Careers advice: How to get recognised by senior leadership

26 November 2020

You’re bright. You have good ideas, insights, and the ambition to take on more but you aren’t getting the opportunities you want, and you’re struggling to get noticed by senior leadership, especially when working from home.

How can you change this? In this month’s alumni careers blog, Caroline Egan, Alumni Careers Manager, explains:

  • What you need to do to be identified as a ‘future star’ or ‘high potential’ within your company
  • How you can go about doing this while working remotely.

Here are 10 steps you can take to be recognised by senior leadership as someone who goes above and beyond their job title and shows the potential to do great work at a more advanced level. These actions can help you grow and demonstrate your aptitude for promotion - without coming across as arrogant or upsetting your team.

1. Demonstrate your commitment to your growth and to the company

It’s easier than ever to invest time outside work in learning skills that will help you develop and contribute to the business. E.g. taking courses that support the work you are doing, or reading texts in areas you want to master. Ask your manager if they can recommend any books. Show an interest in taking on special projects; ones that will both help the company reach its goals and provide you with an opportunity to stretch yourself.

2. Focus on the team’s success, rather than your own

While many ambitious employees focus on their own success, senior leaders notice those who work collaboratively and support others. They recognise that the greatest opportunity for success lies in a team that works well together, and a team that’s working from home needs this quality more than ever. Your manager will notice you give your time and advice to help make others successful - someone who makes those around them better is invaluable to a business.

3. Know your numbers and take ownership of your work

Whatever part of the business you ‘own’, make sure youknow it inside out, and be ready to discuss the performance metrics and business analytics that matter most (revenue, profit and loss, etc.) Make sure you have a good idea of where you stand within the larger organisation, especially when the focus is on you – at virtual presentations, meetings, or project reports. If you can convey the value of your contributions, you can prove the value of your worth to the business.

4. Do what you say you will and do it well

Once you commit to something, commit to doing it well. When opportunities arise, business leaders are looking for someone with a good track record of getting the job done and bringing in positive results. This means your name needs to be associated with good work.

5. Train yourself to think strategically

Being a strategic thinker is imperative to being promoted to roles with more responsibility. The best leaders know how to balance working ‘on’ the business (strategy), with working ‘in’ the business (day-to-day operations). When working ’on’ the business, you need to be able to look beyond your to-do list and think strategically about which opportunities will help the organisation reach its larger goals. To do this, you have to be able to see the big picture, and keep it in mind when making decisions: this doesn’t come naturally to everyone so you may need to set aside time to develop this skill.

6. Challenge old ways and find new solutions

Can you identify different approaches to problems your company’s facing, or find a creative way to meet a new challenge post-Covid? Evaluate current processes and communicate how you could improve them. If your organisation is forward-thinking, your ideas should be welcome, particularly if you present them with humility and an understanding of how you’re building on others’ work.

7. Work on your communication skills

You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, but you do need to show adaptability in your interactions with others. Whatever you’re doing, it’s important to know your audience and think about how you’ll communicate with them in advance, especially when it’s virtual. You may want to project more confidence during a presentation, for example, but be more humble when working with peers. You may want to approach your manager with curiosity in some scenarios, but approach them with your views and data to support your point in others. Always follow up with others and make sure you clearly understand their expectations.

8. Build relationships with people throughout the company

Don’t just work with colleagues in your department. Look for opportunities to connect and collaborate with other key players in your organisation. When you build connections, you expand your network of allies and increase your visibility and influence. When you work collaboratively and cross-functionally, your name will keep coming up for all the right reasons.

9. Understand the values and purpose of your organisation

Organisations use mission statements to communicate what is and isn’t expected of employees. Values speak to what an organisation seeks, both in its staff and in its leaders. Potential leaders know these values, employ them in their work, and encourage others to uphold them too.

10. Raise your hand

Don’t be afraid to ask for opportunities to show your skills and talents. You don’t want to push too hard too often but showing initiative is always a good thing. If you see an area where you believe you can be an asset, and support strategic initiatives, ask to take part. Explain why you believe you can make a valuable contribution, and how it will contribute to your development and ultimately to the benefit of the business as well.

There’s no shortcut to getting noticed at work. I like to use the metaphor that cultivating your career is like creating a mature garden - it takes time, dedication, and patience but if you follow the steps outlined above, you’ll be on the right path to promotion and be ready for the opportunity when it arrives.

WBS offers lifelong career management and professional development support to all its alumni: access our Career Management Module here, or email alumnicareers@wbs.ac.uk.

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