Melissa is a multimedia artist and an occasional writer for a local art magazine with a select but small readership. Last week, she wrote an entertaining and provocative review of one of my favorite local performance spaces. Although she and I are connected via Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Xing, I only learned about the article by chance, when the head of the performance space itself discovered the review and posted a copy to fans. When I shared it in my own network, I received a note of gratitude from Melissa with why she hadn’t posted it to her own networks: “I was a bit shy about giving it too much attention.”
As someone so well-connected in social media, she surprised me. But, then again, I’ve also seen this attitude before here in the translation and localization industry space: Networking is seen as great. But self-promotion? Crass. Boasting. Egotistical. The worst kind of posturing EVER.
Really? Er, no.
Colleagues, it’s time for a different take on your self-promotion!
Why We Shy Away From Self-Promotion
So why all the hesitancy anyway? I’d say the reasons are diverse:
As I wrote about in my piece on Lean In, the new book by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, part of this is gendered. Many female professionals have adopted different rules on self-promotion to side step certain labels – of being aggressive, of being a rock star rather than a team player, etc. According to Sandberg and so many others, these are viewed negatively for women and positively for their male colleagues.
Another part is being dictated by the development of the social media space of which the professional networks like LinkedIn and Xing are a part. Depending on the advice you adhere to, you either believe that there are new “laws” of marketing that emphasize listening and engagement or you believe this is the new Wild West — it’s either adapt or we don’t need no stinkin’ badges here.
Finally, of course, there’s a cultural learning aspect that plays a part in all of this. “Honesty is the best policy” is attributed, depending on your source, to either the likes of Shakespeare, Sir Edwin Sandys, or Aesop. Where the “modesty” variant emerged from is unknown, but there’s no denying that it’s become its own powerful force in moderating social behavior, in our industry included.
Do these reasons really matter? Must we need to “unlearn” these concepts? Not at all. This is about embracing a new practice, a new discipline that creates opportunities for ourselves, our colleagues, and our clients to learn about our role and our approaches to what are (often) common industry challenges. Searching out and soothing your inner child hurts isn’t necessary.
What am I talking about when I talk about self-promotion? Is this about standing up in the center of the real and virtual work spaces and shouting “Me! Me! Me!”?
That’s not what I’m advising here.
No, this is about seizing the natural opportunities that arise in our work to connect with our colleagues and clients.
If you’re talking about, for example, a translation project that you undertook for namethatclient that you completed in 10 days in 10 languages for 10 diverse markets, consider all of the people who share an interest in what you’ve achieved: Translators who work in those markets whose expertise in the subject matter may make them right for future projects. Clients who are interested in finding a vendor in the same languages. Colleagues who can use what you’ve done as an example to build on.
We don’t need to recreate the wheel here, right? Create more chances for connection instead!
If natural ways are about taking a project that you’ve done and turning into an opportunity for network building, there are intentional, personal purposes for self-promotion too.
What’s the difference, for example, between a novice and an expert? Merely new learning through additional experience in a certain subject matter! This is as true for translation and localization as it is for any other industry. This is not to dismiss the role of structured learning in attaining expertise, of course. But do not feel shy about sharing what you’ve gained simply from years of working in the industry. Acknowledge that experience — and demand acknowledgement of the same — to give colleagues and clients the chance to tap into that wisdom and to learn from your successes.
Of course — and let’s not be coy about it — self-promotion is as vital to our career development as it is to our company’s market share. One doesn’t become the top, go-to translation and localization company in the world without winning client praise and sharing client success stories. There’s talent and then there’s smartly using tools — case studies, testimonials, industry certifications, and more — to share that talent, Justin-Bieber-style, with the world.
So, go ahead, be an industry rock star!