Standing out at Work

“Stars don’t beg the world for attention; their beauty forces us to look up.”
~Matshona Dhliwayo~

Amelia asks: I’ve grown a lot more confident over the past year at my job. Now I need to learn how to stand out at work, because I’m looking toward a promotion. What steps should I take to make that happen?

Joel replies: Maybe you’ve played it safe in the past, figuring your good work should speak for itself. But you’re right—it won’t. You need a plan for catching the eye of those with influence in your organization, or they’ll never notice you. You need to speak up, be more confident and assertive at work.

  1. Create a Personal Brand
    Just as products need branding, so do people. Here’s how to create your personal brand:

    • Ask yourself what qualities make you who you are, including your shortcomings and idiosyncrasies. People who stand out at work are known for being their authentic selves. They know how to highlight their best qualities while asking for feedback in areas where they want to grow.
    • Consider your career goals—where do you want to go next? That will guide what you want to be known for.
    • Choose projects that highlight those strengths, rather than just saying “yes” to any work that comes your way. In doing so, you’ll craft a reputation as a person who’s great at the particular kind of work that really fuels you.
    • Track your successes so you’re always ready to describe them—say, in an impromptu conversation with that exec you’ve been wanting to meet.
  2. Engage in Lifelong Learning
    A person who remains perpetually curious, constantly looking for opportunities to grow, is sure to stand out at work. How can you do this?

    • Take a class in something you want to know more about.
    • Find a buddy from another department and teach each other about your roles, so you both understand the organization better.
    • Read a book about a skill you want to master.
  3. Support a Good Cause
    Either way, becoming known as someone who cares about the broader world will build you up in the eyes of others. Here are a couple ways of doing that:

    • Start volunteering with a nonprofit, if you don’t already. Casually mention to coworkers that you plan to volunteer over the weekend.
    • Hang a flyer for a donation drive on the bulletin board, and mention to coworkers that you’re supporting it. Make sure not to sound pushy or self-righteous about it.
  4. Embrace Failure
    People who stand out don’t hide behind small, safe successes—they seek out risks and take them. Of course, they’re smart about which risks are worthwhile, choosing ones they have a good chance of conquering. You won’t achieve them all, but you’ll enjoy some very exciting successes when you start seizing the day in these ways:

    • Ask yourself what risks you need to take to get where you really want to go.
    • Dive into a project that stretches your abilities, really challenging you.
    • Share the good news—and its measurable results—with coworkers and superiors when you succeed.
  5. Speak Up in Meetings
    Speaking up in meetings can be daunting, but it will get easier with time. Here are a few ways to start:

    • Figure out one topic on the agenda that you have a lot to say about. Prepare to ignite conversation on that topic.
    • Bring creative ideas that speak to the qualities you want to be known for.
    • Ask insightful questions when others present ideas.
    • Practice saying one thing that pops into your head at each meeting.
  6. Become a Mentor
    Serving as a mentor to others will highlight both your expertise and your concern for the organization’s success. When your boss sees coworkers coming to you for advice, you’re sure to stand out. Here’s how to begin:

    • Does your department have a new employee? Offer to show her the ropes. Just by being friendly and available to answer questions, you’ll start cultivating a strong relationship.
    • Give coworkers advice about things you’re an expert on. Don’t beat them over the head with it—just share tidbits of information in conversations, and invite them to drop by your workspace if they show interest in learning more.
  7. Promote Yourself to a Leadership Position
    There’s no need to ask for permission to become a leader. The best way to become known as a leader is to just start acting like one.

    • Remember that cause you support? Organize a volunteer day for your office, explaining to your boss how this will build team spirit.
    • Volunteer to lead meetings.
    • Spearhead an exciting project, delegate responsibilities to team members, and give them positive feedback to coach them along.

If you take these steps, you’re sure to stand out at work. How you approach success makes a difference—you won’t be passively waiting for it, but actively reaching for it. That will mark you as a leader in the eyes of your boss and other decision-makers. In turn, this will boost your job security and lead to exciting opportunities for promotion.

Joel can help you boost your visibility among leaders and coworkers. If you want advance in your career, gain the deserved promotion or receive more work recognition, hire Joel for executive coaching.

Is your Salary Negotiable?

