When I first entered college, I didn’t know a thing about football. The first time I saw the LSJUMB (Stanford’s band), I thought they were just taking a break from wearing their uniforms. Since then, I have attended three Rose Bowls and a Fiesta Bowl to support the Cardinal. I’ve spent countless Saturdays in local bars with fellow alumni, cheering on one of my three alma maters. I’ve also sat outside in the rain (for hours) to watch musicians perform. I’ve seen two of my favorite performers in concert, multiple times. I would call myself a fan of music and sports. However, these days, I am into a crossover effort: being a fan of myself.
Have you ever put hard work into a project, only to discount yourself when credit is given? “It was a team effort,” you say, “I couldn’t have done it without everyone else pitching in.” While this is true, and makes you sound like a team player, you could also be passing along the endorsements you need to advance professionally. You can take credit without taking it away from your collaborators. Try saying, “Thanks, this project really gave me a chance to develop my skills in [insert strength you need to demonstrate here], and to work with an amazing team. Now that it is complete, I look forward to doing more of [insert strength you would like to develop] in the future. When would be a good time to discuss this?”
I know, it can be difficult to self-promote. When I was growing up, I stood out from my peers because I was CRAZY about learning. My hand was constantly raised to answer questions in class. I learned that my survival outside of the classroom depending on being “cool”, or in other words, nonchalant about my academics. So, I quietly kept to myself about how I performed in classes, and tried to damper my enthusiasm. My senior year, I didn’t say a word about the college I had chosen to attend until an Los Angeles Times reporter outed me, along with my SAT score and GPA. It turned out everyone was excited for me, including my interviewers for an internship in Corporate America. I had suddenly entered a dimension where I would need to take ownership of all of who I was, and not hide myself for the benefit of others. I haven’t looked back since.
On a good day, I can tell you exactly which players on my teams have helped us achieve victory, while acknowledging that no one performs in isolation of their team members. As a fan, I also know what a difference a great coach and a supportive athletic department makes. It means we can recruit and develop outstanding players. At the end of the day, a player with outstanding potential can miss out on being drafted because he didn’t have the right opportunities to develop or display his abilities.
Don’t let that player be you. Be your own fan, a champion of yourself. Find a mentor (coach) who knows your strengths and weaknesses, and manage the relationship so that it is easy for your mentor to say good things about you and promote you. Don’t make the mistake of standing back, blending in, and hoping that someone will take notice. The likelihood is, they won’t.