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How to humblebrag at work to get ahead

If you want to get promoted, the higher-ups need to know how amazing you are. Here’s how to tout your work accomplishments without sounding like a jerk.

How to humblebrag at work to get ahead

You want your supervisor to recognize your hard work (and reward you accordingly), but there’s a fine line between tasteful self-promotion (the kind that earns you a raise) and narcissism (where you come off like a boastful jerk). Understanding the difference between the two plays a pivotal role in determining your early career success.

Fact is, it’s up to you to humblebrag. Your boss isn’t a mind reader, says Peggy Klaus, author of Brag!: The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It. And unless your boss is a total micromanager, she doesn’t keep tabs on what you do throughout the day (or even the week). You’ve got to speak up—tactfully.

We spoke with career experts to find out how to master the art of subtle self-promotion and gain favor with your manager.

Track your accomplishments

Klaus recommends creating a “brag bag”—essentially, a log of your achievements. “Keep a simple Microsoft Word document that you update each week” where you list what obstacles you faced, actions you took, and results, says Klaus.

Then, when your next performance review rolls around, you have a record of everything you did and can make a compelling case to your boss as to why you deserve that coveted promotion.

Give real-time updates

When you have a major career win, share the news with your boss in real time through a quick email (e.g., “Just landed a big sale! Can’t wait to tell you more about it.”).

“Managers want employees to come to them with good news so that they can share that news with their boss,” says Klaus.

Bear in mind: You’re trying to get your boss jazzed about what you accomplished. So, even if it isn’t in your nature, you might want to use an exclamation point to express excitement. “You need to convey enthusiasm,” says Klaus. “You should be passionate about your achievements, not ho-hum.”

Quantify your achievements

When possible, provide your boss with metrics that illustrate what you’ve accomplished. “Managers like hard numbers,” says Rob Sullivan, author of Selling Yourself Without Bragging: A Simple, 4-Part Formula For Quantifying Your Accomplishments—Even When You Think You Can't.

Pointing out that you exceeded quarterly sales goals by 50%, for example, is more compelling than simply saying that you hit your numbers for the year.

Lay off the adjectives

Good work speaks for itself; don’t feel the need to embellish when describing your achievements. This means avoiding words like “excellent” or “top-notch.”

“Leave it to the other person to draw the conclusion that what you did was a great achievement,” says Sullivan.

Give credit to your peers

In addition to highlighting your own achievements, you need to show you’re a team player. “Talk up a team triumph,” says Jeffrey Kudisch, managing director at the University of Maryland’s Office of Career Services.

By praising your peers at team meetings, you’ll also cozy up to your co-workers. “If you don’t give credit to your team, you’ll look like an egomaniac,” says Sullivan. Plus, building relationships with peers can improve job satisfaction and benefit you in the future if you ever need a referral.

Let others sing your praises

In addition to self-promotion, get an endorsement of your skills from a third party. “If you’ve made a client happy, ask the person to send your boss an email sharing their experience,” advises Kudisch. Because many managers don’t get to interact with customers directly, it’s up to you to connect them, says Kudisch.  

Don’t overdo it

You want to exercise some restraint with respect to how frequently you talk up your success. “You don’t want to brag to your boss every time you have an accomplishment,” says Sullivan, “but you also don’t want major wins to go unnoticed.”

To strike the right balance, give your boss bi-weekly progress reports and lead off with an important accomplishment (e.g., “Great news! That client I’ve been pursuing signed with us.”). By doing so, you’ll gain visibility and set yourself up for a handsome raise or promotion.  

Unfortunately, not every boss is going to give you props—even when you lay it out for them. If that’s the case, it’s time to start a job search and take your talent elsewhere. You deserve recognition and a clear path to career advancement. 

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