A big question for many workers is, “Self-promoting makes me cringe, so how do I make my value visible?” No one likes an office braggart, but you can’t keep working incredibly hard hoping effort alone will pay off in the long run.
Early in our careers, it’s straightforward: you work hard, get results and the rewards follow. Initial and secondary promotions aren’t difficult to come by. As a newbie, there’s generally more structure and people look out for you. They are attentive to your development and you’re rewarded for hard work.
Then comes the unspoken shift. Suddenly the formula of ‘hard work equals results’ doesn’t automatically result in recognition. People are slower to acknowledge your contribution. You acquire new and often demanding stakeholders who are hard to please; there’s management change and you find yourself in a bureaucratic minefield without navigation skills.
Intellectually and rationally, you know you’ve ‘progressed’ to a more competitive environment, but there’s no understanding how to cut through and get noticed.
For a start, step away from your desk and into the shared spaces. Remember the old saying, “Keep your head down and tail up”? The problem with this approach is that it translates to being glued to your cubicle, operating in a microcosm. You miss conversations that impact future decisions: critical market intelligence and other shifts in the political landscape.
And it gets worse. When you’re rooted to your seat, no one sees you. Your lack of physical visibility means you’re not even on the radar. Even grabbing coffee makes a huge difference. Who do you see? What do you hear and observe? Who connects with you? Moving through the office is a small but important way of making yourself and your value more visible.
You also need to engage with cutting-edge business and industry knowledge. To better cultivate your relationship with potential future sponsors and advocates, always be equipped with something intelligent. Set yourself apart by displaying your business and industry knowledge. Hit them with a good question or share something you recently read. Be savvy. Use Google Alerts, follow thought leaders in your sector on Twitter, ask the senior bods what they read and subscribe to. Work smarter and become known for good quality conversations, so you can pitch yourself higher and command respect. These initiatives are guaranteed to lead to more.
Also utilise informal networking to seek out high-profile projects. If you take just 5% of your time each week to network and observe your workplace, what will you learn?
You’ll certainly develop a better insight into key decisions-makers, what makes them tick and where the next ‘stretch’ or extensive projects might be. Stretch projects are precisely where your key skills are likely to be observed and recognised. By investing a fraction of your working week executing a ‘stretch strategy,’ you can achieve some initial influence and potentially score a part in a choice assignment.
In other words, based on a 50-hour week, those 2.5 hours spent networking with influencers could change your career, so take time to develop great relationships. Understanding and responding to new opportunities will always give you a competitive edge. Stretch assignments are a great way of showcasing your capabilities, and you’ll grow working alongside ambitious people. Create activities that showcase your worth, and always be equipped with knowledge and good quality conversation when opportunities with influencers land.
Remember: it’s your responsibility to make your value known. Trialling new ways of showcasing your skills and breaking engrained habits will help ensure the promotions keep coming.