Skip navigation

Why you shouldn’t keep your full skill set a secret


LAST UPDATED: 07 March, 2024

Somewhere between being a self-promoting, big headed, arrogant know it all, and being invisible, there’s a sweet spot for putting your best foot forward and your hand up.

I can’t tell you exactly where that line is, and it may well vary from day to day, depending on who you’re communicating with. What I do know, is most people are spectacularly bad at it, in either direction. Sometimes both.

Promotion and promotions.

For example, I was chatting to a good and incredibly talented friend of mine recently who has a very senior role with the company she works with. She was lamenting the fact the CEO had told her she would never rise to the MD role because she didn’t have the necessary skills.

As you can imagine, she was a bit disappointed and even quite indignant. But after quizzing her a little, it became clear she’d done a pretty terrible job of letting the CEO know exactly what she was capable of. Which definitely included smashing the MD role out of the park. In fact, out of the neighbourhood.

It’s not them, it’s you.

He knew she could do her current job but that’s all he knew. She assumed it was his job to know more about her, and it took a little pull-no-punches reality check from me, (my speciality!), to remind her there was literally no way he could know what every single person in that company can do beyond their existing role. And possibly not even that.

It wasn’t his job to interrogate her and put the effort into finding out more about her. It was up to her to find a way to demonstrate those things herself. To prove to him that she was in fact qualified for the role she was interested in. And make it clear she’d be bloody good at it as well.

Sure, she could sit back and have a cry about what he should or shouldn’t have done in that ideal Utopian world we all wish we lived in. Or she could get to work on a bit of self-promotion.

If your current job doesn’t require you to demonstrate your full skill set, find another way.

The reality is, some jobs and roles simply don’t allow you to fully strut your stuff. So it’s up to you to get creative. To find ways, invent projects, even side projects, that can prove it.

Talk is cheap, so putting a few cliches in your resume doesn’t really count. People want to see real world experience so start a blog, paint a picture, create a side hustle, volunteer somewhere… find a way. No matter what. Which will actually demonstrate two things — your full skill set and your ingenuity & resourcefulness. Boom!

I have no idea if she’ll end up in the MD role at her current business. But one thing’s for sure: she won’t die wondering and my guess is in her next role she’ll do a much better job of finding ways to demonstrate her full skill set, beyond what her job requires.

This blog post was originally published on our partner site, Firebrand.