Ever feel like no one understands the contributions you make? That even your boss undervalues your talents and accomplishments?
The problem, in this pressured work world, is that everyone is moving so fast that your boss and colleagues are too busy to notice what you're doing. So if you want to make a strong, positive impression at work, you need to get over your self-effacement and be prepared to tell your story, advises Valerie Di Maria, principal at the10company, a firm that helps leaders and high-potential professionals reach the next level.
Di Maria suggests taking a calm, confident, matter-of-fact approach to sharing what's special about you. How? Di Maria, whose firm offers leadership and communication coaching, recommends these five steps:
1. Make it a priority to define your brand.Yes, you're very busy with work and personal life, but one of the best professional investments you can make is to articulate your own value proposition, sometimes called a brand.
Quite simply, "brand" can be defined as the characteristics that distinguish an organization, product or person from other organizations, products or people.
As Di Maria explains, "a brand describes who you are, what you contribute and what you want to accomplish. In this information-overloaded world, a brand helps you cut through the clutter and make a memorable impression."
But you can't decide on your brand in the five minutes you spend running from one meeting to another; you need to spend time thinking about how you can define your secret sauce.
2. Be ready to give your pitch at every (appropriate) opportunity.It would be great to think that people are going to stop in their tracks and everyone will wait for you to deliver a soliloquy about your awesomeness.
But the world doesn't work that way. So you need to grab every opportunity you can to share your story, just the way you grab a granola bar on the way to work. Or, as Di Maria puts it: "Master the art of speaking up."
That means you need:
- An elevator pitch you can indeed deliver in the few minutes it takes to ride from the sixth floor to the lobby.
- A "small talk" version of how you contribute that's ideal for cocktail parties and other networking events.
- The conversational interpretation for when you're sitting at lunch with a colleague.
- Stories you can tell (for all occasions) that demonstrate how you've made a difference and that others can learn from.
3. Don't give credit to everyone else (and neglect your own contributions).Your mama raised you right, so she encouraged you to get in the habit of thanking other people. But when you recognize others without giving yourself a small pat on the back, you relegate yourself to the background.
That's why Di Maria wants you to remember to find a way to weave in your own role when recognizing achievement. "If your team accomplished something significant, you likely did something wonderful as well," she says. "You're not stealing the spotlight by describing how everyone contributed; you're sharing it."
4. Embrace the real you. How you express yourself should reflect who you really are and what you stand for. You're different from everyone else, so let your style work for you.
If you're enthusiastic, express that energy. If you're more reserved, use facts to support your story.
"There's no wrong answer--except to stay silent and hope that someone else will speak for you," says Di Maria.
5. Amplify your reach with social media. Maybe you don't care about being an Instagram influencer, but don't forget that platforms like LinkedIn are essential to expressing your brand and articulating your thought leadership. For people who are more shy, social media can be a comfortable way to raise your visibility.
Just keep in mind that a mix of approaches is ideal. So also include internal forums--like town hall meetings and video interviews--and external venues--like speaking engagements and authored articles
And if all else fails and you still feel a little nervous, remember what Muhammad Ali famously said: "It's not bragging if you can back it up."