city. Obviously, I needed to move downtown, but rents aren’t cheap. Still, in 2005, I did it. My sales went right up.” —Chandra Greer, Owner, Greer, a Chicago stationery store Read her story

Mentor Others “I didn’t have a lot of money to pay assistants, so I called the youth employment service at my son’s high school and advertised for art students. They sent me two great girls.” —Pam Older, Founder of the jewelry firm Pam Older Designs”

Toot Your Own Horn “Women, especially Southern women, are taught to be demure. When I first opened, I didn’t want to be a show-off and name my company after myself. Instead I called it WSG (Wilson Services Group) Consulting. Huge mistake. No one could remember it. Plus, my expertise and talent are what clients are buying. We rebranded this year as Robin Wilson Home. Business is booming.” —Robin Wilson, Renovation and Design Manager, Robin Wilson Home Read her story
Negotiate with Your Employer “I left [my] job and started doing freelance production work—party decorating, floral and production design, trying to figure out where I wanted to be in the business. Then I got a job with Formica Corporation. I made a deal that they would pay for me to go back to school for interior design.” —Courtney Sloane, Founder, Alternative Design Read her story

Stay Calm “You can’t allow yourself the luxury of being overwhelmed, because then you can’t do anything.” —Kathe Padilla, Founder of Zambian Children’s Fund, which supports an orphanage and a school in Africa Read her story

Be Creative “Putting together the financial structure [was the hardest thing]. It was the part I knew and cared the least about; no bank would help me. One day I woke up and said, ‘I have to make this a creative project, too.’ I developed my own alternative bank, borrowing small amounts from people who believed in me. I was able to pay them back in four years, and by that time I was bankable.” —Stephanie Odegard, President, Odegard Inc., a rug design and import company Read her story

Enjoy the Rewards “Now a business trip is to wine country or a food festival. I love it all. You can’t serve ad copy at a dinner party, but a beautiful cheese tray is always a big hit.” —Sara Vivenzio, Founder, Cheese School of San Francisco Read her story

Have Faith in Yourself “First, take it easy. Because it’s your passion, you can get carried away and burn out. Second, take small steps. I’ve seen a lot of people with great vision who don’t go anywhere because they want the end result immediately. Third, don’t try to figure out what sells. You are the one thing other businesses can’t duplicate.” —Teresa Chang, Founder, Teresa Chang Ceramics Read her story.