For most of us, our career and work skills are hidden from all but our immediate co-workers and clients. Most of our friends, family, and certainly our loose connections and strangers often have no idea what we do for a living or how we accomplish it. As you might imagine, this can make it very difficult to move forward in your career. This is especially true in a world where visibility of both ourselves and our skills is a major tool in attracting opportunity to us. While you may be doing great work, if no one knows about it — internally or externally — that work is not benefiting you in some very important ways. To make it work better for your, you need to make your invisible skills, talents, and accomplishments visible to the outside world.
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The first action you can take to raise your visibility is talk more about your work. Find ways of explaining what you do and what you have accomplished so that anyone can understand it. Develop stories about your work and career that you can spread to help others. You may not think it, but even very technical work often holds some very basic goals at its heart. What have you learned in your work that applies to life as well? Share those stories when appropriate and let your stories help people to know you better.
Reach out to your work peers through social media, blogging, writing for publications, and speaking at conferences. Volunteer to write tech notes, white papers and newsletters for your department or division. Develop meetup groups focused on your expertise and invite others to come and share their knowledge and experiences. Reach out to those in the general public who need your skills and help them with their questions. Do everything you can to share your knowledge and it will raise your visibility within your industry and perhaps even beyond.
If your work and skills are particularly esoteric or specific, it might take a while to find your audience, but I can guarantee that audience is out there. The fact that you already have a job means that your skills and knowledge are in demand. You just need to find the community that needs them and find ways of reaching them to share the value of that knowledge.
I have another caveat for your work, too. Don’t work anonymously. Take credit for the work you create, the products you develop, the problems you solve. Don’t let people think that “the IT Department” solved their problem. Make sure they know that you, specifically. solved their problem in coordination with the others in your department. Taking credit for work you have actually performed is never wrong and yet something that so few workers do on a regular basis. We hand in the report, the chart, the program, the presentation, the solution with nary a name in site. If you actually did the work, credit yourself — and then effusively thank everyone who helped. Bring others into the spotlight, since they probably aren’t doing it themselves.
Be proud of the work you do. I once had an art coach you told me to sign every single piece I created no matter how large or small. He saw that signature as a sign of pride. I little note that stood out and said, “I created this and I am proud of it.” You should do — and feel — the same. Put some credits in each report. Add comments with names and thank you notes to your code. Give internal or external presentations whenever you have the chance. Each one of these is an opportunity to make you and your work more visible. Take them.
Don’t be an anonymous cog in corporate machine. Stand out. Stand up. Stand proud. Sure, there will be some who scoff or complain, but if you don’t make your invisible work visible, no one else will do it for you. You will fade into the background day-by-day until layoff, burnout or company failure comes for your job. Always be looking for the next step, the next rung, the next opportunity in your career. I know from personal experience that change will often come for you long before you are ready for change. Create the change yourself and be confident in the stability, strength and support of the career you deserve.