We’re often told that the key to getting ahead in your career is to keep your head down and work hard. However, if you look around, most everyone in your office is a well-qualified, skilled person who’s working relentlessly to get to the next level.
So how do you stand apart and get noticed?
Today, it’s not only important to be good at what you do, but also to become visible to the right people in the right way. That doesn’t mean sucking up to your boss, though. The key is to position yourself as an expert so that you’re looped into all the important events and activities in your organization, and your opinion is sought after by the top people in your company. It’s about being relevant, creating value for your company and proactively communicating to others in your organization.
If you want to get your dream promotion (and many more after that), here are six things you should do regularly.
1. Pick a Skill and Become an Expert
Evaluate yourself thoroughly. Make a list of all the things you’re passionate about as well as really good at. Ask yourself,
- What do you like doing at work? Do you like managing people? Or do you like working with tools and data?
- What roles have you excelled in? Are you good at building teams? Or are you good at technical stuff like designing tools and processes?
- What kinds of projects get you excited?
Sometimes, you may find that you excel in several areas. For example, you may be great with people as well as tools. You may love designing marketing campaigns, as well as hiring people.
The key is to pick one area that you’re good at, interested in and provides value to your company. This will be the skill that will help define your brand at your workplace.
Once you’ve defined the skill that you want to become an expert in, you can use it to build your personal brand around it. For example, if you like marketing, then aim to become the marketing guru in your organization.
However, it’s important to understand the difference between proficiency and expertise. Most people become proficient but are unable to become experts. Being proficient means being really good at a particular subject are — it’s about self-improvement. Being an expert means sharing your knowledge with others in the organization and helping people solve problems — it’s about helping others.
2. Build Relationships With the Right People
The next step is to connect with the business leaders in your organization who are relevant to your field of interest and can help you grow professionally. For example, if you want to become a marketing thought leader, you need to reach out to the VP of marketing, or the CMO. It won’t be productive if you network with the CTO or IT head of your company instead.
Ask them if you can get 15-30 minutes on their calendar to meet them and learn more about their work. In these meetings, briefly talk about your background, achievements and ambitions. Also, offer to help them with any of their projects.
Don’t feel shy or awkward. The senior leaders are always working on new initiatives to drive their organization in new directions, so they’re often looking for ambitious people who are eager to contribute. Just be sure to give your boss a heads-up about these conversations, so he/she doesn’t feel blindsided.
Once, I volunteered to help out a VP, who was short-staffed, do some number crunching and create presentations, as I felt it would be a good learning experience. To my surprise, he was kind enough to recommend me to other project managers as well as write me a favorable review that helped me get promoted.
3. Look Out for Extra Projects
Always keep an eye out for projects that will help improve your skills and give you good visibility. These are projects that can bring about a big change in your company through process improvement, cost-saving, revenue growth or better technology.
For example, when my organization was evaluating various BI solutions to upgrade their technology, I chipped in, as I was using their existing platform and had a few ideas on how to improve it. The project lasted for a year, and I got looped into every email and meeting about the initiative. Eventually, I got appointed as a technology advisor on many future projects, which only boosted my visibility.
You can also come up with your own idea and pitch it as a new project or initiative. For example, if you find that your company lags in online marketing, then research how other companies are leveraging content or building social media awareness and present your ideas about how you think your company can do it better.
Just ensure that you’re focusing on only one area. This way, it won’t disrupt your present work. For example, if you’re a marketing manager, pick projects that are related to marketing — something you’re good at. If you take on, say, finance-related projects, you’ll find it difficult to not only add value but also manage different kinds of work at one time.
4. Set Growth Objectives and Broadcast Them
Whether you’re leading a team or working for a senior leader, set clear, achievable goals for your share of the work. For example, if you’re working on a marketing campaign, you might want to set a goal to grow your customers by 15 percent in two months.
The key is to set a quantifiable objective that you can aim for, and measure your progress against.
Once you’ve set an objective, broadcast it to everyone — your team, peers and managers. Use it in your business communications such as project documents, proposals, presentations, emails and face-to-face conversations and phone calls.
Why is this important? Well, when your team completes the project, you’ll come to be known by this accomplishment — as the person who grew customers by 15 percent, or who increased revenue by 12 percent or reduced cost by $X million. And having a strong, quantifiable stat to tie your achievements back to is a clear way to demonstrate your value.
5. Loop ‘Em In
You don’t have to go it alone. Ensure that you regularly communicate to your senior leaders what you’re up to, how much progress you’ve made and what challenges you’re facing. Let them know via email, phone or even collaboration tools like Slack.
Whenever you reach a milestone, let people know about it. If you hit a roadblock, reach out to others for advice.
This has several advantages: If you’re going the wrong way, they can give you a heads up. Also, they can share their experience with you, tell you about best practices and provide useful tips.
6. Take Credit Graciously
People often feel shy talking about their work — some even see it as bragging. However, to be a successful leader, it’s essential to graciously take credit for your work.
For example, when you complete a project, prepare a summary deck that reviews the key accomplishments, learnings and areas for improvement. Also, create a checklist to help others quickly execute similar projects in the future. Share these documents across your organization through various communication channels such as email, Slack groups, company blogs and intranet forums.
The path to your promotion is in your control. Aim to become an expert in any one area of your business, and proactively communicate your expertise to others. Reach out to people in your field of interest, look for ways to add value to their work and finally, speak about it.
For more than eight years, Sreeram Sreenivasan has worked with various Fortune 500 Companies in areas of Business Intelligence and Sales & Marketing Strategy. He regularly writes at Fedingo about a wide range of business growth & marketing topics. He’s also the Founder & CEO of Ubiq BI, a cloud-based BI Platform for SMBs & Enterprises.