How to Promote Yourself at Work | Career Management (Tips from CEO)

How to Promote Yourself | Career Management: Legendary Chief Executive Officer Ronnie Watson gives advice…

  1. Never Write Off a Grey Haired Individual
  2. Induction with a Difference
  3. Waiting to be Promoted?
  4. How Do I Promote Myself?
  5. Ready to Put Yourself to the Test with “Ronnie’s Big 5”?

Talk about luck in terms of career, then I have had more than my fair share: lucky to join the right organisation; lucky to have a great boss (bosses); lucky to be in the proverbial “right place at the right time”; lucky to happen upon a great idea, from time to time; lucky to have the right people working for me during my career… and so on… somehow my luck just has not stopped.

Or was it luck?

1.  Never Write Off a Grey Haired Individual

Firstly, I am not a very bright guy – quite the contrary.  I just love listening to bright people. When I left school I had to start work immediately just to live!  I was also one of those who said that ‘one day I will get round to furthering my education’.

But it took many years, and four kids later, before I embarked on this road of attempting an MBA.

Imagine my apprehension when I eventually got to attend an Advanced Management Programme at Harvard. It was a turning point, not on the scale of cleverness, but more one of confidence and the realisation that good honest work experience accounts for a great deal.

I will comment later on the need to develop yourself.

I have been with my company for many years and yet I still find few individuals who can stay the pace – so caution, never write off that grey haired individual, you may just be able to learn from him or her (the latter get away with murder because they colour their hair!)  OK, I tried once and it was a disaster!

Back to the reason for this background. I can think of no other way to impart a tip on ‘Boosting Your Career’ than to relay, as best as I can, personal experiences and examples.

How to Promote Yourself: “Whether we are young or old, it is never too late to add value to others.” – Estienne de Beer

2.  Induction with a Difference

If you join WesBank you are required to spend two and a half days at Head Office. Two of the days with the CEO – even if you join as a CEO of one of our businesses or as a telephonist.  Can you imagine spending two days with me? It’s enough to make anyone phone a head hunter.

The point I am trying to make is that the tips I want to impart in this chapter are what I spend two days telling our new recruits – so brace yourself!

“The involvement of the CEO in the induction process has to be a ‘Best Practice’.” – Estienne de Beer

3.  How to Promote Yourself: Waiting to be Promoted?

Waiting to be promoted has got to be the downfall of many individuals.

Companies perpetuate the problem by announcing: “We are pleased to advise that Joe has been promoted to…”  Rubbish!  If Joe was truly deserving of the promotion, then he promoted himself. This calls for a mindset change on both sides – employer and employee.

In all my years of management I can truthfully not recall when I promoted a person – and the day I do, they need to take me to the retirement home.

I am not just playing on the word ‘promote’, but if the onus was 100% on you to promote yourself, can you imagine the action and energy we would see emerging?

4.  How Do I Promote Myself?

Firstly, you need to understand that the company owes you nothing!  As hard as this may be to accept, the contrary is more applicable. It is you that owes the company.  For what? 

Easy – for the opportunity to ‘run onto the field’ and compete. And on top of it, you get paid!

Now I fully appreciate that not everyone who joins a company wants to ‘get ahead’. There are those team members who are content to do an honest day’s work and are not interested in increased responsibility.

But you are clearly not one of them, because you are reading this. However, how many colleagues do you know who walk around with an enormous chip on their shoulder, commenting on how they have been overlooked and how unfair the process is?

I certainly hope you are not one of them. If you are, then stop reading now – I would rather retain you as a WesBank client!

How to Promote Yourself: “Passion without application of knowledge and skill is nothing but wishful dreaming and fraught with the dangers of disillusionment.” – Estienne de Beer

5.  How to Promote Yourself: Ready to Put Yourself to the Test with “Ronnie’s Big 5”?

1.  Passion

On a scale of 1 – 10:

1 = Seldom talk in favourable terms about the company that pays your salary.

10 = Your passion for your company is contagious – you become the unofficial recruitment agency – people who deal with or meet you want to be part of what you have got.

