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The Executive Woman's Guide to Self-Promotion

The Executive Woman's Guide to Self-Promotion

Ambitious women sometimes have a hard time getting noticed, but marketing one’s accomplishments is a requirement for career advancement. Six female CIOs offer advice to up-and-coming women in IT and explain how they learned to network without compromising themselves.

"Nothing speaks louder than results, so you want to show that you can make a difference very early on and create the media to make sure many people are aware of this," says Mojgan LeFebvre, CIO of bioMerieux. "Communication is key and it should never come across as bragging." However, good communication goes a long way in establishing your brand. "Don't be shy about communicating widely on results you have achieved and accomplishments," says LeFebvre. Communicate as eloquently and as widely as possible on the achieved results, she urges, and continue to do this on a consistent and iterative basis.

Relationship building works downward as well as upward. While it's important to connect with people who can directly influence your career (a.k.a. promoting you) and who can help you — in marketer's terms, "build your brand" — some women have gained the most by taking care of the people who work for them.

Hughes was once was a midlevel manager who had recently been appointed to head up a unit that was troubled and underperforming — and one that no one really wanted. She got to know each of the 32 people in the section. "I acquired a sense of their technical skill levels — as I'm sure their prior managers had done, as well. But I also got to know them as individuals," she says. Within three days, Hughes knew each team member by name, and throughout that project's tenure, spoke with them daily (if briefly). "There were lots of interesting stories in the group, and I tried to hear as many of them as possible. I guess it had a pretty positive impact, because the group's productivity increased measurably, and senior level management noticed! My work with this particular group provided me a springboard into upper management promotions."

Be Assertive — But Not Pushy

Some women, anxious to get credit for their work, tilt too far in the wrong direction. They can become so aggressive that people tune them out. In doing so, points out Powell-Meeks, they forget that "we" is more powerful than "I."

One woman of Powell-Meeks's acquaintance, for example, is a very talented person who wants to get ahead and probably is CIO material. The woman is very smart technically, but, Powell-Meeks says, "She's always promoting herself, and she puts down her management for not recognizing her: 'Everybody else values me and my management doesn't.'" The result, unfortunately, is that everyone just wants the woman to go away. "She's complaining about her own team, so she won't get promoted there," says Powell-Meeks, but bad-mouthing her management ensures that nobody else wants her, either. "She is an 'I' person, not a 'we' person — and three other people execute what she plans and organizes," Powell-Meeks adds.

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