Letter from the President - July 2018

Almost as soon as we learn to talk, we learn how to brag. As children, it’s natural to enjoy our accomplishments and want to share our excitement. Even the simplest tasks are greeted with a joyous “I did it!” Soon enough, though, we have to be trained out of treating everyday occurrences as cause for celebration. (“Yes, dear, you tied your shoes again. Good for you. Now get in the car.”) After that, it doesn’t take long to realize that our friends aren’t all that interested in hearing every detail of our successes, especially if they don’t share in them.

The Internet is full of quotes and sayings that portray bragging or boasting in a negative light. I’d include a few here... if I could find credible sources for them. (Of course it’s the pithiest ones that seem to be the least reliable.) And we all probably have that one friend who can be counted on to tell long-winded, self-congratulatory tales until we exclaim “Oh, look at the time!” and then hurry away.

So we dial back the bragging, restraining ourselves from telling others about the great things we just did, until some of us even learn to deflect real praise with an “Oh, it was nothing,” or even the dreaded “No problem.”

Here’s the thing, though: While “limit your bragging” is usually good advice in friendships, it can’t apply at work.

All right, maybe your peers don’t want to hear you go on and on about how great you are any more than your friends do. Let me be more specific. If you want to advance your career, you have to learn how to brag to your boss. I’ve decided to call it “bragging up.”

Some of you might be pretty good at this already. Your manager always knows what latest and greatest things you’re working on—not necessarily because she asked, but because you told her. You’ve learned how to present your work so the focus is on the benefit to the company, not just on the cool thing you’ve just figured out (Even if the “cool factor” is what got you excited about that project in the first place.) If so, congratulations! You probably don’t need to read the rest of this letter.

What if you’re not quite ready to brag? Maybe you’re not quite sure what your management is looking for when they consider promotions and raises. Ideally, you’d get this information through performance reviews of one form or another, but if you don’t, there’s still a simple way to find out: ask. Set up a one-on-one conversation with your manager, and discuss your potential career path. What do you want your role to be? Are you on track to achieve it? If not, what should you be doing to get there?

With that information, you can start gathering data. Consider keeping a notebook or document summarizing your work every week. You can track projects you’ve worked on, questions you’ve asked and answered, or non-project challenges you’ve solved. Writing it down as you go along might sound like work, but it’s easier than trying to remember it later!

Then, in a few months, you can have another check-in. “Remember those goals we set? Here’s what I’ve been working on to accomplish them, and here’s what I’ve learned along the way.” Include hard data when you can—was your project under budget? Did you complete a task ahead of schedule?—and if you don’t have actual numbers, be as specific with other details as you can.

It might be uncomfortable at first, but learning to present your achievements in a descriptive, matter-of-fact way is an extremely useful skill. Remember, your colleagues have their own work to do—they can’t keep up with what you’re doing without a little help. Polish up your bragging skills, and you’ll guarantee that your valuable contributions are noticed.

What do you think? We had “lean in” a few years ago... can we make “brag up” the next big thing?

Appears in these Categories