“The best move you can make in negotiation is to think of an incentive the other person hasn’t even thought of – and then meet it.”
~Eli Broad~

Nora received a job offer for the position of her dreams. She was ecstatic. She wasn’t even focused on the salary. Fortunately, she shared the news with one of her mentors, who had also been her very first boss. “Don’t accept without a negotiation,” her mentor advised her. He shared these statistics about salary from a recent Glassdoor survey:

  • Three of five employees do not negotiate their salary.
  • Women are less likely than men to negotiate—68% of women vs. 52% of men abstain from negotiating. This is a shame, because salary is almost always negotiable.
  • When men negotiate their salary, they’re over three times more likely than women to succeed. This may stem in part from confidence—men tend to have an easier time asking for what they want—though that’s not to dismiss the impact of sexism. However, it’s getting better: The gender gap is much lower for younger workers than for older ones.
  • Older workers as a whole are also less likely to negotiate salary. As younger employees set the pace for negotiations, the older generations would be well advised to keep up—with their experience, they’re likely settling for less than they could have.

Here are 4 steps to succeeding in your next salary negotiation so you can Get Paid What You’re Worth.

  1. Build Up Your Confidence
    Having confidence is crucial to salary negotiation. Knowing the interviewer expects you to negotiate should give you a confidence boost. Remember that the raises you get down the road will depend on your starting salary.Mentally prepare your spiel about your track record of success. Get ready to cite the specific results of projects you handled in your current or previous role. If you’re asking for a raise from your current boss, prepare to discuss your successes as thoroughly as you would for an interview. Rehearse with a friend to make your answers as eloquent as possible.
  2. Do Your Research
    Whether accepting a new position or asking your current boss for a raise, find out the typical salary range for your position in your geographical area. Remember, this could have changed in recent years. When you’re knowledgeable about salary ranges, you’ll feel much more confident making an offer. Consider the current state of the industry, too. Was it struggling when you accepted your position, but now flourishing? That gives you plenty of room to negotiate.
  3. Hold Off on a Number
    Try not to be the first to put forth a number, says Michael Zwell in Six Figure Salary Negotiation. If asked about your expectations, try to give a less specific answer, such as “My expectations are in line with my experience and abilities,” he adds.If forced to give an answer, factor all the benefits you would like into the number, says Roger Dawson in Secrets of Power Salary Negotiation. Such benefits may include potential work bonuses, health insurance, retirement plan, vacations, and tuition reimbursement.

    If you’re switching careers, request the chance to renegotiate after six months, says Zwell. This gives you a window of time to prove yourself in the new role, and then to request more than you could have initially.

  4. Use Leverage
    If you’re applying for a new position, indicate that you’re considering another offer, says Dawson. At the same time, signal some degree of flexibility about salary. Highball your target salary, but say something like, “I might be able to take a little less,” he suggests. Know the company is almost certainly lowballing you if they make an offer—they expect you to make a higher counteroffer.

As Zwell says, if you’re negotiating with a current employer, you won’t be terminated for aiming much too high, whereas with a prospective employer, it’s possible you could lose the opportunity. However, aiming much too high with your current employer could signal that you’re unhappy with your position, he asserts.

If you’re offered a promotion within your company, remember that salary is negotiable here as well. Bring up the salary question with your potential new boss, not your current one, says Zwell. If made an offer, don’t be afraid to make a counteroffer. Consider what they’d have to pay a new hire, as well as the value added from your familiarity with the company.

Most importantly, have patience. The salary negotiation process can take a little time, and not settling on an offer too soon can benefit you over your entire career.

Negotiate in person if at all possible, says Dawson. It shows you’re serious and gives you a chance to respond to questions as they arise. Ask the company to put your agreement in writing, he adds. This eliminates any misunderstanding, especially when factoring in the benefit and compensation packages. Remember, the company is typically as eager as you to reach a mutually agreeable salary and move on!

If you want to get paid what you’re worth, utilize Joel’s Salary Negotiation Coaching.

Personal Branding at Work

“An image is not simply a trademark, a design, a slogan or an easily remembered picture. It is a studiously crafted personality profile of an individual, institution, corporation, product or service.”
~Daniel J. Boorstin~

Stella went out for drinks with a few coworkers after work. Over their conversation, she realized they had no clue what she did or what value she contributed. If she was that invisible to colleagues, she knew she must be invisible to leaders as well. She hopped on the phone with me to discuss how she could revamp her image at work.

Individuals, like companies, have a brand, I told Stella. Those who are proactive at shaping their own brand identity are more likely to be recognized and to get ahead in the workplace.

