The price we pay for (not) promoting ourselves

A couple of months ago, talking to a dear friend and co-worker about future jobs prospects, I asked her one of those ‘why don’t you’ questions. Her reply was ‘I don’t have much time for promoting myself.’ Well, I know that is true when you have deadlines pressing on you. Then, on a different occasion, I asked somebody whose work is greatly admired and respected, in another ‘why don’t you’ style conversation and her reply was fairly similar: ‘I’m not good at promoting myself.’ Self-promoting has probably always been part of the professional world, but I confess that hearing this from two friends who have built solid and distinguished careers, got me thinking about its relevance (as well as the relevance of its branch, peer-promoting) these days. What positive or negative impact, if any, does self-promoting have in one’s career?

 

The pros

Self-promoting is here to stay. Social media have definitely increased its impact and outreach. In other words, it is part of the game. It draws attention and if you happen to have a reasonable number of friends and acquaintances, you end up having a lot of advertising for free. If your name (and photo) is constantly displayed and you get visible, you are more likely to attract better work offers. After all, even though we are in education and are sometimes expected to work for love, as I wrote in RichmondShare before[1], marketing and selling our services is one of the skills we need to keep active in the very competitive ELT market. I believe that many readers here have worked with, or least heard of, a teacher who was not that good at teaching itself, but who had charisma, was fun and friendly and was thus considered the best teacher ever! Also, if our friends spend enough time on social media, they will help us self-promote by granting us superlative adjectives such as genius, prodigious, brilliant, divine, so on and so forth. Doing a ‘good job’ is simply not enough anymore. So, to sum up, self-promoting helps make our professional life thrive. If we are seen, we tend to be remembered, and we want to be remembered for the right reasons, as I aim to explain below.

 

The cons

Coincidentally, I was following a thread the other day and one of the participants came up with something similar to this: ‘I hear so much about him, but I attended one of his lectures and was fairly disappointed’. Well, one cannot deal with people’s expectations, but I have a feeling that people who are better promoting themselves end up being more concerned about what others will think of this or that. This, I believe, can bring a lot of stress. If we do not get constantly acclaimed, or the praise we get diminishes, we can get frustrated. We expect more and more approval and admiration. Our society has become, after all, quite interested in the number of ‘followers’ or of ‘likes’ a person might have. Another concern related to self-promotion is the feeling of belonging. If we want our friends to help us promote ourselves, we need to belong to the ‘right’ groups. If we do not belong, the chance that we will not be considered a good professional, even though we might be, is considerably higher. Not belonging can mean we will be just ignored or maybe even criticised. Last, but not least, self-promotion can also be very, very time-consuming and one cannot help thinking that some of the time spent doing this could also be used for real professional development.

 

To conclude, I am not against self-promotion (and I will probably advertise my post and get it advertised by good friends). My interest in giving self-promotion a little bit of thought and in writing this post lies on a real concern that we, as teachers, writers, educators and so on, must not forget to think critically about our reality and about our practice. I would like to suggest, for example, that the next time we come across a post written by someone we do not know, we read it. In RichmondShare, for instance, I see posts that only get one ‘like’ but that are really interesting and, in my humble opinion, very well written. Why do they ‘seem’ to have very little readership? Also, if we belong to the group of people who are good at promoting themselves, let’s not get too vain. Instead, let’s ask ourselves if the number of ‘likes’ we get really reflect the number of people who like our work (or have actually read what we wrote).

[1] Teaching and the myth of working for love. Available at http://www.richmondshare.com.br/teaching-and-the-myth-of-working-for-love/. Accessed on July 23rd, 2017.

 

Elaine Hodgson

Elaine Hodgson is a teacher, teacher trainer and materials writer. She holds an MA from UECE and a PhD from UFC in Applied Linguistics. She is a teacher and general ELT coordinator at the Military School of Brasília as well as being a supervisor on the Distance MA in TEFL at Birmingham University (UK). elainechaveshodgson@hotmail.com

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