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 Workplace
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.
How to Toot Your Horn at Work with confidence
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 other 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 prospective 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.