At a glance
By Johanna Leggatt
You put in long hours at work, are easy to get along with and produce work of a consistently high standard.
Yet when it comes to promotions, praise or rewards, you are routinely left empty-handed.
Even if you enjoy your day-to-day work, the gnawing feeling of being overlooked and undervalued may start to affect how you feel about your role.
According to executive coach Alison Shamir, this feeling is common, as many employees assume their hard work alone will bring recognition, but they often miss out on opportunities to less experienced colleagues who are more confident and visible.
“Conventional wisdom says that, the harder you work, the luckier you get, but that is only partly true,” Shamir says. “You also need confidence in yourself to promote your work, build key relationships internally and use your voice to make an impact.”
The first step in receiving due recognition is to gradually build relationships with the right people.
“You need to build a sphere of influence – those three or four stakeholders or people in your organisation who can help get you closer to the raise, promotion or recognition you’re seeking,” Shamir says.
It is important to be strategic and relevant when connecting with these people, so don’t spam them with questions or irrelevant updates.
“If you ask one of your key leaders for 30 minutes each quarter to check in, and you make it about a mentor relationship, then that’s being respectful of their time,” Shamir says.
Don’t forget the importance of building strong personal relationships by acknowledging people’s lives outside of work.
“Having those rapport-building chats, where you ask about their children... are great, because it’s about engaging with them as people,” Shamir says.
Employees should also seek feedback from their manager “at least quarterly” to check they are on the right track.
“Often we shy away from feedback, and we make assumptions that because nobody’s saying anything to us, then we must be doing a good job,” she says.
“But if we don’t receive feedback regularly, we miss out on those critical moments to improve, or to redirect our hard work to the areas that will really move the needle.”
Celebrate your hard work
Crucially, ambitious employees need to track their performance, so they can articulate what they bring to the table.
“You have to demonstrate the value that you have brought to your role, and if you have also brought value to the business, then that is a winning formula,” Shamir says.
“By the time you go into that big performance review with your manager, you shouldn’t have any huge holes to plug, because you filled them along the way through asking for regular feedback.”
Career development consultant Sue Ellson agrees, and says keeping a record of work achievements is vital.
“Document all those extra things you are doing, so that when the performance review comes along, you can make that known to the manager,” she says.
“You don’t have to say, ‘I’m the greatest’. You just say, ‘Look, these are the extra things I’ve done on top of my normal workload this month’.”
Engage on social media
Ellson also believes that finance leaders and accountants must be more proactive on social media. This may include setting up a Google My Business account, so happy clients can leave positive – and detailed – online reviews about how you helped them, as well as posting team success stories on workplace appropriate social media sites, such as LinkedIn.
“It’s particularly important for women, because they often feel very uncomfortable about sharing their achievements online,” Ellson says.
Furthermore, if employees engage with the company’s social media posts, this can help their chances of greater career recognition or promotion.
“Management will see you are across the digital side of work, that you have an online presence and that you support your clients and the practice,” she says.
Posting online also “shows you’re enthusiastic about work, but make sure you don’t spend all day on LinkedIn, as people will wonder if you do any work”.
Make the first move
Finally, rather than waiting for recognition to come your way, Ellson encourages her clients to thank others – including management – thereby beginning a virtuous cycle of reward and appreciation.
For example, Ellson encouraged one of her younger clients, who was feeling overworked and underappreciated, to thank her boss with a handwritten card, which was followed up by a soccer jersey from the rest of the team.
“When he opened the gift, he burst into tears, because he couldn’t believe he was being thanked,” Ellson says.
“Later that afternoon, a card arrived on my client’s desk and inside it was A$1000 to thank her in return.”
As Ellson notes, people need and like to be thanked, and doing it appropriately through a thoughtful note, especially if it is handwritten, may make a huge difference to your career trajectory.
“‘Thank you’ is just the most unbelievably powerful word,” Ellson says.