“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”
~ Coco Chanel ~
Casey is facing a dilemma. She has always considered herself a leader. And she’s always been considered a leader by others. At work, she consistently brings out the best in her people by encouraging them, listening to them, empowering them, and letting them know they are important and that their opinions matter.
Lately, however, Casey has become The Reluctant Leader. She feels she is not being noticed for all her hard work and accomplishments. Yet she doesn’t feel comfortable bragging, talking about how great she is, or publicly calling attention to all her accomplishments.
In recent meetings and encounters with her boss and other C-level employees, she is consciously choosing not to speak up when she knows she should. She wonders if she’s just come down with a temporary case of shyness, or if this has the potential to become a real problem. In discussing it with me, Casey lists these reasons for her reluctance:
- I’m afraid of stepping on peoples’ toes
- I feel like people know my strengths and they should ask for my input
- Sometimes I feel like punishing people for not listening to me by letting them struggle and find the answers on their own
- I even think sometimes that I have the wrong answer and don’t want to embarrass myself by speaking up.
As Casey’s coach, I concluded that she had probably become a bit too comfortable in her comfort zone. Sometimes it’s easy to figure that “once a leader, always a leader,” so you quit trying to raise your visibility with the bosses. I offered Casey this checklist of ideas to jump start the raising of her profile.
- Volunteer for a high visibility project. Look for something that has serious consequences at the senior management level, or that has been perceived to be challenging or risky by others. Focus on something with real results, including bottom line impact.
- Find cross – departmental opportunities that will expand both your horizons and your visibility. If you work in accounting, look for a project in sales, marketing, or communications. If you work in sales, look for ways to get a thorough understanding of the support functions in the company. It will make you a better sales manager and your superiors will notice your initiative.
- If you have a bright idea or an answer to some recurring problem, look for the right occasion to speak up, preferably in a meeting where top brass are present. Volunteer to make it happen too—don’t just leave it on the table.
Don’t wait until you feel comfortable to start changing your approach. Nobody’s perfect, and even if you implement all these action items, you’ll make mistakes along the way. Don’t let that discourage you. Just dust yourself off and keep talking.
Casey implemented all these ideas over the next month, and found that her reluctance to speak up all but disappeared and she was once again the leader she thought herself to be.
Make a list of where and how you could implement each of these ideas. Then start implementing them this week.
Talkback: Have you successfully raised your visibility at work? What ideas worked for you? Share your experience here.
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“I feel that the greatest reward for doing is the opportunity to do more.”
~ Jonas Salk ~
Client Leanne Asks: I’ve positioned myself well by creating a number of opportunities which can raise my visibility with my firms’ leaders. Now I’m stuck in the middle. I have to execute on all the new work, build and maintain my pipeline of new projects, and do my actual day job besides. My concern is that I don’t have the band-width or energy to do all these things at once. How do I optimize the time I spend on the high visibility items?
Coach Joel Answers: What got you here won’t get you there. Do the job you want, not the job you have. Here’s the way I see it: You put a lot of things out there that you could work on – projects that have high visibility and put you in the public eye as far as your superiors are concerned. You volunteered for a number of things, thinking only one or two would come through, but instead you ended up with three new assignments. Now what?
These are all projects that will help you in your career with the company because you are creating opportunities to interact with people in other departments and show them how talented and how great you are. Your new projects not only have visibility, they also add influence, impact and value to the firm.
Here’s what I would do: Create a three-column chart on your computer. Lay out all your responsibilities and ask yourself what HAS to get done. What do you need to be doing to continue your success at your current baseline level so you don’t throw up any red flags? You might have one third that has to get done on your current job, one third that relates to the job you want to have—that is your visibility stuff, and the last third is the stuff you might be able to get rid of, or put less importance on. This will equate to more time and energy for the things that count. Think about ways you can eliminate work or delegate to someone else.
And here’s the way to approach the delegation piece of it. Present it as a training process—you’re not only moving ahead in the company, you’re training someone else to follow in your footsteps and learn important pieces of your job, so nothing will be left undone when you move to the next level.
In order to keep moving up the ladder as you want to do, you must do three things simultaneously:
- You must understand what your superiors need and want, not just from you but for the future of the company. And you must understand where you fit into that plan.
