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. Related: How To Build Positive Workplace Relationships 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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This article is part of an exclusive month-long program on CAREEREALISM to help readers break free of The Golden Handcuff Effect. Click HERE to learn more about the Professional Emancipation Project, a.k.a. The P.E.P. Talk. I talk to job seekers every day, and they have strikingly similar attitudes. They feel frustrated that the market remains so poor. Whether they are at junior, mid-, or senior levels, they find that the jobs just aren’t out there. And, as a career adviser, I'm in the unenviable position of telling them that they’re wrong. In fact, many organizations are hiring in droves. As much as job seekers would like to think the problem is the market, and they’re perfectly qualified, that simply isn’t the case. Candidates are failing at their job search because they don’t have the skills that employers want, plain and simple. Companies across the country report having increasing difficulty finding qualified workers, and some economists believe this skills gap is nearing a crisis. A recent national survey, the Job Preparedness Indicator, conducted by the Career Advisory Board and Harris Interactive, polled hundreds of hiring managers at top companies and hundreds of job seekers looking for work. The survey found that only 17% of the hiring managers felt the candidates they had seen had met their qualifications for open positions.

Honing In On Skills With The Widest Gap

As part of an effort to close the critical divide between what candidates have and what employers need, the Job Preparedness Indicator assessed the value of key skills across entry, mid-, and senior levels by determining what attributes employers consider most important but are rarely seen in candidates. Skills rated most important by employers but least common among job seekers were assigned the highest score. Examples of skills with significant gaps are strategic thinking and global perspective. The implication is that the U.S. has already started experiencing the brain drain that was expected to begin in 2010 when baby boomers first entered retirement. Many boomers have left or are leaving their traditional corporate jobs, and businesses don’t have access to the talent to replace them. Furthermore, much of their institutional knowledge isn’t being properly transferred.

Demonstrate Mastery Of Critical Skills

There are three primary ways job seekers can use this research to help their careers. First, if you’re seeking employment, you should carefully examine your level of the skills and traits with the highest indicator scores, and develop marketing materials that showcase your mastery of these skills and traits. For example, if you’re going into a new field at the entry-level, you might create a skills-based resume that highlights team building, since this is a skill that is perceived as rare among entry-level candidates. In the resume, and subsequently in the interview, discuss quantifiable results you achieved as part of team building efforts. A statement to this effect might be:
Organized and served as the leader of 25-member cross-functional innovation team, resolving internal differences and mining knowledge that resulted in the launch of four new profit-generating services.
Statements like that can assure a hiring manager that you have the ability to work diplomatically with different groups, a skill that is apparently rare at the entry-level.

Increase Your Repertoire Of Critical Skills

Second, you should actively pursue opportunities to hone the skills with the highest indicator scores. Leadership courses, which tend to stress skills like communication and problem-solving, are excellent growth vehicles for any job seeker. Stretch assignments or job rotations in a current company or volunteer roles in a nonprofit organization can also be useful. To be systematic about skill acquisition, work with a boss or mentor to set concrete and time-bound goals for mastery. You can also position yourself to take advantage of wide-open upper level opportunities by showcasing leadership experience, either in a previous job or volunteer role, and by regularly interacting with senior level advisers who can advise you on what the market and even specific organizations are looking for in leaders.

Predict And Illustrate The Skills You’ll Need In The Future

Finally, you should pay close attention to the desired skills and traits at the level above yours. Look for ways acquire and demonstrate skills and traits that have high indicator scores at the mid-level and senior levels, such as general business acumen. Also, review senior title job descriptions to determine the skills that are most critical for leadership in a specific organization. For instance, if you’re applying for an entry-level job at a multinational conglomerate and can demonstrate a history of interacting with other cultures, you will likely draw the attention of a hiring manager who is eager to groom future global leaders. Self-awareness is half the battle. Now that this research has shown you the skills and traits you must focus on to be most competitive, you can think carefully about your own strengths and weaknesses, and position yourself to take advantage of the current gaps between employer needs and available talent.

The P.E.P. Talk

This article is part of our P.E.P. Talk Series. Over the next month, some of the brightest and best authors, business professionals, and coaches are coming together to share their valuable advice for breaking free of "The Golden Handcuff Effect" so you can take full ownership of your careers and experience Professional Emancipation. Photo Credit: Shutterstock