When it comes to our careers,
While professional goals will differ from person to person, most of us hope to maintain an upward trajectory in our careers. Common indicators of progress are milestones like moving into leadership, receiving sponsorship for a training program or landing a coveted promotion. Professional achievements are often an integral part of this process, helping us to justify our suitability for a new opportunity or additional responsibilities.
But what happens if you aren’t able to showcase your talents due to limited development opportunities?
For women in technology, limited visibility at work has long been connected to a decreased likelihood of access to stretch assignments, strategic projects or mentor relationships. Given that the majority of professions are still working remotely some or all of the time following the pandemic, it’s an issue that could worsen in the near future. Networking is another example of an activity that can prove invaluable to career progression but something that feels unnatural or forced for many.
How can women not only increase their visibility in the workplace but do so without a physical presence in an office environment? Equally, how can aspiring female leaders carve out meaningful connections with valuable contacts if they are inherently uncomfortable with their personal brand or the perceived transactional nature of networking?
These were just some of the questions we set out to challenge ourselves with during a training program organized as part of IMC’s Women in Cloud initiative. The interactive group workshops were hosted by Palena Neale Ph.D, an executive leadership coach and founder of unabridged who has extensive experience helping female professionals achieve their full potential by breaking down limiting beliefs.
Keep reading to discover a taste of what we learned during these insightful workshops.
The Importance of Visibility at Work
On Being Visible at Work was held in September, 2021. The session took a critical deep dive into the widespread issue of visibility and explored possible strategies that women can employ to mitigate the risk of limiting our exposure to career development opportunities.
It was fascinating to discover how often a reticence towards self-promotion creates a functional barrier across industries. Additionally, Neale underlined the importance of inner work as a necessary first step; the right mindset can help to put your professional accomplishments into perspective, away from individual values and towards wider organizational benefit.
Neale explains that self-promotion can seem uncomfortable for many of us at first. But, she says, it is a skill – and, like any skill, it’s something that needs to be actively learned and practiced with intent.
Achieving visibility at work won’t happen spontaneously, and requires a conscious investment of our time and mental energy. In order to ensure colleagues learned how to extract maximum value from this approach, Neale presented 10 visibility strategies so that each individual could find an approach – or combination of approaches – that resonated with their personal goals and values. Whether focusing on improving our ability to manage up or express career aspirations effectively, Neale believes that strategies are more likely to be committed to in the long term when conducted with personal authenticity.
Every workshop attendee was also assigned to a peer group to keep up the momentum and share any achievements from self-work that took place before the next official workshop in another couple of months.
Creating a Meaningful Circle with Networking
For many, the idea of networking conjures up negative connotations that can cause us to devalue the activity or even avoid networking opportunities altogether. Given the additional challenge of undertaking networking while working remotely, the activity is more likely to have fallen by the wayside this year.
Yet networking not only helps us to achieve our personal career goals but is an important leadership tool that aspiring female leaders need to understand how to utilize. Successful leaders recognize networking can offer value for the team and company through improved access to resources. But how can we achieve meaningful networking in reality?
This was the focus of the second workshop with Neale, held in November 2021. Creating a Meaningful Circle was an interactive workshop designed to uncover practical tools to assess personal networks and identify strategies to build and leverage relationships in line with individual values.
Building on the previous workshop exploring visibility, Neale was keen to highlight both the need to nurture core skills that can support effective networking and actively work against limiting beliefs we may hold.
Some common barriers that may limit our ability to extract value from the activity of networking fall into a perceived lack of time or mental energy, a negative mindset that views the process as purely transactional, and a lack of know-how about what to say or how to approach people.
During the workshop, Neale helped to guide participants through limiting personal barriers and conduct a detailed network audit to help identify which contacts could turn into a mutually beneficial relationship. One piece of advice that seemed universally true was the need to reframe networking in line with our long-term professional goals. This helps to move beyond any limiting personal barriers and increase the potential value that comes from this imperative. Learn more about Neale’s advice on creating a virtuous circle here.
The final word
Although remote work may require us to reframe our approach to many aspects of professional life, it has also served to create some new positives. Before the pandemic, access to senior leaders in the company or dynamic new mentors was likely to be limited to those in close physical proximity – whether that was in the office or at geographically local events. Now, our digitally distributed teams could stand to benefit from improved inclusivity and more level access to senior mentors globally.
As changes to the workplace continue to develop, let's reset our ideas around visibility, self-promotion, and networking to ensure that our rising female leaders have the tools they need to showcase their achievements and fulfil their potential.