As a professional speaker, it’s not uncommon to review presentation notes or nap on a 6 am, 5-hour flight to the east coast. So recently, when I woke up to witness my male seatmate peering over my tray table and reading my women’s career leadership notes, I was not surprised. Yet, his actions laid the groundwork to engage in a friendly, honest conversation; and a few minutes later, three truths that can make or break your became the inspiration for this article.
Turns out my seatmate, Hiro, lost a promotion to an individual with, not only less time at the company, but also fewer skills and industry knowledge. Why did Hiro believe this man was chosen? He excelled at showing up and speaking up, especially about his own accomplishments.
“Your notation ‘why you must express your success’ is what first caught my eye,” explained Hiro. “You see, my father taught me humility, and I find talking about myself or my strengths uncomfortable. I also work hard and thought that was enough to be rewarded, but I’ve noticed the people who socialize with my supervisor seem to get ahead. I have a family to feed, want to excel in my company, and realize I need to change. So, your advice is not just for women!” Humble Hiro is accurate. To advance your career, everyone should follow these truths:
Truth #1: You must be visible. Visibility creates both memorability and credibility. Let’s face it. Staying top of mind to individuals who can move your career forward takes effort. Showing up may make you memorable, but when you add value, you become credible. It’s one thing to attend an event, but it’s another thing to participate fully. Play to your strengths to get noticed. If you’re a natural at presentations, volunteer to speak. More of an introvert? Study the attendee list, do your homework, and act as a matchmaker through powerful introductions.
Truth #2: Express your success. You must self-promote. However, you don’t have to be a blow-hard to blow your own horn. In today’s environment, you can no longer keep your nose to the grindstone hoping your work will speak for itself. Everyone is too busy with their own responsibilities to know your goals, or which projects you spearhead without your input. Catalyst research continues to show that self-promotion is no longer a choice, but a requirement to move forward in today’s work world.
Express your success by keeping the bottom line on top of your mind. Where have you increased income, value, or service recently? Perhaps you decreased expenses or solved a challenge? State this information to your supervisor in the form of here’s what I did, here’s the results, and here’s how it affected the customer, client, company or bottom line. For example, “Solidified schedule with the project team specific to the Johnson deliverable. Given we’re ahead of schedule by 13 days, we can anticipate delivery almost two weeks earlier than scheduled which should save us about 2K in expenses.”
Truth #3: Make connections count — especially with your supervisor — to build likability and trust. When you’re task rich and time poor, you look for ways to avoid meetings, events, or happy hours. Take Ann, for example, an in-house corporate counsel who said no for two years running when it came to the corporate golf outing. Why give up a precious Saturday with her family to link up with co-workers she saw daily? Sure, visibility again, but how about likability?
Ann noted how the CEO seemed to favor her male counterpart when discussing liability concerns based on his proposed direction. When she spoke up, she felt like a buzzkill librarian given the CEO’s smirks and lack of feedback. Yet, when her counterpart spoke, the CEO literally said, “Thanks for having my back.” After a longer conversation with Ann, turns out she spent little, if any time, connecting with the CEO on a personal level out of being respectful of their time.
All the respect in the world doesn’t matter if someone doesn’t feel like they know you, like you, and can trust you. Connection is personal. It’s emotional. Before you get frustrated with having to play office politics, remind yourself this is just human nature. People gravitate towards those they know, like, and trust.
Ann decided to show up at the next golf outing, and ironically was partnered with the CEO. When I followed up, she mentioned by the third hole, their entire relationship dynamics changed. Both had a chance to learn more about each other’s families, discover their shared love of pizza with anchovies, and Ann even took advantage of the time to highlight her latest accomplishments. A few weeks later when everyone was pulling a late night, Ann ordered up their favorite pizza to share which didn’t go unnoticed.
Isn’t it time you reap the rewards you deserve? Apply these three truths to get off the ground and watch your career soar!