In a perfect world, your completed assignments would speak for themselves. Youâd work on friendly, collaborative teams with fair-minded co-workers, and each person would be free with praise and full of self-effacing humility. Youâd never have to worry about self-promotion or navigating office politics to get your due.
But the reality is that you need to speak up. Generosity and a humble nature are great attributes to have, of course. They help you keep a team-first attitude, improve your leadership abilities, and generally endear people to you as a professional.
However, if you think you can just let your work speak for itself and never stake out that territory yourself, then being âthe humble oneâ is hurting your career.
1. It Makes You Invisible
Imagine this: Your team just completed a complex, innovative project, and you feel proud of your contributions to the group effort. But when the boss stands up at the company meeting to praise your teamâs work, others are singled out for individual contributions while you seem invisible. If youâre a quieter contributor, everyone from your own teammates to company leadership may overlook you completely.
Why is this? People tend to be remembered for those roles rather than the exact things they did. For instance, the âorganizerâ will usually get credit for most tasks related to organization, because people will remember him as inhabiting that role.
If you take on tasks behind the scenes, your work may go unnoticed. And if youâre used to being humble, you think: What does it matter so long as the work gets done? Well, consider this: Just like you have a personal brand for your online presence, you also have a brand (or lack thereof) within your own work team. If youâre not known for anything, youâll be lost in the shuffle when opportunities for advancement come up and no one can think of your strengths.
Solution: Carve Out Your Niche on Your Team
Step one: Pick a role you like. Step two: Make it known that youâve mastered that particular skill or job. Take ownership of what youâd like to be known for on your team and look for opportunities to pick up projects or tasks involving that thing.
For example, maybe your work is rarely noticed because you sign up for roles that require execution, rather than standing up in front of the room and presenting. You can make that work, so long as your teammates come to depend on you for those tasks. In other words, make sure everyone knows that you have killer attention to detail, so for example, drafts always cross your desk before theyâre considered final.
Or if youâre great at mediating different points of view, donât just tell Tonia what she could say to Jim, share your solution with the group, so everyone knows youâre a strong facilitator. This way, when the final project is done, people will know you played a role.
2. It Makes You a Doormat
Itâs a terrible feeling when someone else takes credit for your work. Whether itâs the bully in grade school or your backstabbing co-worker, this type of betrayal can be shocking and hard to respond to.
Youâd think it would be less likely to when you like the people you work with, but it can happen to anyone. Stolen credit puts you in a sticky spot: At the very least youâre staring down a highly uncomfortable interpersonal situation. Not to mention, even accidental cases could harm your career.
But if youâre used to being modest, you worry that correcting the other person is counter-productive. So you remind yourself that âthereâs no âIâ in teamâ and let someone else get all the accolades.
Solution: Share Credit, But Don't Throw it Away
The first step to ensuring you get credit is making sure youâre not getting in your way. When someone compliments you, donât shy away from it and gush about others. Think about the difference between deflecting praise and sharing it. Itâs possible to believe strongly in your team and put âweâ first while also mentioning your contributions, which allows you to draw and distribute attention at the same time.
Instead of: âOh, thanks, but I give all the credit for that website to my team.â Try this instead: âThank you, I enjoyed working on the UX. The whole team really pulled together to bring that site to life.â
If you regularly practice this sort of balance, youâll be prepared to diplomatically respond to someone who takes credit for your idea by employing the same technique. You could say, âI was so thrilled to see John shares my belief that changing directions will be beneficial. Itâs so nice to see weâre all on the same page!â This way, youâre crediting your team, but making sure youâre not cut out of the picture.
3. It Makes You Feel Stuck
Itâs hard to find a balance between proudly claiming your due and sounding cockyâespecially if youâve never been one to talk about yourself. You want to be seen for your accomplishments and abilities, but without off-putting self-praise that makes people uncomfortable.
And if youâve been in the background some time, you could feel that thatâs what your co-workers expect of you. You donât want to change team dynamics or be seen as having flipped a switch all the way from âhumble and quietâ to âarrogant and loudâ overnight.
It may even be that others are even resistant to your newfound desire to carve out a niche for yourself and speak up for your work.
Solution: Establish a Presence Outside Your Team
If your colleagues arenât supportiveâor at best, are just confused and unhelpful to startâconsider developing a side project or independent work to showcase your talents. This can make it easier for hiring managers (or your companyâs leadership) to see your contributions within the teamâs work based on your individual abilities.
This could mean taking on a completely independent project or work, or looking for freelancing opportunities or volunteer work in your field. (Of course, always make sure your company policies allow freelancing before doing so.)
Once your co-workers see you accomplish something on your own, theyâll have new information to go off of when constructing their opinion of you and what you can contribute to the team.
Generous people who practice humility can get ahead. The key is to make sure youâre in control of how you practice it. Make it part of your brand within your teamâa strength that makes others want to work with you. If you find youâre overdoing it to the point of being overlooked try the tips above to move back to middle ground. Youâre an awesome person, I know this because you chose to read this articleâso now your goal is to make sure everyone else knows it, too.
By Claire Autruong