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Michelle Tan
Michelle Tan

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What I've learnt: The importance of self-promotion

For as long as I remember, the phrase "Let your work speak for itself" has always been the way I live by. There is no need for promoting the work you are doing because if it is good work, people will eventually notice and know about it and spread the word. Is it?

From my personal experience, this approach worked well during my studies, obviously as a student we're given projects and assignments to work on for a given period of time. Everything that we submit are graded under our names. That however is entirely different in the open world. So, I needed to change my approach.

Recently, I finished a book called Show Your Work by Austin Kleon. It's an easy book to read. I highly recommend it to anyone who is wants to start or is afraid of the idea of self-promotion and want to give it a try.

The book is a beginner's manual to self-promotion. It actually made me rethink my old approach should have been "Let others know about your work and the work will speak for itself". But hey, it's never too late to learn so I'll using this moving forward.

The benefits

Show your progress 🧾

Borrowing a quote from the book, "Become a documentation of what you do". This resonated with me after I wrote about my learnings What I've learnt: Knowledge Base. Process can be messy sometimes which makes it interesting to understand the thoughts and design that goes behind it. It's like after watching a great movie, sometimes you'd also want to watch the behind-the-scene and the magic is revealed.

Let your voice be heard 🎀

I like the opening of the book with the following quote:

"For artists, the great problem to solve is how to get oneself noticed." - HonorΓ© de Balzac

Come to think of it, this applies to a lot of other profession, even our daily lives. As a software engineer solving problem, how do you let other people know about this GREAT solution that you have? Is it only GREAT in your own head? The truth is, it can be the greatest or worst, but you'll never know until you let others know about it.

At work, our team recently started a sharing session after the weekly meeting. It's a way to demo the project that you've worked, discuss a design or any work-related topic basically. The goal is to share knowledge and get feedback. It's definitely a great way for others to know about your work.

Enables collaboration with others πŸ‘©πŸ§‘πŸ»πŸ‘¨πŸΌπŸ§‘πŸΏ

This ties in with the benefit I mentioned above. Now that people know about your work, they might have a feedback or an idea. Some might even have a deeper understanding than you from a different perspective which if they are interested enables a conversation. These little conversations often end up as collaboration.

You can pick and choose constructive feedback to better your work, in the process, you'll learn how to contribute to other's work next time. By collaborating with others, the work is improved, you learn how to communicate better, it enables team or cross-team building. Basically, it's a knock-on effect with a lot of other plus points.

Manufacturing opportunity ✨

"Opportunities are manufactured." - Biz Stone.

The very first time I heard about this idea is when I read this book Things A Little Bird Told Me by Biz Stone. This idea seems mind-blowing at first but it's nothing new. Shawn Wang wrote an article that describes this really well
Create Luck.

This again ties in with what I've mentioned earlier. So how do you create opportunities and better your luck? One method is to let others know about your work; then small conversation might* happen. From there, the possibilities are endless.

Another method is to be more active, show up and contribute to other's work - the other way around. Give constructive feedback or leverage other's work and ask if you can collaborate with them. Respect others if they say no.


If you loath the idea of self-promoting, just think of it as telling stories. Just state what you are doing, be honest and don't lie, no added fancy verb.

"I did x, y, z" vs "I did x incredibly", "came up with the best y", "and z".

Give it a try and let me know how it works out for you. πŸ˜€

Thanks for reading and hope this helps.

Image from The designer's guide to self-promotion

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