You may be great at building and maintaining high quality relationships with people who work alongside you day-in, day-out. Consequently, those colleagues recognise the value of what you do and how you do it. These co-workers regard you as being someone who works hard, understands your subject matter, has something to say, wants to make a contribution, and is both competent and confident. They know your strengths and your areas for development. They have first hand, regular evidence of the value of the work you do. Within your department or your team you have influence and may even be regarded as an opinion-former on some topics.
But outside of your team or department it may be another story. You might not be that well known and may find it more difficult to get heard. You may lack the basic influence and connections that you need or you might not be known at all. Equally, the reputation you do have might not do justice to your skills. Perhaps you don’t meet many senior managers in the normal course of your work. Or, when you do, struggle to sell yourself to them, and don’t manage to cultivate the degree of positive regard you would like to have. You might think that your ambition and hard work go unacknowledged by those people whose decisions shape the future of your employing organisation, and you may be frustrated that your desire to play a bigger role in the organisation goes unrewarded. You may think that you deserve an opportunity to have greater responsibility and you may believe that you could do a more senior role. However, with your current profile, none of these things is likely to happen. And you don’t know how to bring about a situation where your reputation outside of your team or department becomes a more accurate reflection of your knowledge, application and endeavour within it. You are afraid that you will continually be seen as low key or lacking punch and therefore, unfairly, will be denied opportunities for advancement.
So, what can you do to change your image and manage your profile with the senior people in your organisation who don’t work alongside you on a day-to-day basis?
Firstly, create a plan. Who specifically do you want to raise your profile with? Over what issues do you want to engage with them? What messages do you want them to receive from you about your work and the benefits of your approach to it?
Secondly, enlist the help of carefully selected sponsors. Who do you know who you could approach for an introduction to the senior managers you want to speak with? What testimonials about your good work might these sponsors be willing to pass on? What forums already exist in your organisation where you might have an opportunity to speak with the senior people whose opinion you want to influence? What do you need to do to get an introduction to one of these events?
Thirdly, commit to selling yourself. When you speak with one of the managers whose view of you you want to develop, approach the verbal exchange as a sales conversation. Don’t regard it as a workplace chat. Or as a process in which you are a passive participant. It’s a conversation in which you are going to sell yourself. This is your opportunity to tell a senior manager about the value of the work you do, the outcomes your work creates for customers and your employer, and the fact that you are an effective, available member of staff who would like an opportunity to take on a bigger challenge. Pick one recent piece of work that you handled well and tell your senior colleague in clear, factual terms what you contributed to the project, what successes you had, and how those positive outcomes benefitted your organisation. Don’t give them some of the story, like what work you were involved in, and then omit the punch line: that it was you whose contribution was key in certain areas of the work, or that it was you who managed the project from start to finish. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that they will already know about your good work from someone else and be ready to reward you as soon as they realise who you are. Use the opportunity you have created to bring them up to date: tell your senior colleague what you want them to know about you and back it up with facts that prove your case.