When I was younger I believed that the quality of my work would speak for itself. I’m not really sure where in my life that I picked up this limiting belief. Maybe it was conditioned into me when I was in school. I actually thought that if I did great work and consistently met my goals that my boss would see how great I was and promote me. Boy was I wrong! During my twenties I watched less qualified people get promoted above me and I couldn’t figure out why. I was pretty shy back then, so I didn’t toot my own horn. When I look back now, I realize that my bosses didn’t know about the great work I was doing because I never said anything.
So how do you start taking responsibility for assuring your work gets noticed? How do you draw attention to what you contribute without feeling like a self-centered jerk? You might start by articulating a vision of where you would like your career to take you so you can give people a frame of reference for what you want in your future. Then prepare yourself to take advantage of any opportunities that come your way that are aligned with your vision.
A great way to help you get clear on your vision is to create an elevator pitch. I can hear your groans at the mere mention of an elevator pitch. They’ve gotten a bad rap lately because they usually come off as fake and scripted. What they are really good at is helping you get focused on your vision. Completing the vision board exercise like we did in February’s meeting will also help bring a lot of clarity to your goals. The most important thing is that it is a concise summary of what you do now, what you want to do in the future, and why you believe that you are the best person to do it. It needs to be an authentic statement of what you desire to do. And that it’s as brief as you can possibly make it. No background, no extra details, no explanations, justifications, ifs, or hedges. You want to keep it as short and clear and strong as you can. A crystal clear sense of what you’re trying to do and why you are motivated to do it not only enables you to speak your truth powerfully and concisely, it also helps you clarify which opportunities you want to embrace and which you should let go of. You simply ask yourself, would doing this help me reach my larger goal? If so, you might want to say yes. If not, you have a solid reason for saying no.
Having a clear, concise statement ready to deliver at any moment —one that not only says what you do now but emphasizes what you want to do in the future and why you’re qualified to do it—gives you a huge advantage in terms of visibility and positioning. It sets you apart from the pack and enables you to make the case for yourself at the highest level when the chance presents itself. Being prepared for chance encounters can really help your career. 1
So now that you have your elevator pitch and vision board, how do they help you promote yourself to the higher ups in your company? There are several ways.
Take advantage of chance encounters. Say you just listened to a town hall meeting where the CEO talked about the company’s strategy. One of the “points of pain” in his presentation happens to be a topic that you have been researching on your own. It is a topic that you know well since you came across that same issue on XXXX project. After the meeting you have a few ideas that pop into your head about how your research ties into his presentation and can help the company move towards a solution for the problem. Later you see him in the coffee room. Say hi and introduce yourself if he doesn’t know you well. Bring up his presentation about the strategy and tell him that you have been researching that subject and have a few ideas that might help him. Mention the work that you have been doing on XXXX project and the positive results you have been getting from customers.
Let your boss know. Another scenario could be where you are in a one on one meeting with your supervisor and he/she starts talking about the new projects coming down the pike. Immediately one of the projects spikes your interest and happens to match up with what you want to do. It also coincides with one of your goals on your development plan (IDP). Let your boss know that you want to work on that project and why you would be the best one for it.
Use LinkedIn. One of the easiest ways is to post your statement in the summary of your LinkedIn profile. Let everyone know who you are, what you are good at, and love to do.
In the comments below, let us know what your elevator speech or vision statement says about you. What are you really good at and what do you want to do in the future?
1 How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back from Your Next Raise, Promotion, or Job by Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith, Ch 6