The crucial difference between ‘being seen’ and ‘making yourself visible’.

It’s a small but important distinction – but one that may prove vital for progressing your career and succeeding in achieving that much sought-after work/life balance. 

Perhaps many years ago when the world was a smaller, quieter, less technologically connected place – ‘being seen’ might have been enough to get on in life. In the same way that a service or product could succeed in a local environment just by being physically noticed and judged as ‘good’ by its customers, you could achieve in your career by being effective, getting on with it, being conscientious and doing excellent work. Your boss and/or colleagues might notice your diligence and reward you for it. You could be recognised and work your way up through a company by being really good at your job – and by other people noticing that you were really good at your job. 

Times have changed radically over the last century. We currently live in a vast and busy, connected global capitalist society, full of noise, competition, movement and technological distractions. A new product or service that is going to succeed on a national or international level now needs to be more than ‘good’ – it needs to be made visible – to millions. It needs to stand out from the rest. In order for it to be seen by millions, it needs to be actively marketed to millions – via the Internet, broadcast TV, print media, viral campaigns.. However brilliant that product may be, unless it is intentionally brought to the attention of its wider market in an innovative and interesting way, it will not live up to its potential.

It may sound dramatic, but you need to think of your own career in a global corporate law firm along these sort of lines. No one is suggesting that you need to market yourself to millions, of course! Or get a viral campaign going! But have a think about these questions. Do you like to get on with your work, doing the best you can do, achieving excellence and hoping that the quality of your work and your diligence will be rewarded accordingly by those around you? Are you in fact relying on others to recognise your true value?

If so, then you need to understand that THIS is the difference between being seen and making yourself visible. It’s a question of being passive over being active in your career approach. Perhaps you feel you are more introverted by nature or don’t like to make a fuss? Perhaps you are worried about failure or about being seen to be overly pushy or arrogant? (I look more deeply into the fears you may have about making yourself visible and how you can overcome them in this week’s podcast). 

Whatever understandable reasons you may have for your reluctance, what you can do about it comes down to one thing, and that is personal agency. However much you may yearn for a world where you and your work could quietly be judged and rewarded on merit alone, there is too much noise, competition and distraction for this to generally be the case. If you are ambitious to succeed to the best of your ability, you need to take ownership of what happens, or doesn’t happen to you. Be active, not passive. Be intentional, not accidental. How, or indeed, whether, others notice your work, or recognise your excellence and your unique value is 100% your responsibility. It is entirely within your power to market yourself, to bring yourself and your work to the right people’s attention – to highlight your value and to differentiate yourself from the competition. Don’t wait for others to notice your brilliance – you might be waiting a very long time. To use a hackneyed phrase, take back control! It’s your career. It’s your life. Make it work for you.  

In future blogs and podcasts this month, I will be looking at how you can start to actively make yourself visible at work – firstly by building your personal brand, and then by taking practical steps to raise your profile. In the meantime, allay your fears about increasing your exposure by tuning into this week’s podcast, episode #39. 

 Listen directly: Episode #39 Being Seen vs Being Visible