Early in my career while I was sharing work updates with my parents my Dad would always ask me, “Does your boss know you did that?” or “Does the CEO know that?” At first my answer was a slightly embarrassed no- after all I was a pretty junior person at the time. Why did the CEO need to know what I was up to? But lo and behold one day, after such a conversation I found myself in the elevator with the CEO. When he politely asked how I was doing, instead of saying, “fine, thanks” and moving on with my day I took my Dad’s advice and said, “Great actually, I just closed our first deal through our channel partner and it looks like we have 5 or 6 more in the pipeline to close soon.” Just that one interaction led to a virtuous cycle – the CEO asked me to keep him up to speed on the pending deals. He mentioned it to my boss who told him about more good work I was doing. He also mentioned that he had a friend from business school who worked at the channel partner and that I should say hello on his behalf. This, of course, allowed me to build more senior relationships at my client, which increased my impact. He began to make a point to ask me how I was and if he could help. He eventually came on sales calls with me and saw me in action with clients. In short, that one piece of advice turned out to be key to getting me my first real sponsor.
Years later, after cultivating this strategy of sharing what I was working on and accomplishing with relevant people at work, I came across a 2011 study from Catalyst called The Myth of the Ideal Worker. The Myth of the Ideal Worker outlines an 8-year study that tracked men and women from the top MBA programs all over the globe. Over the course of the 8 years the participants self reported on how they did with behaviors of high performing employees- raising your hand for difficult assignments, getting the right training, blurring the line between home life and work life etc. At the end of the 8 years, the women were making on average $31, 258 less than the men and were on average one level less senior. When they ran the regression against the self reported data they found only one behavior to be significant in relation to compensation- talking about your achievements at work. In relation to promotion rates there were two, significant behaviors- again, talking about your achievements at work and networking with powerful others. In other words you could work late into the night, move your family and work on the most difficult assignments but if you did not talk about your accomplishments chances are you would be making less than your male peers. And unless you did that AND networked with powerful others in your organization you were likely going to be behind in terms of seniority as well.
How well do you do with the self promotion required to stay on par with your peers? Here are a few questions to ask yourself as a start:
- How often do I meet with my boss formally? Informally?
- Do I go to meetings prepared to share accomplishments?
- How often do I ask for feedback?
- Do or have I asked for a promotion when I am ready and not waited to ask?
- How well do I know the different individuals within my corporate hierarchy?
- Do I have a personal achievement statement ready to share with them?