There is a simple truth about your career that we often ignore. You
can be the best at anything – the best programmer, the best
writer, the best chef, the best accountant – but if no one
knows about what you do, and how well you do it, what does it really
matter. Without visibility in your career you can struggle every
day, working harder and harder and yet find yourself going nowhere.
You need more visibility in your career for a number of reasons.
You need to start creating your own opportunities instead of waiting
for others to come to you. The more people that know about you and
your expertise, the more opportunities you can develop. The fact
is, jobs go wanting in today’s market because companies cannot
locate the talent they need. If you can advertise your expertise
companies will start coming to you. What an enviable position to
find yourself in, choosing between opportunities instead looking
for a job.
While it may seem a bit unnatural for you, especially if you work
in a fairly insulated field like high-tech, you need to be talking
with more people than just your typical friends and peers. In some
way, you need to be telling everyone you meet about what you do
and how well you do it. You can never tell from where your next
might arise. The stranger you meet at the coffee bar might be your
next client, boss or business partner.
So, what do you tell the people you meet? Whatever they want to
know. You might discuss a neat project that you are involved
in, a new
algorithm, photo, web site or group you are working on, how you
solved a unique problem with a unique solution, your philosophy
or life, frankly, anything that lets people know more about you
and your expertise.
Eventually, what you end up creating is a verbal career portfolio
that highlights your work. A career portfolio is just as important
to a programmer, an accountant or a consultant as it is to an artist.
While you might never have considered building your own portfolio,
you can gain some of the same benefits that an artist realizes.
A career portfolio can and should be constantly updated over
create a reflection of your past and current work so that if one
of these conversations elicits a request for more information,
have something to send them as a follow up.. Use the technological
tools around you to create an easily updated and shared portfolio.
Web sites, blogs, photo galleries are nearly free and easily available
and you should make the most of them.
Most importantly, your career portfolio
shows growth over time, something that is important to every careerist.
We all need to be learning
something new, every day, and your portfolio can easily reflect that.
Don’t ignore this important tool. It is like having the world’s
best business card. Instead of just having your name and phone number,
it gives others a look into your entire career.
While you can and should use all the technological
tools at your disposal, there are several “real-world” methods you
want to include in your search for visibility. You should be attending
conferences, unconferences and user group meetings around your interests – and
sometimes around things that you simply want to learn about yourself.
When you are at these events, do more than just be a listener – participate.
Speak on topics that interest you. Give demonstrations of new software
or techniques. Most importantly, talk to everyone you can. Too often,
conferences become informational transmittal systems instead of opportunities
to meet others. The networking surrounding any event is usually worth
3 times the content gathered from the sessions themselves. Have fun
engaging with others, and keep a clear purpose in mind. I often remind
myself to actively think about how new knowledge and relationships
can be helpful when I am talking with others. I seek to be helpful
to others and also recognize how useful they can be to me.
Finally, one great boon to gathering visibility for yourself is to
sign everything you do, just as an artists signs their work. An art
coach once explained to me the power of signing your work. You signature
shows a sense of pride in a job well done and communicates that to
the viewer. Now, I’m not suggesting every page of a report
or spreadsheet contains ‘Douglas E. Welch did this!” in
72 point, neon type. Rather your name and contact information should
appear in the header or footer. Programs, macros and scripts should
contain this info in the comments of the code. Photos should have
a discrete caption. You did this work and you deserve credit for
it. Again, if no one knows what you have done, how can they reward
you for it and seek you out for other opportunities.
Do everything you can to capture, document and share your work with
others. Create your own career portfolio showing what you do and
how you do it. Make your work visible. In fact, make visibility your
theme for the coming year, as I have. You will be amazed at the great
opportunities that can happen when you share your life and work with
those around you.