Career Development, Career Path, Growth, Visibility, Success, Workplace, Company Culture, Jobs, Strategy.
Partner, Jackson, Etti & Edu.
Visibility is basically...The state of being able to see or be seen.
When we think about visibility in relation to our work, many female professionals become uncomfortable at the thought of self promotion and would rather fade into the background or adopt a more passive role. Research has however shown that being visible is an important ingredient for career progression and there are indeed a number of ways that you can become more visible, even if you are not naturally outgoing. Often times we wonder the reason certain people are repeatedly called upon for prominent roles or interesting assignments at work; whilst those who may be more sound technically, rarely get the opportunity. Take it from me, these people have mastered the art of being visibly and have positioned themselves expertly to be contenders when the opportunity arises. So if you are really interested in achieving meaningful growth in your career, you must pay attention to this age long phenomenon.
Visibility is even more important today, than it was in the past, particularly with the continued evolution of the legal profession, as well as the explosion of the internet and the virtual world. In this new environment, merely being good at your job or being hard working, is no longer the standard to guarantee the career progression that you desire, as a female professional. If key people within your organisation are not aware of who you are, or your capabilities, you will find it increasingly harder to climb the career ladder and will definitely miss out on opportunities when they arise.
In addition, experience has shown that you can’t always rely on others, like your direct boss, or line manager to increase your visibility for you and you must figure out a way to increase your visibility in the workplace, irrespective of whether or not it comes to you naturally. This will ensure that you'll be "in the running" for opportunities when they arise and is particularly important if you work remotely, because people might forget about you if they don't often see you physically in the office.
An internal promotion opportunity recently came up in Sarah’s company - one of the top banking institutions in the country. The job matched her skills perfectly so she was utterly shocked when she didn’t get shortlisted for the interview. This was particularly frustrating when she learnt that the successful candidate was less experienced than she was.
When Sarah asked her direct boss why she hadn’t been considered for the role, he told her that although he had put her name forward, the selection panel said that they didn’t know who she was and he was unable to convince them that she was a good fit for the position.
Sarah’s story is unfortunately very familiar to us all and has become the rule for many female professionals rather than the exception. Whether you are at the start, mid level, or even a senior level in your career, we can all at one time or the other identify with Sarah’s story.
The truth today is that it doesn’t matter how good you are at your job, if key people within your organisation don’t know who you are, then it will be very hard for you to climb up the career ladder. It’s those who get noticed that actually get the best assignments, while those who keep their heads down and actively prefer anonymity that always miss out despite their hard work. In my over 30 years career, I’ve come to discover that it’s better for someone to have a positive or even negative opinion of you, than to have no opinion of you at all. Once you reach a certain level within your organisation, lack of visibility will hold you back, whilst leadership & visibility skills will actually play a more important role in promotion than job skills.
Impact of Visibility
There are many benefits to increasing your visibility in the workplace and so it’s really important that you pay attention to it. Apart from the obvious ones mentioned in the introduction above, visibility leads to more opportunities for the recipient. This invariably creates an unending loop that almost runs on auto pilot. The more visible you are, the more opportunities that will come your way; the more opportunities you have, the more visible you become. I like to say that visibility makes you an opportunity magnet.
Apart from that, visibility creates opportunities that improve your skill set or capabilities and makes you more experienced. Just like an athlete who practices his craft repeatedly in form of training, so it is with a visible employee. You get to practice your craft repeatedly and you master the art and invariably become an expert.
You also get to be known, not only within your organisation and by people who may be responsible for your career progression, but also externally, such that you create a niche for yourself and become recognised as an industry expert. This however requires some level of intentionality on your part as well as personal branding. This external visibility also results in multiple career growth opportunities that may even result in a change in jobs entirely. The key is that it opens you up to opportunities that may otherwise not have been open to you.
Being visible enables you to display your talent and demonstrate your value across the organisation. You may become the go to person for certain tasks which can only enhance your profile.