I then asked her to complete a simple exercise that I recommend to my clients. If you’re working to hone your personal branding at work, complete this exercise yourself:

List the three adjectives that best describe how you’re perceived by others at work.

1) _______________________
2) _______________________
3) _______________________

Next, pick three adjectives that you would like others—especially your boss and key decision-makers—to use to describe you.

1) _______________________
2) _______________________
3) _______________________

Now, here’s the tricky part (but it can be fun, too):

Develop specific, actionable strategies to move your brand identity from list #1 to list #2. This might involve training opportunities, volunteering for special assignments, or even changing your body language or how you dress. Make sure the appearance you project reflects the image you want to create.

1)_______________________
2)_______________________
3)_______________________

For example, if one of your desired brand attributes is “creative,” look for opportunities to showcase your creativity at work. Then grow your personal brand by pitching an inventive new project or consistently offering your creativity in group efforts. Prepare to advocate for your ideas by explaining what they offer to the company—brainstorm on this with someone you trust first if need be.
Finding ways to add value to others’ projects in order to highlight your desired brand attributes is another way to make sure they take notice. Meet with them to discuss what they’re doing, and then make a pitch about how you can help.

As a publishing editor at a magazine, Stella wanted others to perceive her as savvy about bringing in the best talent. Innovation and ability to thrive under pressure were the other two key attributes she most wanted to play up. Currently, she believed others perceived her as highly accurate and organized, along with having strong communication skills—certainly all important qualities in an editor, but, well, pretty boring on their own.

Stella decided to pitch a special issue on a controversial topic, along with a design idea they’d never tried before. Her team loved it, and they hit a new record for copies sold. By revamping her image, Stella increased the success of the whole company.

Reaching out to influencers in your organization can help you make the most of such victories. According to a recent Nielsen survey, the opinions of people we trust are what influence us most when it comes to branding. Use this to your advantage with personal branding. Shifting how you’re perceived by a few key people with strong credibility can turn the tide for your career. Stella’s victory was so visible that leaders couldn’t help but notice, but you might need to make a call, send an email, or drop by an office to share what you’ve accomplished.

Crafting your own distinctive brand won’t happen overnight. But your personal branding strategy will work in due time, if you’re persistent. When you take your “brand manager” role seriously, you’ll be surprised at the difference you can make in achieving your career goals.

Contact Joel, as your leadership coach, to help craft your own distinctive brand.

Toot Your Own Horn

“If you don’t toot your own horn, don’t complain that there’s no music.”
~Guy Kawasaki~

Janet Asks: I feel like my accomplishments go unnoticed at work and I’m not comfortable bringing them up. I want others to see my strengths and achievements, but I don’t want to come across as bragging. What should I do?

Joel Answers: No one wants to sound like they’re bragging about their own accomplishments. You want to be noticed, but not for being egotistical. However, there are plenty of ways to toot your own horn in a way that people admire and respect.

  1. Figure out what makes you interesting
    Think about what makes you stand out at work. Do you have any hobbies most people don’t know about at work? Have you overcome any major challenges to get where you are? Figure out what aspects of your life make good stories. Sprinkle these tidbits of information into conversations at work, so coworkers see a richer picture of you.
  2. Create a compelling hook
    Prepare how you’ll introduce yourself to new people. How can you summarize yourself in a sentence or two in a way that leaves others eager to hear more about what you do? When they have to coax more details out of you, no one will perceive you as bragging. However, don’t be too shy about opening up—when they ask, tell them more.
  3. Speak about recent accomplishments
    When others ask what you’re doing at work these days, it’s the perfect opportunity to toot your own horn. Be prepared for those moments by mentally reviewing your latest accomplishments and current projects. Focusing on the work (rather than speaking directly about your strengths) will help you relax and start gushing about your achievements.
  4. Talk about your team
    If you’re a manager, gushing about your team’s accomplishments shows you’re a great leader. Having pride in your team is a virtue for any leader. You won’t feel as self-conscious while focusing on them, though you’re actually speaking to your own leadership skills.
  5. Announce successes to organizational leaders
    When you announce your successes to your boss or other leaders, no one will perceive it as bragging. They want and need to know what you’ve accomplished. In fact, it would be unprofessional not to tell them. Drop by your boss’s office; send higher-level leaders an email or give them a call, if the accomplishment seems important enough to announce to them.
  6. Believe in the importance of your role
    When you truly believe in the positive impact you have every day, you’ll exude confidence and charisma. The enthusiasm you show for your work will draw others to you naturally. You’ll get boundless invitations to talk about how you do what you do. If you’ve gotten in a rut with your current job, reignite your passion for it by reminding yourself what you love about it and making small changes to liven up your routine.
  7. Get others to toot your horn
    As you clue others in to your skills and achievements, they’ll naturally start tooting your horn as well, and your visibility will increase at work even more. However, it helps to ask for the support of people you trust. Cultivating relationships with advocates in your organization will build your credibility and help leaders take notice of you. Keep your advocates apprised of what you’ve accomplished, and if you’re after a promotion, tell them. People often take pride in helping others succeed.

