Should you be worried about visibility at work?

Some people consider visibility crucial to their carrer. In this mindset, being visible at work is seen as highly important, and lacking visibility the direct path to career stagnation1.

It's not that you shouldn't care about visibility. Maybe you are an introvert and your company culture is somewhat outdated and favors extrovers. And it is true that sometimes we hear that a candidate for a position is not ready to be promoted because she lacks visibility. But being obsessed about visibility can lead to stupid behavior2.

What you should care is about your work, and how it is perceived. Perception is like reputation: it takes long to build, but can be blown away easily.

Outstanding work required

The first step is to ask yourself how good are you at what you do. Is your work outstanding? Do you take projects you don't specially like, but are important to your company? Do you meet your deadlines? Do you step out of the line to do things that are needed but are strictly outside your responsibilities? Do you behave as a team player, calling the shots when needed? Do you give proper credit to your team when goals are accomplished3?

Next, you need to ask others for feedback about your work. Feedback is important, because it is difficult to judge ourself objectively. Ask your boss, peers, your internal and even your external clients if you think it is appropiate. The sum of opinions does not make a truth, but if most of the feedback you receive says you lack strategic thinking, chances are you lack strategic thinking. Know your weak spots and opportunities of improvement.

Even high-potentials need help. Marshal Goldsmith's excellent book What Got You Here Won't Get You There explains how highly talented people with fast-paced and succesful carrers may get stuck at some point because higher responsibility positions require not only to be an over-achiever and deliver constant results, but also leadership skills. And leadership skills cannot be improvised over a short time.

If you do this consistently, visibility will be a consequence of your work, not a goal to be pursued. If you don't, chances are no amount of visibility will help you.

Photo Credit: solidethercc

  1. Google for 'visibility at work' to see what I mean. 
  2. For example, this article suggests checking with your boss periodically, whether you have something to say to her or not
  3. Only shorsighted people believe that success is a consequence of their effort or talent alone... It seems that the more intelligent a person is, greater is the danger of falling into this oversight. 
career, leadership, visibility

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