“Behavior is the mirror in which everyone shows their image.”
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe ~
Jason has been with his company for more than five years. He’s tried every trick in the book to get ahead, from letting his boss know he’d like to move up the ladder to working overtime on his projects in the hopes that his efforts would be noticed and rewarded.
But nothing seems to be working. He still has the same job, same title, and (sadly) the same salary as when he started five years ago. What’s Jason doing wrong?
Maybe Jason is not doing anything wrong; maybe he’s just doing the wrong things.
If you want to boost your personal brand, forget about dropping hints or hoping someone will notice the long hours you’re putting in. Those tactics will get you nowhere fast.
Luckily, one of the books Jason read as part of his effort to get ahead was a how-to book about career advancement. He decided to use some of his acquired knowledge to solve his own problem. Here’s what he came up with:
- Step 1—Define the problem.
Jason’s first reaction was, “I’m being ignored. I deserve a promotion and I’m not getting one.”
- Step 2 – State the cause of the problem.
This is an important step, because often when people try to solve problems, they are merely getting rid of the symptoms, not resolving the issue. After a bit of soul-searching, Jason realized that he really wasn’t doing what it takes to stand out in the crowd. Hard work is fine, but he needed a personal brand and he definitely did not have one.
- Step 3 – Brainstorm.
Come up with potential actions you could take to turn the situation around. Jason talked to a few trusted friends outside his workplace and they gave him a number of useful suggestions and opinions.
- Take on a project that nobody wants to do and finish it successfully.
- Offer to work on a project outside your own department (with your boss’s approval, of course).
- Schedule a one-on-one with your boss and ask for her input on a rebranding plan.
- Find a mentor. This could be in your company or outside of it, but should be someone who’s ahead of you on the ladder (not your boss).
- Share your successes. Don’t brag, and don’t be modest either. Speak up about your accomplishments. This includes what you’ve been doing, either in meetings, by e-mail, or one-on-one with others in the company.
- Share credit. Nobody does it alone and you’ll get ahead more easily if you let others participate in your success.
- Step 4 – Choose your options.
You don’t have to do everything all at once. Pick two or three things you can do right away. Jason took the first two suggestions on his list and wrote up a plan. Then he scheduled the one-on-one with his boss to get her input and suggestions. After refining his plan, he immediately began putting it into action.
- Step 5 – Monitor your results and make changes if necessary.
Jason first volunteered to revamp an inventory control project that nobody else would touch, because it looked boring and complicated. He cleaned that up and then made a presentation about how he implemented a new plan and achieved results. With his boss’s approval, he sent a summary of his presentation to several C-level executives.
Five months after Jason implemented his rebranding campaign, he was offered a management position in another department—and a nice increase in salary to go with it.
If you’re stuck where you are right now, feeling unnoticed and unappreciated, (not to mention underpaid), how could you rebrand yourself? Look at Jason’s action items and see if you can adapt any of them to your situation. And be sure you’re solving the problem, not covering up the symptom. Joel has helped dozens of clients boost their careers with personal branding. Email him today.
Talkback: Have you successfully rebranded yourself? What did you do and what were the results? Share your experience here.
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“Either you run the day, or the day runs you.”
~ Jim Rohn ~
He knew good managers want to see their employees move up the ladder. So he decided to approach his boss. What did he think was necessary for a promotion? Were there things Bob was… or wasn’t doing that would merit that raise?
Bob scheduled a meeting to discuss his performance and his future role with the company. At the same time, Bob decided to assess his value to the company in a specific, factual way. He looked at the projects he’d covered in the past. He checked with co-workers for their assessment of his strengths and weaknesses.
In seeking to quantify his value, he asked himself:
- What results have I delivered to the company? About how much they were worth?
- How has my communication improved with the boss? With co-workers? With clients? Can I identify times I’ve helped things run more smoothly or communicated well?
- What examples can I use to show I’m more efficient than I was in the past? Can I put that in dollars saved the company?
- How has my insider knowledge of the business translated to a stronger bottom line for the company?
- What new skills have I developed? How do they bring value to the company?
As Bob worked on this list, he realized his insider knowledge helped him master projects about twice as fast as when he first hired on. He figure out how much that saved the company in employee costs. He noted times when keeping people informed had prevented costly mistakes.
As he went through this process, his confidence grew and his stress level went down. He decided to make a short document of his achievements. That way, if the boss needed to think about his promotion, he’d have some written material to help him decide.
Bob also researched the industry averages for salary— considering his position and location. He realized he was receiving an average pay for an above average skillset. It gave him even more confidence. He emailed his boss that he’d like to discuss a promotion when they met.
Bob planned out how he would ask for the promotion. With this plan, he felt in control and relaxed.