- You must empower your subordinates. That’s where the training piece we talked about comes into play.
- You must build relationships with your peers. You’re all on the same team, and when you help other people win, you win too.
If you can do those three things, you’ll increase your visibility and reach the next level sooner than you think.
Are you stuck between the job you have and the job you want? Implement our three-part model this week to determine how you can create more high visibility assignments that will move you to the next level.
Talkback: Have you successfully moved to a higher level of your organization? What did you do to increase your visibility with your superiors? Share your experience here.
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“You cannot climb the ladder of success dressed in the costume of failure.”
~ Zig Ziglar ~
Client Bart Asks: I have a couple of job interviews coming up next week. A friend told me I ought to invest in a whole new wardrobe, including an expensive looking watch. I’m a pretty casual, laid-back guy. I’d feel almost like a phony in a three-piece suit and a Rolex watch. What should I do? Can the wrong clothes truly hurt my chances of getting hired?
Coach Joel Answers: It’s an old cliché, but it’s true—you never get a second chance to make a first impression. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean a three piece suit and a Rolex. Let’s talk about how you want to be perceived by your interviewers.
Before a job interview, I advise my clients to write down three adjectives to describe how they want to be perceived. For example, one client listed “professional,” “experienced” and “energetic.”
Everything you say or do during the interview should reinforce the adjectives you choose, including every aspect of your appearance. This includes your shoes, your belt, your haircut. And, yes, even your watch.
When the employer meets you, they are judging the first thing they see and that’s your personal appearance. It’s extremely important that you don’t do anything that would undermine how you are perceived. So before you start planning your wardrobe, you need to consider the company and its culture. For example, many high-tech and entertainment companies pride themselves on a dress code that’s casual and laid back. They have an “almost anything goes” rule. That being said, you should still choose something just a cut above what’s customary for that company. If jeans are the order of the day, choose casual slacks and an open collar shirt. A three piece suit and tie would be overkill and would let the interviewer know you hadn’t done your homework.
On the other hand, if you’re interviewing with a bank or a stock brokerage, wear a suit even if you know your job is going to be in a back room somewhere. It’s always easy to scale down after you have the job, but scaling up after that first impression could be difficult.
As you role play the interview in your mind, here are some tips on how to dress for success during your job interview:
- Start with a smile and a firm handshake. Practice with a friend if you need to.
- Avoid wearing anything that attracts too much attention. No jangling bracelets or day-glo t-shirts.
- Men should consider having a clean shaven face.
- Minimize the amount of skin you’re showing. No tank tops or mini-skirts.
- Eliminate unusual hairstyles. Avoid pink or green hair dyes.
- Cover or remove tattoos and extensive body piercings.
- Leave off cologne or perfume. Many people have allergies to these products and some companies have a policy that prohibits them.
- Make sure your teeth are brushed and your mouth is fresh, but don’t chew gum or candy during an interview.
Remember, when you go for an interview, you’re marketing a product—that’s you. You are expressing your personal brand, telling your prospective employer who you are and what you’ll bring to the company. You may only be there for a few minutes—make them count.
If you’re in the job market you need an interviewing game plan. Before your next interview, put together a couple of outfits that are both low-key and impressive. Borrow accessories from a friend, if you need to. Dress for success!
Talkback: Have you ever been in an interview situation where you felt you could have been better dressed? Do you think it kept you from being hired? What would you do differently next time? Share your story here.
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“Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect.”
~ Alan Cohen ~
Client Craig Asks: Joel, after weeks of job searching, I just got hired by a fantastic company. I’m committed to a future with this company and I want to do everything right from Day One. What are your recommendations?
Coach Joel Answers: A new job is a wonderful opportunity. The temptation, however, after you’ve spent weeks or months on a job search, is to relax and enjoy feeling secure for a while. Not a good idea! Instead, start really working on Day One. What you need is a written action plan. Here’s what I would suggest.
- Write down high-level guidelines to be implemented during the first week or two regarding the communications you want to have with your boss, company stakeholders, business partners, and your peers in the company
- Study industry trends and compare them with what’s happening in your company.
