In general, women tend to be less visible than men at work. This lack of prominence is a frequent reason for being passed on for promotions, hindering their ability to reach their full potential.
There are intrinsic as well as extrinsic factors driving this lack of exposure. Intrinsically, women tend to have more limiting beliefs that make them reluctant to put themselves in the spotlight. Research shows that women tend to give their team more credit than their men counterparts do. In addition, women get socialized to believe that it is arrogant to “sing their praises.” This belief sometimes means women go unrecognized for important achievements. Extrinsically, most organizations make it more difficult for women to access influential stakeholders, high-level projects, and get broader exposure.
Visibility is a key component for career advancement, and it is not playing politics. If decision-makers know who you are and your value, you will have more chances of better opportunities. You can increase your impact as a professional and experience more career satisfaction by doing your best work. When you increase your level of exposure, your team also benefits because awareness on your contributions make your team stronger. Do you want to increase your visibility at work?
Here I offer Ten steps to get you going in the path of proactively managing your career:
Let’s review what they mean and how you can implement some of the ideas I offer.
1) VALUE YOURSELF MORE
Many talented women with impressive credentials and tangible accomplishments consider themselves not good enough to aspire for more significant roles. They experience the Imposter Syndrome that keeps them from claiming deserved opportunities. When you know your self-worth, you can effectively articulate it to the organization. Look back at your professional career and notice the many times you solved problems, created solutions, collaborated, and completed meaningful work. Don’t let your inner judge disqualify you. Overcoming your self-defeating tendencies is the first step in claiming your value. When you can speak about what work you have done and the value you have created, you will integrate these contributions into your sense of self. If you don’t value yourself, why should others?
2) INFORM OTHERS ABOUT YOUR WINS
One of the most common misconceptions women have is that their work should speak by itself. Sometimes, they perceive their male counterparts as too aggressive and self-promotional and refuse to show themselves the same way. In How Women Rise, Sally Helgesen states that if you struggle to claim credit for your achievements, it may cost you throughout your career. Realize you are the one who can take a proactive approach to communicate more. Not only will you take charge of your career, but you will also increase your impact. Create a communication plan to inform key stakeholders. Provide more updates in team meetings, in 1:1’s with your manager, and across functions. Start small as you stretch your comfort zone. It can be as simple as saying: ‘The project is on track to deliver.’ ‘Today, I managed to close our most important sale of the year.’ A real-time update on your success is one of the most effective ways to cultivate the positive image you want and deserve. It’s time to start speaking up about who you are, what you are doing, and the impact you create.
3) SEEK A MENTOR AND OR A SPONSOR
It has been demonstrated that women with influential mentors and sponsors with organizational clout are more likely to achieve vertical mobility. Mentors catalyze career development by providing sponsorship, coaching, and visibility. They also serve as a psychological function to provide encouragement, feedback, and advise. On the other hand, Sponsors tend to be senior leaders who can advocate for an employee throughout the company. Find out if your company has a mentoring program. Finding a mentor or sponsor is a great way to increase your visibility because they will support you even when you are not present. They can also connect you with great opportunities that might not even be on your radar. Seek assistance from someone you admire and commit to making the best of the time and effort invested in nurturing an impactful relationship that can boost your career.
4) INTERACT AND INTERCONNECT MORE
Consistently, women have reported having less interaction with executives than men. Virtual work can make it more challenging to get in touch with colleagues because people no longer share a physical space that provides random interactions with others. Regardless of your work arrangement, be intentional about forming connections outside your team or department. Consider participating in lunch and learn programs, volunteering your time in committees or task forces that will give you exposure at higher levels, for example, global projects. Even webinars and virtual conferences will help you in expanding your connections and interact with more colleagues. These relationships will elevate your level of influence, bringing more awareness to your contributions as a well-rounded professional, both inside, and outside of your field.
