Working hard–and being good at what you do–is obviously critical to your success at your job but in terms of your career, that’s just the small picture.
In order to advance within the company and realize your full potential others need to see you working your magic too. Senior management should be aware of your expertise and skills and know what you’ve accomplished, so that they understand your value to the organization.
The best way to do that is to think of yourself as an entrepreneur. If your department or group within the company were your own business, how would you grow the bottom line—by increasing sales? Cutting costs? Ramping up efficiency?
Keeping that entrepreneurial mindset, here are some ways to raise your visibility at work and expand your career:
- Look carefully at what your department does—or in some cases, what the company does—and identify problems that others haven’t.
Then take the initiative. Tackle a problem that requires your particular skills and expertise, or offer to step in and help others who haven’t found a solution yet.
Let’s say, for instance, there is new technology being rolled out in your department but its adoption is being hampered by a lack of communication between different departments. You could offer to lead a team that works to understand the communication difficulties and then develop a plan to solve them. While working on this you may get to know the leaders of other departments with whom you normally have little contact and they could wind up being instrumental for your career.
- Tackle a problem no one else wants to tackle.
Perhaps there’s a product your company manufactures that isn’t performing well? That’s an opportunity. Most people want to work on the product doing well, but by taking on the product that isn’t succeeding in the market—and trying to change that–you have the chance to make a much bigger impact. You will raise your visibility and change the way the company’s managers see you—now they know you are a problem solver, a go-getter, you take initiative and think creatively. Those attributes don’t go unnoticed.
- Ask to be assigned to high-visibility projects.
Ideally these are projects that require you to work with teams in other departments and will have a big impact on your organization’s bottom line.
If your team sends someone to represent your group, department or team at cross-departmental meetings, offer to be that person. That could lead to opportunities to speak at projects or committee meetings.
- Find a Sponsor
A career sponsor is usually a senior person within your organization that is willing to use their political capital to help you advance within the company and develop as a leader. They will work on your behalf to create opportunities for you to raise your profile. A sponsor is different than a mentor. Whereas a mentor can serve as a sounding board as you think about what your next position should be, a sponsor will advocate for your promotion at higher levels of the firm.
- Choose an area to build your expertise.
Let’s say you have a talent for managing competing priorities. You could write a regular corporate blog on managing a complex schedules and best practices for juggling competing priorities on the company’s Intranet, or articles on the topic distributed through a company’s newsletter. You could also offer to train or speak at company events, making sure—of course—that what you’re offering is truly valuable for the audience. Through these kinds of activities you will become known as someone others seek out for advice and help.
- Always be asking, “Can this be done better by changing something—even slightly?”
Revisiting assumptions about longstanding processes can lead to opportunities for optimizing or and improving efficiency. Rather than asking why the company isn’t doing something—for example, its social media marketing—say “I’m willing to take this on and have set up some parameters for doing it.” It shows you’re a leader, you’re willing to put yourself out there and try to do something that benefits the company overall.
- Finally, think strategically no matter what your job title.
According to Herminia Ibarra, a professor of organizational behavior at the business school Insead in France and author of Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader, most people want to take a more strategic approach to their work but are often unsure what that really means. According to Ibarra: “Planning and executing is about how you do what needs to get done; strategy, is about asking what we should be doing.”