If you were driven by acclaim or attention, chances are you would have chosen a different line of work. Administrative professionals are expected to efficiently handle a wide range of challenges behind the scenes, not to trumpet their own successes. (And who has the time for that, anyway?) On the list of indispensable administrative attributes, tact and discretion are perched near the top, while a knack for self-promotion lies somewhere close to the bottom. But is that the way it should be?
Think of all the times you’ve been the one who saved the day by assisting co-workers and managers with complex projects and problems. You may have been reluctant to call attention to yourself in such cases because you didn’t want to seem boastful. Or perhaps you didn’t feel right seeking attention for “just doing your job”.
But too much modesty may actually hinder your career advancement. When the time comes for public praise or promotions, you may be passed over – or worse, someone else may be given credit for your contributions. The problem is a common one; many administrative professionals say they don’t get the recognition they deserve.
Silence may be golden in some cases. But in a busy office, don’t rely on your work to speak for itself. There is nothing wrong with seeking recognition for your accomplishments or raising your profile. The key is to go about it the right way.
To make the transition from unsung hero to superhero, you need self-promotional savvy. Try the following strategies:
Do more to increase your impact
Performing your day-to-day duties effectively is essential, of course, but it’s not enough to boost your visibility. You need to expand the scope of your impact. The best way to do this is by volunteering for additional assignments whenever you can. As long as it doesn’t detract from your core responsibilities, taking on new assignments will demonstrate your dedication and willingness to go the extra mile to help the team.
Don’t wait until someone asks you for help. Make it a point to learn about all the projects and initiatives in your department or division, and then figure out how you might contribute. It could be something as simple as conducting some online research, proofreading a report or helping to prepare a slide presentation.
By frequently asking, “How can I help?” you’ll step from the shadows and become the go-to resource for your colleagues.
Go public with your ideas
If you have bright ideas that could help your firm generate revenues, cut expenses or streamline work functions, don’t keep them to yourself. Pitch your solutions to management and speak up in meetings and brainstorming sessions.
Don’t be shy. Companies continue to seek innovative thinkers and smart, confident risk-takers, not shrinking violets. Your manager will appreciate your consideration of the bottom line and your desire to help the firm operate more efficiently.
Don’t bury your talents
Fitting in and standing out aren’t mutually exclusive goals. When someone acknowledges your contributions on a project, do you tend to downplay your efforts with a comment like “It was nothing”? If so, it’s time to change your response. You won’t boost your visibility by being self-effacing.
The next time someone compliments your work, take credit where it’s due. Respond with a smile and say: “Thank you. I’m pleased my efforts made such a difference.”
Similarly, don’t be silent during staff meetings. If you simply listen and take notes, you’re missing out on a valuable opportunity to shine. Before your next meeting, look at the agenda to determine where you can offer insight or contribute to a topic. Sharing ideas and suggestions and actively participating in the discussion will help you build your reputation as a thoughtful contributor.
Build name recognition
You may be well known in your department, but how about in the rest of the company? Particularly at a large firm, it can be a challenge to stand out, but it’s not impossible. At events like the annual holiday party or company picnic, don’t just talk with your peers in the administrative group. Introduce yourself to managers and professionals in other departments.
Give your name and department and, if appropriate, mention a relevant bit of company news (eg “I heard your sales team set a new record this quarter.”) Making new contacts throughout the firm can build camaraderie and let others know who you are and what you do in the company.
Make networking an “inside job”
You know how important it is to develop connections outside your firm, through membership to professional associations and volunteer activities. But expanding your reach within your own firm is just as critical. We just talked about circulating at company outings, but take it a step further: create an internal network by establishing strong relationships with colleagues throughout your company.
One of the best ways to build your internal network is to become involved in cross-departmental initiatives. You’ll meet peers and superiors in other areas of the company, learn more about operations and current initiatives and forge ties that will garner you notice outside your own department. You’ll also cement your reputation as an outgoing and helpful team player.
Another good way to make new contacts is to participate in corporate philanthropic efforts. For example, you might join the committee that’s organising the company-sponsored charity run or help collect canned goods for the local food bank.
Keep your skills current
Enhance your job security by keeping your skills cutting edge. Take advantage of all professional development opportunities your employer offers, from online tutorials to reimbursement for continuing education. In addition, join industry associations, attend conferences and seminars, seek relevant qualifications, and read specialised publications to keep up with the latest developments in your field.
Once you’ve learned something new, don’t keep it to yourself. Share your knowledge with your boss and colleagues. This will demonstrate your commitment to continuous professional development and excellence.
Consistently convey your value
Weekly status reports are a good way to tactfully blow your own trumpet. Concisely explain your accomplishments without being too general. For instance, saying that you “coordinated the mailing of a marketing brochure” doesn’t convey the fact that you culled delivery information from a database, secured brochures from the warehouse, managed the staff who filled envelopes and directed mailroom personnel on shipping requirements.
While sometimes self-promotion is a necessity in gaining visibility, don’t overdo it. If you tout your accomplishments too aggressively or exaggerate your contributions, you’ll leave a bad impression. You want your supervisor and decision makers to be aware of what you do through a consistent track record of successful, relevant activities. With this approach, you’ll stand out for the right reasons and build a reputation as an indispensable employee.
In building visibility, you might find it difficult to adjust your workplace behaviours, especially at first. But the potential rewards easily justify the effort. Becoming more assertive about your contributions can lead not only to increased recognition and career growth, but also to some subtler but more profound changes. Don’t be surprised if the process of making your professional value more visible to others also makes it unmistakable to you. When that happens, your growing confidence will help you shine even more brightly.”