Self-Promotion Strategies for Your Job Search & Beyond

Dec 8, 2020 | Guest Experts, Job Search Strategy

A title graphic featuring Let's Eat, Grandma's yellow pencil logo and the article's title: "Closing the Self-Promotion Gap: Strategies for Your Job Search.

Do you hesitate to share your strengths? Do you purposely undersell your accomplishments to avoid potentially awkward moments? While that might make you feel more comfortable at the time, it is most definitely holding you back from achieving your career goals. It’s time to start promoting yourself.

By: Ashley Dolar | Resume Writer for Let’s Eat, Grandma

As a woman in the professional world, I am very well acquainted with the self-promotion gap, and I personally understand the risks in rattling off achievements.

What if I sound conceited? What if I seem pushy? What if they don’t take me seriously?

If I’m being honest, having to talk about my accomplishments feels a little like walking a tight-rope backwards and in high heels. I used to think this problem was unique to me, but when I became a resume writer, I realized that the issue was much larger…

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“I’m really uncomfortable talking about my accomplishments.”

“I don’t think that I did anything too important.”

“I did everything at work as part of a team, so I don’t have much to say.”

These are real conversations I’ve had with real Let’s Eat, Grandma clients. All of them were women. That’s not to say that men don’t struggle to come up with work-related achievements, but in my experience as a resume writer, men tend to be more ready to talk about them.

Why the disconnect? These women are professionals with advanced degrees and years of experience across a variety of industries. So, I did a little research and discovered that this phenomenon has a name — the self-promotion gap. 

What’s the Self-Promotion Gap?

A graphic demonstrating statistics concerning the self-promotion gap: 84% of women feel uncomfortable talking about their professional achievements, while 69% actually prefer to downplay them.

First of all, it is not related to confidence. By and large, men and women are equally confident in the workplace. However, a 2019 survey of professional women found that 84% of women feel uncomfortable talking about their professional or academic accomplishments

Not only do women generally dislike the idea of owning their accomplishments, but 69% of professional women actually prefer to downplay their achievements instead of promote them. 

That’s a major problem when it comes to writing a resume or interviewing for a potential new job.

Stellar results shouldn’t be relegated to the shadows. They should be front and center in your mind and on your resume and LinkedIn profile. Rather than understating your wins, you need to be promoting yourself as the best candidate for the job. 

To break out of this age-old pattern, consider these three self-promotion strategies for your job search and beyond:

1. Change Your Mindset. 

In my recent conversation with Denise Hamilton, the founder and CEO of WatchHerWork, we discussed how to change your mindset to overcome the obstacles that women too often face in the workplace.

“Women are socialized to not brag,” Hamilton said. “Bravado is not valued. We need to push through the social norms that tell us to let the work speak for itself.”

She stresses that the first step is to acknowledge that you may be going against years of socialization. Instead, it might be helpful to think of it as self-advocating. You’re not selling your accomplishments as much as you are raising visibility and building credibility. If you can think of it in those terms, it can be easier to step out of your comfort zone.

“It’s not natural to share your everyday achievements,” she said. But you can’t be afraid to change the rules and reclaim your story. It might also help you to think of self-promotion as a leadership skill. It’s how you advance yourself, your team, and your organization.

Hamilton added that she suggests that everyone — not just women — should look into finding a professional resume writer.

“Your resume needs to speak about you in the most powerful, glowing terms,” she said. “Those words can truncate — or open — your possibilities.”

2. List Your Wins. 

It’s time to take credit for your success, even if it’s just on a yellow legal pad in the privacy of your home office for now. I suggest writing down every professional victory to date — from successfully organizing a bi-weekly, cross-functional meeting for your department to leading a $5M quality assurance project. 

It’s powerful to see your accomplishments on paper. These day-to-day activities suddenly become impressive career achievements that point to your work ethic, technical abilities, and industry acumen. And once they’re on your resume and LinkedIn, they become reasons to call you in for an interview.

A headshot of WatchHerWork founder Denise Hamilton, the featured expert in this article.

Featured expert Denise Hamilton, founder of WatchHerWork.

If you are having trouble coming up with your professional wins, you can look at past performance reviews. They should list several tangible accomplishments per year. If those documents aren’t available, scroll through recent emails to get an idea of what you contribute to the team on a daily basis. Those are all wins, and they are all meaningful in your job search. 

Hamilton reiterated that you should keep score for yourself and share the record.

Arm your leadership with what you want them to know about you,” she said. This advice can be applied to not just your leadership style, but your job search, too. 

3. Convey Your Value. 

When you are writing a resume, it is easy to simply list your job descriptions. (That’s usually the reason a resume fails to make an impression.) The real challenge is promoting your tangible strengths and accomplishments in bullet point form. If you are stumped, ask yourself this question: 

How have you helped meet the organization’s goals? 

Suddenly, you are thinking in terms of measurable results within specific projects, programs, and initiatives. That checklist you created to streamline a process for the 7-person operations team? Or the 50+ help desk calls you field per week? They count in a big way. (Hint: A resume is not meant to be subtle.)

Hamilton noted that your boss isn’t always watching, and it is truly up to you to keep score of your accomplishments — and share them! Otherwise, your hard work can fall through the cracks.

(To hear more from Denise Hamilton, check out her episode of our Career Warrior Podcast!

Yes, it can feel awkward or even overwhelming to think about your professional contributions. But it is high time that you are recognized for your diverse skillset and unique capabilities. Learn how to promote yourself, and you’ll start seeing more success in your job search.

And if you need more help with getting those wins down on paper, Let’s Eat, Grandma is here for you.

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