Editor's note: This article originally appeared in Forbes.
As a board member for dozens of companies, the CEO of several firms and an executive with many more, I have spent countless hours behind closed doors with fellow leaders. Have you ever walked by a conference room and wished you were a fly on the wall? You probably thought to yourself, what are they talking about in there?
Well, I’ll tell you. We discuss competitive analysis reports and sales trends, new product launches and financial statements. We talk about strategy, expansion and legal issues. And — we talk about you.
Yes, we are watching you. We know which esteemed employees exceed expectations and turn grand ideas and goals into actionable results. We also know which workers spread negativity and don’t pull their weight. And, sadly, there are some who get lost in the mix; those who simply maintain status quo and don’t reach an executive’s radar.
Do you feel like you are just one of the many who go unnoticed? Do you go through your day completing assignments on time, maintain a positive attitude and feel like no one upstairs knows your name? Have you ever wondered how you could rise above the swarm of worker bees? I am pleased to share with you today four easy actions you might take that will get you noticed, and inevitably open doors to bigger opportunities.
This is truly one of the best ways to get on an executive's radar. As a CEO, I became aware of a stellar employee who rose to the top as she sought to solve a companywide problem. She was hired as a sales representative, and immediately found mentors to help her succeed in her assignment. Realizing there wasn’t a formal mentoring program, she decided to develop one herself. What eventually landed on my desk was a thorough mentoring plan, documenting the need, approach, implementation strategy, costs and expected results. No one asked her to do this. She saw the need and took action. We approved her initiative and implemented it. She became the leader of the program and still supervises her brilliant plan today.
It’s easy to point out problems in your department. No organization is perfect. But, identifying all that is wrong isn’t helpful to management if it’s not paired with a solution. In fact, I would bet that you are running through a list of things that need attention. Do you know what needs to be done to fix the problems that drive you and everyone else crazy? This is your chance to shine. Go figure it out. How? Begin by understanding the problem, not just the symptoms. Get to the core of the issue. Do your homework — research what’s been done to solve similar challenges. Become the expert.
When the time is right and you have the solution, schedule a meeting with your manager to discuss your idea. Your self-reliance, initiative and knowledge will not only give you confidence and credibility but high marks from supervisors. Do this a few times, and you will quickly become the highly praised employee they turn to for help.
Raise your hand.
Get involved in as many good opportunities as you can. Does your company offer a leadership training program? Is there a particular committee that interests you? Is your boss looking for volunteers? Raise your hand! Tell management you want to participate. Get involved in initiatives outside your little corner of the building. Leave your cube, expand your territory and excel at whatever comes your way. As you do, you’ll quickly gain a deeper understanding of the company, meet others who can offer new perspectives and ultimately put yourself in a better position for growth.
Support and mentor your fellow peers.
Coach others. Throughout your career, you have inevitably sought guidance from respected peers who freely gave of themselves to assist you. Pay it forward. Be one of them. Listen to the needs of those around you. Offer your assistance and become someone your team relies on for guidance. As an executive, we learn who in the building is assisting others, and these charitable individuals are the first to be considered when a new leadership position is created. Remember this point — those who think and act abundantly are always going to succeed.
In conclusion, in most cases when there is an open position, management will hire from within the company. It is generally more cost effective and beneficial for an organization to hire internally. Likewise, a current employee is already known, trusted and has a solid understanding of the company culture, its policies, processes and goals. Therefore, remember when that next job opening is posted, it could be yours if you have followed the recommendations presented here.
I sincerely wish you success as you climb the corporate ladder. As always, you can reach me at @AskAlanEHall or via www.AlanEHall.com.
Alan E. Hall is a co-founding managing director of Mercato Partners, a regionally focused growth capital investment firm. He founded Grow Utah Ventures, is the founder of MarketStar Corp. and is chairman of the Utah Technology Council.