Putting the extra yards in at work doesn’t always translate to instant rewards and recognition. As Gillian Fox writes, you need to make your value known in order in order to land a promotion, or move on to the next big thing. Below, she suggests breaking some habits, and using your time effectively to showcase your skills.
It’s easy to believe there are only two options for showcasing your value a work.
Firstly, you can ignore the idea completely and keep working incredibly hard, hoping that this alone will pay off in the long run.
Or, you can sing it from the rooftops and become that despised self-promoter.
There is however, a third lesser known option where your value is not only visible but your capabilities are comfortably on display, AND you don’t have to compromise your integrity. Curious?
Early on in our careers, it seems straightforward: to get the rewards you desire, you work hard, get great results and the rest follows. Getting initial and secondary promotions is not that difficult. As a newbie in the workforce there is generally more structure, and people who will look out for you. They are attentive to your development needs and you’re rewarded for your hard work.
The unspoken shift
But then everything shifts and no one tells you what’s happening.
The formula of hard work and results doesn’t automatically equate to recognition. People are slower to acknowledge your contribution. You acquire new and often demanding stakeholders who are hard to work for. There are management changes and suddenly you’re finding yourself in a bureaucratic minefield without the skills to navigate it properly. The environment can feel more political than ever and all the while you find yourself working harder than ever before – as this is all you know.
When this shift happens, the results you are producing don’t translate directly to reward and recognition. It can feel more like you are running for public office, than advancing your career!
Intellectually and rationally, you may understand the idea that you’ve ‘progressed’ to a more competitive environment, but there’s no understanding as to how to cut through and get noticed.
And unfortunately, there is no one simple solution.
But there are certain mechanisms and new ways of thinking to trial.
The big question for many women is, “how do I make your my value visible when the idea of self-promoting and bringing attention to my achievements in an overt way is uncomfortable?”
In order to expand your visibility and ensure you’re poised for the recognition you deserve, there are three things you could be doing:
1. Step away from your desk and into shared spaces
Remember this good old productivity idiom, “put your head down and tail up and you will make it happen.” The problem with this for the dedicated career woman, is that it normally translates to being glued to your desk and operating in a microcosm as you pump out work.
When consumed with work, your view of the world is limited, biased and myopic. While working at this intensity and barely moving from the one spot, it’s almost impossible to notice other things happening in the business environment. This could mean missing out on conversations that impact future decisions, critical market intelligence and shifts in the political landscapes.
It gets worse. While you’re rooted to your seat, or stuck in a cubicle, no-one is seeing you! You want to be noticed, yet your lack of physical visibility means you’re not even on the radar.
Finding reasons to step away from your desk – even just to make a cup of tea – will make a huge difference. Who will you see? What will you hear and observe? Who will connect with you?! This a small but important way of making you and your value more visible.
2. Lead with cutting-edge business and industry knowledge
Imagine you’re waiting for the lift very early one work morning. You are unexpectedly joined by one of the MDs. This is someone you’d like to cultivate a relationship with, a possible future sponsor or advocate in your workplace, if you were able to get more access to them. There are no real ongoing business dealings where you can interact with them regularly, so the conversations are far and few between. It is the rare and awkward scenarios like this one that you need to depend on.
What do you say? Does the conversation follow the shallow small talk that will end up being incredibly unforgettable for the MD? Will you have the same conversation with them in three months without even a hint of recognition?
This is an opportunity to make your value visible. The catch is you need to be equipped with something intelligent to say! Set yourself apart by displaying your business and industry knowledge. Hit them up with a good question or share something you recently read. This doesn’t mean giving up your day job to read and research. 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 get known for good quality conversations so you can pitch yourself higher and command respect. This is guaranteed to lead to more.
3. Utilise informal networking to seek out high-profile projects
Consider this – if you took just 5% of your time every week to network and spend more time on important existing relationships and to observe the workplace around you, what would you learn?
You would certainly have a better idea of who the key decisions makers are and where the best next “stretch” or extensive projects might be. The sort of projects where your key skills are likely to be observed and recognised. Just like that you would have achieved some initial influencing and scored a part in stretch assignments.
Based on a 50 hour week, 2.5 hours of networking with influencers each week could change your career. Taking the time to develop great relationships and understand and respond to new opportunities will always give you a competitive edge. Not only are stretch assignments a great way of showcasing your capabilities, but you will get smarter working alongside ambitious people.
Gillian Fox is currently running the Women’s Career Advancement Program for intensive career and leadership training (launches May 17), which includes lessons how to make your value visible and equip yourself with knowledge and good quality conversation to harness opportunities as they come up.