When he sat down in the boss’s office he first asked the boss his views on Bob’s performance. Then Bob asked what it would take for him to move into a higher position.
The boss commented on Bob’s strengths and then mentioned two things he felt Bob needed to improve in order to be ready for the next position. Bob noted those areas and then shared with the boss his list of accomplishments. It was a good conversation, without stress or fear.
He left the document with his boss. At the same time, he asked if they could meet again in a month to review Bob’s progress on mastering those two areas and see if Bob was ready for the promotion.
The next month, when they met, Bob’s boss said, “I reviewed the performance record you gave me. I’d forgotten about the Jones account and how you helped us out of that AGV account snafu. I believe you’re ready to take the next step.”
Later Bob said, “You know, 80% of the promotion effort occurred before I ever got into the boss’s office. It’s not hard to ask for that promotion when you’ve insured your boss is on the same page. It really took away all the stress.”
Want a promotion… but not sure how to get the “Yes”? Contact Joel for expert assistance to put you into the next pay level.
Talkback: How have you reduced stress when you’ve asked for a promotion?
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“I learned a long time ago that the wisest thing I can do is be on my own side, be an advocate for myself and others like me.”
~ Maya Angelou ~
Melanie is in a total funk. She’s been supervisor in her high tech company for almost three years now. When she first came on board, she was considered somewhat of a superstar, a high potential, high achieving future leader. Lately, however, she feels she’s been fading into the woodwork. She’s not being asked to take on high profile projects. Sometimes she’s not even invited to brainstorming sessions or brown bag lunches—those informal, off-the-record meetings where a lot of new ideas and strategies are being discussed. What could possibly be wrong?
Melanie unburdens herself to a close pal over lunch. Her friend listens patiently for a few minutes and then interrupts the litany of complaints with this advice: “Girlfriend, what you need is an advocate!”
Immediately Melanie begins to research the whole topic of advocates at work. Shortly, she has put together a four-step plan to raise her profile by using advocates. Here’s the plan:
- Advocate for yourself first
- Make your boss a partner
- Look up
- Look out
1. Advocate for yourself first. Before you can ask anyone else to speak up on your behalf, which is what advocates do, you need to know your own strengths and your potential for growth. Start by creating a three-column spreadsheet with these headings:
- What I do well
- What I like to do
- What I need to learn
Once you have a clear picture of who you are now and what potential you have, you are ready for Step 2:
2. Make your boss a partner. Almost everyone loves being asked for advice. Maybe you already have a good relationship with your boss, or maybe the relationship needs a little nurturing. Either way, schedule a one-on-one and ask him/her to help you create a personal development plan. This can include new projects or initiatives you’d like to tackle, courses or seminars you want to take—anything related to your professional growth is fair game. Come up with a timeline and begin to implement your plan.
3. Look up. The best place to find your first advocate is probably somewhere on the ladder above you in the company. Begin to notice people whose style and executive presence you admire. Then use the same technique you developed in Step 2—ask for advice. Over a cup of coffee or in some other informal setting, share an idea or project you’re working on. Ask for their input. Then ask for their help. “Joe, I need someone who knows me and can help me raise my profile a bit. Would you be willing to speak up about my accomplishments to some of your colleagues?”
4. Look out. Use the same strategy to find people outside the company who can act as your personal publicist. It may be a client, or someone in a professional organization, or just a friend who has contacts inside your company. Ask for their input on your ideas; then ask them to look for opportunities to speak up for you.
And above all, don’t forget to say “thank you.”
Three months after she began to implement her plan, Melanie landed a couple of high profile assignments and found that she was back on the company radar screen and moving ahead again.
Talkback: Have you successfully recruited advocates to help raise your profile at work? Share your experience here.
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“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”
~ Mark Twain ~
Client Mark asks: I’m mostly quiet at meetings. I’ve always thought that if I just do my work, it would speak for itself. But it’s not working. I think I need to speak up more. But what is the best way get my opinion out there?
Coach Joel Answers: Mark, you need to trust that your opinion matters. No one sees the world through your perspective. No one else has your unique blend of experience, knowledge, understanding and skills. In order for your group and organization to perform their best, they need varied input. They need your input.
When you share your opinion you stand out and become recognized. As you do so, you create value and that impact sets you up for promotions.
If you have been a worker-bee, or shy and deflected attention, it may be hard to take the risk of sharing your opinion. But doing so will increase your confidence and help you be more widely known.
Let’s talk about the when, where, why, and how to make your opinion take you to the leadership position you desire.
- When to share: Good leaders listen first. Take time to process what has already been said. Then see where you can add value. You may want to start sharing your opinion in smaller groups. But ultimately you want your manager’s bosses, and a wide range of people to hear your opinions.
