How To Make Sure Your Work Is Noticed (Without Being Obnoxious)

There's a myth that hard work speaks for itself, but it's not true. You need to be advocating for yourself.
Working hard is not enough to get ahead. You need to advocate for yourself, too.
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Working hard is not enough to get ahead. You need to advocate for yourself, too.

One of the biggest career lessons you will learn is that doing great work is not enough to get ahead. You need to make sure others know about it, too.

You may worry that this will come off as obnoxious bragging, but a lot of career advancement comes down to visibility. And if you’re working remotely, it may take more effort to make sure these conversations are happening.

“We are often taught that bragging in any way about our work in any way is bad and equates to being arrogant or not being humble, or we believe in the myth that our hard work should speak for itself,” explained Nadia De Ala, founder of Real You Leadership, a group coaching program for women of colour.

De Ala said she works with a lot of recovering people-pleasers to help them take the shame out of showing off their work.

“Learning the art of speaking to your great work and achievements without being obnoxious or putting yourself down in any way is part of self-advocating and sets you up for leadership, promotion and pay increase opportunities in the long run,” she said.

To make your bosses and colleagues more aware of your work, you need to be intentional about seeking out opportunities to share your accomplishments. Here’s how to do it while staying true to yourself, whether you’re on Slack or in a meeting:

Share how your accomplishments can help everyone on the team.

Your accomplishments don’t always just help you — they can also help other team members learn and grow. Framing your personal milestone as a learning moment can be one way to bring up the topic.

“You can share your great work without feeling ‘icky’ by framing your achievements as your progress and giving insight into your learnings.”

- Nadia De Ala

“You can share your great work without feeling ‘icky’ by framing your achievements as your progress and giving insight into your learnings,” De Ala said. “You can send a quick Slack like, ‘Hey y’all, I was just able to solve for X problem to achieve Y in my Z project. It took me a while to figure it out, so sharing my learnings here in case it could help anyone else.’“

Lara Hogan, author of “Resilient Management,” said that if showing off your work is hard for you, be as fact-based as possible about your actions and the impact of those actions. If possible, quantify your impact, and try to make it relevant to what the other people in the conversation care about, she said. That way, it “looks like you’re working towards a shared goal, rather than just trying to make yourself look good,” she said.

In a meeting about hiring needs, you might say, “Oh yes, I’ve been focused on that, too! I overhauled our process for our interview loops last month, which led to our team feeling more confident about hiring decisions and a better experience for our candidates. We’ve now hired four out of the six people we need in the last two weeks,” she shared as an example.

Give credit to others, and they might give it to you more often.

One way to help others notice your work more is to make a point to shout out your colleagues’ projects. By sharing positive feedback, you help build a team culture where hyping up each other’s work is normal and encouraged.

It also reminds colleagues to give credit back to you, too.

“You can regularly share statements like, ‘My team and I achieved ...’ and don’t hesitate to ping the whole team or company with an acknowledgement of a team member you notice is doing amazing work,” De Ala said. “What goes around comes around, and giving honest praise to others shows you pay attention and aren’t just thinking about your growth, but the entire team’s growth.”

Sharing what you’re doing well at doesn’t just help you advance in your career, it also helps your well-being, said Cicely Horsham-Brathwaite, a licensed psychologist and executive coach. “Sharing those wins with people you feel comfortable with at work also helps to buffer or mitigate stress in the work environment, rather than focusing solely on what the challenges are,” she said.

To help your boss be a better cheerleader for you, keep them up to date on your wins.

Ideally, your boss is already advocating for you, so that higher-ups with the power to promote you know that you are doing a great job. But sometimes, you don’t always get the best boss, and you need to help them manage your career. To help them recognise your professional excellence, bring up your wins in your one-on-one meetings.

Melody Wilding, an executive coach and author of “Trust Yourself: Stop Overthinking and Channel Your Emotions for Success at Work,” suggested adding an “accomplishments” section to your one-on-one agenda with your boss.

“It’s an opportunity to share what you’re working on and to ensure your boss can advocate for you among their peers and higher-ups,” she said.

But keep in mind that you shouldn’t make it all about how hard you are working. “Hard doesn’t mean that the work is successful, that it’s a meaningful contribution,” Horsham-Braithwaite said.

Instead of talking about the task itself, she recommends talking about the outcomes in an enthusiastic way, like “I really enjoyed this, I learned X, Y, Z from this collaboration that I was just involved in,” she said.