Finally, your visibility will invariably be of benefit to your direct line manager and your entire team, such that they become invested in your progress and the only way left to go, is up.
Women & Limiting beliefs
One of the main reasons women shy away from being visible at work or taking the necessary actions that will put us in the limelight are the limiting beliefs that we often saddle ourselves with. There are quite a few of them, but I’ll just mention these ones.
I don’t want to brag
It’s immodest to self promote
Conditioned not to blow your own trumpet
Your line manager knows and has your back
You’re great at your job, so visibility doesn’t matter
The world is fair
What is your is yours
Lack of confidence & low self esteem
Second guessing self
Am I really good enough
The place of Personal Branding
Personal Branding is the practice of marketing people and their careers as if they are brands. In the context of creating visibility in the workplace, it merely means that you are very intentional about how people perceive who you are or what you stand for, and what you have to offer, both internally and externally.
When speaking about personal branding, I alway like this quote by Jeff Bezos, which says that “Your Brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room”. Imagine for a second that top management is drawing up a list of staff to be laid off in an organisation… Can you be sure that your name will not be on that list? What will people actually say about you when you are not in the room to defend yourself. Consider the fact that from research, 96% of people seeking legal advice use a search engine to find, whilst 74% visit a law firm website. 80% of lawyers with personal blogs attract more work than those who don’t. When an internet search is conducted on your name, what if anything will be found?
Personal Branding sets you apart from the crowd and makes you more visible for opportunities when they arise.
I promise to do a more detailed article on personal branding in a separate post, but in the meantime, take note of the following tools which have been ranked the highest in achieving the greatest impact when developing a personal brand:-
Becoming the author of a book
Speaking engagements on expertise area
Giving a keynote address
Your bio page on the company website
Developing a blog,
Producing thought leadership
Writing srticles/regular column publication, both electronic and physical
Creating a personal website
Using digital media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram & Facebook
Tips to Become More Visible
Here are my Top 10 tips for becoming more visible in the workplace.
Network & connect both laterally and vertically. Your peers, your bosses and your subordinates all have a vital role to play in your visibility plan as well as your ultimate career growth plan, so don’t overlook them. Also remember that your networking activities must be done both Internally, within your organisation as well as Externally.
Work across teams or departments in your organisation and don’t restrict yourself to only your own department. This will ensure that everyone gets to know who you are and will form an opinion about you…hopefully a positive opinion.
Always contribute in meetings. You may want to review the meeting agenda before hand and pre-set questions to ask. Your body language during meetings is also very important as you can unconsciously give out negative cues unintentionally.
Create a niche & become an expert on something specific, within your organisation, such that you become invaluable as well as the go to person on that subject.
Take on firm-wide responsibilities. Make yourself available for roles that cut across the entire organisation and not just those within your unit.
Always look for innovative solutions to problems in your organisation. Be a solution provider and not a problem identifier.
Be flexible & mobile. This will enable you take on roles that may take you out of jurisdiction, but provide a stepping stone for you to head up a unit of your own.
Strengthen your relationship with Boss & Make them look good. Never let your Boss feel that you are after their job. Always help them achieve their own goals and help them to shine. Believe me, this will make them invested in your career progress too.
If the opportunities do not come on their own, then be bold and ask for opportunities, especially more high profile work. Managers are not only looking for the most competent person, but for those who have indicated interest.
Always volunteer to represent your team and commend other team members when the situation calls for it.
Your appearance matters. Dress for the role that you want and not the role that you currently have. Let there be something special about your appearance that sets you apart from the crowd and makes you stand out. Be well groomed at all times.
The corporate environment has certainly change and it’s no longer a level playing ground. It’s therefore important that we arm ourselves with the proper tools that will ensure you receive appropriate recognition for your hard work & contributions to the organisation. Visibility will ensure that you get chosen for the juicy or choice assignments & big briefs, training opportunities or attendance at interesting conferences & meetings.