As women, we often have the tendency to believe that being excellent at our jobs and working extra hard will automatically lead to career achievement. Hard work and skill are only two of the ingredients needed for career success and in fact, they may just be the baseline. A person won’t last long in any job if they can’t perform the basic functions – especially if they’re lazy.
The reality is, to really stand out among our competition, we need to increase our visibility. Seems obvious, but not enough women are doing the things they need to do to become more “seeable”. Just how do we increase our visibility?
(1) Break free from your desk
To start with, you may need to step away from your desk to get noticed. Some of us think that one day we’ll feel a tap on our shoulders and it will be the Company President acknowledging all of our hard and handing us our well-deserved promotion. The odds of this happening are pretty slim. In a sea of cubicles, we need to find ways to stand out. Our work should speak for itself. Good work shows work ethic, but it doesn’t necessarily show who we are. We need to understand that an office is more than a collection of cubicles and offices. It is an organism made up of diverse personalities which you happen to belong to. Create some buzz about who you are by presenting the best parts of yourself to your coworkers.
(2) Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want
I started my very first “real job” as a Benefits Administrator at age 23. I graduated with a business degree two years prior and then travelled for about a year right after graduation. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was learning how to be unapologetic in communicating my desires. I worked for a company that had just merged with a larger subsidiary. In celebration of the merger, the Executive Team had planned a reception in a hotel. As we mingled, a man in a suit approached my group of three colleagues, asked how we were doing and if we needed anything else. My colleagues politely declined, but I said, “I really love those shrimp appetisers. Would you mind bringing some more?” to which he replied, “Let me see what I can do”. Minutes later, he was back with a tray of the shrimp. Shortly afterwards, the same man who brought us the shrimp was on stage welcoming everyone. Either this man had a catering side hustle, or I had just asked the CEO to bring me shrimp. My friends laughed throughout the entire presentation, especially after he said, “I hear the shrimp is amazing!” The lesson I learned from this “mishap” is to never be afraid to ask for what you need/want in that moment. As it turns out, I wanted more than shrimp. I formally introduced myself to the CEO/Waiter and spoke with him in detail about my career aspirations. The following Monday, I received a call from HR telling me that I had been selected for the Work Acceleration programme. It definitely pays to ask the CEO for more shrimp.
(3) Take on Extra Projects
Often times, we choose a career because we are interested in it, we have a passion for it or we’re really good at it. To become skilled, we need to spend the time cultivating that career and moving from generalist to specialist. This strategy makes sense, but most times we find that isn’t the best way to get noticed. Pigeon-holing ourselves in just one job function might end up backfiring. If you want to get noticed by all levels of the organization, volunteer for any project that needs to be done – not just the exciting ones. Broadening our skill-set gives us perspective into the organization as a whole and is also a way to get more training and development (on the company’s dime).
(4) Offer to help your Boss
“Is there anything I can help you with?”
“Are there any tasks I can take off your hands?”
Two simple questions that can give your career instant momentum. I recommend asking your boss these questions first thing on Monday morning. One caveat. Don’t expect to be given anything glamorous or even interesting. If your boss takes you up on this offer (the likelihood is very high), be prepared for tasks such as filing or making phone calls. Grunt work may seem like a necessary evil, but in this context, it is much more than that. It’s a way to ease your boss’s workload allowing them to focus on the things that are most pressing. It not only clears the clutter in their physical world, it also clears the clutter in their minds – something they will appreciate you for. When promotion time comes around, the likelihood of your boss remembering you will be much higher than the others who didn’t extend themselves.
If you are serious about advancing your career, it’s time to get out of the shadows and let your light shine by intentionally increasing your visibility.