BY Stephanie Ketchum
Understanding Your Perception at Work and Four Tips for Better Visibility for Your Career
Photo credit: Sharpheels
This article was originally published on Sharpheels.
We’ve all seen it before: two people of the same skill set and experience and performance level start out as peers at work, but over the years, one seems to move up further and faster than the other. What makes up the difference? How does one managed to advance over another? Especially in this climate of “meritocracy” work cultures.
The key, according to “dream job coach” Joel Garfinkle, has to do with something he calls the “PVI” model: Perception, Visibility and Influence. So it’s helpful to consider these terms (I will be focusing on Perception and Visibility, as they are the pillars that support Influence) – and they are generally the ones that we have trouble with the most, especially early in our careers!
Feedback is a standard part of our work experience, whether it be via an annual review or a more frequent occurrence. But usually this feedback is focused on work performance. Performance generally isn’t the deciding factor between the employee who gets promoted and the employee that doesn’t. The difference is perception. According to Garfinkle, “Perception matters because only those who are seen in a favorable light by their bosses, peers, and subordinates will continue to move ahead in their careers.”
So how do you improve your perception? The first step is knowing how you’re perceived – by bosses, peers, subordinates, customers, etc. While this is a simple concept, it doesn’t mean it’s easy. It requires committing yourself to asking people feedback — but for once, that’s not about your performance, but about how people see you.
Asking for this feedback can be hard or uncomfortable. It requires vulnerability. But it’s a commitment in your future and your advancement. Garfinkle has several strategies to help – such as picking three people to whom you will reach out to by the end of the week to ask for feedback. Or try a more informal approach, such as asking someone after a presentation “Hey, how did you think that went?” in order to make any needed changes to your perception you first have to be aware.
You can’t move up at work, or be thought of for those next big opportunities, without being seen. “Self-promotion” can be seen as an unflattering term, so I prefer to frame it as “self-advocating.” Be confident in the value that you bring in your role where you are right now, and communicate it to those around you. At the same time, when you see others doing valuable work that deserves some attention, be the first to recognize it and call it out. In doing so you create a positive impression with that co-worker, as well as being a trusted advocate – and they will likely want to return the favor.
Garfinkle also recommends four other ways to gain visibility:
1. Get Assigned to Important Projects
This is another simple, but not necessarily easy, task. What qualifies as an important project will vary from company to company and role to role. Think about what helps your manager accomplish his or her goals, or solve a major pain point for your team. Always ask, what will improve your key metrics or affect the bottom line?
Some projects can be self-identified, which also shows you can take initiative. In addition, it’s important to let your manager know that you want to be considered for the next big project team. Or if there is a key project or issue about which you are passionate, ask your manager and the team lead if you can help out.
2. Gain Face Time with Top Executives
Depending on the size of your company, this can be difficult. But there are usually formal and informal ways to get to know key leaders. (At my office, for instance, there are employee affinity groups, such as Women in Tech, or Early in Career, that all have executive sponsors.)
Volunteering with these groups, or to lead an event, helps you to gain visibility with the executive sponsors for those groups. The point is to think about with whom you want to connect and get to know more, and the best opportunity to do that. It could be something as simple as over coffee in the break room.
3. Share your Ideas
Speak up! This took me a few years (in fact, into my twenties) for me to find a comfortable task. Starting at a new company or in a new role, I always had questions or even ideas to be shared — but I rarely spoke up in meetings because I was concerned I didn’t understand the full context of the company, the team, etc. (My tendency is to observe first, until I know the players and the “rules” of the team.) But once I realized that this company hired me to have ideas, and to even have a fresh, outside perspective, then I got more comfortable.
4. Become Known and Recognized
Think about what your “brand” is at work. Lead with your strengths. For instance, some recent feedback from my manager is that I know how to “up-level” content and present well for an executive audience. Knowing this is a strength (and also a perception), I can develop myself into being the go-to person for presentations and refining content.
If your strength is managing data and doing analysis, then become known as the go-to person for that. A peer on a previous team had branded herself as “the skeptic” (in a good way!), and was always known for asking the tough questions. In doing so, she helped to elevate any idea or project by pointing out flaws. People appreciated this role she filled, and she became valued throughout our whole department.
Remember, as you are gaining visibility, stay aware of your perception. It’s not a static opinion, so keep the feedback loop going. The more you practice these activities, the more comfortable and confident you will feel. By taking real steps in these areas, soon you will be getting the opportunities and career growth that you deserve!
Do you have tips about how to become more visible and improve others' perceptions of you at work? Join the conversation in our community and share what you know with other women in the workplace!
Fairygodboss is committed to improving the workplace and lives of women.
Photo credit: Pexels
By Sara Nachlis
3 Tips for Writing an Effective Out of Office Email Message
By Nancy Halpern
4 Things You Must Do When You Give Your 2 Weeks' Notice
Photo credit: © Monkey Business / Adobe Stock
By Jaclyn Westlake
7 Things to Do Your First Day at a New Job
Photo credit: Pixabay
By Alexandra Deabler
4 Post-Interview Rules That Will Land You Your Dream Job
Related Community Discussions
My friend just told me (she was trying to be nice) that I'm limiting my career potential because I don't wear makeup to work. Do you think she's right? Do I need to wear makeup to be "professional?"
I am highly skilled with a background in marketing management (MBA in Finace and Marketing), process improvement (Six Sigma), project management and research. I have been ranked number 3 in quality performance and recognized by a CEO for my innovativeness. I have taken serval (3) years off from the corporate environment to take care a relative that has significant chronic medical issues. I am ready to go back to work, but I have contraint. I want to be available - so I do not want to travel more than 20%. I do not want to work extreme hours - I want a balanced life. I am trying to relocate to the Raleigh/Durham area in North Carolina, so that I can oversee my relative's care, but I realize that this may not be possible.
Watching this health crisis unfold has taught me that I do not need to make 6 figures. I want work that makes a difference and pays well. I am not a spring chicken (59 years olds). I documents that show the quality of my work.
Where do I find a company that will provide the mental stimulation and flexibility. I like to think, solve hard problem and significantly change companies in positive way. I like the think tank environment.
How do I search for and find a good fit?
Hi Fairygodbosses! I am writing here on behalf of my mom because I love and want the best for her. She has been working at a non-profit for the last 9 years and has become miserable at work. She wants a career change but doesn't know what she wants to do or how to get there. She is only now making the salary she should be making at 58 years old and I think that holds her back from taking a chance and leaving her company. Do any fairy godbosses here have some advice or resources for a middle-aged woman looking for a career change (and feels like a life change)? How can my mom build her confidence and self-worth to go after what truly makes her happy (or at least start trying to figure it out?) Appreciate any of your thoughts.
What to do if you face a step down in your career due to the break you took of 6 months to take care of your newborn? Does this happen frequently? Any ideas on how to get a job after this break? Please help! I was working as a Sales Manager in a company where I had to quit as I needed to give sometime to my baby. Now when I'm trying to start working again, I don't get even considered due to the break I took. The HR in these companies advice me to step down in the position and start from senior sales associate or reception. I do have good experience being good at my job and my previous employer have everything good to say about me. What should I do?
I think I'm being mommy-tracked at work and it's incredibly frustrating. I'm two months back from maternity leave and putting in the same hours as I used to but I'm getting these subtle signs that I'm not taken as seriously -- ranging from not being asked about wanting to spearhead things to the stink eye when I walk out the door (at the same time I roughly used to leave the office). What should I do?