How to promote yourself better at work.


It’s a weird thing when a BBC Radio 5 Live producer contacts you saying we’d like your expert opinion as a Business Psychologist. On live radio. In two hours time.

Part of me (my Inner Critic) screams “OMG I’m going to say something stupid, I can’t possibly say yes to being live on national radio“… and the other, more rational and helpful part says “What an amazing opportunity to share your expertise and useful tips with people who may need to hear it right now”.


The Self-Employed Self-Promoter

It dawned on me: I’m a type of self-promoter. Not in a bad way though. Ask any well-employed freelancer, and they’ll tell you they need to focus at least 30% of their time on marketing in addition to delivering solutions for clients.

However, the self-promoters I was being asked about were the kind of “people who are more likely to get ahead in their career and earn more than their colleagues despite not contributing much to their work”.

So there I was, live on air being asked about these people who take all the credit…

The Self-Promoters in the Office

Tony: We’ve got Jess Baker, a Business Psychologist, on the phone: Is it the case that they’ll pick the right people to talk to, bosses, and that kind of thing and leave others to do the groundwork…?”

Jess: We’ve all worked with people like this: we see them confidently speaking up in meetings, volunteering for projects, going out of their way to look good, marching along the corridors in a fierce way, holding folders, and acting busy or booking in lots of meetings. I think it’s too easy to notice them and not the productive colleagues working hard in the background…

They take all the credit!

Tony: We, below them in the pecking order, can’t understand why the bosses don’t suss them out…but Jess, they rely on people like us to do the work for them! They volunteer to do a report then they’ll delegate it out, and we’re left feeding their vanity because other people who do like doing their work just get on with it …

Jess: I think that’s right, Tony, most of us do want to do a good job. Most of turn up to work hoping that we’ll get some kind of credit for our effort in addition to our salary. But these people are so good at being socially confident, and getting the attention from the right people, that “people like us”, as you say, get left behind. We feel a bit resentful and become demotivated to a good a job.

They are Socially Confident

Sarah: Do they know they’re doing it?

Jess: I think sometimes they might not. They’re so busy focusing on their career, and their own intentions… And I think most organisations actually favour people like this.

It’s easier to promote someone who has raised their profile at work, who speak up a lot, who volunteer to take on the workload, so I think organisations need to ensure they look at the productivity of each individual, not just at team level.

Sometimes the loudest person in the room gets all the attention. They find it easier to make small talk, engage more readily in networking opportunities, and find it easy to put other people at ease.


Would you like to have more confidence at work?

Have you ever felt like you’ve been over-looked by someone who’s less competent but louder than you? Have you ever passed on opportunities that might have enhanced your career or earning capacity?

If you have, you might like to try a few of my other ideas:

* Challenge yourself to speak up more frequently in meetings, even if it’s to ask a question.

* Volunteer for the next presentation or write the next proposal; tasks that will help others notice you

* Adjust your posture. When you’re feeling under-confident you body will naturally try to make itself smaller. How do you carry yourself around the office? Perhaps you hide behind your computer screen?

* Try to straighten your shoulders, walk with your nose slightly higher in the air, speak slowly, make a little bit more eye contact, and try to keep your head quite still. Minute adjustments can have a huge impact.

* Or if you’d like a lot more one-to-one support, I offer coaching sessions that help clients learn to raise their personal profile at work without having to change their personality.