5) BUILD YOUR PERSONAL BRAND AND ONLINE PRESENCE
Building your personal brand is about identifying the attributes that make you unique, the solutions you provide, and the impact you create. Building your reputation as an expert in a specific area of your business or industry can help boost your opportunities to raise. Colleagues are likely to seek your help with projects, tasks, or speaking and training opportunities. Find your expertise in an area that combines knowledge and passion, and then share this expertise business-wide. Your online presence should reflect your brand promise and instill confidence and credibility. Create a solid LinkedIn profile packed with positive narratives that illustrate your strengths, accomplishments, and career orientation. This platform is ideal for expanding your network and building a solid presence to enhance your brand as an expert in your field.
6) INNOVATE BY IMPLEMENTING RELEVANT SOLUTIONS
Organizations grow and remain relevant through innovation, creating value for their customers and stakeholders. Employees at all levels need to develop their innovation skills. These include creativity, critical thinking, communication, and strategic agility. Women bring significant innovation to the workplace through their approaches, viewpoints, and styles. Several studies have indicated that women can instill faster innovation when they break silos and create interconnectivity throughout the organizational structure. Having innovation skills is an asset in the workplace because they enable you to solve problems and advance knowledge in your field. How can you tap into your inner wisdom and trust yourself more to bring innovation to your workplace? Be bold about being a difference-maker and create relevant solutions that will leave a positive mark. Focusing on the positive broader impact you can have can make it easier to step up and make yourself visible.
7) LEVERAGE YOUR NETWORK
Networks are essential dimensions of organizational life because they help individuals develop their social capital for information exchanges, collaboration, alliance development, knowledge acquisition, visibility, and support. Studies have indicated that women’s networks tend to be more homogeneous, smaller in size, and have less power than men. Women enjoy creating links and nurturing their relationships but usually do not leverage them as much as men. You can increase your leverage by recognizing the transactional nature of connections at work and seeking win-win outcomes with your collaborators. Be more intentional about asking influential stakeholders for help when you want to achieve your professional goals.
8) INCLUDE AND HELP OTHERS SUCCEED
Inclusive leadership embraces a human-centric worldview that considers different perspectives, creates a safe and collaborative environment, and helps foster change. Inclusive leadership can drive productivity, loyalty, and motivation. Women’s leadership tends to be inclusive, so tap into this strength to form a solid and engaging team. As a leader, you can create safe spaces for your team members to thrive. Be conscious of including positive feedback and recognition for others. Give them credit and praise you expect yourself, both informally and formally but not at your own expense. Acts of genuine kindness are infectious, so what could be better than increasing your influence and making the office a bit happier. Finally, as you seek to increase visibility for yourself as a leader, seek for balance between your own needs and those of your team.
9) TALK TO YOUR BOSS
Leaders can make a difference by publicly recognizing female employees’ accomplishments and contributions. They can look for key opportunities to help women to increase visibility and even recommend them for leadership roles. Your boss can become your best advocate and valuable ally in increasing your visibility. Ask for advice on ways to improve your exposure. Be willing to receive feedback and listen for suggestions on adding more value to the team to raise your profile. Pursue cross-company, rotational assignments that will develop and expand your strengths and talents to become ready for the vertical growth you are seeking.
10) YIELD NON-RELEVANT PROJECTS
Some organizations have historically assigned women less visible or more compromising roles that are highly demanding but create limited impact. Organizations can help women rise by focusing on high-value and visible work. When looking at your current and future workload, find ways to say YES to high profile assignments that will get you noticed by collaborating with senior executives or significantly impacting the business. More significant projects can provide better opportunities to demonstrate your skills, knowledge, and expertise. To make space for the value-added stuff, you must yield the non-relevant projects that do not reflect your true worth, are not aligned to your goals, distract you from your priorities. Find ways to say NO to non-value work in self-affirming and respectful ways.
As you can get at this point, increasing your visibility is a multi-dimensional effort that can take different forms and shapes. As in any change effort, the most difficult step is the first one. Once you decide to get in the path of increasing your exposure, you will find more and more opportunities for putting yourself in front of the people that can get you to your next career destination. You deserve it!