Building your profile is essential if you're looking for a promotion or a move to another employer. And, with the tough job market, it's more important than ever to make sure you stand out from the crowd.
“When headcount is tight, employers will only hire the ideal fit,” says Stephanie Marshall, Associate Director at Astbury Marsden. “If you want to be that ideal fit, you not only need the right skillset, you need the right profile too.”
The first step to raising your profile says Alexandra Sleator, founder of career and executive coaching firm Coaching for Inspiration, is making sure you’re seen and heard. “Get yourself noticed so people can form an opinion of you. Speak up in meetings but also work on one-on-one encounters,” she says.
Sleator recommends targeting key influencers in your organisation and finding ways to speak to them. This could be something as simple as saying hello and introducing yourself to a senior manager in the lift. “In many cases they’ll ask how you’re doing, which is a perfect opportunity to tell them about work you’re involved with that brings benefits to the business,” adds Sleator. You can also take advantage of an open door policy if your organisation has one. But make sure you have good news to share, such as a new contract, improvements to your systems or a business lead.
Getting involved with extra activities, whether these are work-related or after hours projects, such as fund-raising or volunteering, brings you into contact with senior decision makers outside your normal sphere. It gives you the opportunity to demonstrate organisational and leadership skills that might not otherwise come to their attention. It also establishes some common ground – useful for opening conversations at a later date.
As well as putting yourself forward for these extra activities, it’s also important to make sure your contribution gets noticed. “Working hard isn’t enough,” says Sleator. “Do some ethical bragging to draw attention to what you’re doing.” For instance, if you’ve finished a project, email your boss and other relevant people within your organisation to let them know what the work achieved. “Hone your communication skills,” she adds. “Senior managers get lots of emails so make sure it’s relevant information, keep it short and give it a punchy title to grab their attention. You want to make yourself visible without being seen as arrogant or crass.”
If you’re looking for new opportunities with another employer, you’ll need to adopt a slightly different strategy. While it will still be important to build your profile within your organisation, networking externally should be top of your agenda. Hook up with former colleagues at industry events such as breakfast briefings, conferences and seminars. You will also need to step out of your comfort zone at these events and introduce yourself to new people – find out in advance who is attending, identify who you want to meet and have some questions up your sleeve.
And don’t forget an online profile is also important as more and more employers turn to the internet to check out prospective candidates. This could mean cleaning up your details on sites such as Facebook and Twitter but also sprucing up your LinkedIn profile. “Make sure your details are up-to-date and really sell you; get more recommendations if possible; and include a good photo,” says Marshall. “Think about what you want to do next and rewrite your profile to show relevant skills and experience.”
Raising your profile: the golden rules
- Leave nothing to chance – set yourself some objectives, for example aim to make one new contact a week or speak to three or four people at a seminar
- Follow up a meeting or a chat with a thank you email a day or two later that builds on the conversation
- Remember, networking works best as a two-way street – if you can offer value or help someone they are more likely to reciprocate in the future.
Alexandra Sleator, career and executive coach and founder of Coaching for Inspiration, spent 23 years working in financial services before setting up her own business.