As a career coach, I spend a lot of time training my clients on the importance of visibility. This is particularly true because I primarily work with administrative professionals—those hard working men and women (mostly women, in fact) who are often considered the “invisible heroes” of the workplace. They hold a variety of different titles including office manager, executive assistant, administrative coordinator, or office operations coordinator. However, regardless of position, professionals in these roles all tend to have one thing in common: They are usually most comfortable working behind the scenes in a supporting role.
Of course, as we all know, comfort is overrated, especially when it comes to career success. It may be uncomfortable, but success requires making yourself visible and vocally advocating for what you want and deserve.
If you struggle with these things, have no fear. You’re not alone, and this is my specialty. By leveraging just a few simple strategies, you can position yourself as a valuable professional worthy of whatever “career success” means to you—be it a raise, a promotion, or simply more opportunities and recognition.
Why highlighting your accomplishments is necessary
Some people are very resistant to the idea of turning the spotlight on themselves. They were taught to be humble and to let actions speak louder than words. These are noble philosophies, but in the modern workplace, they do little to serve you.
Here’s the tough reality (brace yourself; it’s not pretty):
- People are busy. Everyone in the office is pulled in a million different directions. Few of your colleagues are paying attention to what you do unless it directly impacts them, and those who are paying attention will quickly forget.
- Your contributions may appear easy or insignificant from the outside looking in. Few people on your team, if any, will have a clue what you do all day, and even fewer will understand what it takes to complete the tasks on your to-do list. As a result, they may minimize the time, effort, and skills you invest in your work.
- When it comes to perceptions about you and your work, people will follow your lead. If you downplay what you do and act self-deprecating, they will adjust their perceptions to match.
Here is one more fact: Your contributions are valuable. The most direct strategy to counter the stark reality of the workplace is by taking personal responsibility for helping others understand that.
Track your accomplishments
The first step toward increasing your visibility and becoming an effective advocate for yourself is to begin tracking your accomplishments on a regular basis. I recommend doing this once a month at a minimum.
The purpose of tracking is multifold:
- Seeing your achievements in black and white, on paper, helps to remind you that your work is, indeed, valuable.
- Regularly taking note of your accomplishments keeps them top-of-mind, so you’re never at a loss when someone asks what you’ve been up to at work.
- Writing these things down ensures you’re capturing important details you will most likely forget about later.
Track what you worked on, the specific actions you took, and the results of your efforts. If possible, try to cite quantifiable measurements—dollars earned, time saved, or percentage improved.
Freely share the impact of your work
To get comfortable talking about your contributions, focus on the impact. This is what people really care about. Think of it this way: You and your colleagues are all invested in creating a successful organization, so you can feel confident discussing what you’ve done to help contribute to that shared goal. You’re not bragging about how great you are; you’re simply sharing objective evidence of your value to the team.
Keep the following tips in mind as you do this:
- Enthusiasm is attractive. As you share your accomplishments with others, don’t be afraid to express your genuine excitement about what you do.
- Make sure your timing is appropriate. There are certain occasions where sharing your accomplishments is expected—performance reviews, career conversations, and other more casual business interactions such as networking or office happy hours. Be careful not to hijack conversations and meetings that have other purposes.
- Use your emotional intelligence to gauge how you are being received. If people are not receptive to what you are sharing, reconsider your approach.
Learning to freely discuss the value of your work will help elevate how you are viewed, so they aren’t creating their own, potentially inaccurate, ideas of what you do.
Ask for what you want and deserve
Of course, however you define it, career growth isn’t just handed out. It’s something you have to ask for. But that’s not enough; you also have to demonstrate that it’s deserved. Whether you’re looking for a raise, a promotion, or something else entirely, your accomplishments are what prove you’ve earned it.
All too often, people believe they are entitled to some kind of reward or recognition simply because of their tenure, their colleague received one, they need extra money because their car broke down, or want a promotion because they haven’t had one in a while. These are not compelling reasons for an employer to recognize you.
The only true reason you deserve anything in your career is because of the positive, tangible impact you have on your team and organization. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been there for 10 years while your co-worker has been there for 2—it only matters if that 10 years of institutional knowledge allows you to deliver significantly more value than the person with 2 years. Likewise, it doesn’t matter if you have a fancy certification that no one else has; it only matters if that education enables you to deliver more value to your team and organization.
So, when asking for what you want, always provide the right kind of evidence for why it’s deserved. Cite your accomplishments and the specific, measurable impact they had on organizational success.
Continue to enhance your value
Finally, to continue raising your visibility, always be on the lookout for ways to enhance the value you deliver:
- Take on tough projects that no one else wants to touch
- Volunteer to assist others
- Get involved in organizational activities that are outside of your normal, day-to-day job
- Look for ways to further utilize your existing skills and develop new ones
- Identify and implement solutions for the persistent problems everyone else just works around
The more you contribute to the success of your team and organization, the more people will take notice of you—and the more leverage you will have to advocate for what you want. Remember: Your career is like a living thing. In the shadows, it will wither away and die. In the sunlight, it will flourish and grow. Push yourself to step out of the shadows and step into success.
Photography by Mel Walbridge