The Case for Talking About Your Contributions
Why you need to be your own biggest advocate.
Nicholas had worked hard for six months on a project that automated many tedious tasks for his team. He hoped it would help him get his next promotion, but wasn’t sure how to make the decision-makers aware just how valuable his work had been.
“It’s always up to you to advance your career, and a powerful way to do this is to share your wins with your boss,” says Val Olson, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance. “Businesses run on results, so keep track of your achievements, both large and small.” But what if your boss is too busy to share your accomplishments up the org chart? According to McKinsey, managers typically have 11-15 direct reports, and even though they should sing the praises of every team member to their superiors, many don’t make it a priority.
Here’s how to make your wins known throughout the organization—while remaining humble.
Don’t assume your boss knows about your recent wins.
Most of us take our strengths and achievements for granted, so every time you contribute something meaningful, no matter how small, track it so you don’t forget. Create a folder for each month so you can keep a running tab of kudos and accomplishments. “After each bullet point, ask yourself what it contributed to the business and why it mattered,” Olson says. Then, mention the most significant wins every time you touch base one-on-one with your boss, and show the aggregate results and year-over-year change when it’s time for your performance review.
Show how you fit in the bigger picture.
It’s also key to tie your individual contributions to the organization’s high-level strategies and initiatives. If possible, find out what your boss’s boss is held accountable for and try to help them achieve that. “Show how you were a piece of the puzzle in accomplishing something upper management cares about, focusing on the quantitative metrics that contributed to their success,” says Tiffinee Swanson, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance. If you don’t currently have a way to track metrics, create a dashboard of metrics that align with team and company performance.
Strategically share your contributions.
“Recording and talking about your accomplishments is a politically savvy move,” Olson says. “But it doesn’t mean you have to be egotistical.”
It isn’t bragging to state the facts about your accomplishments, whether in a staff meeting, a one-on-one with your boss, during an interview, or when in an elevator with senior leadership. When someone asks, “What’s new?” or, “How are you?” always be prepared to share something you’re involved with that ties back to the larger organizational goals.
Take credit when you deserve it.
For your own sake, you can’t downsize your own achievements or let others wrongfully take credit for your ideas or contributions. “The point is not to puff yourself up, but to protect your own reputation and good work, while, if possible, practicing kindness and compassion for those who have misappropriated it,” Olson says. It’s also key to always humbly give credit to others who helped you achieve something.