Team player. Problem solver. Effective communicator. These terms are often thrown around to describe the kind of guy who gets ahead quickly in whatever business he’s in. But in recent years a new skill has crept to the top of that list. You may not hear it uttered by HR directors, but it’s there. And it might as well be printed in 72-point type at the top of every young careerist’s résumé: self-promoter. The skilled self-promoter is the guy in your office who everyone thinks is a real go-getter. He’s the one volubly telling your boss how the big project is going, even though as far as you know he’s spent most of the day playing Scrabulous on Facebook and beefing up his personal Rolodex. What this workplace striver knowsand you might as well get used tois that these days, telling people you’re good at what you do is just as important as being good at it.
A guy I know, whom I’ll call Dwight, works for a wine distributor. He’s witnessed a baby-voiced woman at his job fool the entire office into thinking she’s a savvy, well-connected addition to the business, using nothing more than self-advertising.
“Despite all evidence to the contrary, she has convinced people that’s she intelligent,” Dwight says. “She spends all day asking people to go out with her or sending out invitations to stupid post-work happy hours. She sucks at her job and everyone knows it. But her P.R. is so good the bosses still haven’t figured out that she’s worthless.”
There are tiny Tila Tequilas in every line of work now.
Jenny (not her real name), a marketing associate who works at a skin-care company in Chicago, has a coworker named Dan who excels at Jedi-style self-promotion. “We’ve been integrating a new inventory software system into our office, and everyone has had to help create it,” she says. “As soon as he learns about what we’ve done, he sends out these pseudo-efficient e-mails, which makes it seem like it was his idea, or at least that he led the way.”
For all anyone knows, that baby-voiced woman might be her generation’s Robert Mondavi and Dan might be the next Estée Lauder. It doesn’t matter. In our heightened broadband lifestyle of continuous information, the only people who are successful are those who are adept with e-mails, social-networking sites, and messagingwho advertise themselves like they are their own personal Gersh Agency. You could be the most brilliant person in your field, but if you don’t peddle yourself like Pepsi, you’re doomed.
The shameless self-promoters whom Yelena Gitlin, a publicist who works in book publishing, deals with have an excusesomething tangible to promotebut their frenzied campaigns are reflective of a movement that spans all industries. “One of my favorites was when an author suggested I nominate him as Member of the Month at his fancy gym and his bio would mention his forthcoming book,” Gitlin says. “I’ve had numerous cases where authors have tried to embroil themselves in a ‘timely’ controversy. Nothing reeks of desperation more than when an author tries to capitalize on a tragedy or weird celeb news. Honey, just ’cause Angelina adopted a black baby and Good Morning America cares doesn’t mean they care if you did.”