Working Wounded: Promoting Yourself at Work

How to get ahead at work without coming across as a self-promoter.

Aug. 3, 2007 — -- Dear WOUNDED: : I hate people who constantly promote themselves at work. At the same time, they seem to be the people who are getting ahead. Is there a classy way to talk yourself up?

ANSWER: When I think of self-promoters, Rochester mayoral candidate Pat Carr immediately leaps to mind. After a reporter noticed similarities between things Mr. Carr had said and praise for the candidate that a "supporter" had written on the newspaper's Web site, Carr admitted that he posted the praise himself. "I stand by what I (wrote)."

Unlike Mr. Carr, most of us could put more energy into talking ourselves up. I've included three "do's" and one "don't" for successful self-promotion, below. For more, check out "Work 101" by Elizabeth Freedman (Delta, 2007).

DO imitate. Imitation has been called the sincerest form of flattery. It's also one heck of a way to get ahead. Pay attention to the successful people and steal everything you can from them. For example, in some companies people are encouraged to talk about their successes, while in other companies this would be seen as boasting. You've got to know the specific rules for getting ahead where you work. The best way I know how to do this is to study your company's best.

DO commit to your job. Most people live out Woody Allen's rule that 80 percent of life is just showing up. Go beyond just showing up and really commit to accomplishing more at work. One key strategy for accomplishing more at work is to look outside your industry. Companies tend to pay close attention to what others are doing in their industry, but are often less aware of strategies used in different industries. Prowl Web sites, trade magazines from other industries and friends who work outside your industry for ideas.

DO be ambitious. Ambition has a bad rap in most companies because it implies someone who will do anything to get ahead. I think that it is possible to get ahead without damaging others in the process. One simple way to present your ambition in a more acceptable way is to eliminate the word "I" from your vocabulary in favor of "us" or "we." Sure it is simplistic, but I guarantee people's defenses will be reduced by not hearing a constant stream of "I's" coming from your mouth.

DON'T forget your place. It's no accident that one of the first things that most employees get when they start a new job is an organization chart. Ah, the org chart, the holy grail of today's workplace. Stature, power and position are a big deal in most workplaces. So you've got to be careful to not upset this meticulously constructed apple cart when you are trying to get visibility for you and your projects. Learn how to talk up yourself without talking down anyone above or alongside you in the pecking order.

Follow these tips and you won't have to post praise about your work on Web sites, other people will be talking you up.

Thought for the Week

"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." -- Bill Cosby

List of the Week

Nothing like a commute to calm you down … Surprising info about commutes

  • 90 percent of Americans drive alone to and from work
  • Time spent commuting has tripled over the last two decades
  • The majority of commuters are less physiologically stressed after their commutes than before
  • From: Agnes Scott College, Atlanta, GA

    Bob Rosner is a best-selling author, speaker and internationally syndicated columnist. He'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic, especially if you have better ideas than he does. His books include "The Boss's Survival Guide" and "Gray Matters: The Work place Survival Guide." Send your questions or comments to him via: publishes a new Working Wounded column every Friday.This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

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