Thursday, 9 September 2010

How To Raise Your Profile

During times of organisational change, the people who prosper are often those who have paid attention to managing their profile and image. 

What’s The Difference Between Profile and Image?
Your image is the impression you make on people who do not know you well.  Your profile is about how well known you are – and in what circles.

You can have a great image but a lousy profile (eg, everyone who meets you thinks you’re brilliant but hardly anyone does get to meet you because you’re hidden away in your office all the time).  Equally, you can be high profile but have a poor image (everyone knows you, mainly because you’re a notorious plonker).

The Ethics of Networking for Career Advancement
Using networking for career advancement is sometimes seen as trying to gain an unfair advantage, particularly in organisations which pride themselves on having scrupulously fair selection processes.  However, there are at least three reasons why networking can be seen as a legitimate approach to career development:
  1. It's how human beings work. When it comes to selecting someone for a new role, there are sound evolutionary reasons why human beings prefer to choose a familiar face.
  2. For employers, it can be a more reliable way of spotting talent. If you’ve ever been on an interview panel and chosen the candidate who gave the best 'performance' only for them to turn out to be a big disappointment in the job, you’ll know why interviewers are often tempted to take their previous knowledge of a candidate into account.
  3. Lots of jobs don’t get advertised – there is usually at least one person on each of my courses who has secured a job via word of mouth.
If you are looking to change jobs, you can view yourself as a product that some people would love to buy - if only they knew it existed.  Networking is your marketing strategy.

You Don't Have To Sell Your Soul
Some people wince at the thought of networking – they picture themselves smarming their way round the building, using the right buzz words,  laughing slightly too loudly at the Chief Exec’s jokes and generally sucking up to anyone they perceive as being useful to them.

But networking doesn’t have to be like that.  It is possible to raise your profile in a way that feels comfortable and authentic.

10 Tips on Raising Your Profile
The trick is to look for make contact with more people, more often.  In particular, explore ways to be in touch with others who have similar (professional or personal) interests as you.  Ideally, you’ll find yourself in a room with individuals who share your passions, at which point networking becomes a lot easier and more natural.

1. Target particular people.  If there are a senior people who need to know that you exist, identify some fora in which you can make contact, for example:

  • Working parties, project groups or committees
  • Social events (eg, leaving do's)
  • Conferences
  • In-house presentations and briefings
  • Extra curricular activities.  A colleague regularly plays squash with one of the more senior managers in his organisation.  Times have changed - previously the smoking room was known as a good place to network.
2. Don't overuse email. If you want to communicate with someone in your building, go and see them.  This gives you the opportunity to say hello to people in the lift or corridor.  One manager found herself waiting for the lift with the Chairwoman of her organisation.  Somewhat impulsively she asked, “Could I come and see you for 20 minutes?”  They subsequently had a very helpful conversation about career development for women in their (predominantly male) organisation.

3. Write an article for an internal newsletter or professional publication.  Your organisation’s communication department usually welcome offers of material.  It doesn’t have to be anything dramatic: just an update on work in your area, or a good news story.  Make sure your name is included at the end of the article.

4. Make a presentation.  Delivering a competent presentation or teaching session can raise your profile and help you be perceived as a subject expert.  Many people are nervous about making presentations, and consequently will admire you if you can do it well.

5. Undertake a small research project.  This can be an excellent opportunity to ring up someone with whom you want to raise your profile and ask, "Could I spend 20 minutes asking you some questions as part of a research project that I’m undertaking?”

6. Get a mentor, and ask them to help you to raise your profile.  A good mentor will introduce you to people to whom you wouldn't otherwise have access.

7. Go along to local events organised by your professional body.

8. Shadow someone.  Shadowing is a recognised but under-used form of development which should be on your PDP if you are serious about raising your profile.  When I worked in the health service, I asked to spend a day with the HR Director for the whole of the English NHS.  He was very open to being shadowed; it was a fascinating experience and I established a contact that I would never have made if I hadn’t initiated the opportunity.

9. Attend meetings in place of your manager.

10. Put your name on your reports.  People whom you have never met will know about you via your written work. 

Next month - The Etiquette of Networking: 10 tips on how to avoid being seen as a schmoozer.