Hard Work Alone Will Not Get You Noticed

This is the fourth post in a series where Women of HR writers share their thoughts and reactions to a manifesto, Six Rules Women Must Break In Order to Succeed.


When I read each of the the 6 rules in Six Rules Women Must Break In Order to Succeed, all I could say was “yep” – 6 times.

Bravo to the writers seeking to help others and how I would have liked to read the document years ago. If you have not read it yet, I encourage it.

When I became the first female executive in sales leadership for a Fortune 500 firm, no one shared those rules with me. I used to think that hard work was enough, and my mindset was pretty much as described by the authors in the document.

I chose to write about Rule # 4,  Be Politically Savvy (Don’t Expect Hard Work to be Enough) because, as a rule for me, I found politics distasteful. And through years of learning, I agree – you don’t opt out. I now look for opportunities to enjoy the network and pay it forward so that it becomes ingrained as a fiber of my career, versus a part of the job I don’t like, and the process comes much more naturally to me now.

I do not think of it as politics any longer, I think of it as social networking (believe it or not) inside my own firm. Here are some of the things I do to make the most of my defining moments:

1) Prepare for key meetings/conferences. If travel is involved, I will spend extra time socializing before and after with peers and leaders because I agree with the “6 rules” authors that all kinds of great things come from this.I  used to avoid these things and I now believe that was a mistake.

2) Seek input from role models. There are key members of the senior team and peer group that are stellar (men and women) at politics inside the firm. I marvel at their work.  I used to observe in wonderment, I now go to school and seek their input and work with them to pick up the skills until they are more a part of my social norm.

3) Know when my opening is and be stellar. This one is not easy and I have learned that you rarely get a second chance. So, when you know you are on the calendar with a senior member of your company’s team, do not underestimate the level of effort and rehearsal that should go into what you intend to communicate. Think in advance what your key message is, how you intend to make your point, and whether you are able to make it in moments or not. Executive attention span is brief,  snapshot judgements will be made and they are not easy to change if you blow it.

In summary, regardless of how hard we work, our career may come down to some defining moments and these defining moments are ours to manage and take into our own hands. We have all had them whether we know it or not – like last spring when our CEO reached out to me on a return flight from a conference. He asked me a few brief questions about the conference and I took considerable time and effort to write and re-write my response to be certain the information was useful to him. It felt great when he complemented the note the next day.

A short time ago, I would have been hasty and provided a communication that would not have been stellar. I would have thought, “I am busy. He will just know how hard I work.” This would be wrong on so many levels; just wrong.

How about you? When did you have a defining moment? Did you make the most of it?

About the Author

Debbie Brown

Debbie Brown is a Senior Sales Executive in Analytics, Software and Services . The majority of her career has been spent managing people and teams in software and services provided to the HR industry. Debbie enjoys sharing leadership best practices and as an avid reader is always happy to share great book recommendations. You can connect with Debbie on Twitter as @DebbieJBrown.


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