My brother-in-law works for Transnet. He is an engineer on the tug boats in Cape Town. An unfair example?  Transnet?  I would rate Charles a “10”. He is besotted with his work.  He considers it a privilege to be entrusted with the responsibility of a tug boat.

To quote him: “I just love it and would never change my job”. I notice people who speak in passionate terms about their employer.

These are the people I want on my team.

These are the people whom I would like to see get recognition and promotion in the organisation.

  1.  Energy Levels / Delivery Ability

On a scale of 1 – 10:

1 = You cannot recall having been asked to run with a project more than once. Also, you can be categorised as a consumer of oxygen!

10 = You have a waiting list of projects that others want you to run with. Also, you can be categorised as a generator of oxygen!

There is a saying: “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.”

  • Proposing grand solutions (sounds very intelligent) but not delivering is a ‘1’ on my scale – talk is cheap!
  • Give me a person who energetically finds solutions and delivers – “A short cut to the top”.
  1.  Innovation [Think Out of The Box]

Do you ever question if the company can eliminate your post or position? (do without you)

Is there a smarter way to do things? A person who thinks like this should have no fear of joining the ranks of the unemployed as they would have demonstrated the ability to question all processes and positions.

On a scale of 1 – 10:

1 = Cannot remember thinking differently or being credited with having suggested a “new way”?

10 = Have often contributed, or have been responsible for, “a new way of doing things around here”.

“If the CEO is passionate about customer service, this priority would become contagious within the organisation”. – Estienne de Beer

  1.  How to Promote Yourself: Providing “Xtreme” Service

This has to be the most important tip. It is the most neglected aspect of business and DNA requirement in an individual.  CEO’s are the most guilty parties. They should set the example!

Do you stand out from the crowd when it comes to customer service?

No, not just with external customers, but with internal customers as well. Yes, the folk you work with are also your customers.  I have never met a person who does not have “a customer”.

Do your customers use every unsolicited opportunity to sing your praises?

On a scale of 1 – 10:

1 = I am not known for my fanaticism for the customer.

10 = I am a service legend.

  1.  Self-driven Development

The company paying for your development programmes has its place. What impresses me is when people embark on a self-driven development programme, funded by themselves, but which initiative has benefits for the employer and employee.

I can best illustrate what I mean by relating an incident: A few years ago a young man, who works for us in Pretoria, made an appointment to see me to discuss the FirstRand annual results. A clerk wanting to discuss the Group’s results with the CEO? I was delighted and invited him to have tea.

In our discussion I learnt that he was self-funding his MBA. He did not own a computer and stayed in a shack with no electricity. That got my attention!

He promoted himself.

He is now a manager and has completed his MBA.

On a scale of 1 – 10:

1 = Since I started working I have not attempted a self-driven development initiative (not motivated or paid for by the company).

10 = Already on my third self-driven development initiative.


Take Note of These Tips:

  • Never write off a grey haired individual.
  • You promote yourself – the company doesn’t!
  • Talk is cheap – proposing grand solutions but not delivering is a shame.
  • “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.”
  • Excellent customer service is the most important tip to boost your career.

How to Promote Yourself: What areas in “Ronnie’s Big 5” are hindering me from making the claim that my value offering is world class?

Ronnie joined WesBank as a clerk in 1966 and retired in 2007 as the CEO. “How to Promote Yourself” was his excellent contribution to “Boosting Your Career – Tips from Top Executives”. [1]  


*  Additional Thoughts on Career Success

So what is career success? Typically, it refers to the attainment of your aspirations, whether financial or non-financial. When you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve in your career and a plan on how to get there, you are more likely to get the job done.

Success is a pretty broad term. To be successful, figure out what your definition of success is and then map the steps that will help you achieve just that.

The key is to have a clear vision of what you want to achieve. It helps if you have a long-term plan for each step in your career as well. Many people who do not have such a plan usually end up drifting from job to job, getting nowhere.

