my six-point primer on self-promotion

A friend recently said I’m the best at self-promotion of anyone she knows. This should be taken less as an indication about me as one about our social circle — chiefly, geeky introverts — but is fodder for a blog post nonetheless. Self-promotion doesn’t come naturally to me (I’m a geeky introvert too, after all), which means I had to do some theorizing about it before I could succeed at all.[1] So here are the things I know that I know (stick around to the end and add stuff you know):

  1. It’s harder if you’re an introvert or a woman. And many of you, my readers, are at least one of these. Introverts tend to have moral, even physiological, difficulty tooting their own horns, and gravitate toward situations which feel like meritocracies (hence, where one can maintain the hope that good work will ipso facto be rewarded). My advice for this is (sorry) get over it, or be OK with being passed over. Women have to navigate the ever-shifting line between being assertive and being a bitch, which means in turn positioning themselves vis-a-vis concepts of femininity, leadership, even couture and diction. (I don’t actually have anything useful to say on this one, I’m afraid. It’s hard. Especially if you’re a manager.)
  2. If you’re looking for an opportunity, tell people. Tell everyone. Doesn’t the factoid say that your opportunities are most likely to come from friends-of-friends? So the more people who know what you’re looking for, the more likely it is that someone who can help you will hear about it.
  3. Use your social media. There may well be ways to self-promote without social media, but I’ve been an internet junkie since 1991, so that’s what I know. I was hesitant to get on Twitter because I thought (ironically, in this context) that I’d be uncomfortable being so public, but it turns out to enrich my life immeasurably. Because I reach out to follow people, to comment, to join a conversation, to try to be helpful or kind. Because I ask for help, and the angelic legions of the internet are there. I’m not saying it has to be Twitter — tweet, blog, Facebook, LinkedIn, RSS, whatever works for you. And use the technical aspects as well: find ways to synchronize the content you care about, automate your egosurfing, fall wildly in love with site stats and analytics (and use them to find, and reach out to, your audience).
  4. Say yes to things. Not everything, because that way lies the crazy. But volunteer, or get professionally involved, or turn your class projects into published works, or find things that need doing at your work and do them — something to go beyond the minimum. And when someone interesting asks you to do something relevant that’s maybe a little wild and crazy and outside your comfort zone, don’t think about it long enough for the self-doubt to sink in. Say yes.
  5. Be helpful. Be kind. Look, don’t be that guy who only talks to people when you want something from them. That’s obnoxious. You want people to give you the aforementioned opportunities, be the kind of person they want to give them to.
  6. Be a rock star. I don’t mean trash hotel rooms, rage about brown M&Ms, and sleep with all your librarian groupies. I mean, whatever skills you have that make you unique, embrace them and be confident in that uniqueness, and let that confidence radiate from you. Act confidently. Because fundamentally — and especially in a bad economy — if you’re not a rock star, why should anyone bother with you? And if you don’t think you’re a rock star, why should anybody else?

So talk to me, blogosphere! What do you know about how to (or not to) self-promote? What opportunities are you looking for?

[1] Of course, I’m not sure that I can be said to “succeed” until I have a job. Point number 2 — did I mention I’m looking? If you know anyone who needs a tech- and people-oriented librarian in an academic or special library, or a creative environment using library skills, I’d love to hear. ‚̧

5 thoughts on “my six-point primer on self-promotion

  1. The most important lesson that I learned from attending ALA for the first time this year was “just ask.” If you see an opportunity, want to get involved with a group, or just need an extra body to shield you from the onslaught of salespeople on the vendor floor, nothing is lost from asking… and there is so much to be gained!

    I’m an introvert as well and tend to wait for opportunities to fall in my lap. This got me through college, even grad school, but stopped short of helping me find a job, must less of helping me become a useful employee who wants to be seen as a “team-player” ready to take up the flag when called upon.

    Once I realized that (1) opportunity breeds more opportunity and (2) just asking is almost always a winning game, a quickly found a recipe for self-promotion. Not flamboyantly, but just enough to let people know “I’m here when you need me.”

    Putting yourself out there isn’t an easy thing to do for some of us, but once you’re there, it’s easy to keep moving forward.

    Thanks for the inspiring post. =)


    1. “opportunity breeds more opportunity ” really is so amazingly true, huh? And I love the simplicity of your two-word thing. I’ve found I end up with mantras guiding me at each conference — Midwinter was “say yes”, Annual was “try something new” — and both of those worked out pretty well for me. Maybe yours will be my next-conference theme :).

      You’re welcome!


  2. So true! As another female introvert, I agree – it’s tough but it MUST be done.

    As you know, I’m in a phase where I’m doing nothing *but* self-promotion. It’s… wayyy outside my comfort zone. Then again, I worked part-time for seven years at a hospital, and many of those people were surprised to hear I was a massage therapist (even though I felt like I talked about it frequently)… so clearly I need to expand the horizon of my Zone.

    Great post!


    1. Yeah, I saw you handing out those cards right and left through your stuporous haze ;). I can’t tell from the outside that it’s uncomfortable, anyway.

      Which is, I guess, another angle on that thing you just said — others’ perceptions of us and our own can vary so widely.


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