This kind of question often gets asked at the end of a training workshop, when I’m clearing up and gathering my things. Someone hangs back… They have a question that a) they didn’t want to ask in front of everyone else for fear of looking a loser, b) they didn’t think it was appropriate to ask as the training topic was something else entirely, and c) they don’t know who else to ask as they’re so confused by the situation.
“Raise my profile?!? What does that even mean?”
Good question. And one worth asking the giver of such vague advice. OK, you may want to tone down the language a little. You need to find out when, where and how exactly your profile needs to be higher. Don’t dwell on why: it probably won’t help and may make matters worse as you could hear some uncomfortable truths. You need to ask some smart questions, which may identify why you need to raise your profile, but be sure to keep the conversation on track – away from the problem and towards a solution.
Here are 10 questions you can ask to seek enlightenment; choose a few that you can adapt to sound natural:
- “When / in what situations is this particularly important?”
- “What am I already doing that I could do more of to raise my profile?”
- “What specifically can I do differently?”
- “What advice can you give me?”
- “What has worked for you?”
- “How will you know I’m making progress?”
- “Who can I learn from? Who’s great at this?”
- “How will you support me in this?”
- “When will I get opportunities to try this out?”
- “What will you notice when I’ve succeeded?”
If these questions prompt responses about something you’ve been doing that isn’t appropriate or falling short in some way you can ask for specific examples, especially if their account differs to your own experience. Take care how you ask though – “It would really help me to know what I did, and what I can do instead next time” is going to sustain the conversation more positively than saying, “Well what do you expect?! I wasn’t given any time to prepare!” (even though this may be true).
It could be (much) worse if your manager were asking you to ‘raise your performance’ – which is a very different kind of conversation than one where you discuss raising your profile. When asking you to raise your profile, your manager may want you to step up and deal with more senior stakeholders rather than letting them do all the talking. Or they may want you to make your voice heard, so that people get to know you and what you have to contribute. Either way – they’re offering you opportunity. After all, they may want to aim for the next job up and need you to be ready to take their place.
You may also find this blog post useful: Tips for building your personal brand.
Dawn is the author of ‘How to be Zoomly at work’, available now on Amazon and ‘The Feedback Book’, due out in September.