So, you’ve got a great resume, stellar references, and a pile of work experience to back up your professional abilities. It is also important to have a backup plan for any eventuality that might threaten to derail what you are setting out to achieve.

The inability to plan one’s career can lead to an apathetic and unproductive attitude. It might be hard to get motivated to attack a project at work if you only see that it is a way to make money for yourself. Instead, focus on the jobs that will allow you to use your creativity, intelligence, and passion.

The best gigs are the ones in which you have something you are passionate about, and which make you feel as if your work is vital.

To build an effective career plan, you need to have a clear image of what you want to achieve and how much time it will take. Plan your path for every year of the next five years. When you do this, you can achieve better results than if you were floundering aimlessly.

If you are in the job market, then you will come across some people who are uncertain about what they want out of their careers.

Some of these individuals just move from job to job, getting nowhere, or plotting a course for what it will take for them to get to their goals. They believe that if they keep working hard, they eventually will be successful.

Having a career plan does not mean that you cannot be flexible with your plans, but it is necessary to have a broad vision of where you want to go and what you want to do. It however does not mean that you have to stick with this at all costs.

Sometimes experiments can be useful and help you find out what you truly want in life. Career development is after all like a journey into the unknown, and planning for everything ahead is impossible.

Career Success: Having the Right People in Your Corner Can Make All the Difference

Just because you have all the right competencies and experience, doesn’t guarantee you will succeed. While you may have a good deal of drive, ambition, and a willingness to work hard, it’s not enough to get you through the difficult times.

You’re committed to rising to the top, so you work your tail off. While tempting to think that all the effort you put in might bring success by itself, all work and no play isn’t all it is cracked up to be – especially for your career. It takes a lot more than hard work to get ahead.

Some of the most successful people in the world attribute much of their success to having the right mentors.

That is because mentors not only offer advice and tips on how to succeed in your professional life, but they can also provide support when you’re facing corporate challenges.

Success comes to those who have the right people in their corner. It’s not just about having talented, driven colleagues, but also about having the right mentors, coaches, and confidants.

You could be the best ballplayer out there, but if you do not have good teammates behind you, then you will not win that much. Being successful is a work in progress. You put in the effort, and then you set your sights on your next goal.

It is all part of a continuous cycle…a cycle that can be aided by having the right people to help push you along and cheer you on.

Strategic use of associations and mastermind groups has been proven to not only produce more success but to also create much more measurable results.

How Important is Perseverance in Career Success?

Perseverance is an important quality that people often overlook in today’s highly competitive workplace, and it should be valuable in achieving your career goals.

A lot of research has been done over the years on what contributes to success. One of the main points that were agreed upon by many studies is persistence. It’s ranked as one of the most important factors in becoming successful.

The dictionary definition is “the fact of continuing in a particular state, activity, etc., without ever giving up”.

You must persist through the tough times, even when others doubt you. You should understand that there will be obstacles and that setback will happen. But don’t give up!

You will never reach any of your goals by doing the bare minimum. Tenacious, dedicated, committed – whatever the right word is, the ability to stick things out. Most people are not willing to put in the time or effort to go the extra mile – that is a strong work ethic. If you’re not willing to do it, someone else will be, and they will pass you by.

Countless inspirational quotes advocate perseverance in pursuing career aspirations. It is a key trait of successful people – to some, it can be an even stronger force than intelligence and willpower.

Anyone who’s ever accomplished something substantial has likely had to face adversity along the way. Whether it was a naysayer or a family member who told you that what you were attempting was impossible or pointless, there were likely times throughout your journey where it seemed like the end was near.

If you look at some of the greatest stories in history, though, you’ll find that persistence is one of the most important traits.  

Success doesn’t come easy, and there will be trials along your journey, but never stop on your dream of becoming a success. Persistence is not only an essential characteristic of successful people but also breeds other qualities such as resilience, commitment, adaptability and courage.


  1.  Boosting Your Career – Tips from Top Executives [Book] / auth. De Beer Estienne [Chapter 1]. – Centurion : Profession Press, 2006.