5 Ways High Achievers Undersell Themselves

High Achiever Branding Coach

One of the things I enjoy most about my work as a personal branding advisor is the type of clients who are typically drawn to me. Beyond gender, race, and geographic location, I attract a specific type of hard-driving, accomplished, hard-working person who is passionate about learning, has ridiculously high standards, and remains in constant pursuit of his or her next level.

This realization has also allowed me to reflect back on past clients and observe current clients through a new lens. What I am most fascinated by these days are not only the ways to make my clients more visible which is definitely a passion. But I’m also explicitly focused on helping them remove the blocks that have held them back in whatever area they now find themselves seeking advancement.

To help me build a framework around this process, I recently set out to unpack one common trait in my clients. Despite their incredible resumes, stellar work histories, numerous accolades and awards, the high achieving clients who are most drawn to me are all underselling themselves.

If you too are a high achiever and are looking to break through to your next level, consider the following ways you may be underselling yourself and your talents.

You’re conflating your salary/payment level with your value. 

In our income obsessed society, this is easy to do. However, despite their contributions to their company’s bottom line, many employees are grossly underpaid. If that resonates with you, beware of making assumptions about your value and worth based solely on the figure that appears on your paycheck. If you’re already working with clients and don’t feel you’re being paid what you’re worth, it may be time to talk with a business coach or do some research on what others who are performing similar duties are being paid. When you are more educated on the norms of your industry, you can negotiate from a place of power.

You’re not claiming all of the value you add.

I see this a lot when people find themselves adding value outside of their formal job description or scope of client work. For example, you may be hired to manage budgets but you consistently bring your team leadership and project management skills to the table. If you regularly find yourself adding value for which you have not been hired or explicitly directed (and paid) to do, that doesn’t negate the value of the work you provide. You have the right to claim work that falls outside of your job description when you’re selling yourself in job interviews or client meetings. Figure out how this work helps to tell your full story and weave it into your narrative.

Sidebar – by learning to communicate ALL that you add, you can position yourself for a raise or new opportunity elsewhere.

You’re not taking credit for your contribution to team efforts.

This is a BIG one.

For some reason, high achievers don’t like to “take credit” unless they can say a project was theirs from start to finish. But when working with large teams, everyone plays a part. You don’t have to claim full credit for team results, but you also don’t have to understate your contribution either. Maybe you played a part in that presentation – maybe you did the research on the backend, gathered all of the relevant case studies. Or maybe your contribution was “softer” – you kept the team organized, motivated and moving. Or better still, maybe you came in much later in the project but were able to get everyone refocused and energized after months of stagnation. Whatever role you played in the team dynamic, own it.

You selectively forget or leave out former wins.

This is the gaffe I see the most, and as a high achiever I understand where it comes from. Many of us think that we’re only as good as our last project or role, when in actuality one role can’t accurately define your personal brand. One project can’t possibly tell your full story.

While your personal brand should absolutely reflect your most current wins, don’t be so quick to dismiss big projects you worked on in your previous roles. If you’re working with clients, don’t dismiss the value you added to clients last year and the year before. It all matters, and it’s all valuable information that can tell your story and communicate how you are the right fit for the next opportunity. So get in the habit of keeping track of your wins and creating language that describes what you’ve done in each project and role so you’re not scrambling to remember your contribution, and you’re not relying on only the most recent work to sell yourself.

You downplay what’s most remarkable.

This one is easy to do. You’re close to your genius so you likely don’t see it as such. Thing is, most of us grossly underestimate the value of our most remarkable assets. We can come up with taglines and slogans in the shower – where’s the value in that? We can walk into a heated discussion and immediately bring the temperature down with our skills of diplomacy and conflict resolution – but everyone can do that, right?


Understanding your “genius” or what is most remarkable about how you’re able to do what you do (typically faster than others, with more ease than others, or in a much bigger way than others can do given the same constraints) requires tremendous introspection. Because most of us have a blindspot when it comes to our gifts, here an outside voice may be helpful. Talk to trusted colleagues, advisors, mentors or seek out a coach who is skilled in this area.

Are you underselling yourself? |   Are you ready attract the opportunities that are a better fit for you? Learn how we can work together during a strategy day or strategy session to tease out the areas of your story that really shine. Learn more. 

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