Signed a huge client? Check. Trained six new employees? Check. Hit your monthly sales quota in a week? Done and done.
You might have a list of career accomplishments a mile long. But if you’re the only one with access to that list—and no one else understands the extent of your contributions or the impact they’re having on the organization—you’ll be standing behind the door when the raises are handed out.
That’s because when organizations assess talent and make decisions about raises, promotions, and plum projects, the people making the decisions are going through a mental highlight reel of your career—and what counts isn’t necessarily what you’ve done; it’s what they know about what you’ve done.
So if you’re watching others get the promotions, assignments, or recognition you believe you deserve, it might be because you’re not making your accomplishments known. To make sure your manager and the rest of the organization is well aware of your contributions, here are five tips for getting credit for your work.
1. Keep Your Manager Informed
Many of the clients I coach rarely speak with their managers. Sometimes, that avoidance stems from a strained employee-boss relationship; others, because full calendars don’t allow for easily coordinated conversations.
No matter your reason, this is a major career oversight. You can’t assume your manager knows what you’re doing, the great progress you’ve made, or the obstacles you’ve overcome unless you make it your mission to provide that information.
But if you wait until your annual review, most of your accomplishments will be old news. And, you’ll be competing to stand out among all the other reviews that are being conducted—and the co-workers who are pushing their own accomplishments.
Your Go-To Strategy
Get on your manager’s calendar bi-weekly (at least), and use that time to make sure he or she knows the status of each of your major projects. Also highlight how you’re leveraging relationships with other teams or colleagues and making him or her look good in the process (e.g., “Jack in marketing was confused about the pricing strategy, so I brought him up to speed based on the guidance you laid out. We’re both on track with the goals you set for margin”).
By having regular conversations, you’ll remind your manager of your value—and keep it in the front of his or her mind on an ongoing basis, instead of just once a year.
2. Focus on Results, Not Just Your Activities
As a manager, I found that during regular update meetings with my employees, they tended to focus on a list of activities they’d completed throughout the week, from making phone calls to holding meetings to creating slide decks.
However, while those types of activities are certainly necessary, and it probably feels good to validate the time and energy you spent on them, what your manager really wants to know is the impact those activities had on the organization.
Your Go-To Strategy
Instead of giving your manager a list of tasks you’ve accomplished, explain what those tasks mean in the bigger picture.
So, rather than: “Last week I met with 10 of our suppliers on rebidding the widget production, and then I had a conference call with the team to share our progress.”
Try this: “I met with 10 suppliers last week. Three are seriously hungry for the business, and I suspect we’ll be able to increase our projected savings by at least 5% based on those conversations. That’ll be worth $1.5 million in our run rate. I’ll get you the final number once we wrap up negotiations.”
3. Get Social Proof
When you do something awesome and your colleagues express appreciation, ask them to speak up on your behalf. (And if you work with customers, ask them to do the same. Managers love hearing from satisfied customers, and this is a great way to collect feedback on your performance!)
A brief note to your manager or team lead outlining how you helped get a desired result, overcome an obstacle, or move the project forward will generate visibility, reminding those higher-ups of your ability to achieve great things.
Your Go-To Strategy
When someone acknowledges your work, ask him or her to make it official: “Thanks for recognizing me in the project wrap-up meeting this morning. The results we got together were over the top. Would you be willing to send a note to my manager about my contributions to the project? She holds you in high regard, and it would be a tremendous professional validation coming from you.”
4. Get in Front of Decision Makers
The power of presenting your ideas and results well—and in front of the right audience—carries just as much sway in your career as actually doing the work When you have the opportunity to present, for example, to your boss’ boss, you’ll boost your visibility and, when done right, create a memorable impression. Soon, that manager will know your name, which will give you a boost when it comes to performance reviews and special projects.
So if you’re offered the opportunity to present an update on your project, make a recommendation for a specific decision, or provide commentary on the impact of your work, go for it.
Your Go-To Strategy
First, identify one of your strongest projects—one that you feel confident talking about; this will help you work from a position of strength. Then, tell your manager you’d like the chance to present the progress of the project to higher-ups. Suggest it as a good opportunity for you to stretch your speaking abilities and learn how to present to upper-level managers.
Then, work with your manager to make sure you know what’s important to that audience and how to present information in the most effective way, so that the presentation showcases you as a confident, decision-capable up-and-comer. Assure your manager you want to make her look great in the process. Then, do so!
5. Take Your Stolen Ideas Back
There will undoubtedly be a time in your career when you run an idea by someone to get some feedback, and he’ll love it! He’ll love it so much, in fact, that he’ll turn around and present it as his own idea.
This can be extremely frustrating, but you do have some options.
Your Go-To Strategy
Now, you’re not going to interrupt the meeting where the topic is being discussed and say, “Hey, that was my idea!” But you can present more details, numbers, and data to support your suggestion. In other words, take control of the conversation to direct the spotlight back to you.
For example, say you’re in a meeting and your co-worker, Gary, goes on and on about your idea of expanding in the nonprofit sector, as if he originated it. You can jump in and share the evidence that inspired you originally—which Gary doesn’t have: “Yes, the numbers show that sector is projected to grow by 12% next year. Also, I talked with the logistics team a couple of weeks ago about this, and they are ready to build more capacity into the system. Competitors haven’t ventured out there yet, so we’ll be ahead of the game.”
Boom. You now own it again. By supporting and expanding on the idea, it’s likely your original idea will emerge in bigger and better form—and you’ll end up with the credit.
Yes, we all need to be good team players. The old adage “It’s amazing what can be accomplished when it doesn’t matter who gets the credit” is a powerfully true statement on how work is done in organizations.
Also remember, however, that teams aren’t promoted; individuals are. So, your mission is to be a great team player, but to have a firm grasp of the impact you made and smart strategies to share it with those who need to know.
Photo of thumbs up courtesy of Shutterstock.
Lea McLeod coaches people in their jobs when the going gets tough. Bad bosses. Challenging co-workers. Self-sabotage that keeps you working too long. She’s the founder of the Job Success Lab and author of the The Resume Coloring Book. Get started with her free 21 Days to Peace at Work e-series. Book one-on-one coaching sessions with Lea on The Muse's Coach Connect.More from this Author