How You Can Promote Yourself at Work


Self-promotion involves openly and confidently telling others about your strengths and accomplishments. In the highly individualistic American workplace, self-promotion is not only expected behavior but also required action for career advancement.

Calling attention to yourself, however, can be challenging for many foreign-born professionals due to differing cultural values. But it is possible to tell others of your accomplishments in such a way that you maintain your cultural values.

We tell you how in the discussion below. Self-promotion is key to accelerating your career, whether you are interviewing for a job, speaking at a meeting, or participating in a networking event. First, we discuss the importance of self-promotion for advancing your career. Second, we look at how culturally influenced values can hinder foreign-born professionals (especially Asians) from promoting yourself. Third, we suggest strategies for comfortably including statements about your accomplishments in your everyday language.

Importance of Self-Promotion

The importance of self-promotion is reflected in the American proverb: “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” This saying means those who speak up get attention.

Accordingly, Americans are expected to actively seek visibility at work. Commonly called “toot your own horn,” this practice means you tell others your accomplishments – in casual conversations, during meetings, and, certainly, in performance reviews.

Self-promotion also calls for getting to know others outside your work group and building relationships with them to increase your visibility. Impact of Culturally Influenced Values

Many Asians, however, have been raised to value modesty and humility.

Because of cultural values like modesty and humility, you may feel uncomfortable standing out from the group. You may also believe that if you work hard and do your job, your accomplishments should and will be recognized by your superiors, as is the custom in many Asian countries.

However, in the American workplace, your accomplishments may go unrecognized, unless you do something extra to call attention to them, just like your colleagues are doing naturally.

You need to actively promote yourself to win high visibility projects, get chosen for prestigious task forces, and get promotions.

Strategies for Comfortably Tooting Your Horn

Although cultural differences may seem like a big obstacle to self-promotion, you can learn to overcome these differences.

And you do not have to give up your culture to succeed.

It is possible for you to maintain your culture and, at the same time, adapt to expectations in the American workplace.

Here are examples of how you can do this.

In the initial job interview, you can talk about your accomplishments in a way that still maintains your cultural values. For example, you can give credit to the groups you have worked with and still highlight your individual accomplishments.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Identify a problem or challenge you faced on the job

  • Discuss how you solved the problem or overcame the challenge, mentioning you were a member of such-and-such team

  • Point out your particular contribution to the solution because of your special experience or expertise

  • Conclude with how this solution contributed to the success of your company.

On the job, the goal is to let your superiors know about your accomplishments and get recognized by senior management.

Here’s how to do it:

  • When you learn of a special opportunity you are interested in, tell your boss of your interest right away in a conversation or email. Then state your specific expertise or experience that is relevant to this opportunity.

  • Volunteer to participate in high visibility corporate task forces with senior management oversight. This serves as an opportunity to meet individuals from other departments to broaden your network at your company.

  • At meetings, don’t focus just on the present topic. Also mention your past experience with the topic.

  • In casual conversations with co-workers, weave in stories that mention the school you attended, the prestigious award you received at your last job, or your particular interest and experience in solving XYZ problems.

  • Participate at social gatherings at work or go out with co-workers to increase your visibility.

Changing Your Behavior

The key is to change your behavior slowly and deliberately.

First, listen carefully to others, especially in meetings, to identify the casual ways they discuss their achievements without appearing to boast. Second, create short descriptions of your special expertise that you feel comfortable sharing. Third, practice with your friends and trusted colleagues.

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