We're often told that if we want to get ahead in our careers, we must learn to promote ourselves.
But this is often an uncomfortable thought — partly because we may be shy when it comes to talking about our accomplishments and partly because we've heard others do it and come off as obnoxious blowhards.
But experts say you can find a way to convey your abilities that will feel comfortable and put you on a path to greater success.
"The biggest mistake people make when trying to promote their accomplishments or abilities to others is not projecting a belief in their abilities," says Chief Executive Kim Garst of Boom! Social, a personal branding and social media consulting firm. "If you do not believe it, it is hard to get others to buy into your value. If you do not value your time and knowledge, neither will others."
The problem can become even more challenging when a worker is inexperienced or young, says Alexandra Levit, author of They Don't Teach Corporate in College.
"The key is enthusiasm," she says. "If you emphasize your passion when describing an achievement, people will think you're just excited about it. An excited person appears earnest, and it's hard to be critical of someone earnest."
Garst considers herself is an introvert and understands how uncomfortable some people may be in talking about themselves. She says she has turned to Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People, to learn lessons such as asking people about themselves and learning to listen carefully.
"You will be surprised how much easier it is to share information about yourself when you are simply responding to what they have shared with you and revealing your thoughts, successes, goals, etc.," she says.
Try out your promotional efforts on your boss first, Levit suggests.
"It's OK if you mess up and start bragging because your boss is supposed to know about everything you're doing and can't fault you for keeping him informed," she says. "But when informing everyone else of your successes, be as subtle as possible."
Forward e-mails praising your work to your manager, disguising them as "modest FYIs" and making the success seem as though it had been a team effort, such as using "we" instead of "I," she says.
Even if you don't have a lot of experience, you can talk about things you've done through volunteering, after-school jobs or even campus activities, Levit says.
"It's all about showing how you contributed to the success of the organization by leveraging important transferable skills like project management, marketing, finance and client relations," Levit says.
Using social media is a great way to promote yourself without being overbearing, Garst says. She suggests some ways to do that:
1. Be helpful. "People can tell when you actually care about them and when you are just out for you," she says. "Help others without the expectation of reward. Share your knowledge. Give advice, tips, etc."
2. Make it about them. "How are you helpful or useful to your audience?" she asks. "What problem do you solve for them?"
Garst suggests making a list of ways to make a difference. If you worry about over promotion, look at the list to remember how you help your audience.
3. Build relationships. You must be willing to devote the time to build a relationship with your audience.
This means you have to engage, respond to questions on social media and through e-mail and be present to allow people to communicate with you, she says.
"This does not mean that you have to sit in front of your computer 24/7," she says. "Respond when necessary and always give appreciation to those who are promoting you."
4. Be brave, positive and pleasant. "Actions are what people pay attention to," Garst says. "How you handle a positive or negative situation can define you in so many ways."