Self Promotion—The New Normal

My trial run as a university administrator is eleven months old. My experience has been mostly positive. On good days I even think about taking on more administrative responsibilities. Increasingly, it seems, demand for capable School of Ed leaders exceeds the supply. Meaning opportunities are aplenty.

But as I read vita after vita of my peers applying for higher administrative posts, with an eye to how I compare, I’m more and more convinced that I am at a disadvantage because of (at least) one glaring shortcoming. Relative to my peers, I’ve failed at self promotion. That’s not quite the right term because failing implies having tried. Probably because of my dad’s Eastern Montana, Depression Era humility that I hope has shaped me, I haven’t even tried.

An administrator friend recently told me she was working on a reference for a faculty colleague who was applying for a teaching award. I would never think to apply for an award, which may be one (among others of course) reason I’ve never received one. One peer’s vita I read recently included a list of 16 awards. Odds are that required some serious hustle.

I can’t help but think that the most eager self promoters have narcissist tendencies, but since it’s become the norm, maybe I should be more understanding. Maybe self promotion is more savvy than it is morally questionable. Maybe I need to get with the program. What do you think?

Unless you convince me otherwise, my plan is to be true to my dad, my uncle, my mom, and myself, and sit this trend out, even if it limits my professional opportunities. Despite that, I acknowledge everyone needs to be affirmed, appreciated, recognized for their efforts on behalf of others. Whether in their personal or professional lives. Myself included.

And that’s the thing. I’ve been blessed beyond measure to have been affirmed and appreciated by a steady stream of students. Including, one glorious day many moons ago, when I did a guest teaching stint in my daughter’s third grade classroom. Showed slides of bicyclists in China. Led a discussion. Felt pretty good about how engaged everyone was. “How was it?” I asked Alison afterward. “Dad,” she beamed, “it was perfect!” Hell yeah.

The Good Wife has been a continual source of personal and professional encouragement. A very Good Wife, loving daughters, appreciative students, more than enough fuel for my fire.

It’s at this point in the story that somewhere in Northwest Indiana, my head shaking older sissy thinks to herself, “It’s not about YOUR fire!”

Dad lives in sis. Thanks for the telepathy. Case closed.

 

8 thoughts on “Self Promotion—The New Normal

  1. You say you will “sit this trend out”. I suspect it’s not a trend, and self promoters will only increase their intensity. Unfortunately, as competition for every imaginable process (and product) increases, so does the effort to gain attention. They call it “marketing”. I’m mostly disgusted by it, but realize that the internet and social media have made the activity of self promotion necessary. Remember, “publish or perish”? This is the same thing, in a different form.

  2. “Maybe self promotion is more savvy than it is morally questionable. Maybe I need to get with the program. What do you think?”

    Stay humble man. As C.S. Lewis once said “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” It’s a stretch for a quote but what I mean it to say is that good works need no self-promotion

  3. I am awful at self promotion as well. It just feels too much like bragging. Plus I prefer to blend in with the crowd, rather boring of me I know, but that is where my comfort lies. It sounds like you get all the positive and recognition one could hope for and from just the right people too.

  4. In my IHON class this semester. we learned about Nietzsche, and one thing that intrigued me was his full-on support of self-promotion. He believes that the ‘spiritual morality’ that is pervasive in our culture is making us weak, and we should return to ‘nobel morality’. I don’t know what to think of that. I know for me I’ve always been uncomfortable with the idea of self-promotion, but it is definitely necessary for applying for scholarships, colleges, and jobs. Even then, I would often qualify many of my achievements to make it clear that I’m doing it to highlight my qualifications, not to brag.

    I’m glad you’re enjoying your admin position, I had no idea you had it. Maybe because you didn’t want to self-promote that about yourself to our class ;)

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