I often talk to engineers who feel stuck in their current position and struggle to get much progress on getting promoted. They believe they have what is needed to get to the next step. The problem is that their leadership team doesn't see all the value that they bring and aren't aware of all their accomplishments.
If you want to grow your career, then you have to be your own biggest advocate and show your value to folks.
You may have written a new library or service scaffolding that will save the engineering organization a ton of money and time, but no one knows that you were the one to build it so it doesn’t help you grow your career. You may have fixed a critical bug in the middle of the night that eliminated customer impact, but the right people didn’t hear about it.
The same concept also applies for freelancers — your customers need to understand the value that you bring to them. They're investing in you, and they expect a bigger return than their investment.
Getting out of your comfort zone
I usually get push back from engineers when I tell them they should advocate for themselves more. They don’t want to sell their value, they’re afraid of sounding too self-centred by doing so, and they aren't used to showing off.
I understand that concern, and showing off isn't the goal here. There are good ways of sharing your accomplishments where people will appreciate it. Here are some examples:
- Talk about your accomplishments to your manager more often (e.g. in 1:1s, tag them in status updates, etc)
- Give presentations to the team or organization about what you’ve learned and built
- Write a company blog post to share your knowledge more broadly (internally or externally)
- Hold office hours to help people use your new library or service
- Be more active in different Slack channels and help your colleagues out
There are many ways to increase your visibility and people’s awareness of your work without sounding cheesy. Most of the suggestions above help you achieve that while also helping others by sharing your knowledge! It's a win-win situation.
I would also suggest keeping a list of your accomplishments in a living document (Google Doc, etc) that you share with your manager. The two of you can continuously add to it as you accomplish things, and can refer to it during performance reviews or when thinking about future promotions. It's a good way to keep track of your accomplishments over an extended period of time. Another critical upside of writing these down is that it keeps a history of things in case your manager changes. You'll appreciate having that trail when you get a new manager a couple weeks before a performance review is due!
The most important part is not to lie about your achievements and not to steal other people’s credit. For instance, if multiple engineers participated in an important bug fix, then give credit to all of them. No one likes having a colleague that actively steals the spotlight and doesn't give credit where it's due. People will catch on to this fairly quick.
It'll hurt your growth, network, and reputation more than it can help. It's also about being a decent human being and doing the right thing.