How to Stop Being Undervalued at Work (Part 2 of 2)

In case you missed part 1, you can get to it HERE.

  1. Who doesn’t understand you, but needs to?

This is important to figure out because it’s not equally important for everyone in the organization to know what you’re all about. Start with the people who have the biggest impact on your career.

  • Your seniors: If it’s your boss and the more senior people in your reporting line who don’t understand your true capabilities, then you’ll struggle to get the stretch opportunities to prove yourself promotion-worthy, much less get promoted. Unless they see you for who you are now and your future potential, then it’s going to be tough to get ahead.

How do your seniors see you?

  • Your colleagues: If it’s the people you need to work closely with, then you’ll have a hard time getting your work done efficiently and effectively. Again, a career-limiting situation.

How do your colleagues see you and your role, and to what extent is there an opportunity to build a collaborative, mutually beneficial relationship?

  • Your support team: It’s not always about seniority. For example, if you’re a basketball coach, then you need to know and be known by the person who keeps the keys to the gym. That’s saved my husband and his players from standing out in the cold when the building was unexpectedly locked.

Who holds the key to your ability to excel at your work, and do you “get” each other?

Watch this: Strategic Self-Promotion at Work + In Your Job Search

  1. What do you want them to know about you?

If you could start out with a clean slate, then what would you want your managers, colleagues and support team to know about you?

In my experience, it’s best to choose no more than three key things to get across. Otherwise, your impact gets diluted and you’re likely to be just as misunderstood as before.

So, what would be the three words or phrases you want them to use to describe you?

At different points in your career, your answer will likely be different. Early on in my career, I needed people to understand that I was excellent at the content of my job, resourceful in getting things done, and exceptionally hard-working.

Once I nailed that perception, I needed to move on to making it obvious that I was ambitious, able to bring in business, and excellent with clients.

Still later in my career, I needed others to understand that I was a leader, had presence and impact, and could be a strategic thinker.

Given where you are now, what would be the three things that would correct any misunderstandings about who you are and what you’re capable of?

Think of these as the new things that you want people to understand about you. They aren’t the only ways that people will see you, but will build on all the other great things they’re thinking already.

Or if they’re not yet thinking great things about you, then these new items will be replacements that improve upon their perceptions.

Also read: How to Conduct a Personal Brand Audit

  1. How and when could you show that?

Next, it’s about figuring how you could demonstrate your true self to the relevant audience.

The best way to do that is to look for moments in the day when you can demonstrate your capabilities. I call these “Pivotal Moments” – moments when what you do or don’t do, and what you say or don’t say can create a fundamental shift in the way people see you.

For example, when you bump into a key person in the hallway or in the Starbucks line. Or when you’re with your boss and colleagues in the weekly team meeting. And definitely at the big presentation you’re giving to senior management.

These are all potential Pivotal Moments. How are you making use of them?

Remember that these are opportunities for those key people to see you in action. So any moment when you’re with those people is a potential Pivotal Moment.

If you’re not around those key people very often, it can be just as good to have people who influence those people see you demonstrating your capabilities, because word gets around.

  1. Who could help you with this?

While it’s up to you to be proactive and take charge of helping others “get” who you are and what you’re capable of, you won’t succeed by doing it alone.

Just like in the Beatles song, we all need a little help from our friends. So think about who you know (or could get to know) to help you in the following ways.

  • Provide feedback: It’s helpful to have friends, mentors and trusted colleagues who can give you an accurate picture of how you’re currently seen, and give you feedback along the way on how you’re progressing on making changes.

Who do you trust to give you an honest read on the situation?

  • Help implement: When it comes to putting your new message out there, it helps to have people advocate for you and amplify the message.

Who already understands who you are at your best, and how can they help get the message to the people you’re seeking to influence? Who do you know that’s an opinion leader who has influence with the people you’re trying to reach?

  • Keep your spirits up: In my experience, this can feel like lonely work. So it helps to surround yourself with a few people who can cheer you on and support you when the going gets tough.

Who do you know that keeps your spirits up and can help you stay motivated?

What will you do?

Being misunderstood and undervalued is a real drag on your career. Not only does it feel frustrating, it also holds you back from getting new opportunities and gaining recognition.

It’s up to you to help people understand who you are and what you’re capable of.

So start by asking yourself the five questions:

  1. What’s causing you to feel misunderstood?
  2. Who doesn’t understand you, but needs to?
  3. What do you want them to know about you?
  4. How and when could you show that?
  5. Who could help you with this?

You’ll be taking an important step toward putting yourself in a position to advance in a bigger, more powerful way.

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About the Author

May Busch is a sought-after executive coach, speaker, advisor, author, and former COO of Morgan Stanley Europe. Her passion is helping people succeed in their career and life – to be better, do more, and make the difference they are meant to make. Find her on and follow her on Twitter at @maybusch