Post by Jane K. Stimmler, contributing Women On Business writer
My experience, and the research I have done and seen, shows that men are generally more comfortable in promoting their strengths and accomplishments than women, and are greater risk-takers. Perhaps you have experienced the same thing.
Men, by and large, seem to understand the importance of self-promotion and they use it effectively to gain money and power. Women, on the other hand, consistently identify self-promotion as something that does not come naturally. Worse yet, many women have the misguided belief that they can rely on fairness and recognition, believing that “If I work hard and do my job well, people will notice.” So, while men are out talking about their talents and abilities, many women simply reject the concept as bragging. They don’t see self-promotion as something that is directly linked to their success. This is often related to the way in which women are socialized – and what I call “the good girl mentality.” The problem is – the social behavior we were taught when we were younger doesn’t always reflect the real business world now that we’re adults.
A successful friend put it this way – “Females need to toot their own horns more. They shouldn’t wait to be asked about what they’re doing. Instead, women should let people in the organization know about their accomplishments.” She went on to recount that the head of her division told her that of all the e-mails and voice mail messages he gets from employees about deals they closed and problems they solved – 99% of them are from men. So, many of our male colleagues are calling their bosses and telling them what a great job they are doing. Ouch!
In fact, more than 60% of the women surveyed for my book Breaking Into the Boys’ Club said that men are much better at promoting themselves. This may be a result of the fact that more than half of those same women felt that women are less confident in their professional abilities than men are – even when their skills are equal to or better than their male colleagues. We’ve all heard stories about men who have stepped up for jobs and been promoted with half the skills and experience that their women peers have. Men see the promotion as an opportunity to jump forward and figure that they’ll be able to handle whatever the position entails. In essence, men often apply for jobs when they have only 30% of the job requirements. Women do not apply unless they have 100%. Men just are not as self-critical as women, who analyze and worry about whether their qualifications fit the job precisely. Why do we do that??
Another problem woman have in promoting themselves is that they haven’t found a comfortable promotional style. Perhaps you have felt this way: when an opportunity comes for you to chime in and promote something you have done, you can’t think of how to word your story appropriately, and you are afraid promoting yourself will sound awkward – or even obnoxious. Clearly, some practice is necessary in order to phrase what you want to say, say it in a pleasant tone, and invite comments – not jealousy – by others. Try practicing a self-promotional story or telling about a success when you’re with a good friend, or even when you’re alone, to get over your fears.
It’s important to be sure you are doing enough to promote yourself and to be a visible candidate for a promotion or career opportunity that comes up. Think about the strategies you can use to put yourself in a position of strength with colleagues. Practice a comfortable promotional style. Be more confident and assertive. All of these will help you get ahead in the workplace. And, if you are already a good self-promoter – please share some of your secrets!