Your professional image is key to opportunities and upward mobility
Passed Over: Gisele Marcus, 42, customer business director for the automotive solutions company, Johnson Controls (North America), managed a portfolio of more than $15 million. She also led a team of 115 facility and workplace management staff in Global Workplace Solutions for the U.S. and Canada. But she was overlooked for a promotion to a global general management leader position.
New Position: Change management director for ABSA (Amalgamated Bank of South Africa) in Johannesburg, where she oversees the bank’s operation and maintenance systems, as well as finance, IT, human resources, and communications systems.
Her Challenge: Although Marcus had several key talents and strengths such as strong planning and project management, stellar organizational skills, and is an inquisitive and confident learner, she needed to work on her visibility to senior leadership and making her contributions and professional goals known. “You can’t lead from your desk,” says Marcus’s leadership coach, Patricia E. Perkins. “You can do exceptionally well in the work you do, but who will know of it?”
Her Strategy: Marcus developed a three-point agenda. She scheduled meetings with high level executives at the company. She also spoke to external leaders that had been on global assignments and asked how to be selected for international work. “I learned that I needed to make it known to the people who could make a difference,” says Marcus.
Next, Marcus retrieved a copy of her career development and placement report and started improving on her weaknesses. The report advised her to work on being open to new input, emerging data, and other views. Therefore she spearheaded dialogues with her colleague around the globe to discuss best practices. She also hosted a peer from Latin America for one week. One of the biggest moves Marcus made was developing a “hand over” document, which the company later implemented as its global standard. “This enabled me to portray my ability to define and implement cross-cultural and cross-geographic processes,” she says.
The Result: Within six months Marcus was offered positions in the United Kingdom, Egypt, and South Africa. “Gisele needed to find her voice, look back at how she had been projecting herself, and ask for what she wanted,” says Perkins, “but it starts with that personal assessment and professional inventory.”
“Get from behind the desk and start to have some visible meetings with senior level leaders,” says Perkins. Marcus took control of her career trajectory by creating a networking strategy to transform her visibility and fiercely promote her contributions more consistently—and you should too.
Once you’ve established a higher profile, you should take aggressive action to protect it. The ability to control your profile in the office, industry, and online can cost you job opportunities, business promotions, or customer loyalty.
Although handling your online reputation can be difficult, it is a first impression of your executive presence, says Perkins. Use privacy settings to limit access to your profile. For example, Facebook has included settings that can restrict others from posting on your wall securing private information. You have the right to ignore or “unfriend” someone. Use this strategically and sparingly. Do know it’s better to ignore a friend request, then to “unfriend” someone later. Now that Marcus has heightened her profile within her company, she is working with Perkins to raise her external profile through social media to leverage future career opportunities. Her plan is clear: Update status once a week, share photos of interest to show personal side, create important posts that highlight skills and talents, join relevant groups, and participate in discussions.
“Building a visible social media profile is important to Gisele’s future career growth because it creates depth to her image personally and professionally,” says Perkins. “We’ve always known it’s not just what you know, but who you know. Now, we’ve added it’s who knows you and can they find you online.”
—LaToya M. Smith
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