The key to getting ahead at work
By SANDY CLARKE
Remember that time you walked into a networking event and were met by a roomful of discreet, quiet and measured professionals? Me neither.
Such events are usually abound with buoyant, effervescent types with a penchant for self-promoting and they aren’t afraid to reel off their accomplishments when asked.
Perhaps it’s an image thing. No one attends networking events thinking, “I’m looking forward to a night of just being myself and relaxing among my peers.”
These meet-and-greet sessions are all about image and performance and showing off your best self in the small windows of opportunity that present themselves.
We live in a world where it pays to be a smooth-talking fireball of energy. When it comes to netting leadership roles or promotions, more often than not, those who can talk big, land big.
Outgoing vs. reticent individuals
Research conducted last year by TypeFinder looked to see whether a person’s personality type—based on Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) psychometrics—could indicate how far a person would climb the corporate ladder.
The findings revealed that extroverts do indeed flourish at the high-earning end of the scale, with the top two extroverted types—ESTJ (Extroverted, Sensing, Thinking, Judging) and ENTJ (Extroverted, Intuition, Thinking, Judging)—earning an average salary of US$77k (RM311k) and US$76k (RM307k) respectively.
Conversely, the leading introverted types—ISTJ (Introverted, Sensing, Thinking, Judging) and INTJ (Introverted, Intuition, Thinking, Judging)—earned significantly less, bringing home on average US$59k (RM239k) and US$52k (RM210k) in turn.
One obvious factor that explains why talkers and self-promoters get ahead more often than their reticent colleagues is because they, well. . . they talk to other people. And they self-promote.
Hardly a profound insight but, then again, few people will know about your successes and talent unless you shine a light on what you can do for others.
People who feel uneasy about sticking their head above the parapet might simply prefer working away in the background.
How does one get noticed?
As research has suggested, reticent people who are reluctant to talk about their accomplishments, can often be less ambitious than their outgoing associates.
But, for those who would like to rise through the ranks, cultivating the ability to speak about their talent and skill set is vital if they are to achieve whatever goals they set for themselves.
Self-promotion is a wonderful tool to help propel careers. I’m sure we can all think of examples of leaders and managers who, while not particularly great at what they do, have “selling themselves” down to a fine art.
Like any skill, the ability to talk a good game takes practice and can be uncomfortable at first, just like riding a bike appears impossible on the first few attempts.
Talking to others about your achievements becomes easier with practice; of course, you have to make sure you not only talk a good game, but that you can back up your assertions with clear examples of results.
As the Indian yogi, Sadhguru, advises, “Bull can get you quickly to the top. . . but it won’t keep you there.”
One key point to keep in mind if you’re searching for a promotion or to give your career a boost, or if you want to start up a new business, is that it’s not the boss, the confident colleague or your personality type that prevents progress—it’s your own limiting belief that you can’t be better than you are, and so it’s best to remain quiet and not disturb those who are creating change and making a difference.
We can all make a difference, and we can all live successful lives according to however we choose to define success; but no one can do it for us.
While it would be nice for people to be able to discover for themselves your abundant qualities, the reality is that very few are going to come asking what you can offer and where you would like to go.
It falls, then, on your own shoulders to make a name for yourself and to put any worries of posturing to the side.
As the great Muhammad Ali once said, “It’s not bragging if you can back it up.”
4 Behaviours to get yourself noticed
1. Get social
Does the thought of attending networking events leave your stomach in knots? Fear not. You can begin to build your personal brand through social media.
If you’re not on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, you’re missing out on a lot of ideas and opportunities to showcase your talent.
Get involved in topical discussions, offer your opinions, share content—start a blog. By going social, you’ll cultivate confidence in self-promotion and who knows who’ll see what you have to share? You don’t even have to leave the house.
2. Read all about it
If, like me, you find the idea of engaging in small talk in a room full of strangers about as appealing as wrestling a hungry bear, help is at hand. There are countless books on the art of communication that contain lots of handy tips and useful advice for navigating the social jungle.
Two titles I’ve found to be particularly helpful are How to Talk to Anyone by Leil Lowndes and The Assertiveness Workbook: How to Express Your Ideas and Stand Up for Yourself at Work and in Relationships by Randy J. Paterson.
3. Blow your trumpet
Rather than seeing self-promotion as a selfish pursuit, think of it as though you’re offering a service to others (which you are).
It benefits people to know what you can do for them. People may say: “Oh, you’ve managed projects in developing online learning? Great! We’ve been looking for someone to help us in that area.”
4. Build meaningful connections
It can be hard to watch the big talkers effortlessly schmooze bosses and associates, and not compare your perceived weaknesses to their strengths.
It’s also easy to avoid the effort of making connections altogether; however, if you desire professional growth, forming connections is essential.
Instead of bounding around the room handing out business cards, take it one step at a time by forming useful connections with a few key people.
Engage in mutually beneficial conversations (e.g. you could discuss the latest news or trends about the industry), or solicit someone’s expertise over a coffee or lunch. Most people will be happy to help you—especially when there’s free coffee involved.
Sandy believes that a little self-promotion goes a long way, which is why he won’t be shy to tell you how awesome he is. . . via e-mail. He hopes to one day advance to group chats. To connect with Sandy, you can find him on Twitter @RealSClarke. To develop your ability to self-promote or to enhance your communication skills, e-mail email@example.com. For more Hard Talk articles, click here.
Sandy is a freelance writer based in Malaysia, and previously enjoyed 10 years as a journalist and broadcaster in the UK. He has been fortunate to gain valuable insights into what makes us tick, which has deepened his interests in leadership, emotions, mindfulness, and human behaviour.