“The power of visibility can never be underestimated.” ~Margaret Cho~
Zachary Asks: You’ve seen a lot of people climb the ladder of success. And probably some fall back down it. In all that time, what’s the one thing people should know… but probably don’t… that would have the greatest impact on their career?
Joel Answers: Great question Zachary. We’ve been programmed that those who work hardest get ahead. But we look around and see that isn’t necessary so. We’ve also been told to dress for success, to be a team player, to communicate well, and to network.
All these things are important. They are an essential foundation to produce success. But you can do all these things and still feel you have somehow missed the growth trajectory you expected.
In my opinion, the real key that takes your strengths of hard work, communication, and all the others and propels you to success is one overriding skill: increasing your job visibility at work.
Wait! Don’t tell me, “Oh, everyone knows who I am.” It’s really more strategic than that.
If you fail to make yourself recognized at work, you run the risk that your peers and management may not actually know your impact. They may be clueless about what work you’re doing or the impact you are having on the company.
If they don’t see the overall value you bring to the organization not only might you not be promoted, you could be one of the first let go. Gaining job visibility is vital to career success at work.
Three Steps to Greater Visibility
- How does Your Work Bring Value to the Company? For some this is an easy question. They develop a product and the sales bring in revenue. But in middle management, sometimes there are more steps between your work and the bottom line of the company.
It’s helpful to chart that out. Look at each thing you do and connect the dots to the company’s profitability.
- Can Your Coworkers Identify This Value? Coworkers can be a strong advocate in raising your visibility. They can praise your work to others or share your memos that tell what you are working on and why it’s vital.
One way to increase your own visibility is to share the successes of others. “Our team worked overtime to get this report ready to present by the meeting. They really pitched in.” By implication, others will know you also pitched in and worked hard.
- Does Your Boss Know What You’re Doing? A key to success is making sure the management knows of your work, your projects, and your successes. You can do this as you:
- Schedule review meetings with him
- Send weekly updates on your projects
- Bring him or her into the loop by consulting on thorny problems
- Speak up at meetings with thoughtful questions and good solutions
- Look for your remarkable achievements and share them- tell your story
- Share what makes you unique so you stand out at work
Be aware of the ways you use to gain visibility. Your job is to check the outcome to see if they are getting the results you want. Are people aware of you and talking about your work? Are they giving you the highly visible jobs? In your annual review, is your boss commenting on some of the outstanding projects you’ve done?
Once you master the key to increasing your visibility at work, you will see your career move forward at an accelerated pace.
Are you looking to gain visibility in your job? Is it hard for you to come out of the shadows? Evaluate your visibility so you can learn how to become known for your actual impact at work.
Have you struggled to increase your visibility at work? What ways have you found to be most successful?
“I believe ambition is not a dirty work, it’s believing in yourself and your abilities. Imagine this: what would happen if we were all brave enough to believe in our own ability, to be a little more ambitious. I think the world would change.” ~ Reese Witherspoon ~
Aaron felt like he was stuck. The job just seemed like a treadmill. The same thing over and over. When he took the job 8 years ago, he had visions of promotions and advancement. Now? Not so much.
As Aaron took stock of his career he decided to combat the stagnation. Surely there was a way to get around it. He just couldn’t figure it out on his own. He hired Joel to be his executive coach.
Part of it involved recording exactly what he was doing so he could be prepared and present it as needed.
- Sharing accomplishments. Words disappear and can’t always be remembered. Aaron saw the value in sharing his accomplishments through writing. He wrote a weekly message updating management on the projects he was working on.
He included the challenges he’d overcome and the progress he’d made. The make sure to explain how his work affected the progress of the job. And how the job would impact the company. This gave Aaron confidence his job was valuable and productive
- Meeting Preparation. Aaron doesn’t think fast on his feet. He works better when he has a chance to mull over ideas. This is true of most introverts. So Aaron decided to write out notes about what he wanted to say before meetings.
If you want to say something at a meeting or event, take the time to write it out beforehand. This way you can organize your thoughts, focus on what is essential, and not be fumbling for words when it’s your turn to speak. When you have something prepared, it makes it more likely that you will speak clearly and professionally. And you say what you intended to say.
- Prepare for and schedule one-on-one meetings. Again, if you have an agenda you want to cover, writing an outline of the topics can give you confidence going into the meeting. One-on-ones are a great opportunity to talk about your work and how it affects the company.
This is a great time to discuss your concerns about your career stagnation. Meetings with your boss can help you formulate a plan for your transition into the next step of your career.
- Volunteer for committees and events. Participating in a committee or helping to host a conference or charity event translates to an abundance of networking opportunities. Aaron found that committees and events gave him the opportunity to meet new people, talk about his work, and put his name and face in front of people who wouldn’t normally notice him.
After working this program for several months, Aaron feels much more hopeful. He sees his career stagnation breaking apart. His boss is on board with his goals for a promotion. Many more people know of him and his work. He’s received more praise and people are paying more attention to what he says.
“This is what I was looking for,” Aaron said. “Coaching really helped me. I can’t believe how much more excited I am about my job and its potential.”
How have you pushed back against career stagnation?
“Like all technology, social media is neutral but is best put to work in the service of building a better world.” ~ Simon Mainwaring ~
Ellen Asks: One of my friends told me the boss watched how much time we spent on social media. I don’t want to get in trouble. How can I tell if I have bad social media habits at work?