- What to share: Take an honest look at your level of expertise and your strengths. You really have a lot to offer. Think about what you can add that will move the conversation forward. Of course you don’t want to duplicate what someone else just said. Don’t waste time adding your me-too experiences or examples.
Look for ways your opinions can provide solutions, build consensus, or shed new light on concerns. These kinds of opinions will show others your talents and skills. They will demonstrate what you offer the organization. When others hear your opinions, they can recognize your value, appreciate your contribution to the company, and leverage your talents.
How to Share. Share with confidence. Yes, it feels risky, but it’s important to step up and speak out. Be sure you do not apologize or minimize your contribution. “I just… um… thought…ah… perhaps…” In the beginning you may want to plan out what you’ll say.
- Share your opinion in in writing. You can take the time to think through how best to express your thoughts. You can write an article, send an email, or a memo. The advantage of written opinions is that it’s easier to share them up and across the leadership chain.
- Write out what you want to say at meetings. Prior planning can reduce your fear, build your confidence and help you express your thoughts more clearly.
- Schedule one-on-one meetings. You may find it easier to share your opinion with one person at a time at the beginning. Then you can move on to small groups and finally to large meetings.
Why share? Leadership and visibility require each other. If you want to advance, you have to be visible. When you speak out and share your opinions, people will see you as someone with power, inﬂuence, authority, and leadership. If you stay silent, you won’t be noticed, and your career will stall out. When you actively add to the conversation with insightful, thought-provoking opinions you stand out. You increase your value to the company.
Is it time for you to speak out and have your opinions heard and respected? Contact Joel and find out how you can maximize your potential.
Talkback: Let me know about a time you spoke up and it changed your career path.
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“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door ”
~ Milton Berle ~
You’re good at your job – you have great reviews, get excellent results, and you’re well-liked. Maybe you’re fairly new to your career, or maybe you’ve spent years at the same job without a promotion. Either way, if you if you keep performing, your success will be rewarded…right?
Unfortunately, no. Talent and results alone will not see you succeed. That may seem like a harsh statement after all the hard work you’ve done, but time and again, studies have shown it to be true – good work alone is not enough. You will need to take control and guide your own career in order to attain the success you have worked so hard for.
So what are you going to do? You’ve already done everything in your job description to meet and exceed expectations, so what’s next? In the new art of getting ahead, you’ll need to expand your efforts, and manage the following.
First, take stock of your own true strengths and weaknesses, and then compare them to the perception of your skill level in your organization. Ask yourself:
- Would I consider someone with my perceived skill to be ready to take on the next level challenges at work?
- What are the gaps in my skills?
- Am I missing out on opportunities to showcase my talents?
- Considering my next desired move, what traits would I most like to highlight?
2. Increase your visibility
To get ahead, you have to get noticed. If your upbringing, culture or general personality means you’re someone who is uncomfortable with “tooting your own horn,” don’t despair. While you will have to graciously take credit for the work you’ve done, self-promotion is hardly the only tactic. Consider some of the following to help you make yourself more visible:
- Identify an advocate who can speak on your behalf – with a senior partner, manager or trusted advisor working to raise your profile, you won’t have to be so aggressive in self-promotion.
- Take on high-profile assignments – working on projects with a higher visibility will translate to higher visibility for you. Taking on those things your boss or executive deems important will help make sure that your added value is noticed.
- Leverage opportunities to interact with leaders – seize those chances to rub elbows at meetings, on projects or at volunteer functions with the influential people at your meetings. Engage them in conversation, ask questions and talk to them about your successes.
3. Exert your influence
Finally, leadership requires influence to be successful. People follow leaders they believe in. Influential leaders can build connections across business units, within their teams, and with management above. People – above and below – need to see that you can inspire action and positive change. This is critical and far more potent than any attempt to lead through authority, title or power. Consider your strengths and weaknesses in the areas of:
- Reputation – Consider your work history and where you’ll need to build more value to create a solid foundation.
- Skill set – Examine your areas of expertise. Consider the tools you’ll need to succeed.
- Executive presence – No matter what level you currently lead, when you have executive presence, people are attracted to you as a leader. There are always opportunities to practice that assured sense of self that draws people in.
- Likeability – Does your leadership motivate others? Practice positive, mindful direction – success comes when others inspired by your presence and want to do their best work on your team.
- Persuasion – It is a powerful tool to be able to sway others. Persuasive leaders know how to build consensus and see their point of view.
There’s no doubt that it takes a lot to get ahead. Beyond just hard work and solid results, you need the tools at hand to get noticed and attract others to your cause. Practicing these skills will put you in good stead to land that big project or promotion you’ve been seeking.
Talkback: What techniques have you used to change your perception or increase your visibility? Comment below and share your successes in getting ahead.
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