How to make a good impression at work

Many cultural groups working in the US are not used to talking about themselves and promoting their skills and career actively. Among those are Chinese professionals as well as Indians and some Europeans.

It is distinctly in the American culture that Americans do what others call exaggerate –i.e. talk up their own accomplishments and not be shy to call attention to valuable contributions they made to a project.

So, the best thing for you to do, if you are working in a US business environment, is to put your cultural hesitations and feelings to the side and learn to “blow your own horn” because no one else will do it for you.

Here are some suggestions on how to better present yourself to your colleagues and bosses:

  • Be prepared, come to meetings with an agenda written out and with “arguments” for the points you want to make thought-out and practiced.
  • Realize that if you don’t actively show why you are particularly valuable to the team, your skills might not be noticed.
  • This doesn’t mean you have to brag about your strengths, just make sure that you are able to participate in team discussions with good, clear English that has practical implications and is not hidden by complicated, abstract language or philosophical observations. These are valuable in other societies, but not particularly in the US.
  • If you promise to do something or to send someone information, do so. You’ll lose credibility if your team members can’t rely on you.
  • Stay positive, this is a culture built on “think positive(ly)”, your negative feelings or apprehensions won’t be appreciated. At all!
  • Be up front and transparent with your colleagues. Speaking behind people’s backs can backfire and then you really have a problem.
  • If you can, find a mentor within your organization – it never hurts to ask someone you admire – and s/he can guide you in making yourself better known. AND a mentor can put in a good word for you as well, if the occasion arises.

Having begun a book, The Made It! [which is finished since writing this article] for which I am interviewing international executives here in Silicon Valley, it seems that most of them think that hard work and making that extra effort will pay off. In the end, your excellent work may make you more noticeable than if you call attention to your contributions. But you’ll have to decide what works best for you.

Sometimes it is just a matter of “hanging in there”, doing your work well, and the pay off comes either when you least expect it, or after you have put in your time, just as the others have done. At least that’s what my clients tell me.

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