You’ve no doubt heard the expression, “It’s not what you know, but who you know,” used to describe someone whose connections have helped them land a great opportunity.
While knowing lots of people is helpful when it comes to accomplishing goals and advancing your career, on its own it’s simply not enough. In my experience, what matters most is not what (or who) you know, but who knows what you know and what you can do.
A talk-show host recently asked me why women, after 50 years of feminism, are still earning less than men, and what women can do to close the gap. One thing I shared is that women aren’t always great at letting others know just how capable they are, or at asking for what they really want. Regardless of your gender, if you are working in an organization of any size, it’s vital to take responsibility for making others aware of the value you bring, and the value you want to bring, to the organization.
Many people struggle with the idea that they have to “toot their own horn” in order to be recognized and rewarded in their jobs. After all, surely if you work hard, do a good job and continually deliver results, you will be rewarded for it, right? But just because you think your boss should be thinking about you, noticing the long hours you put in and the stellar job you are doing doesn’t mean that he or she will. Likewise, just because you think a coworker, supervisor or beloved lifelong partner should know how you feel and what you want doesn’t mean they will.
No one is a mind reader. Assuming that other people know what you want actually reduces the likelihood of your getting what you want, setting you up for resentment and frustration. The reality is that most people are too caught up in their own activities to focus much on you. It’s not personal, it’s just human nature.
Of course, no one enjoys the company of someone who is forever blowing her own horn, asking for accolades or demanding recognition. But by refusing to toot your own horn when the opportunity arises, you may prevent yourself from enlisting the support of key decision makers and people well positioned to help you.
Often our reticence to let others know our value is based on the misguided belief that they should already be aware of it. Other times it’s based on the assumption that they do. And other times it’s simply because we are afraid of coming across as too full of ourselves and simply loathe the idea that someone might think we are conceited, with an over-inflated sense of ourselves. But let me be clear: Tooting your own horn isn’t about trying to impress people for the sake of stroking your ego. It’s about making sure people who need to know what you have done (and can do), are aware of it.
While researching my forthcoming book, Take Courage!, I interviewed many people who have achieved outstanding professional success. Without exception, they all said that unless you are willing to be your own advocate and let people know not just what you are capable of doing, but what you want to do, you will be hard pressed to fulfill your professional aspirations. Do you run the risk of occasionally rubbing someone the wrong way? Sure. But it’s a much bigger risk to wait passively for opportunities or promotions to be handed to you.
I’ll bet there are people in your network who can help you advance in your career or business, or with some other endeavor. But how can they if they don’t know in what direction you want to advance?
As you get out your horn to give it a toot, remember that letting others know your value isn’t a boastful or conceited action. It’s a courageous action that will enable you to honor your potential more fully and expand your ability to make a difference.
About the Author
Margie Warrell, best-selling author of Find Your Courage: 12 Acts for Becoming Fearless in Work & Life(McGraw-Hill Professional), is an executive life coach and keynote speaker who is passionate about empowering women to think bigger, expand their vision of what’s possible, and to live and lead more courageously. With her down to earth Australian humor and working mother-of-four pragmatism, Margie draws on her background in psychology and Fortune 500 business to show others how to leverage adversity and take their lives to new levels of success and fulfillment. The “Resident Coach” on Let’s Talk Live (Washington, D.C.’s daily talk show), Margie also shares her expertise regularly on national media including The TODAY Show, CNBC and Fox News. To get her free Live Boldly! newsletter or other great resources please visit www.margiewarrell.com