‘Tact­ful self-pro­mo­tion’ can go a long way

These HR ex­perts have ad­vice to help ad­vance your ca­reer

The Hamilton Spectator - - CAREERS - PA­TRICK THOMAS MIN­NEAPO­LIS — Star Tri­bune (Min­neapo­lis)

With decades of ex­pe­ri­ence in human re­sources and hav­ing worked to­gether for years at the Twin Cities of­fice of Lee Hecht Harrison, a ca­reer ser­vices firm, Nancy Burke and Richard Dod­son al­ways joked they should write a book. That joke be­came a re­al­ity in 2013 when they de­cided it was time to put their years of ex­per­tise in ca­reer con­sult­ing on pa­per. The two de­cided to specif­i­cally fo­cus on an area they felt was sel­dom dis­cussed but that a lot of clients strug­gled with: how to pro­mote your­self in the work­place. In Jan­uary 2016, they pub­lished the book Power Your Ca­reer: The Art of Tact­ful Self-Pro­mo­tion at Work. It pro­vides tips for em­ploy­ers, job­seek­ers and re­cent grad­u­ates on how to show them­selves off in the work­place. Even af­ter de­cid­ing to write, the process wasn’t easy, as Burke and Dod­son de­scribed in an in­ter­view. Some ex­cerpts:

Q: What in­spired you to de­cide that it was time to ac­tu­ally sit down and write the book?

Burke: The ge­n­e­sis of the idea was Richard’s ini­tially. It’s ac­tu­ally ex­plained in the first cou­ple para­graphs of the book. He and his co-worker (Laura) were walk­ing down the hall and they saw the boss. And he asked, “How is it go­ing?” and Laura says, “It’s great. We just fin­ished the de­signs for the in­ter­view­ing skills and beta-tested it. I think it’s go­ing to be great.” The boss asks Richard how he was and Richard said, “Fine.” When the boss left, Laura said, “How do you ex­pect the boss to know what you are do­ing if you don’t tell him?” That whole idea of hav­ing to pro­mote your­self came from that.

Dod­son: Nancy and I worked to­gether for a num­ber of years with peo­ple who were strug­gling with their ca­reers and try­ing to get ahead but weren’t suc­ceed­ing. Turned out that it’s not that they aren’t tal­ented or don’t de­liver great value to their com­pa­nies, but no­body knew who they were. So we started speak­ing a lot on that topic and started call­ing it tact­ful self-pro­mo­tion. We’ve har­vested sto­ries over the years from real peo­ple.

Q: How did you de­cide what would be in the book?

Burke: What we did was, we started with an out­line of what we were talk­ing about — ba­si­cally tak­ing all the Pow­erPoints of what we were talk­ing about and cre­at­ing sto­ries around them. The first time we thought it would be easy and just write down the sto­ries we tell peo­ple. We got the first draft done, about 150 pages, and were feel­ing good about our­selves. We sent it to a de­vel­op­men­tal ed­i­tor. And it was bru­tal — it was good feed­back, but it was bru­tal.

Q: What do you say to peo­ple who think self-pro­mo­tion is com­mon sense and don’t need ad­vice?

Burke: One ques­tion for them is, do you ever want to make a change in your ca­reer or stay where you are? If you want to make a change, well, how ro­bust is your net­work? How many peo­ple do you know that could re­ally go to bat for you, that you could go to for help? I might start say­ing, do you know how to pro­mote your­self and talk about your­self? Do you have a re­sume that pro­motes your­self ?

Dod­son: I haven’t found some­one who hasn’t thought they could do a bet­ter job at self-pro­mo­tion. It’s more of a re­sis­tance to the idea of self-pro­mo­tion that it seems braggy. I would say, if you’re not go­ing to pro­mote your­self, who is go­ing to do it for you?

Q: What’s the big­gest com­po­nent read­ers can take away from the book?

Dod­son: Be­cause every­body is ap­proach­ing the con­tent in this book from a dif­fer­ent point in their ca­reer, I think what’s valu­able about the book is the over­ar­ch­ing model. It’s a place to start; each of the strate­gies can be ap­plied to wher­ever you’re sit­ting in your ca­reer. It gives a road map of what kind of things should you be think­ing about. You don’t have to do ev­ery­thing in this book; it’s a bunch of in­gre­di­ents for how you cre­ate a dish or a ca­reer for what you need. You are able to pick and choose what works for you, and there are a lot of in­gre­di­ents in here.

Burke: If you pick one or two things from the book, you can re­ally make a dif­fer­ence. It can be ex­tremely help­ful for some­one com­ing out of school be­cause you’re on your own.


Nancy Burke and Richard Dod­son, the au­thors of the book "The Art of Tact­ful Self-Pro­mo­tion at Work, say it may not be lack of tal­ent or skill hold­ing you back.

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