Chapter 1: Feeling small and overlooked.
Nothing I did was ever good enough for Yvette, because she’d been doing it better, for longer, and under worse circumstances. I wanted to be part of the group, feel like I belong to this riding club I spent most of my weekends at.
Saturday mornings, cycling with a sore throat through brisk winter air. I had forced myself to go to school the whole week so my mother allowed me to fulfill my duties of cleaning out the stables at 7 am in the morning.
Hot summer afternoons spent unloading and stacking up balls of hay and straw instead of having a birthday party with my friends.
I did all of that, put in the work, did my extra share and whenever I told Yvette (who held some kind of power in the club due to her seniority) she always one-upped me explaining how she did the same things, how she had an even longer bike ride when she was young, how I shouldn’t think that what I did was noteworthy.
I felt small and discouraged.
As if I was not allowed to be proud of the work I did. As if I shouldn’t even mention it.
Chapter 2: Advocating for ourselves at work.
Much like I felt then, a lot of women feel small, discouraged, overlooked and undervalued at work, as if their daily accomplishments don’t matter.
Maybe they, too, have been told to keep it to themselves, because nobody likes a show-off, a poser. “We don’t like it here when people brag. I don’t like you when you keep talking about what you did.”
And we take that believe to heart, internalise it and become careful not to brag.
We become so careful that “fall off the other side of the horse” so to speak: Because we start to believe if we just keep our head down in the work, people will notice. And that if we start talking about it, people will hate us.
So we don’t talk about it. We just increase our efforts when we’re not getting anywhere at work… because the fact we’re overlooked surely means we’re not working hard enough.
But that’s wrong.
The only people who really see the work you’re doing are your immediate colleagues. The ones you work with on a daily basis.
Not even your boss really gets all you’re doing and capable off: Recently a client received disappointing feedback from her boss in her annual review. It became shockingly clear to her, that he simply had no idea of all the work she’s doing and the quality of the results she’s delivering. We worked out a plan for how she can share all that with him more regularly over the months to come.
Do not mistake the workplace for the riding club!
Instead, find clever ways how you can share what you accomplish and what you’re good at with the people who need to know.
Let me say that again: Do not mistake the workplace for the riding club!
Because (1) you create a sense of belonging by building relationships through meaningful connections and (2) no one will advocate for you unless you turn them into raving fans first by advocating for yourself.
Chapter 3: The non-braggy way of showing off your work.
Take my former client Marta. She and her position as a Regulatory Specialist were new to the company she worked for, so people didn’t get it. The product development team kept ignoring her, only to end up frustrated when she had to tell them to change their formulas again at the end of the project to be compliant with local regulations.
Together we came up with a number of ways how she could show them all she did and why, and how they could work together. From delivering training, to defining new ways of working, to inserting herself in the relevant meetings: Combined, these strategies lead to people understanding the value Marta brought to the company and they started to seek out her guidance much earlier.
Not only that. Because she also found clever ways to engage with more senior leaders, she raised her profile across the business so much that soon her boss said she should be promoted.
Don’t be afraid to brag! I’d hate to see you feel overlooked and undervalued because you’re afraid to rub someone the wrong way. But I’d love to see you get creative and find clever ways to highlight the work you do — and yourself — to everyone who should know about that!
PS: I’ve collected my 5 favourite (introvert-friendly) strategies to showcase your work and yourself. Grab them here.