I’ve written previous about being an introvert and what that entails, and one of the elements of being an introvert is that I don’t go around shouting about how great I am at what I do.
I’m more likely to be going about my business quietly, just getting things done, often behind the scenes, with no fanfare.
That’s great for me as I take pleasure from my own work and don’t need as much external validation as others, but the flipside to that is often others don’t really see the value that I can offer, or the skills that I have.
This in turn could be detrimental to my career, as other more visible characters could find themselves with opportunities that I could have taken advantage of, if only my skills stood out more.
The question is, how do I go about making my skills stand out?
In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is a failure. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible."
When people think of skills, they often think of hard skills.
“I have a degree in marketing communications”.
“I am a certified scrum master”.
But skills aren’t just hard things that you learn and get a certificate in.
They can be soft skills, like developing teams, coaching performance, or negotiations. They’re all skills, and from my perspective, it’s these soft skills that I try and identify when I’m hiring for my product teams.
Skills can also be big or small.
You can be a guru in Facebook Advertising or you can craft the perfect 140 word tweet.
You can run a scrum team, or you’re able to get to the bottom of a problem in a sprint retrospective.
What are your skills?
When it comes to thinking about them, it helps to think about different situations that you find yourself in.
Maybe start by thinking about your current role at work and what you do there, and then widen your thinking to consider what skills you bring to the team you work in. Your individual skills are often different to your skills in group situations.
Follow this up by thinking what skills you utilize outside of work. Do you have a side hustle, do you run a choir or coaching a sports team? Have you created local treasure hunts or spend your time painting water colours? All of these have skills, soft or hard, that you should include in your skills list
Write down all the skills that you have, however big or small.
I’ve written a post in the past all about job crafting, which is “what employees do to redesign their own jobs in ways that foster engagement at work, job satisfaction, resilience, and thriving” (Berg, Wrzesniewski, & Dutton, 2010).
It focuses on adjusting what you do at work in order to do more of what you want to do at work.
When you look at your list of skills, which ones jump out as the ones that bring you the most satisfaction and success? These are the ones you should be looking to bring to people’s attention.
I can stand up in front of an audience and do a sales pitch. I’ve done it for many years, but I hate doing it. As such, it is a skill I have, but it isn’t one that I want to focus on.
I’m good at introducing the basic processes needed to run product development more effectively. I’m good at empowering teams to take control of their own work and work autonomously. I’m good at developing individuals so that they get better in their roles.
These are the skills I want to be “known for”, and the ones that I should be raising the profile of.
When a new opportunity comes round the corner, I want it to be focused on teams and operations, not sales pitches.
Check your list of skills and identify which you want people to focus on.
Once you’ve got your list of skills that you want to maximize, now your task is to find opportunities to utilize them.
At work, how can you bring some of your skills forward? Can you volunteer for projects? Can you do some research to find ways to bring the skills into the team?
Outside of work, can you create a side project that uses your key skills? Can you volunteer for an organization that needs the skills? Are there internship opportunities you can make the most of?
The skills are the skills, wherever you apply them.
Write down five ways you can do more with your key skills
Now you’ve got the skills list and ways in which you can use them, the task is to be noticed for your efforts and identified by others as having the skills.
Simple steps such as offer ideas and suggestions, and always contributing and not sitting quietly, go a long way to raising your profile with the people around you.
However, when we’re talking about getting seen, this doesn’t have to be physically inside your work, but could be getting involved in a Slack group on your subject of choice, or answering questions on a forum where you can use your skills and knowledge to help others.
Update your LinkedIn profile with examples of your success with your key skills. Make this what people see first about you when they read your details.
You aren’t just a “product manager for a fintech company”. You’re a “product operations specialist, with a track record of setting up product teams and processes for growing startups.”
Be proactive, take the lead, and don’t wait to be asked.
Many a person has become frustrated waiting for the dream opportunity to knock on their door, whereas those who grab the bull by the horns are increasing the size of the group of people who might do the knocking.
Stop thinking. Start doing.