9 Ways To Self-Promote That Won't Make You Look Like A Total Sleaze

by Melanie Duppins

Is professional self-promotion always a string of dirty words? Well, it depends on whom you ask. For many women, praising their own actions, being confident about their skills and professional experiences and even negotiating for a certain salary feels selfish and dishonest.

It’s time for us to wake up and realize what C-suite execs in corner offices have known for decades: If you don’t [tastefully and strategically] toot your own horn, you may spend your whole life waiting for someone to do it for you.

Don’t get me wrong; you're right to be a little uncomfortable about tooting your own horn. Some forms of self-promotion will get you blackballed as a jerk quicker than those slippers got Dorothy back to Kansas.

We all know someone who overemphasizes contributions, takes credit for others’ accomplishments and fiercely advocates for themselves (to the detriment of others). Many of us have made the noble personal commitment to never become this person. Don’t worry, though; there’s a happy medium.

Here are nine go-to rules for non-sleazy self-promotion:


Make sure that there’s at least a 3:1 ratio between the number of times you promote others' accomplishments and how often you promote your own.

Every time you'd like to give yourself a shout out, think about your recent track record. Have you been generous with praise? If so, go for it. If not, sit on it so you don't sound like a broken record.

Get a buddy.

Make a straight-shooting friend tell you when you’re taking too much of the limelight. Ask for his or her help if you get out of control.

Mentor another staff member.

Give your best coaching efforts to one or more high-potential staff members. Invest in them and sing their praises (as long as they deserve it). As they move up, people will notice your impact – without you having to say a word.

Be generous with help and ideas.

Strategically help other teams and offer your best ideas. If those ideas stick, you’ll win friends and gain some buzz as a creative problem solver.

Be transparent about your priorities on the front end.

By sharing your priorities with your managers, peers and other teams with which you work, you’ll create a natural reason to debrief once the meatier priorities are complete.

Get input on your big projects.

By inviting the right people to weigh in on key initiatives, you’ll expose your priorities to a broader group. You’ll also be more likely to get broad support for initiatives once they’re underway since few people shoot down the ideas they suggest.

Share your mistakes.

If a project is successful, but there were still some important lessons to be learned, codify them in an email, document or verbalize them at a meeting. By volunteering information about your mistakes, you’ll convey confidence and humility.

Keep your mouth shut.

Don’t gossip about other people and don’t complain unnecessarily. When someone puts something negative out there, don’t bite. Redirect the conversation. You’ll get a reputation for being honest and positive.

Don’t cry wolf.

Choose the right moments to ask for a promotion, additional opportunities or special consideration. Don’t sit on your hands, but don’t be overzealous, either.

Ask a trusted and competent mentor for advice before negotiating salary or benefits. Make sure that what you’re asking to get is strategic for your organization and for yourself.

This isn't everything, but it's a start. What are your non-sleazy self-promotion strategies?

Photo via GQ