While women excel in positions of influence in educational institutions, the corporate environment has different requirements for success. In school, the person who does the best work is rewarded, and the playing field is both even and very well-defined. In industry, it’s not sufficient to be good at what you do—you must be well-known within the company and/or industry to rise to the top.
I’ve uncovered three powerful ways you can almost instantly increase your visibility in the corporate world. In school, you need to do everything the professor assigns (and do it well). In industry, first you need to take on the right projects. Focus on those tasks that give you the most visibility outside your department and higher up the management chain. Learn how, and when, to say “no.” Surprisingly, if you value your time, others will value it as well.
Secondly, ask your manager for assignments that will increase your visibility even further. If you know of a high-profile project kicking off, ask to lead it. If you ask, you are more likely to get it. Volunteering for projects like this signals to your manager that you are proactive, willing to try new things, and have broader interests than what’s on your day-to-day list of responsibilities.
What if a project requires four skills, but you only have two or three of them? Ask for the project anyway! Never be afraid to take on tasks that stretch you outside your skill and comfort zone. Others in the company are doing this. If you don’t stretch yourself, you won’t gain the skills you need to keep progressing.
Thirdly, get known. You need to learn how to sell yourself. And while women have generally been discouraged from bragging about their accomplishments, this is a must in the corporate world. Expecting others to brag about you is a no-win scenario. Of course, you should not take credit for others’ work—you must balance self-promotion with integrity. And never, ever, denigrate yourself or your work. If someone compliments you, never say “It was nothing,” because they will then believe that it was nothing. Simply say “thank you.”
What I’m really suggesting is, be bold. Take risks. No one excels in industry by quietly doing just the work they are assigned. Be passionate about what you do, let people see your passion—and your accomplishments. You will gain the respect required to progress and succeed.