Joel Answers: Social Media can keep us connected, speed communication, and increase productivity. But it can also be a distraction and a time waster. If you suspect you might be misusing social media, check out these six potential problems.
If you don’t eliminate these problems, you might get fired… or at least reduce your chances for a promotion.
- Wasting Time on Social Media. Do you check tweets, Facebook, and other social media multiple times at work? If you’re not sure, try the old rubber band trick. Put a rubber band loosely around your wrist. Every time you check non-work related media, snap the rubber band. Sore wrist? Chances are you’re overdoing the viewing.
Instead of focusing on what interests you, consider the value you are offering the company. Limit Facebook to breaks, lunch, or other non-work time.
- Sending the Wrong Message. Be very careful of inappropriate post or tweets. There have been news reports of people fired for off-color or socially insensitive posts. Things are never private on social media. Tweets criticizing former or current employers— or even clients, or coworkers— have a way of turning up in the wrong hands.
Instead, look for positive things to say about workers or employers. Save the negative for private conversations.
- Betraying Your Brand. You’ve worked hard to create a professional brand at work. But poor behavior on social media can damage your image. If you lash out, flame, or attack with meanness other points of view, it can come back to haunt you. Take care how you address politics or politically correct topics to be sure they are not offensive to others.
Instead, consider the brand you want to present. The authentic you will behave in a way that reflects your brand at work, at home, and on social media.
- Inappropriate pictures. There are many kinds of good photos you can post to social media. Inappropriate pictures will, again, tarnish your professional image. Avoid photos that are suggestive or portray you in a questionable light. Avoid posting pictures of your fun trip— the trip you took when your boss thought you were home sick. Instead, use images to create the perception you want others to have of you.
- Dishonesty. Be very careful of misrepresenting yourself and your qualifications on social media. It’s a bad habit to suggest you have credentials or job experience you do not have. Instead, review your profiles and posts to reflect your best you. Work to improve yourself so you can accurately show accolades.
You asked a great question, Ellen. Taking care of your social media presentation and the time you spend there can have a significant impact on your work. Use it to strengthen your brand and showcase your abilities instead of it being a distraction. Then you can turn social media into a good work habit.
Need pointers on how to increase your visibility and strengthen you image? Contact Joel for executive coaching.
How have you overcome bad social media habits at work?
“Heroes must see to their own fame. No one else will.”
~ Gore Vidal ~
Nathan felt it was time to raise his visibility. He knew he needed this just to keep his job in a tight market. He especially needed to get recognition if he hoped to advance. But no one likes a show-off or a know-it-all. So Nathan struggled with how to accomplish good self-promotion in the workplace without coming off in a negative way?
He decided to use three simple ways to let other in the workplace know of his good work. It’s self-promotion without sounding like your tooting your own horn.
- Share your accomplishments
You’d love to have your work speak for itself. After all, it’s good work. But merit is determined by people— by human judgement. That’s a blend of information, viewpoint, and emotional filters. In order for the person who determines merit to appreciate your work, several things have to happen, including sharing of your accomplishments.
- They have to know about the work.
- They have to know that YOU did the work
- They have to understand the time, effort, intelligence, and skills it took to accomplish the job
- They need to see how it benefits the company
They can’t get all this by osmosis. Someone needs to at least get them the “Cliff’s Notes” of your involvement in the job. You can do that several ways
- Send a brief report to your boss or the influencer about the job. It could be in the form of a question. “I did this, and this and this…am I on track? What would you like next?”
- Ask a mentor or senior in your organization to publically or privately pass on recognition of your accomplishments.
- Request a co-worker write a letter of recommendation about your efforts on the task.
Nathan read that studies show it’s not the most competent that gets promoted, it’s the most visible. No one likes a boss that is less competent than they are. It’s not good for you or for the company. In self-defense, Nathan needs to have his competence shine. Decision makers need to know of your abilities.
- Speak up in meetings
- Offer to present material
- Check with your boss or others and share what you are working on
- Come to your review process prepared to show and explain your part in the work and in strengthening the company’s bottom line
When you promote others, you often promote yourself as well. Nathan has been producing excellent results for his company. But he had not done a very good job of self-promotion. He hadn’t been sharing wins and accomplishments in his workplace.
He decided to write an email that outlined five specific things his team had done in the past month. He made sure each point had measurable results. He said, “I’m very proud of the work this team has done and wanted to take a moment to highlight their accomplishments.”
Notice it does not look like self-promotion since Nathan is giving accolades to his team. Yet it still reflects well on him.
The CTO wrote back, “Thanks for pointing this out and congratulations to the team. The quiet success of these accomplishments from you and your team has not gone unnoticed. The CEO and senior leadership were much appreciative.” He encouraged Nathan to keep them informed about their work and the value they bring. The CTO recognized that sometimes work that goes well goes unnoticed, yet, he said, “It is important we educate the business on the value we bring.”
Self-promotion, well done, can build your visibility and lead to advancement. It helps management do a better job of recognizing who are their truly skilled workers. It also helped Nathan feel more valued and gain more satisfaction from his job.
If you need to increase your visibility and promote yourself in your workplace, first evaluate your visibility.
What have you done for self-promotion? Has it worked? Has it come off brash, or confident?
“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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