Have you been working virtually for the past two years? Have you enjoyed being behind the scenes getting things done?
When people don't see you, they don't know what you do either.
I'm on an airplane and watching an old episode of the comedy Mom. Kristy left for law school a month ago, and her mother and her friends are just starting to realize all the things she did for them when she was around.
It's funny, and I'm laughing, but part of me is crying inside because that describes many of us each day as administrative professionals. We make the office run smoothly. We juggle calendars, travel requests, meeting room bookings, and conflicting priorities like it is easy as pie. We make it happen without having to make an issue out of it, which causes everyone to think that things happen automatically or are easy to deal with. When your boss doesn't know that you spent three hours juggling the calendar to ensure the meeting with an important client happened at 10 am, it doesn't cross their mind that anything was required to make it happen. The same way Bonnie, on Mom, didn't realize that Kristy made the coffee for their AA meetings, it never crossed her conscious thought that anyone did it (until it wasn't done anymore.)
The longer we work from home or work a hybrid lifestyle, the more dangerous it is for you to be invisible. They forget you are even there (does your email go in the cc field or the bcc field?), forget to keep you in the loop, and don't recognize all the work required to make their lives easier. When they don't see you, they cannot know nor appreciate all you do. You are invisible, and the things you do get taken for granted.
For all of those reasons, now is the time to boost your profile and increase the value that you offer your organization.
In changing and challenging times, being good at your job isn't good enough. You need to show your company the value you bring, and you can do that by raising your profile.
Here are some ideas to become more visible with your bosses and colleagues and increase your indispensability factor:
- Get involved in high-profile projects. Maybe it is the "Return to the Workplace" task force. Perhaps it is in moving to a different office, creating a hoteling office concept, or working from home permanently committee. Get involved in anything that is high profile. You may have to work hard to find the time (I know you are busy) but being busy is better than being made redundant because they didn't see the value you brought. Get involved, provide high value, and remind everyone of an administrative professional's value to the workplace. Show the skills you have. By bringing your perspective and know-how to any high-profile projects, you will raise your profile and bring your concerns to the table. You'll be the first to know what's being discussed and how things are likely to go.
And, since you're an administrative professional, you have the ideal skills for belonging to high-profile projects—it's a chance for you to shine with upper management. If key people aren't aware of you, you'll miss opportunities to show your value. It's not only what you know that matters, but it's also who you know and who knows you.
- Differentiate yourself from the masses. Don't echo what other people are saying and doing. Focus on problem-solving instead of problem identification. There will be many people who are happy to point out what is wrong with ideas at work. Put your creativity to the test. Sometimes you will put ideas forward that won't work. Don't worry about that—everyone, at every level, will do some of that. The important thing is that sometimes you will put forward ideas that will work and that no one else suggested.
A critical element of differentiating yourself is not to be a "me too" contributor. Think about the aspects of the problems that other people haven't thought about and present them, along with possible solutions.
- Constant communication. Disappearing and going silent is not an option right now. Be sure that you are frequently communicating (in a very professional manner). It is easy to be forgotten when we aren't seen every day. Be seen virtually through your communication. Speak up during meetings. Respond to emails quickly. Include others in your virtual communications. Turn your camera on during Zoom/Team meetings. Communication doesn't have to be extra work, but it does require an awareness of how you are coming across to others and how often they are seeing or are aware of you and your excellent work. Stop being invisible.
- Aim higher. Take this opportunity to assume the lead in your organization and aim higher. Show your fellow employees what you can do, especially in a time of crisis. What you used to do was good, but it is no longer good enough—aim higher than you have ever aimed before. Ask for high-visibility projects (as mentioned above) that cause you to feel uncomfortable. Learn about other areas of your company's business and apply that knowledge to help solve challenges that arise. In pain, there is growth. Now is an excellent time to challenge yourself.
- Build relationships. It goes without saying that you should strive to have a great relationship with your executive. Get to know others at work: people in other departments, other business lines, different functions. Be a good networker within your organization. The more relationships you have in the workplace, the easier it will be to get things done. You'll be more efficient and a better problem solver when you have an internal network of people who know you, like working with you and want to help you.
Think how you feel when you see an employee's name on a list, yet you don't know the employee. You have no idea what they do, nor the value they bring. It is easy to dismiss them and think you don't need them. How can you need what you don't know is missing?
Don't be that name that people see but don't know what you do or know your value to your role. Stop being invisible.