Let Your Light Shine
by by Joan Lloyd
"It's not what you know but who you know that counts." When you don't get the promotion or job you wanted, it's tempting to evoke that old line to salve your wounded ego. Although politics sometimes does play a part in who gets the best pieces of the corporate pie, it's my experience that it's not as political as some cynics believe.
In fact, at a seminar I presented last week, I suggested this twist: "It's not only what you know but who you know, as well as who knows you." Do you believe that if you sit with your nose to the grindstone long enough, you will be noticed and rewarded? Forget it. Without visibility, others will trample you on their way to the pie.
This is the first time in history that skills and abilities are starting to rank higher than experience in corporate America. Seniority means very little. Years of experience in your field don't hold the weight they once did. If someone is smarter or more skillful than you can do the job better, you are likely to be passed over. Is this fair? It depends on who you ask. In this flatter, faster environment it seems logical that the people who get results should get the rewards — regardless of age, length of service or experience.
But what about the experienced workers who are the backbone of the organization? Many of them have been too quiet for their own good. And it's going to bite them in the butt. If this describes you, it's time to do something about it. You may know a lot and do a lot, but if no one knows it, you have a serious visibility problem.
Let's take a lesson from some of the people who are forced to get visibility for themselves: namely, job seekers and entrepreneurs. They know if they don't get the word out, they're toast. So let's examine how they do it:
- Successful job seekers make sure the right people see their credentials. They aren't shy about talking about their accomplishments. They network constantly, always looking for an opportunity to match their skills with a new opportunity. This is exactly what you should be doing on a regular basis. Are you lunching with the same bunch of cronies every day? Why not make a list of people in other departments who should know you and your work. Find ways to get to know them. Send them an article they might be interested in, ask them to lunch or offer your services on a pet project they lead.
- Successful job seekers and entrepreneurs know how to tell their story. Many don't even realize that they are using a tried and true format: the CAR story. CAR stands of Challenge, Approach, Results. For example, if they are having lunch with a prospect, they will find a way to insert a mini-story about some challenge they faced, the approach they took and the results they achieved. It's the language of results — a language that will open the doors of opportunity.
- Successful entrepreneurs get work by word of mouth. By doing good work for their customers, they get referred to other people. Have you been in the same department for eons? One of the best ways to get more visibility is to move around in your organization. Why not take some lateral positions and build your skill set? Before you know it, you'll be a sought after problem solver because you will have rich experience. Not only will you add value; you will be much more valuable.
- Entrepreneurs try to get to decision-makers, so they are top-of-mind when the decision-maker needs their services. Do decision-makers - other than your manager — know about your good work? Have you volunteered for task forces or special committees to work on specific problems? Have you taken a leadership role within your own department? You can't sit around and complain about not getting ahead, if you don't do anything to get noticed by people in a position to promote you.
- Job seekers have resumes and entrepreneurs have brochures. Their purpose is to tell the story of accomplishments on paper. What tangible evidence do you send decision-makers about your record of results? Are you forwarding complimentary letters and e-mails to the appropriate people? Are you sending information out about projects you're working on? Of course, you don't want to be so self-promoting it turns people off, but I suspect you are more modest than you should be.
Getting visibility for yourself isn't the same as bragging. If you still think it is, you'd better go back to that old grindstone. Your career is your responsibility. Create your own job security by acting more like an entrepreneur at work. Learn how to "sell" your skills to your organization, add more value on the job, Take charge of your career, today!
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Joan Lloyd has a solid track record of excellent results. Her firm, Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding. This includes executive coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, customized leadership training, team assessment/teambuilding and retreat facilitation. Her line of management, career and job hunting tools (booklets, audios, CD & video) are available on her website. Email Joan if you have a question you would like considered for publication. Visit her website, www.JoanLloyd.com, to search her archive of more than 1100 articles, by keyword or category.