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If you’re an employee, your skills are being tested every day. Tested by your supervisor, your employer, or your shareholders. Any day, you could be outsized, rightsized, downsized, or capsized.
Today, if you are a smart employee, you recognize that you must develop your skills, grow yourself and promote yourself to get your boss, and the marketplace, to appreciate your performance.
Imagine yourself as a product. Like any product, you have attributes of benefit to your consumer (your supervisor, employer, shareholders, etc.). Figure out what it is that distinguishes you from all the other smart, creative, industrious people walking around your office.
What are those attributes? What do you do that adds exceptional, measurable, unique value? What are you most proud of? What can you truly brag about? What do your colleagues (or your competitors) say is your greatest strength? What have you done lately — this week, today — that makes you stand out?
Now it’s time to market that product. You. And the key to marketing yourself is visibility. Promote yourself. In your company and throughout your industry.
Many people feel uncomfortable with this concept. But don’t think of it as boasting or self-service. Your company will applaud your efforts at self-development. As you grow, lead projects, develop a network, and delight your customers, your company receives the credit.
Here are five good ways to build your visibility, to make you stand out within your company and in your industry:

1. Take on an extra project — Sign up for a new assignment inside your organization. Expand your sphere of influence, meet new people, showcase your work to a new set of colleagues. Take on a freelance project outside your company that puts you in contact with a whole new group of people. Or volunteer for a charitable organization, and make a difference. Chair a committee at your local YMCA or head up your company’s United Way campaign. You expand your network and have a whole new circle of folks singing your praises.

2. Teach a class — Try offering your services to the local community college, adult education program, or even within your company. You boost your visibility, position yourself as an expert, and increase the probability that people will come to you for advice in your field. Best of all, you stand out from the crowd.

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3. Write a column or opinion piece — Try penning a piece for publication. You don’t have to start with the Wall Street Journal either. Your community weekly, industry trade publication, or even the company newsletter all have white space to fill. Use your clippings to build your credibility and your visibility. Send one along to a colleague with a note, "Thought you might find this of interest," etc.

4. Give a speech — For many, nothing is more frightening than standing up in front of a crowd and talking. Yet we do it all the time, at the office, at parties, at the kids’ soccer match. Start by speaking to your local Kiwanis or Rotary Club. Sign up for a panel discussion at a conference, or offer to run a workshop or seminar. Use these to build your confidence. From there, it’s just a short hop to a major address at your next industry trade convention.

5. E-mail — It’s the communication method of the 21st Century. In the era of the telephone, the glib talker reigned supreme. No more. Today, clear, succinct, readable email sets you apart from your colleagues. As your email opinions and recommendations are circulated throughout your company, with your name attached to them, your visibility grows.
Your career is a portfolio of projects designed to earn the respect and admiration of your colleagues. Along the way, you acquire new skills, gain new expertise, develop new capabilities, and grow your network of friends and admirers.
Make sure the marketplace (your company and your industry) is aware of your product (you). Because you may need, from time to time, to test the market.
At least once a year, ask for feedback on your performance, your skill set, your development. Go on a job interview, even if you’re not interested in leaving your present job. Find out what you’re worth on the open market.
You may just be pleasantly surprised. And, when you’re ready to make your move, you’ll be in a better bargaining position.

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Robert Grede, author of "Naked Marketing – The Bare Essentials" (Prentice Hall), is president of The Grede Company and teaches marketing and promotion at Marquette University.

May 24, 2002 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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