April 2, 2018

Solving the Self-Promotion Struggle

I attended a tech rally organized by your feed at the Facebook HQ in London this week. It was an extremely inspiring event with a variety of insightful talks, with the underlying theme being self-promotion and the importance of showcasing your skills for relevant opportunities.

While I found all the talks to be thought-provoking and the speakers’ passion for technology shone through them all, the one that stuck with me the most was about ‘not only knowing your strengths but being comfortable promoting them’.

This was the 3rd time that day the topic of self-promotion had come up, twice while I was at work and then at the rally. This got me thinking as to why this is something I find exceptionally hard to do.

While for some people, talking about themselves and especially their strengths and accomplishments comes naturally, for me, it comes with a plethora of negative thoughts, which make me downplay everything I have done, no matter how good, presenting a distorted view of my abilities to others.

A fair share of this stems from Imposter Syndrome, which I have written about extensively in a previous article. This is more of a follow-up post that talks through how I plan on tackling this and improving my self-promotion skills.

I come from a mathematical background and applying logical thinking to solve problems is a massive part of my job, so the idea is to apply the same rationality and reasoning to solve this particular issue.

While this may come across as common sense to many, it is, unfortunately, a problem a lot of people, especially women struggle with every day and sometimes taking a step back and questioning our thoughts can turn out to be extremely useful.

I’m going to list out my thoughts which actively hinder the act of self-promotion for me and then counteract these with some logical questions.

“I will come across as obnoxious and cocky.”

Am I thinking in a black-and-white manner?

If someone doesn’t start every sentence with an apology, does that make them rude?

Similarly, if someone is not overly modest, does that mean they are automatically full of themselves?

When other people describe their accomplishments, do I view them as passionate and capable or simply boastful?

Am I making predictions without any evidence about how people may or may not react?

“I’m not good enough.”

Can this be supported by facts?

Do I have proof of the number of times the end result of my work on a project has been deemed subpar?

Am I equating ‘good enough’ to ‘being an expert in’?

How much disparity exists between my own opinion of my work and my boss and colleagues’ opinion of my work?

If someone else had done this work instead, how would I have categorized it?

“I don’t want to be put forward for opportunities where I end up feeling like I’m in way over my head.”

Has this happened before?

Do I eventually end up thriving and learning or failing and crashing in these challenging situations?

Would a manager with years of experience put me forward for an opportunity that they think I am not capable of?

Should I trust my own instinct or should I place more faith in someone who has seen first-hand the work I have done?

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I’m hoping the process of answering these questions will help me become more comfortable with discussing and accurately showcasing my skills.

If you have tips and tricks you use, I would love to hear about them in the comments below.

Nida Sajid

Passionate about Maths, Technology and Women in STEM.

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