People won't always see your brilliance. Sometimes you have to show them.
The best employers are those who value what you do. They understand what you do and the value you bring to their business. You both benefit from working and collaborating together and learn from one another.
The thing is ... people are busy adding value to what they're doing. They don't always have time to look around and think "look how much value Sarah / Scott is adding to our business" (although they should be!)
You won't always feel valued at work immediately. Sometimes you gotta show people your brilliance first.
It's not always easy to communicate the value of what you do. Especially when:
- your employer doesn't entirely understand what you do
- they're more interested in the solution (not the process)
- the idea of 'selling' your skill set makes you feel uncomfortable
- you work behind the scenes or as part of a larger team or on long form projects
Here’s a few tips on how to demonstrate your worth in an authentic way that makes your employer feel good about working with you again and again.
Understand THE business
If you don’t understand what factors go into making a decision — it’ll make it challenging to get the pay rise or promotion of your dreams.
Put yourself in your employers shoes to understand what factors go into making decisions and whether promoting you is even in the cards in future. What factors do they negotiate everyday that may impact their ability to hire you again?
- Time and resources: they’re busy liaising with different suppliers, creatives, team leaders, staff and internal issues which may need to be resolved.
- Relationships: internal culture plays a huge role in bringing in outside expertise. If your peers and colleagues like you, see results in the work you bring to the table and see potential — they’ll likely already be seeing your value. But, sometimes there’ll be internal politics at play with different strategic directions getting bandied about — and that’s not something you can influence — even if you're kicking goals at your desk.
- Their clients: what factors influence the relationships with their suppliers and clients? Are you actively contributing to these upcoming needs or are you an afterthought?
- Timing: even if you’ve got the great idea, perfect campaign, best person to implement it — if it’s not the right time for the company, they’ll shelve it — and potentially forget about it. Timing plays a huge factor in whether your great idea or promotion gets the green light. Be patient. Pitch in solutions that work for the biz at the right time, with the right idea, and the right team to bring it to life. Don’t overwhelm them with options they can’t see happening in the near future.
- Budget: right idea, wrong financial year.
Create your 'forwardable summary'
Regardless of the size and scope of the project you're working on, at the completion, create a presentation that outlines the successes of your work / campaign, outline the learnings and — this part is important if you want to get considered for future opportunities — the opportunities for the brand. What further pieces of work does the brand need to grow / expand / improve? How could you [cough] play a role in this?
A summary presentation is a reminder why you’re a great return on investment. If you want to showcase your value and help yourself get hired again, you’ll create any of the following:
- A beautifully designed document they can forward and share;
- A summary email at completion of project outlining successes, learnings and — the most importantly — opportunities from here;
- A referral to someone who can further their gains to date and take them to the next phase;
- Ideas for what’s next. Do the thinking past the initial ‘brief’ — that’s what they pay you for.
Here’s an example structure:
- Overview — what you were asked to do / the project
- Objectives — what we hoped to achieve
- Strategy — the plan and how we did it
- SHOWCASE — press clippings, development of artwork, customers enjoying your amazing campaign— the feel good stuff here. Include behind the scenes pix to bring the project to life.
- Summary — what we achieved and the highlights. Numbers and digestable stats.
- Learnings — what worked well, what could be improved upon.
- Opportunities — next steps. If it was your business, what would you do next?
This little report / PDF of yours gets forwarded and shared with your bosses bosses, or if they’re really proud of what you’ve achieved, their family and extended network. (Tip: make them look good and it'll go to their mum for sure).
Present the solution - before the process
Pitching in a new idea? 'Thinking out loud' with your boss? No - no - no - no - no! Save that internal monologue for your colleagues or friends over a glass of wine. Take a tip from Refinery29's Creative Director and keep a list of your great ideas, ready to strike when the timing is right.
So when you are ready...
Your boss needs to know what you'll deliver, how your service will benefit them and how much it will cost. They don't always need to know about the behind the scenes details that bring the solution to life.
‘Don’t expect people to see your talent … You’ve got to show them why you’re an expert by teaching or showing them what goes into making what you make and why it would benefit someone like them.” - Paul Jarvis
Details are great for implementation. Get straight to the point; then demonstrate how it'll add value to the business. In other words, let them know how you’ll solve their problem — by when and how much it’ll cost them.
Here’s an example:
[The problem] "I see we're getting over looked by competitors. I think there's an opportunity here to look at things differently."
[The Ask] "I want to look at creating a new marketing strategy for the business."
[Why you're the go-to person] "I've created a marketing strategy for X brand, and increased the average spend per customer, and grew the social media community in the months immediately following."
[Pose the question] "Would you consider another way to tackle this problem? I can help."
Pretend there's 100 of you
You’re potentially one of 100 employees, freelancers, colleagues, clients, stakeholders your boss will meet with every week. Respect the time by being concise with your message, and what you need from them to do your best work.
Be professional, courteous — but get straight to the point. They have limited time — and attention span will be waning if you’re the third meeting they’ve had that morning.
- Respect their time — always ask how much time they have before starting a meeting.
- Follow up meeting actions immediately — either by summarising in email (they’ll need to remind themselves what the meeting was about later in the week) or in person reiterating what you’ll deliver. Present info clearly in your email (if you can't articulate what you need in two sentences; are you making yourself look 'busy'?) Include links, dot points, bulleted items — if they’re slow on time they’re going to need to get to info quickly. Especially if they're looking at their emails at 10pm.
- BE EARLY FOR MEETINGS. Never be late. Never text saying you’re running late. Just don’t be late. (ps — they can be late — you can’t.)
- Only send progress, or actionable items. Not excuses or rambling updates that do not progress the project.
- Remind them of any outstanding items you need from them to do your best work.
Take the lead, follow up
Do you follow up every meeting outlining what you’re going to deliver? Do you let your employer know once milestones are achieved?
After every meeting, regardless of whether there’s an immediate requirement for work or not, follow up, send through those links you promised you would or an introduction to someone you think they’d benefit from meeting. You never know what may happen in the future.
Your employer is not your publicist. If you’ve achieved a great milestone — let them know. It’s good for morale — and guess what — lets them know how good you really are at your job.
Let them know you value them, too
A successful working relationship is developed over time, through trust, track records and understanding one another. Your boss is a regular person. They have personal lives, families, things going on behind the scenes away from work, just like you.
Take the time to get to know them, understand their lives and you'll enjoy a much more rewarding relationship that goes beyond the project you're working on.
You can learn a lot from your colleagues and it isn't always work related. Let them know you value the relationship - say thanks, show your genuine enthusiasm when you catch up, share related links, articles and info that might be of interest to them.
(And if it isn't genuine enthusiasm when you rock up - ask yourself: is this the right fit?)
How to write an email: an 8 step programme (tip: preview your email on a phone — essay or easy to digest and understand?)
How to stay relevant (“The reports you produce are so amazing that people call your boss, unsolicited, to rave. Focus on that.”)