Ask a Career Coach: How Do I Brag About My Work Without Being Obnoxious?

Hi Kyle,

I am working my butt off, but my boss doesn’t seem to have the slightest clue about what I’m actually achieving. My role involves a lot of different tasks and projects, and I am largely supposed to manage my own time and priorities. I’ve always seen it as a sign of independence that I don’t bother my boss with the small stuff, but after my last performance review, I realize that I might have to put more energy toward showing him where I bring value to the table.

I’m not quiet or shy; I’m just efficient and more focused on results than on tooting my own horn. How do I make my results more visible to my boss without wasting his time (and mine) and without sounding like a poser?

Signed,

Modest Hard-Worker

Dear Modest Hard-Worker,

In most work settings, having your work recognized comes down to communication. Some might even call it bragging, yes. This word often carries with it a negative connotation—maybe you call to mind an arrogant former classmate or an obnoxious co-worker—but there’s actually an effective way to brag about your work. No posing necessary.

When you do it right, it puts your accomplishments in the spotlight and gives you the recognition you deserve.

Meet With Your Manager Regularly

If you and your supervisor only discuss your work when it’s time for performance reviews, that needs to change. At least every two weeks, you should meet with him or her—not to bother them with the little stuff, but to make them aware you’re a valuable team player.

Non-performance review check-ins are the perfect place to talk about your small wins and any extra efforts you think your boss is unaware of. It may feel unnecessary to talk about working on a Sunday in January at your June performance review, but to mention a few extra hours that you put in that week when you’re chatting regularly can go a long way toward painting the larger picture of your total value as an employee.

Provide (the Right) Context

Talking about any achievement without giving appropriate context is a recipe for sounding like an arrogant jerk. It’s important to mention the goal that you’re working toward and the reason that your efforts were necessary during a professional boast. Let’s dissect a few different statements:

“It was a crazy week, but we got the report in on time.”

“I had to pull two all-nighters making sure everything that was coming your way was perfect. After a few gallons of coffee and a lot of red ink, I got it done for you.”

“The short deadline definitely proved challenging, but everyone put in a solid effort getting this together. I know there’s no room for error so I spent last night double-checking everything, and it all looks good.”

The first example glosses over your hard work. Your boss has no indication of the kind of effort you put in. The second one is intensely self-serving and isn’t likely to land well. The third one is just right! It highlights the work that went into a task (including on a tight deadline), at the same time specifically noting your individual role in its completion. You show—rather than explicitly tell—where you went above and beyond.

At the end of the day, the fact is that nobody knows how hard you work beside you. It’s important to your professional success that the people making decisions about your pay, title, and responsibilities are aware of your diligence and dedication. Becoming skilled in the art of the brag without becoming a braggart (see what I did there?) is a worthy skill that can be honed with practice. And it could just be the missing link your boss needs to truly see your value.

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