Need to toot your horn? Why self promotion isn’t conceited but crucial!

Need to toot your horn? Why self promotion isn’t conceited but crucial!


Growing up on a diary farm, with six brothers and sisters, it was drummed into my from an early age that humility is a virtue, and bragging, well… not so much. We were told that if we worked hard, and did a good job (at school, in athletics, or anywhere else) we’d be recognized for our effort and rewarded accordingly.

For the most part, it was good advice. However, if your plan to get ahead in your business or career is to work hard with the assumption that you’ll be recognized and rewarded accordingly you may find yourself being left behind as the horn blowers around you land the opportunities you anticipated being laid at your own humble feet .

That’s not to say that humility is no longer a virtue. But false humility can leave you languishing. As I wrote in Stop Playing Safe (yes, a shameless toot!), there’s a distinct difference between tooting one’s horn to stroke a needy or insecure ego (which is, after all, why braggarts brag) and sharing information that educates relevant people about who you are, the value you have to offer and how you’d like add more of it.

The old adage “It’s not what you know, but who you know” no longer holds true. Nowadays, it’s not what you know, nor who you know – it’s who knows what you know.”   Tooting your horn is about strategically building your ‘personal brand’ to ensure that those who can help you accomplish more in your career, know not just who you are, but the value you have (and want) to contribute.  Failing to toot your horn – with the right people, in the right way, and at the right time – doesn’t serve anyone.

Here are four keys to promoting yourself, without being branded a braggart.

1. KNOW YOUR VALUE: Reframe your experience and expertise in terms of the value you have to contribute. Doing so enables you to shift from making your toot about you, to how you can ultimately make a bigger contribution to the success of others and your organizations bottom line.

2. BE RELEVANT: Be mindful about who your audience is, what they care about and whether or not what you have to share is relevant to them.  Don’t toot for the sake of it. Be strategic, aware that if people don’t see value in what you say, you may be labeled boastful, boring, or both.

3. SHARE YOUR ENTHUSIASM, NOT EGO: By enthusiastically sharing examples of what you’ve done in the past (stating the facts without exaggeration – which should go without saying), what you’re working on, and ideas you have for the future, you can convey your value without being a walking (and wearisome) advertorial for You Inc.

4. RECOGNIZE OTHERS: Publicly recognizing others accomplishments not only serves to promote their value, but can of inadvertently highlight your own. On top of that, when you float someone else’s boat, they become more inclined to float yours with a reciprocal toot. It’s “win:win” all round. Of course, however humbly you may toot, you always risk criticism.  So be it.  Those who criticize are generally saying much more about themselves (their insecurity, misguided humility, and fear of being left behind) than they are about you.  Letting fear of disapproval (failure or losing face) determine what you say or do is a sure fire way never to achieve the success you want – in work or life.

So enough with false humility. Enough with playing safe and small. You have potential to be shared and value to add – it’s your responsibility to make sure those who can help open doors, make connections and create opportunities for you know just how much.  So get over yourself – toot toot!