Dear Coach Joan: Career Advice
During my years as a career coach, when clients come to me discontented with their current position, a complaint that is surprisingly more frequent than being overworked and underpaid is that of being unseen and unheard. Recently, a woman who works in a financial institution told me that she does not have business cards. Her manager said she doesn’t need them. No, she is not stuck in the back room. Not at all. In fact, her job requires her to deal directly with customers, yet when she asked her manager what she should do when a customer asks for her card, he said that she could provide the customer with his business card!
Another client said that she feels she leaves ‘invisible footprints’ as her manager takes any and all credit for her work, leaving her feeling empty and isolated. She wondered if she could take credit for those achievements on her resume, even though very few in her organization know that she was the force behind many of the department’s accomplishments. Yes, she needed coaching on raising her visibility and tooting her own horn, but that’s not the point of today’s blog entry. She is currently not feeling valued or credited for her contributions.
The point is that most people, I’d guess 99% of healthy people want to make contributions at work; they want to use their ideas and energy, be a part of the team, work hard and earn acknowledgement of a job done well.
Yes, most people want to Be Seen and Be Heard at work.
And if we delve a little deeper we find that being seen and being heard means different things to different people. And that it’s vital to find out what it means to you. The client from the bank said that she is beginning to get physically ill from the stress of being treated so dismissively at work. When she makes a suggestion at a staff meeting no one seems to notice her. Everyone defers to that manager; the one who decided that she didn’t rate getting a business card.
Yes, she has been a professional and achieving woman all of her life but she had been laid off during the downturn and took this position in haste, as she needed to resume an income flow as soon possible. It’s a sad reality, but one that she said she MUST remedy and change quickly!
If you feel that you are not being fully seen or heard and that your skills and capabilities are not being recognized on the job, what should you do? My suggestion is, first thing, do an inventory of what you have done in the past; list your key achievements and what skills were demonstrated through those achievements. Then, go back and put an asterisk on the ones you really enjoy doing. Take the initiative to ask your manager for 15 minutes of his or her time so that you can present your skills and offer new resources to the organization. Show enthusiasm! Offer specific ways that your skills can be utilized. Make it attractive for him/her to see you and hear you! Perhaps they don’t know you are an excellent event planner, project manager or that you are fluent in Spanish and have done some translations. Perhaps they are not aware of all the software programs you are proficient at, and how you have graphic design skills that could improve the groups’ presentations. Take the initiative to show and tell what you can do with your peers as well. And ask them in turn for the skills, capabilities and interests they bring to work. If this effort gets a negative or blasé response, perhaps it’s best to begin a new job search, either at your existing organization or outside it. But it just might get a very positive response that turns out to be a win-win for you and for your organization. Give it a try. Be seen. Be heard.
Yes, being seen and being heard is a vital part of career satisfaction.
Make it easy for your employer or potential employer to bring the best of you to work!