The starting point of self-promotion is to set a goal and make a plan to become one of the very best people in your field. The better you get and the more respected you become, the more you will have in common with other people who also are farther along on the road of life. You must ask for advice and follow it. You must make every effort to overcome the obstacles within yourself that might be holding you back. You must develop the essential skills that you need to join the top 20 percent in your field.
The wonderful thing about this aspect of self-promotion is that it is totally under your control. It depends on no one else. It is an ongoing journey. As Denis Waitley says, “It is continually viewing yourself as a ‘do it to yourself’ project.”
Meanwhile, there are a variety of things that you can do to promote yourself by getting to know more and more of the most important people in your community and your industry. This is the second aspect of self-promotion.
As you are getting better at what you do, you deliberately and systematically make efforts to meet more people who you can help and who can help you.
People in any field eventually take on the attitudes and behaviors of the other people in that field. Your peer group has a powerful effect on the person you are today and on the person you will become tomorrow. The friends you socialize with after work and on the weekends have an enormous impact on everything you do and accomplish. Every major turning point in your life will coincide with the development of a new group of friends and associates. I have seen many occasions where an average salesperson joined a company that was full of top salespeople; within three months, he or she also was a top salesperson in the industry. The very change of reference groups often leads to a complete change of aspirations, goals, work routines, and levels of achievement.
Many people’s lives are, unfortunately, a series of random or haphazard events, like bumper cars at a carnival. They take whatever job is offered to them. They have lunch with whoever is available, and they socialize with whoever they run into, whoever happens to be going out the door at the same time. Their human relationships are largely unplanned and uncoordinated. Their lives seem to go back and forth, and they make very little progress.
Successful people, on the other hand, are very deliberate about their choice of friends, associates and colleagues. Successful people make a plan for their lives, and then they look around them to see which people fit into their plans for where they are going in the years ahead. Successful people are very specific about what they need to do and who they need to know if they want to get ahead rapidly.
Baron Rothschild, one of the world’s wealthiest men in his time, wrote in his rules for success, “Make no useless acquaintances.” To some people, this seems a little undemocratic. Aren’t you just supposed to like and hang around with anybody who happens to be there, regardless of personality or direction? Not if you want your life to take a specific, upward path.
In one study, it was found that the top 20 percent of high achievers strongly identified with other high achievers, even before they had had a chance to accomplish very much in life. Their role models were men and women at the top of their organizations. The high achievers did not identify with the average people around them. Their sights were set much higher. And in almost no time at all, they were up among the top 20 percent, exactly as they had planned it.
There are a variety of things that you can do to promote yourself to the front of the line, to the head of the pack. You can bring yourself to the attention of people who can help you quite rapidly, simply by engaging in the same behaviors that others have used over the years to rise rapidly in competitive careers.
Start with your work. As I said earlier, you must be very good at what you do and continually get better if you want to get ahead in your company. Sometimes, people are convinced that they can play politics to get ahead. However, it has been shown again and again that politics and gamesmanship will get a person only so far before he is found out. Peter Drucker, the management consultant, says, “Only the truly competent person can rise above politics.” Politics in organizations has to do with gaining control of people and resources. If you are one of the most valuable people in your organization, you will not have to engage in very much politicking because you will be one of the precious resources that others will be eager to court and influence. You can rise above petty politicking simply by getting better and better at what you do. When you reach the point where you are making an invaluable contribution, everyone else, including your boss, will come to you. Being good at what you do is the key to gaining the respect and esteem of people around you.
Now, let’s say you are in an organization that has quite a few people who are good at what they do. How can you stand out from the crowd? In a study of 104 senior executives, the vast majority said that the key to rapid promotion in their organizations was twofold. First, they said, an individual had to have the ability to set clear priorities, to focus on what was valuable and relevant rather than waste time on what was small and insignificant. Second, they said, the employee had to have a “sense of urgency,” a desire and a drive to get the job done fast.
In short, your developing a reputation for speed and dependability, for doing the right things and doing them right, and quickly, is the most important reputation you can develop with your boss. It’s invaluable to getting ahead rapidly.
I recommend that you make a list of everything that you feel you have been hired to accomplish. Take the list to your boss and ask your boss to organize the list in order of priority. What does your boss consider to be the most important thing you do? What does she consider to be the second most important thing?
Discuss the list with your boss so that you and your boss are perfectly clear about exactly why you are on the payroll. Then, concentrate on doing an excellent job at the things that are most important to him or her. I have discussed this with thousands of managers, all over the country, they all say that there is nothing that pleases them more than to have an employee who is working hard on something that the managers consider to be of top priority. Continually ask your boss if there is anything that he does on a regular basis that you can take off his shoulders. Every boss has tasks that he or she dislikes. If you can take one or more of these tasks away, and learn how to do it yourself, you will be promoting yourself in one of the most professional ways possible.
Self-promotion also means looking for every opportunity to help your boss and coworkers to look good at their jobs. Concentrate on cooperation rather than competition. If you help others get ahead, it will come back to you exponentially. And the more you help others, the more they will help you in return.
According to the Law of Sowing and Reaping, the more you give of yourself, without expectation of return, the more will come back to you from the most unexpected sources. Successful people in every organization are always looking for ways to help, always looking for ways to put in more than they take out. As my father once said, “It’s amazing how much you can get done when no one cares who gets the credit.”
In self-promotion, you never need to worry about who will get the credit. The more credit you give away, the more will come back to you. The more you help others, the more they will want to help you. The more you put in to help your boss look good and stay on top of his or her work, the more your boss will want to open doors of opportunity that enable you to get ahead.
Herodotus, the Greek historian, wrote, “All of life is action and passion, and not to be involved in the actions and passions of your time is to risk having not really lived at all.”
Your job is to engage in deliberate self-promotion by becoming very good at what you do, by becoming indispensable to your boss and your company, and by becoming better and better known to the important people in your field. The rewards that will come back to you eventually will be much greater than the efforts that you have put in. And there is no limit to what you can put in.