76 Trombones Led the Big Parade…

With a hundred and ten cornets close at hand. This is the opening line of the song “76 Trombones” featured in the famous musical, The Music Man. While I am a fan of brass sections, this blog post is not about marching bands. The opening line from the song reminded me of the necessity for employees to ‘toot their horn’ to their bosses about work-related accomplishments. This point was driven home to me in the past week. One of my co-workers looked at my bio and said that she did not know I had done X, Y, and Z. While it was nice for her to notice my bio and accomplishments, it made me realize that probably my boss did not realize that I did X, Y, and Z – and that is a problem.

76 Trombones Led the Big Parade… image shutterstock 103978934 300x200Accomplished from ShutterstockPart of personal branding is effectively communicating your brand image to others. You want to be viewed in a certain light by others. So how we promote ourselves without coming across as promoting ourselves?

Forward an Email: Your boss gives you a critical project with an important client and you do a stellar job. You may receive a note/email of thanks from the client. When this happens, forward the email to your boss. The email forward should not have the tone of “Look what I did,” but rather an “I wanted to let you know that I took care of the project and the client is very happy” tone. Now, the boss knows you are a rock-star employee, the client is happy, and your communication about the status of your projects is appropriate.

Client Speaks to Your Boss: Sometimes we help others and they respond by asking, “Is there anything I can do to help you?” From now on, respond: “Why yes, would you mind dropping my boss a quick note about my work?” I recently spoke to a trade group as a favor for an alum of my alma mater. I volunteered to give the presentation (i.e., no speaker fee) so the alum asked if there was anything he could do to help me out. I asked him to consider writing my boss to let him know what I did. The alum and the organizer of the trade meeting were each happy to send an email. My boss shared the two notes, both were very positive, and my boss began to see me in a new light – someone who could be an external face for our office’s outreach efforts.

Periodic Touch-Base Meetings: Do you sit down with your supervisor twice a year for a performance review? Probably. What happens in the six months between reviews – do you have periodic meetings about your projects, work, etc.? For most of us, the answer is no. If your boss is not scheduling time with you to touch base about your work, you need to. Ask for a 20 or 30 minute meeting every month to provide updates and accomplishments. The boss needs to know the impact you are making in the office, the work load you are shouldering, and the results you are delivering.

Let’s say you do have periodic meetings. Do you go into the meetings with an agenda of topics you want to cover? You should. I used to supervise an employee who would bring me a one page summary – what she had accomplished during the past two weeks, what was on her plate for the upcoming two weeks, and her long-term projects. I loved these sheets as it kept me up-to-date on her work. She was showing me her value and helping me see her in a different light – as someone who could handle more high-profile projects than what she currently was being given.

In 2013, be your own brass section and you will be surprised who takes notice!


Kevin Monahan is the Associate Director of the Notre Dame Career Center. In this role, he leads the center’s employer relations efforts in addition to coaching young professionals in career management and career change capacities. He combines career consulting services with employer outreach to help find opportunities for both constituencies. He is the author of the Career Seeker’s Guide blog.

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