This article was written by Alexandra Levit, author of They Don’t Teach Corporate in College: A Twenty-Something’s Guide to the Business World, on behalf of the Happy Grad Project.
What’s the secret to success in the ‘real world’? Find out…
It was easy to promote yourself while you were interviewing because all eyes were on you and you had your superiors’ undivided attention. However, now that you are ensconced in a professional job, people are not as inclined to listen, and you have to compete with all kinds of noise to be heard. It’s no longer enough to keep your nose to the grindstone and turn in a solid day’s work. If you want people to take notice of you and consider you a serious player, you must make your accomplishments visible.
This is not an easy thing to do, especially given what you were told over your 16 years of schooling. In high school and college, achievement was an individual endeavor. You were taught a lesson, you studied, you took a test, you got a score—and no one was the wiser. In fact, you were probably not encouraged to share your grades, particularly if they were good. You were equally successful, whether anyone realized it or not.
The corporate world, however, is a whole different ball game. Your promotability depends not on what you do, but on who knows what you do. Being insular is most damaging at the lower levels of your career, when you are unknown to 99% of your company. You could be sitting at your cube churning out work like there’s no tomorrow, but unless someone in a position of authority is aware of it, you probably won’t get anywhere.
So, how do you share your contributions without being perceived as arrogant or boastful? The key is enthusiasm. If you emphasize your passion when describing an achievement, people will think you’re just excited about it. An excited person appears earnest, and it’s hard to be critical of someone earnest.
Practice on your boss. It’s okay if you mess up and start bragging uncontrollably, because your boss is supposed to know about everything you’re doing and can’t fault you for keeping him informed. But when informing everyone else of your successes, be as subtle as possible. For example, you might send an email to your whole department thanking your co-workers for the completion of a successful project.
You might feel weird the first few times you do something like this. Unless you have a major ego, deliberately trying to make yourself look good is not going to feel natural. But trust me, you’ll get used to it, and the more you do it, the easier it will get.
Remember to always strive to share your good ideas, but be prepared that many of your suggestions will not be implemented. This is because, in the corporate world, a lot of the important decisions are made at a high level. You should not consider your visibility efforts a failure if your ideas are nixed before they see the light of day. The goal is to show the higher-ups in your department that you consistently make worthwhile contributions.
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