By Hol Thomas-Wrightson, 13 November 2023
It’s not uncommon for us to feel like our contributions at work are not being seen or appreciated as much as they should be, or that we are being overlooked for promotion opportunities. But it’s not always easy to know what to do to change things for the better.
This article summarises some key advice, from Jenny Kovacs – also known as the Queen of Being Seen – on how to raise your professional profile, whether you are working as a compliance professional in a permanent role for one company, or as an independent contractor.
Being loud vs being heard
It’s easy to assume being extroverted is key to being visible. However, Kovacs dismisses this. The key difference between extroverts and introverts is about approach: where an extrovert may ‘speak, think, speak’, meaning they can answer on their feet, introverts tend to ‘think, speak, think’. So while an extrovert may draw more attention in a meeting, an introvert will be more likely to consider the whole of what’s being said and may have useful insight to share either at the end, or in a follow up call or meeting.
Listening is integral to being visible. A common shortcoming in peoples’ approach to listening is the trap of ‘trans derivational search’, i.e. when someone says something, and you internally start thinking about what you want to say next, or a solution to a perceived problem, without listening to the rest of what they’re saying. ‘Many of us listen so we can respond,’ says Kovacs. However, if everyone in a discussion or a meeting is doing this, their focus is on their own thoughts, rather than hearing what is being said. Kovacs encourages instead to practice listening and, if a thought comes to mind, to make a quick note to yourself before bringing your attention back to the present. ‘You don’t have to be the person who speaks the most,’ she says, ‘But then whatever you offer, that one liner, will be so on-point, so accurate, that you will actually make an impression.’
ABCs of visibility
Like all kinds of learning and development, learning how to improve your visibility is like strengthening a muscle, and it’s a continuous growth. Kovacs offers her ABCs of visibility as an easy way of remembering how to make yourself more visible.
- A – Audience
Consider who your audience is. If you’re in a permanent role, that could be people who are senior, junior or your peers. If you’re independent, this goes wider, because you are responsible for marketing yourself and putting yourself in front of your audience.
Visibility goes both ways, positive and negative. Uploading a drunken picture of yourself on LinkedIn may get you seen, but it is unlikely to curry you any favour. Meanwhile, putting yourself forward to lead meetings or talk at events, writing an article for a compliance website or magazine, or a thoughtful post on LinkedIn about a relevant compliance topic will elevate how people see you, as well as potentially widening your audience.
- B – Business
Learn the values of your business, its personality, what it is doing and how it presents itself. If you are trying to present ideas and find yourself repeatedly being knocked back, it may be because they either don’t align with those of the business, or you’re not presenting them in a way that makes that alignment clear.
- C – Credibility
The best way to increase credibility is to listen to those around you, learning what they need and being a match for that. As above, you need to be able to adapt to what is needed to fit the brief.
The five pillars of visibility
Kovacs also shares her Visibility Activator System, which she designed to help others understand how to reach their own goals. ‘Even though everyone’s situation or scenario is a bit different,’ says Kovacs, ‘there are some key markers that you need to hit to make sure you are visible.’ These key markers are summarised in the acronym ‘VIBES’:
- V – Visibility
Again, this is about knowing when and how to be visible, what to show people and in what ways. It’s also important to remember that you are often not only representing yourself, but also your company.
Part of this is also having a vision: what outcomes are you hoping that greater visibility will deliver? It could be a promotion, taking on more responsibility, getting an idea off the ground, or even being recognised and respected as an individual in the compliance world. Whatever it is, you need to put a specific name to that desire and start crystalising a plan of how to get there.
- I – Impact/Impression
Get comfortable with who you are, what you need to do, and how to do it in a way that works with who you are. This can also come down to things like how you present yourself, both verbally and nonverbally (e.g. through body language) and how to make sure this works for you, rather than against you.
- B – Biography
This is about more than having an effective CV. It’s also about making sure that you are sharing your successes and singing your own praises, and not just waiting for someone else to sing them for you. Rather than leaving it until you’re looking for a new job, you should be regularly updating your LinkedIn profile with your achievements such as accreditations or courses you’ve completed, or making posts about things that you have succeeded in.
- E – Energy
Focus your energy on work time, rather than allowing work to encroach into your work-life balance. Burning yourself out by sending a reply to an email at midnight sets expectations that that’s normal, for you and for others, and depletes your energy in the long run.
Energy also relates to your own personality: who are you as a person? Are you chatty, are you reserved? Are you internally driven, or more process or people driven? By considering and owning those facts about yourself, you can learn more about how to make them work for you in your goals. If you hide them, it’s also making it more difficult for others to read you, understand how you operate, and how to best apply your strengths.
- S – Speak authentically and sell yourself
Think about how you present yourself, not just in meetings, but in your professional communications and when talking to those around you. Convey your value, celebrate your wins, and convey it all in a way that gives your audience an idea of just what you can do.
For more insights and a wealth of further advice on being more visible, you can see a full webinar with Jenny Kovacs on the ICA Learning Hub.