Six ways to build your confidence to self-promote
Although it feels uncomfortable at first, learning to self-promote in a way that feels authentic will help you get that leadership job you want. Getting that dream job is not a one-time event, it’s a goal, a process, a mindset. I don’t really want to say you need to be ‘strategic’ as that feels a cold and very masculine approach akin to ‘getting ahead’ language. I think I prefer to consider it in a more holistic way : achieving your personal goal, having the impact you desire, changing lives, living life in alignment with your personal values.
So many women work hard getting the job done and expect their hard work to be noticed or they wait to be asked to step forward into their next role. The trouble with this approach is that your ambitious and confident teaching colleagues are already positioning themselves for their next role and sharing their achievements – because they know that people are generally too busy getting their own job done to notice someone else’s work unless it’s put in front of them. Think of it, when you look around you, do you know who is doing great work? And if you do know, how do you know?
Self promotion is all about making sure you’re in the forefront of people’s minds when there’s an opening or opportunity. Self-promotion is not bragging, it’s about knowing your impact, the transformation you have brought about, your personal values and seeing your worth. This is all information that can go on your job application and be used in responses at the interview, and if you adopt a more holistic view to finding that leadership position that’s right for you, you will embody and own all of this information and you can become adept at sharing your achievements in a way that has integrity and feels right for you. You’ll notice you can self-promote with more grace and ease, with more confidence.
This are my six tips to build your confidence, increase your visibility and share your excellence so that you’re the first person who comes to mind when there’s a leadership opportunity in your school, trust or network.
1. Create a ‘brand'
Celebrities are brands – you can copy their ‘style’, you know what things they like, what they will say, what’s important to them. In that same way, you can craft your public image to communicate what it is important for people to know about you, what you stand for in education and leadership.
How you present yourself leaves an impression. It’s not just what your clothes say; your words and body language communicate too. Do you stand tall or try to be small? When you speak or send an email, what impression do you leave and was that your intention? Do you have a reputation and if so with whom and what words are used to describe you? What are your values and what words do you use to reflect them?
This is not about people liking you, it’s about clarifying what you stand for and how you will communicate that, so that people remember you and talk about you in the way you want and remember you when the opportunities you want come along.
2. Clarify your goal
A clearly visualised goal will help you act as your future self, rather than your present self, which is important because the behaviours that got you to where you are now aren’t the same ones you need to get where you want to go. This clarity will help you create your ‘brand’ and help you act now as the leader you want to be.
Clarity on your goal makes it easier to make decisions: to decide how to spend your time, what to activities to prioritise in your planner each week and which opportunities you want to ask for to help you towards your ultimate goal.
Clarity on your future also makes it easier to create personal boundaries – to identify which projects when you’re offered them would be helpful to accept and which projects it would be better to refuse or delegate as, while they may be interesting projects, they will not help you on your journey but will just be an interesting distraction, or for some a form of procrastination.
3. Look for opportunities to self-promote
Once you are clear on your goal and have identified the opportunities you want, you can then identify who needs to know what you’re capable of and what you have achieved.
Start small with where you are going to share your achievements if you haven’t done this before so that you can rehearse how you present and get some feedback. When you are sharing your achievements, focus on the benefits to your audience of what you’re sharing rather than your actions so that you’re not ‘bragging’. Rather than saying, I did x, focus on the transformation you achieved, for example teacher time saved, or student progress made and then present the steps you took.
Practise with a group of women who have your back or in your friendly department meeting, then diversify to less familiar and wider audiences. Ultimately, find out who it is that will be creating the opening you want next, and get yourself in front of them. Create your ‘pitch’ for networking, interviews etc, your 30-60-second introduction to what you bring to the world of education – not so much your job role (you could even leave that off if you thought it could go against you) but the transformation you create and your values.
Find and join or create a group of people with similar interests. Share your successes on your LinkedIn on Twitter profile. Get published. Speak at a CPD or #WomenEd event. Be daring.
4. Get comfortable with feedback
Often we have opportunities to self-promote handed to us and we pass them by either because we’re uncomfortable or because we’re not focussed. When someone praises something you’ve done, for example, don’t brush it off as ‘no big deal’ or attribute your success to other people, don’t even just say ‘thank you’. Build on their praise by thanking them for the valuable feedback and then ask them a question to elicit more feedback. You could ask questions such as what resonated most with them, or what particularly stood out for them, questions that would help you replicate what they have spotted later.
In addition, when you lose your fear of criticism, you can develop the skill of asking for feedback from your line manager or a another key stakeholder, which is an indirect form of self-promotion. You can use your line-management meetings to ensure your boss is aware of what you’re doing that is making a difference: table items that you want on the agenda so that you have equal control over the meetings. Manage up 😊.
Showcase you in your way and ask for opportunities to share more widely. Take time to find out where they present and ask for the opportunity to join them or present on their behalf if it is relevant to achieving your goal. Invite them into your classroom or to look at a particular document. Be intentional with what you are sharing: know what it is they need and what you want them to walk away thinking or feeling.
Always put your name on any original work that you share.
5. Choose your words carefully
Not only does our language create and reflect how we perceive our world, the words we use get attributed to us in peoples’ memories. What that means is: if you put yourself down to others, they will start to believe that about you even if that was not their belief beforehand; or if you criticise other staff in your school, people will attach those criticisms to you. Keep your language positive and focussed on what you want to achieve, your values and your passions. Advocating for others is a wonderful technique to bring along others who may be doubting themselves that at the same time gives you an opportunity to praise others where those attributes become attached to you in your audience’s mind.
Women often use the collaborative ‘we’ when talking about success. Showcasing your contribution to and impact through a team is important; it is also important to identify your specific contribution and impact through the use of ‘I’. If you are still building up the courage to say how amazing you are, try using embedded praise which is where you say how someone else told other people how amazing you are. For example, “my line manager wrote in my report how I …., “, “the students wrote in the school newspaper that I …”.
Don’t humblebrag, it makes everyone uncomfortable as it feels disingenuous. Get used to being intentional – it is more than okay to share with others how you are making a difference. If you hear yourself telling yourself the story, that what you’ve done is nothing special, if you question your excellence, remember that what is hum-drum for you, is someone else’s a-ha moment.
6. Challenge those limiting beliefs
It’s important to compile a portfolio of all the praise you have received over the years so that you can reference it and keep reading it to eradicate any self-doubt that creeps in. Write your achievements on post it notes and keep it on a wall in your office or in a notebook so that you have it handy for your performance management meeting and to remind yourself how much you have achieved over the year.
Have a real look at those beliefs that are underpinning your reluctance to self-promote. You may want to journal on them and spend time reflecting on whether the beliefs that are holding you back are serving you well, if you wish to change them and how you can change them by finding evidence that they are not true.
Examine the choices you are making. Are you more focussed on not offending anyone and concerned that every should needs to like you, which is keeping you stuck because you daren’t come across as arrogant? Use journalling to find an authentic way to share your excellence so that you can make that difference. Reflect more deeply on what it is that bothers you about offending a few people along the way, about some people not liking you.
Don’t forget as women, we’re judged differently and behaviour that is labelled as confident in men is likely to be labelled as aggressive for us. If we always people-please we are meeting the needs of others, not ourselves and end up holding ourselves back. So ignore what’s going on the inside. Count to 20 , dig deep and get implementing your plan.