If you were feeling awkward about tooting your own horn at work, these ideas will help those conversations feel more natural. Others will think it’s completely natural to share your achievements in these ways!

Joel is an expert at helping people promote themselves at work. Reach out to him directly for one-on-one executive coaching.

How to Promote Yourself

“Self-promotion is a leadership and political skill that is critical to master in order to navigate the realities of the workplace and position you for success.”
~Bonnie Marcus~

Natalya couldn’t believe her company hired an outsider rather than promote her to the position she was vying for. She knew she had everything it would take to succeed in that role. She decided to reach out to an executive coach who was referred to her – I was the person she called! “It sounds like you are producing a tremendous amount of value for your company,” I said. “Now you need to learn how to promote yourself at work (and your actual impact), so others will appreciate and recognize your value.” Here’s the plan we created together.

  1. Track Your Accomplishments
    When put on the spot, it can be tough to remember all the things you’ve done over the past year. Instead of relying on memory, keep a file of all your accomplishments and current projects. At a performance review, meeting with executives, or introduction to a new client, you’ll have just the right examples of particular skills or competencies you want to highlight.
  2. Write a Success Story About Yourself
    Create a short “success story” about yourself so you’re always prepared for high-stakes conversations. The story is created by identifying the problem, determine the actions you took to help solve the problem and the overall results that you ultimately achieved. You’ll now know exactly how to promote yourself when talking to organizational leaders.
  3. Expand Upon Compliments
    When someone gives you a compliment, view it as an invitation to say more about the work they’re praising. This will feel less awkward if you share a piece of quantifiable data to sum up what your accomplishment did for the company. Rather than sharing a subjective opinion (e.g., “I’m brilliant”), you’re sharing something objective. And by focusing on results and outcomes, you’re giving them information that can help guide decision-making.
  4. Promote the Work of Others
    When you promote others, you give them positive feelings about you in turn. This encourages them to speak highly of you as well. It’s like cultivating alliances within your organization, only there’s nothing devious about it. You’re simply working toward your mutual success and building a culture of showingappreciation for good work. Likewise, when you lead your team to success, speak about what “we” accomplished rather than centering yourself. Your boss and team will know you showed great leadership, and they’ll see you as a great morale-builder when you share the success.
  5. Take on a High-Profile Project
    Look for a high-profile project that others can’t help but notice. Outline exactly how you’ll devote time to this project while keeping up with our current workload. (Hint: Delegate as much as possible, which willalso show your leadership skills!) Taking on ambitious projects will build your visibility in the organization, preparing you to exert greater influence.
  6. Sing Your Own Praises to Superiors
    Tell your boss, and your boss’s boss, what you’ve accomplished. Phrasing the news in the form of a “thank you” can make it feel less awkward—for example, you could say, “Thanks for the encouragement to pursue project X. I’m thrilled about the results.” In doing so, you’ll be strengthening these relationships by making others feel connected to your success. Then sum up what the project did for the company—again, citing measurable outcomes. Take a big-picture approach, focusing on how the achievement benefits the company. This not only feels less awkward but highlights your commitment to the organization’s success.

Look for opportunities to connect with higher-level leaders in your organization as well. If you hear about a meeting of organizational leaders and you feel you have something to contribute, ask an advocate if you can attend or send your input with him. You have little to lose by showing some ambition, and at the very least, you’re likely to put yourself on their radar. This is an excellent way to promote yourself at work.

You now have six tactics for promoting yourself that feel more natural. With these tricks in your pocket, it will feel easier to promote yourself at work. Joel can help you implement these tips and do what is necessary to get that promotion you feel you deserve. Email executive coach Joel Garfinkle now with the area you want to work on.