There is a genre of entertainment in which a young employee (often a woman) is underappreciated for her contribution at work until either a more successful person is forced to do without her or she steps up to save the day when everyone else fails. A heartwarming story. And one that resonates with so many people precisely because they feel underappreciated at work and wish their movie moment would come.
You don’t have to wait for Hollywood scriptwriters to fashion a way for you to make sure that other people know what you are capable of. Here are three ways to make sure your capacity to contribute at work is known by the people who matter:
Step up and serve
Much of your life before entering the workplace is governed by other people. If you play on a team, your coach decides when you get to play. To be in a musical, you audition and the director chooses you. Your teachers may even decide whether you are eligible to take particular classes.
So much of that life is scheduled, that you may forget to seize the moment when you get a job. You don’t have to wait to be asked to participate in every project.
Instead, make sure that you are aware of key organizational priorities. When you adopt the organization’s goals as your own, then your motivational system will help you to notice new opportunities to achieve these aims when they appear. When you do see an opportunity, go for it. Take some initiative. If you need to alert your boss that you have found an opportunity, make a call or pop your head in to ask for permission. But, don’t just wait around.
In addition, when the folks higher up the ladder are looking for people to take care of something, volunteer. They are paying attention to who goes the extra mile to ensure that things get done.
Deliver the results
Of course, with great volunteering comes great responsibility. Once you take on the burden of addressing an issue, you need to get it done—and get it done well. That means that you need to pay attention to the details. It isn’t enough to take care of most of a task. You need to complete it well.
If you’re not a detail-oriented person, then make a checklist of everything that has to be done to ensure that you do a high-quality job. Check over your work a few times. No typos in reports that go to key clients. No mistakes in numbers. No documents that looked great on the computer screen, but didn’t come out right.
And once you have delivered the results figuratively, it is important to deliver them literally as well. Present your finished work directly to your supervisor. If what you had to complete was an electronic document that you email, make sure you follow up with a personal visit to make sure everything was satisfactory.
That personal touch also makes sure that people above you in the org chart know who you are and can recognize you when they see you again. The human brain has specific mechanisms for recognizing faces. So, make sure your face gets a chance to be noticed.
It can be uncomfortable to toot your own horn. And there is some good reason for that. It is socially awkward to let other people know what a good job you have done and to highlight your role in a success. And those people who do continually talk about their own accomplishments can develop a bad reputation with their colleagues.
A great alternative is to go out of your way to share credit with everyone who helped complete a project. If you’re part of a team that finishes something big, send out a note to everyone who played a key role. By acknowledging their efforts, you are reinforcing the efforts of the group. In addition, the people who get your note will also acknowledge the role that you played in the project.
When you’re trying to make sure that your supervisors know things you have done, you can also frame your report to them by calling out everyone who played a role. Give specific examples of how other people took on key responsibilities to make sure the project was successful. Your supervisors will also notice that you seem to be in the middle of successful things. Plus, if you help build up your colleagues as well as yourself, you are laying the groundwork for a set of work relationships that will help you to achieve even more in the future.