It happened again: While you were plugging away at yet another project, Mindy from down the hall was promoted -- just like Aaron was four weeks ago and Susan six months before that. You know your work is top-notch, so why aren't you climbing the ranks like your colleagues?
If you possess similar skills and experience as your co-workers, you may have been passed over simply because they do more than you do to get noticed. Today, it's not enough to be a hard worker to move forward in your career; your boss has to perceive you to be a dedicated, top performer, too. You may think your accomplishments speak for themselves, but sometimes, you have to do a little "personal PR" in order to gain recognition and reach your career goals. By developing targeted career management and communication strategies, you can earn your supervisor's stamp of approval -- and more importantly, position yourself to assume his or her job should he or she decide to move on.
Here are some tips to raise your visibility:
1. Conduct a self-assessment. Before you look for ways to promote yourself, take an honest look at your professional abilities. Do you have the requisite skills to assume a higher role? If so, what steps have you taken to build your knowledge base and keep current on industry trends? You may discover there are certain areas, such as time management or delegation, that you must develop before pursuing a management position. Alternately, you may realize you don't want a leadership role at all.
2. Step up to the challenge. Volunteer for new assignments, even those considered unpleasant or risky. Sometimes these offer the best opportunities to showcase your abilities. Perhaps your supervisor just requested help with an important initiative -- quickly compiling research on your company's key competitor, for example -- and no one is willing to take charge. This is an excellent chance for you to demonstrate your leadership ability and secure a solid platform for your ideas. Assuming tasks that fall outside your typical workload, especially during critical times, also can earn you recognition from those who might otherwise overlook your day-to-day contributions.
3. Assert yourself. Show your enthusiasm and interest in the company by actively participating in office discussions. Before you attend meetings, review the agenda and prepare a few points of interest on the topics at hand. While you don't want to talk just to hear yourself speak, do not hesitate to share your ideas when you have something valuable to add. Also look for opportunities to present on topics. You might, for example, volunteer to serve as a trainer during new-hire orientations, providing an overview of your department and how others in the organization can work with your group effectively.
4. Exercise your bragging rights. You may have heard the phrase, "It's not what you know but who you know that matters." Well, in many cases, the most important factor is who knows you. Imagine that the executives in your company are having a meeting to decide who will work on an exciting new project. Would anyone in the room mention your name? Do any of the key people know who you are and what you've accomplished? If not, you've got some self-promoting to do. Getting onto someone's radar screen can be difficult or nerve-racking, so take small steps. For example, e-mail a weekly status report to your boss, detailing major accomplishments and upcoming projects. Or volunteer to send your team's update memos to the department director or present your group's milestones at the annual business-planning meeting.
5. Accept credit graciously. When someone compliments you for doing an outstanding job on a project, how do you react? If you typically shrug it off and say, "It was nothing," you may be leaving the door open for someone else to steal your thunder. A much better response would be, "Thank you. I'm really glad my hard work paid off." You may even want to describe next steps, if appropriate, to underscore your commitment to the initiative's success. Just be careful about accepting credit that's not yours -- it's a surefire way to create tension among your co-workers.
6. Shoot the breeze. Do not underestimate the importance of attending company gatherings, such as annual barbecues or holiday parties. But do more than make an appearance. Take time to talk with people throughout the company -- not just those with whom you are already pals -- and participate in special activities such as fund-raisers and sports leagues. Through these informal events, you can develop camaraderie with other employees and make valuable new contacts within the organization. Working hard will always be critical to your career success, but you will never achieve your full potential unless others are aware of your expertise and accomplishments. In addition to maintaining your strong work ethic, consider pulling a few of the "personal publicity stunts" mentioned above, and you may soon find yourself celebrating your own promotion.
Robert Half International Inc. is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 350 offices throughout North America, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. For more information about our professional services, please visit www.rhi.com.
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