- Spend time talking to peers and subordinates and obtain as much business knowledge as you can from their perspective. Learn from them about the company culture too, so you can quickly become an accepted member of the team.
- Once you have all this information, develop your detailed action plan. Document your goals, objectives, expectations, and timeline, and begin to obtain agreement from your bosses and start talking about commitment for the required resources.
- Promote open communication with your new boss through regularly scheduled meetings to define his goals, and to review and/or revise your priorities based on input from him as well as business partners and stakeholders.
- Tell your boss that early on you would like frequent and regularly scheduled contact with him to ensure that both near and long-term objectives are clearly communicated between you.
- Began holding one-on-ones with stakeholders and start developing strong relationships with these business partners. Include C-level managers within the company as well as clients, customers, and investors. Determine what you need to do in the near and long term to help them accomplish their goals.
- Create an agreement with your boss that the two of you will hold a resourcing conversation after a month to six weeks to define exactly what you need and where you can get it in order to succeed in your role within the company.
- Reevaluate every month and track your progress against the goals you set in Step 4.
- Manage your reputation from the beginning. Once you feel firmly established, look for advocates, both inside and outside the company, who will speak on your behalf and support you in maintaining positive visibility within the company.
Are you in the start-up phase of a new job? Write down five things you will do within the next week to make your mark and raise your visibility within the company.
Talkback: What strategies have you used to be successful in the first weeks or months of a new job? What have you tried that didn’t work? Share your experience here.
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“I mean, there’s no arguing. There is no anything. There is no beating around the bush. ‘You’re fired’ is a very strong term.”
~ Donald Trump ~
Tricia just got fired. Security is putting her personal items in a cardboard box and escorting her to her car. She is in shock.
What now? Her first reaction is to drive far, far away and scream loudly about the unfairness of it all. Doubtless this has happened to the majority of you at one time or another. And screaming, however good it might feel for a moment or two, is not the answer. Instead, follow this plan for closing the door on the past and opening the door to new opportunities.
Stay calm. You may be tempted to verbally retaliate, especially if you feel the firing was unfair, and you probably do. Instead, keep calm. Having a conversation now, while tensions are high, can lead to saying things you’ll regret later.
Be thankful. Thank your boss, the HR representative, or whoever else just let you go for the opportunity they have given you. Be sincere. Any job is an opportunity to learn. And despite being fired, these very same people may be critical to you landing your next position.
Update your social media. Don’t rush to Facebook and slam your now former employer. Don’t tweet sarcastic haikus on Twitter. Instead, let the world know you’re now in the market for a new opportunity. Focus on the positive.
The Next Day
Register for unemployment. In most states, as long as you weren’t fired for willful misconduct, you’ll be eligible for unemployment. Not only will these benefits help tide you over financially while you’re planning what’s next, but the state job service is a valuable source for locating open positions.
Polish up your resume. – Highlight your key skills and experience that fit the types of positions you’ll be applying for. Use quantitative results to really show the value you’ll bring to your next employer. (“Reduced department expenses by 15%.” “Increased sales by 12%.”) Don’t be afraid to brag about your accomplishments!
Start networking. Contact your industry acquaintances and others outside of your industry to let them know you’re in the market. Even if they don’t have an open position ask, “Who else do you know that might be interested in my skills? “Often, the best positions are filled by internal referrals.
Use Internet job boards to the max. There are two ways employers find candidates on job boards: by your response to their job postings and by finding your resume when they search the site.
Create a system. Track each position you apply to, each website you register with, and every person you network with. Because your next move involves following up.
The Next Week
Follow up. Send everyone you’ve contacted a quick e-mail, or give them a call. Remind them about your last conversation and what you’re looking for.
Directly contact companies you’d like to work for. Some of the best positions never reach public job postings. If a company is interested in your skill set they may even create a position for you. If you’re a fit, they know they are making a good investment.
Tricia vowed to treat her job search like a full time job. Although the distractions of being at home were difficult at first, she scheduled her day around the search–eight hours every day, either networking, job searching, or following up. She found her new job in less than six weeks.
No matter where you are in the fired-or-laid-off process, review our checklist and make a plan. Do the things you haven’t been doing and drop the things that aren’t producing results.
Talkback: What’s been your job search strategy? Share your tips and successes here.
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