Picture of Liz Holford and Guy Townsin

Discover the inclusive and inspiring workshop aimed to encourage our students to be positive about their careers and futures.

5 min read

The lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 impacted significantly on much of the population with students being no exception – and we became aware that many students were struggling with self-promotion issues as a result of the pandemic.

In response, and through development of the Careers and Employability Service’s Local Enhancement Plan (March 2021-July 2022), the team sought to introduce a resilience-based workshop to our central programme of events. Our aim was to provide an inclusive and inspiring workshop to encourage our students to be positive about their careers and futures.

The development of #IamRemarkable at Portsmouth

Research identified a Google-based workshop, #IamRemarkable, as a possible template for this initiative. #IamRemarkable was originally developed to empower females in the workplace to talk more freely about their accomplishments, but it quickly became apparent to the creators Anna Veiner and Anna Zapeschoni that it could have wider appeal to everyone, particularly underrepresented groups, to allow them to celebrate their achievements both at work and beyond. Today #IamRemarkable is a global phenomenon with in excess of 300,000 participants and 4,000 facilitators in over 150 countries.

After several Careers and Employability Service staff members attended a #IamRemarkable workshop to find out more, the decision was taken to pursue this further and the initiative was added to our programme of events for the 2021-2022 academic year. 10 #IamRemarkable workshops were offered and over 100 bookings made between September and June. These workshops were promoted through our usual social media channels with marketing targeted specifically at females and people of the global majority.

To deliver #IamRemarkable it is first necessary to attend a Train the Trainer event. Here participants are taken through a set of workshop materials consisting of annotated Google slides for use during a workshop and a literature review entitled ‘Community Conversations’ that outlines, with evidence, why it is hard for those in underrepresented communities to self-promote. Facilitators are free to choose from the ‘Community Conversations’ whichever materials they consider will resonate most with delegates. The purpose of these materials is to help develop a greater understanding about why self-promotion might be difficult, but also has been compiled to generate group discussion. 

The Confidence Code

An example of such a piece of evidence is found in The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know. Authors Claire Shipman and Katty Kay refer to research conducted by Hewlett Packard which highlighted that individuals who identified as women are much less likely to apply for promotions unless they had or were very close to meeting 100% of the job requirements, whereas those who identified as men typically felt happy to apply as long as they met at least 60% of requirements, assuming the rest could be learnt on the job. Similarly, women are less likely than men to initiate salary negotiations with employers, and when they do they typically end up asking for an average of 30% less.   

Intrinsic to the #IamRemarkable workshop are two key statements that participants are asked to consider: ‘It’s not bragging if it is based on facts’ and ‘Accomplishments do not speak for themselves’. Workshop facilitators illustrate the importance of these tenets by using personal anecdotes to highlight that articulating strengths and successes is not boastful but crucial so that others can appreciate your accomplishments. 

Sharing achievements and the art of self-promotion

In the final stages of the workshop, delegates are asked to consider why they are remarkable and are given ten minutes to make notes. They then share why they are remarkable and this is the most powerful aspect, as by inviting them to share and giving them permission to reflect on their achievements, they are, therefore, empowered to self-promote and to celebrate their accomplishments. Some wonderful accomplishments have been discussed during recent workshops, including stories about an arranged marriage, determined and consistent training for endurance sport, adapting to life in a different cultural environment and finally, a care leaver’s story about their university successes.

After attending an #IamRemarkable workshop participants are encouraged to continue to share their accomplishments to develop their confidence with the art of self-promotion and, here in Careers and Employability, the front-of-house team celebrate weekly achievements in their stand-up weekly meeting when each team member shares why they are remarkable. Students have reported a high level of satisfaction for these workshops (83% feel more confident about self-promotion and 92% feeling inspired to encourage others to self-promote). Participant feedback has also revealed the personal value to be gained from attending. 

The Careers and Employability Service will continue to deliver #IamRemarkable in 2022-23 and workshops will be offered as online and face-to-face options, with me and Jess Millar (Employment Adviser) trained to facilitate these.

Author: Liz Holford is Careers Adviser at the University of Portsmouth. This article has been supported by Guy Townsin, Careers Manager.