There’s a widely held assumption that women are less comfortable than men with promoting themselves and their skills – a premise we put to the test during our everywomanNetwork webinar ‘Building Your Relationships’.
Only 4% of members we polled said they proactively publicise their achievements. By contrast, 17% trust in managers and colleagues to sing their praises, while a vast majority of 70% hope the great work they do will speak for itself and
they’ll be rewarded accordingly.
A dangerous strategy, says everywomanNetwork associate Sara Parsons, who cautions against leaving your career advancement to the chance of others understanding your capabilities and spreading the word.
Pushing ourselves forward isn’t all about the big talk; it is, says Sara, author of our popular workbook ‘Promoting Yourself’, as much about the
relationships we pursue and foster. After all, how can we expect word-of-mouth promotion if we’re not actively communicating with decision makers?
Get started with promoting yourself by building up your working relationships using our four-point strategy.
1. Analyse your network and identify any ‘career stakeholder’ gaps which need filling.
Take a piece of paper and brainstorm a list of all the people you interact with at work, from the colleagues you’re in regular communication with to the CEO you share
the lift with once in a while. Now think about the types of stakeholders who might be instrumental in elevating your profile and advancing your career. A manger from another team? Someone in HR? Your boss’s boss? An industry specialist?
A recruitment agent? Now compare your two lists side by side. Can you identify the gaps that could hold you back? If you discover multiple gaps and an exhaustive list of new connections emerges, prioritise one or two to focus on and
build up from there.
Once you know which relationships you’re lacking, think about how you can begin to form them. Can you ask
connections to make introductions? Are there any projects or initiatives you can get involved in which will give you
access to a wider network? Can you reach out to those on the outskirts of your circle?
2. Think about the status of your key relationships
You’ve worked out your career stakeholders and you’re beginning to make connections. Now think about the status of your key relationships.
Do the stakeholders in your career advancement know enough about you and your aspirations? It’s surprising, says Sara Parsons, how many of us expect managers and decision-makers to put us forward for promotions, when we’ve never
expressed an interest in a particular career path or even made it known we’re considering a step up. Do your career stakeholders really understand your current role or what projects you’re working on?
When it comes to knowing what our career stakeholders think of us, it can be ‘finger in the air’ stuff for even the most astute (the majority of our poll-takers admit to being aware of our workplace reputations only half the time). Take
some time to understand your strengths and once you have these nailed down, start to think about your public profile and how it corresponds. If
delivering perfect pitches is essential to getting the job you want, for example, consider if your career stakeholders know that you’re particularly adept in this area.
3. You’ve started building relationships; now take them to a deeper level
Often, says Sara Parsons, we overlook the less obvious opportunities to expand our network of career stakeholders. Have you
turned down a lunch invitation or a catch up over coffee because you thought the person was ‘just being nice’? When the CEO asks how you are, do you take the opportunity to tell him or her about a recent success or a project you’re
working on that excites you?
Fostering relationships doesn’t have to be contrived or time-consuming; it can be as simple as sharing with someone a web link to something relevant and interesting to them, or putting in a call every six months just to catch up. The
old adage of ‘being interested to be interesting’ holds true when it comes to relationship building, says Sara. Ask questions, take a genuine interest, listen attentively, and offer support where you can. Creating a two-way relationship
is where you need to be before you can comfortably pick up the phone and ask someone to recommend you for an opportunity.
4. Pay it forward
If you’ve grown a supportive network of career stakeholders who understand your work, know your goals, and can advocate on your behalf, congratulations! You may already be reaping the rewards of wider-recognition, a supportive group of
peers who understand your ambitions, or even a job promotion.
So perhaps it’s time to study your own role as ‘promoter’ within your network. What types of people might consider you a stakeholder in their
career advancement? Do you know enough about them, their strengths and ambitions? Could you reach out and help in any way? Think about how important the
feedback of others has been in your own development and consider how often you give useful feedback to others. As well as the satisfaction of
helping another along the way, you’ll cement your position as an influencer and great relationship-manager.