How do you get yourself and your achievements noticed? A question that women the world over are asking.
And in the UK, we’re faced with a double bind. We’re brought up to be nice, not make a fuss and nurture others. Combine this with the peculiarly British phenomenon of ‘not showing off’, and this leaves the prospect of sharing our successes with others as about appealing as appearing in public in our undies!
Here’s the thing. Being good at what you do isn’t good enough. You need to learn how to be visible too. It took me a long time to realise this (and yes, it’s true for men too).
If you’re working your fingers to the bone, hoping that one day the boss will look up and realise that you’re the answer to all her problems, you may be mistaken.
I know, because this happened to me.
Words and phrases like ‘stalwart’, ‘conscientious’, ‘reliable’ and ‘part of the furniture’ have been applied to me over the years, particularly in my role as a teacher and middle manager in a large school based in Asia. At the time, being flattered by them, I enjoyed the feeling that I was an integral part of the wider team and a respected team leader.
I was the one that people bought their last-minute requests to. I was the one that people came to for a shoulder to cry on. I was the one that could be relied on to do the leg work for projects.
Until I noticed that my fellow team leaders were getting the really exciting work, like organising international conferences and representing the school at high-profile receptions.
While I was busy running weekly team-meetings and organising the annual book week, one of my colleagues was busy actually talking to the authors I was referring to, and bringing my event to the notice of other international schools in the area.
At the time, I was bewildered. I worked hard, I was good at my job, so what was going wrong?
Fast forward 12 years and it’s all crystal clear to me now.
Visibility matters. You can’t leave your career to chance – whether you work for yourself or someone else.
If you’re an ambitious woman, then you need to learn how to be ‘seen’ by the people that matter if you want to make significant progress in your career. Hard work and diligence will only get you so far – for the rest of your journey, you’ll need some smart strategies for being noticed.
But how do you actually do this? Here are my five top tips:
1. Decide what you want.
Set yourself a goal and commit to achieving it. Where would you like to be in a year’s time? What role would you love to have? In relation to this role, or goal, what is it that other people don’t know about you? What do you need to show them in terms of skills, attitudes and talent?
Set about showcasing this talent – see point number 2.
2. Know your network and keep in touch.
Once you know what you want, and what you need to demonstrate to help you achieve your goal, you’ll need to know who to share this news with!
Understand who is in your network – a simple spider diagram on a large piece of paper will help you plot out who’s who. Who do you need to be speaking to? Make contact with them – follow up after meetings, invite them for a coffee, or send them a paper or article that might help them with their latest project. Be visible. Pick up the phone.
3. Volunteer for the right projects.
Volunteering for projects is a great idea – but make sure they’re ones that are going to raise your visibility and work in your favour. Organising book week was a lovely thing to do, but in terms of raising my profile, it was a non starter. Once I became self employed, however, accepting the chairperson’s role in my networking group was a much better move. It showcased my presentation and leadership skills on a weekly basis.
4. Give praise and thanks.
Apart from the fact that this a great practice anyway, making a point of thanking a colleague, manager or client will make you stand out. Be sincere and make it personal – state why their recent presentation/ report/feedback has been so helpful and what difference it’s made to you.
After a meeting, email your thanks and comments to someone who’s radar you want to be on. Or better still, drop by their office or desk and tell them.
I was once told that my positivity and smile every morning really helped a colleague and brightened their day. It felt great to be on the receiving end of the comment and from that point onwards I felt that I had connected with that colleague on a deeper level.
5. Ask for feedback.
I think this is one of the best ways of getting noticed “…because when you ask for feedback, you not only find out how others see you, you also influence how they see you. Soliciting constructive criticism communicates humility, respect, passion for excellence, and confidence, all in one go.” (Harvard Business Review, January/February 2014).
I don’t need to add much more except to say pick a few people whose opinions you trust and who you know have your best interests at heart. Ask them for well-timed feedback on major projects – you don’t need to make constant requests or you’ll risk seeming unsure about yourself.