Tooting Your Own Horn


By Victoria S. Johnson 10/15/2016

There's a trend flying around, suggesting that it's best to be mute and let your achievements speak for themselves. This is true to some extent, however, there will be times when it's necessary to let the world know the totality of your capabilities. When achieving a certain level of success, the right people must be aware of your milestones, how good you are and the value you bring. Being confident, visible, recognizing the achievements of others, and setting your preliminary narrative can influence what others will share about you and keep you from coming across as arrogant or fishing for compliments.

Humans may tend to imagine that we all possess magical powers, but in reality, we are not clairvoyant or telepathic. By letting others control the articulation of your success, you relinquish your "narrative edge" and give permission for others to take advantage, in an unfavorable way. It's a fantastic feeling to have your work speak for itself, but you also have to know how to strategically "toot your own horn". If you don't take control to set the tone, others can take credit for your work, your efforts can be downplayed and worst of all, go unnoticed.  

The trick is to find a balance; by giving credit to others daily, so they are prone to follow your lead is an error-proof method. Your achievements should also look effortless. When speaking of your accomplishments, give quantitative comparisons, keep it short, and don't look for praise. Never expose tricks and strategies, because the end result should only be the discussion point. There's a constructive way to gracefully boast about your accomplishments and here's how:

  1. Copy all parties involved
  2. Sign off on all of your individual projects
  3. Give recognition to all contributors
  4. Simultaneously give and receive public mentions and recommendations
  5. Share your ideas and projects with various sources
  6. Pay a compliment forward without expecting one back
  7. Accept compliments with style and grace

Tooting your own horn is mandatory when applying for new positions; as prospective employers must recognize what they're missing and what you bring to the table. Your first task is to make them love you and get excited by your detailed list of accomplishments. You may be the best conditioned in your field, however, not going the extra mile and successfully articulating your accomplishments can possibly lead to questionable credibility. 

Allowing your own success to speak for itself is great, takes some time to cultivate, and has a special time and place in everyone's career. The trick is recognizing when to let your success speak for itself and when to take complete narrative control. Never embellish your accomplishments and recognize others contributions within your own projects and their own individual tasks. Paint your accomplishment canvas for others to fill in, so you can make your accomplishments a story for others to easily narrate.  L P.T. Barnum famously said, “Without promotion, something terrible happens—nothing.” Silence brings a level of power but acknowledging when to speak up, to take control of your image is even more powerful.