Lorrie Bartlett made history in 2011 when she was tapped to co-head Hollywood agency ICM Partners’ talent department, becoming the first Black agent to hold such a high-ranking post at a major Hollywood agency.

“Our job as leaders is how do we take this (ICM) brand and identify ourselves in the business now,” Bartlett noted in Variety, describing her agenting style as thoughtful and precise, with strategic tenacity. What does an agent do for an actor?

  • Pitches clients to directors and producers for roles.
  • Manages media requests and promotions.
  • Negotiates better pay, contracts and endorsements.
  • Builds relationships on behalf of clients.
  • Acts as the “gatekeeper” in support of clients’ careers.

When you think about it, couldn’t everyone use an agent to support and guide their careers? Ideally, yes — yet it’s not realistic. Therefore, we need to figure out how to drive our own careers. How are you at being your own agent?

What Keeps You From Self-Promotion?

There are plenty of reasons that hold us back from advocating for ourselves. Julia Silva, a diversity programs specialist at Google, astutely identifies one of the most significant ones: “There’s this stereotype that women aren’t supposed to brag about themselves,” she says in this TED Ideas article. “Our role is to be humble, and the hard work will pay off.” Indeed, this may be one of the many repeating messages we heard throughout our young lives that can limit our ability to reach our fullest potential.

Data compiled in a 2017 report by the Center for Creative Leadership incorporated insights from over 300 women leaders regarding what their primary reasons were for not self-promoting. These included:

  • My boss is too busy to hear me talk about myself (13 percent)
  • Who has the time? (21 percent)
  • Productivity trumps promoting (26 percent)
  • Team players don’t take credit (37 percent)
  • I don’t want to brag (42 percent)
  • Accomplishments should speak for themselves (66 percent)

If any of these reasons sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone. Research has found that women feel less powerful negotiating for themselves than they do for others. In fact, women are more assertive when they advocate for others. They’re seen in a positive light and they gain better outcomes in those situations than when they advocate for themselves.

Since it’s ineffective and limiting to only advocate for others along our career trajectories, how can we learn to better advocate for ourselves? One of the first priorities is to build our self-confidence. Activist and educator Brittany Packnett’s TED Talk offers three ways to “crack the confidence code.” You can view it here.

In addition, check out the “I Am Remarkable” YouTube video to gain inspiration from the women who have participated in this Google initiative, which seeks to empower women and other underrepresented groups to celebrate their achievements in the workplace and beyond.

Authenticity in Advocating for You

If you find that talking about yourself is challenging or get squeamish imagining the need to speak positively about one of your accomplishments, acting as an agent for yourself may seem a daunting task. Developing a new skill or competency takes focus and practice — and learning how to self-promote is no different. Read Amanda Miller’s savvy TED Ideas article to discover six tangible, practical steps for making self-advocacy comfortable, authentic and a regular habit.

Social psychologist and Columbia University business professor Adam Galinsky has asked people all over the world when and how they speak up for themselves. His TED Talk offers compelling tools to expand the range of our perceived power in any circumstance and speak up. Galinsky notes that one of the ways we can advocate for ourselves is to tap into our passion by answering the “why” of what we do.

This concept is corroborated by Allison Shapira, whose TED Ideas article underscores the power of answering the “why you” question through storytelling.

See first-hand a riveting and inspirational example of this concept, as demonstrated in the “Know Your Why” YouTube video by Michael Jr.

‘Seeing’ Our Own Power

Only when we see ourselves as powerful through our own eyes can we be seen as powerful in the eyes of others. Paradoxically, women are stronger and more confident when advocating for others. Our opportunity is to see the strength we bring to that advocacy and allow ourselves to leverage that powerful voice on our own behalf. We can best reveal our confidence and powerfully express ourselves when we tap into our passions and purpose.

If you’re interested in exploring any of these concepts, please look for my colleagues and me at the Women in Retail Leadership Summit in October. We’ll be offering free 30-minute one-on-one coaching sessions.