Schmooze or lose?

If you don't schmooze, do you really lose?

There are those hard-working employees who soldier on, year after year, waiting for promotion. Then there are those who, despite lacking any exceptional talent, endear themselves to management through unashamed big noting and cringeworthy displays of corporate conformity.

But experts say it is possible to make a name for yourself without looking like a suck.

Sometimes it pays to self-promote – just don't do it after you've had a belly-full at Friday night drinks.

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You don't have to be a bootlicker.

It's the quiet ones you've got to watch

Ever worked alongside a 'head down' type whose absence from the office goes unnoticed?

Career coach Kate James, of Total Balance Group, says an employee's personality type influences whether they are good at selling themselves.

She refers to the Myers-Briggs profiling tool (a personality test), which indicates whether people are introverts or extroverts.

“Those who fall more on the introversion spectrum – who are in fact a lot of my clients – are less likely to be the type of people who talk themselves up, or who are overtly selling themselves,” James says.

“They might even define themselves a little bit differently in terms of how they perceive success.”

While there was no right or wrong type, society tends “to overlook the other quieter version of success”, she says.

“The more friends you've got, the more you go out partying, the more people that like you on Facebook … we live in a world that perceives extroversion as a sign of success.”

Identify what's holding you back

Some of us are capable of self-promotion, but choose not to, for fear of looking like a 'tool'.

James says modesty and humility were often a top strength for her introverted clients.

“If they're modest, they've been taught that it's not nice to talk yourself up and boast … and that can be challenging for them if they're in a work environment where that's the culture,” James says.

She says if it's not your natural style to self-promote, you can choose not to do it and accept the implications. But if you know it's holding you back, then you might need some help in learning to do it in a way that feels comfortable for you.

“We have to be careful not to self-sabotage … usually we regret what we don't do, rather than what we do,” James says.

Ask questions

Jill Noble, human resources and careers expert from Pivotal HR, says “self-promotion is effective when it's not too obvious”.

“There are naturally inquisitive people out there who are good at asking questions, listening to others, expressing empathy and making others feel good about themselves,” she says.

“This is what makes someone good at effective, yet subtle, self-promotion.

“Rather than blowing your own trumpet, build a reputation, get known and recognised and allow others to blow your trumpet for you, the result will be much louder and more resonant.”

Average employees are “absolutely” capable of promotion, Noble says.

“Talking your way to the top can be achieved through asking though rather than telling,” she says.

It's OK to fly your own kite

Don’t fret if you suspect you’re the office extrovert. Many people thrive on attention. Letting others know how awesome you are is not a bad thing – it’s how you go about it that matters, James says.

“Selling yourself doesn’t have to be brash or egotistical or loud,” James says.
 
It might help to align yourself with extroverted types who artfully promote their skills without alienating people.

Otherwise, some might find it easier to talk about their achievements in a one-on-one environment, she says.

James suggests keeping a document on your computer where you could note achievements at the end of every week. Don't wait until performance review time to talk about your success, she says.

“Feel comfortable to talk to your manager about those things along the way, but in a way that feels comfortable for you.”

“It might be even worth doing a bit of a practice run at home with your partner or with a friend as to how you can say that without sounding disingenuous.”

Noble agreed that delivery matters: “Sometimes confidence can be seen as arrogance; focus on getting known through your actions, achievements and your attitude”.

First steps

Jill Noble says there are a range of practical things people can do to become better self-promoters or get noticed in the workplace:

• Volunteer with your professional association and help arrange an event, invite prospective members or moderate an online forum

• Keep on top of industry news – subscribe to online magazines, bulletins and discussion groups to know what your peers and seniors are talking about

• Participate in social networking (when appropriate) such as LinkedIn professional group discussions, blogs and forums

• Attend Friday night drinks

• Go to staff lunches and sit with different people every time

• Have a good relationship with reception – they know everyone

• Bring in food if you bake or cook – food connects everyone and your reputation will spread

• Get involved in a 'fun run' or an event like Movember

• Learn to use small talk to break the ice or find common ground with people

• Be a connector – build your contacts so you can refer others