First class coach

FIRST CLASS COACH - I have been with the same company for some time and have made reasonable progress, but I've been told I need to raise my profile if I want to get ahead. I'm not entirely sure how to go about this and wonder if you have any suggestions.

by Miranda Kennett
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

'Build a better mousetrap,' said Ralph Waldo Emerson, 'and the world will beat a path to your door, even if you build your house in the woods.' Unfortunately, unless you tell the world you've done it, there's very little chance your door will be visited. Which is why making sure the world knows of your achievements is important.

The first step is deciding who needs to be informed. Take a leaf out of the PR experts' book and decide who your key stakeholders are. Then you'll be able to decide which messages you need them to receive about you and what the best ways are of reaching them.

Within the organisation, your immediate bosses may need reminding what an effective member of the team you are, as well as their bosses and any others who can promote your career or put up obstacles to your advancement.

There may also be outside people worthwhile to be known by - we prefer to do business with those we've heard of, especially where their reputation is positive.

Even if you feel that the main targets for your higher profile are inside the organisation, don't discount the value of external publicity. Appearing in the trade press can do a lot more than improve your chances of a job offer from a competitor. Prophets are without honour in their own land, as the Good Book has it, but there's nothing like the implied endorsement of being quoted in print to make people inside the company sit up and take notice.

As to how to gain profile, once your target audiences have been identified, there are two principle avenues: speaking and writing. Speaking can include giving presentations, being a spokesperson for the department, the company or the industry, at conferences or to the media. Writing can be a report, a contribution to a staff magazine, a letter to the national press or a think piece on a topical issue for a trade or professional magazine.

If conference speaking is the method you choose, it's wise to start modestly and grow in competence and confidence before you tackle the heights. Choose a smaller, less public place for your first forays - not necessarily with people you know well: an audience of peers can be the hardest, perceptually at least. Ideally, it will be somewhere you can afford to be less than perfect. I travelled to Poland for my conference debut, secure in the knowledge no-one who knew me would be there.

Sorting out what you want people to think about you is also a vital part of profile raising. Even the most casual glance at a poor unfortunate like Stephen Byers will confirm that the much-quoted maxim that all publicity is good publicity is a foolish notion. Of course, if you are being quoted, as opposed to writing your own article or speech, you're more at the mercy of the media, but even so it is helpful to have a handle on what your desired outcome is and what sorts of comments you'd prefer to have attributed to you.

Another question: is your current lack of profile to do with not having bothered before, or do you have a sense that you are not worthy of being better known? If the latter, it is time to take stock of your working record and sort out the things that you can be proud of. One way of doing this is to write out a new CV for yourself, in the style favoured by top executive search firms.

My colleagues at Bird & Co International advise that, instead of the conventional list of dates and job-titles, your CV start with a short paragraph that describes your principle attributes, and then goes on to detail your main achievements in your recent roles. If you go about this process, identifying the difference you have made to your employer's business success, you'll build a picture of your contribution. Although this relates to past activities, it will be a good pointer to the sorts of things you could look to becoming known for in the future and, for your more recent jobs, it may be possible to gain retrospective acknowledgment for what you did.

Sometimes, reluctance to stand in the limelight comes from a dislike of those who continually seek it, whether their talents merit the attention or not. Fortunately, having this kind of negative role model for the way not to do it will probably ensure that you don't fall into the trap. Give generous praise to others for their part in team success, and the chances are your colleagues will be pleased and surprised at your new, higher profile.

Miranda Kennett is managing coach at The Coaching House (www.coachinghouse.com) and a founding partner of The Management Due Diligence Co. If you have an issue you'd like this column to cover, e-mail: management.today@haynet.com.

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