Why You Should Nominate Yourself

Cynthia Leung
5 min readDec 8, 2020

You read the description of an award and think, “This is me!” At the end of it, they say, “Please nominate yourself or a someone you think fits this award!”

Do you nominate yourself?”

It’s a bit of an odd social conundrum where we are faced with the awkward thought of whether it is ok for us to promote ourselves, when we (or at least I) try and maintain a balance between humility and confidence in what we do.

In these situations, my thought process previously has gone from: “Is this weird for me to nominate myself because it’s only me voicing confidence…in myself?” to “Maybe someone else will see this award and realize how amazing I am and nominate me because they have 1) confidence in me and 2) time.”

Well, reality check. People can think of you and nominate you for awards when it comes top of mind for them. However, everyone else has their own lives to focus on so the chances that you are the first person that comes to mind and is someone they are willing to spend 30 minutes writing a nomination for is low. Not impossible, but also not common.

So what do we do in this situation? We nominate ourselves.

Nominations are in a sense very similar to a job application…so why not apply?

Here’s why you should nominate yourself:

  1. You know yourself and your accomplishments better than anyone else! You are the one who writes your resume, and the only one who can tell your story best (unless you have a whole film crew to follow you around). How better to showcase your work than by telling your own story! It’s hard, but sometimes you need to be your biggest cheerleader.
  2. Leaving it to others to make the connection on how much you fit an award leaves the outcome of opportunity outside of your control. We need to remember that we are empowered to take the next step in advancing our careers and lives. We are each dealt a different hand from this deck of cards we call life. Randy Pausch once said “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” People will be there to support you and will likely help when you ask for it, but you need to ask for that help first. We can’t rely on someone else to notice how you are playing your game to help you with yours. You are your own player. You need to make your own moves.
  3. Nominating yourself doesn’t mean you will win, but it does gives you the fighting chance. Nominations are an opportunity to be considered for an award. It does not mean you are guaranteed to win the award. When you don’t nominate yourself, you’ve already closed the door, so give yourself a shot!
  4. Nominating yourself puts you on other people’s radars and is great for networking. If you’re trying to build your brand or get your name out there for your career, how better to have people notice you than to read about all your great accomplishments in an application. Even if you don’t get it, people on this committee, who are reviewing for the best applicants and are likely qualified to do so, have now seen your name. Build your brand and get your name out there.
  5. If you absolutely need someone else to nominate you, ask someone who will vouch for you and give them a summary of why you are qualified to make it easier for them to write your nomination (same practice as for any letter of recommendation).

To put this all into context, Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies has annual awards every year recognizing students and organizations for their accomplishments throughout the year. I remember reading the application and thinking I fit the description for several award categories and I could think of several people that fit others.

At first, I thought to myself, someone else would nominate me for this, so maybe I can nominate someone else. But then I realized, even though someone else could nominate me, I hadn’t quite shared my accomplishments publicly such that anyone would know the depth to which I had worked on those things. Any nomination would not be quite as strong as the one I would write for myself.

So I decided to nominate myself for two awards, two fellow classmates for the other two individual awards, and both my organizations for the last two group awards. I effectively nominated myself or events I had worked on for 4 out of 6 awards. I felt a bit guilty, but at the same time I knew that only I knew best all the things I had accomplished, and this was just an opportunity to get an opportunity to be considered for the award.

Well here were the results:

  1. I won the SPS Scholar Practitioner Award for my work on my start up, Soluminos, for demonstrated excellence in my academic work, para-professional experiences and active engagement beyond the classroom in my field of study.
  2. My organization, the Sustainability Management Student Association, won Organization of the Year.
  3. The classmate, Kevin Webb, that I nominated won the Heart of a Lion Award.
  4. And though my other organization, Women & Sustainability, did not win an award for my event on Mentorship, Women & Sustainability’s name was now effectively on the radar of the committee and in several published documents listing the nominees! (We plan on applying for several awards this coming year!)
My fellow Sustainability Management Student Association (SUMASA) Board Members at literally the last in-person event at Columbia before the pandemic started

There were other factors and considerations to determine who eventually won, but submitting nominations for these awards was the first step to even making that a possibility. The worst case scenario of not winning an award was still good because there was still recognition and publicity.

So the next time you see an Award or Position that is right for you, nominate yourself! If you think it’s the right fit for someone you know, pay it forward and boost them up too. We are much stronger as a community when we support each other and rise up together. I’ll be cheering you on from here.

Now go get those nominations!



Cynthia Leung

Free-spirited fun-loving traveler, passionate about people & making the world a better place through sustainability. The question is “Where is Cynthia Now?”