Why the invisible work you're doing is holding you back

Why the invisible work you're doing is holding you back

To be known as someone who does valuable work, we need to be seen as someone who does valuable work. When Executives and CEOs look to their talent pipelines for the next generation of leaders, the people who grab their attention are people who are known to them, or known to others who then bring them to their attention. They stand out not just because of the good work they are doing, but because they are known to be doing good work – their efforts are visible.

Building a brand as a competent leader is not just about being a competent leader, it’s also about making sure people know you are a competent leader. Quiet achievers or silent diligent workers who put their heads down and plod along without drawing attention to themselves, get easily overlooked. That’s because there are two types of work you need to be doing to get ahead in your career; visible work and invisible work*, and one without the other will hold you back.

Invisible work is the work that you just ‘get on with’. You don’t make a fuss about it; you don't tell people about it; you just get it done. Visible work, on the other hand, is your invisible work on display; it’s when you and your work are known to others beyond your immediate circle (and particularly those that can affect your career) and it brings a higher profile to both you and your work. It’s about being seen by the right people, in the right way, doing the right things, for the benefit of your career and future potential. 

For many professionals, spending time showcasing their work, bringing people up to speed and just making sure people know what they are working on, feels too much like bragging or tooting their own horn – and essentially like a waste of time. (Click here for ways to brag without feeling sick.)

‘Why can’t I just get on with my job and let the work speak for itself?’

‘Why do I have to care who knows about what I know about?’

‘Why does it matter?’ 

The truth is you don't have to promote your work, or yourself, if you don't want to. If your work is good enough it will probably get you where you want to go…..eventually. However, if you want to progress today - not tomorrow, and if you want the ability to make a real difference right now - not later, then you need to be on the radar. The hard truth is that if you are not visible, you are not making the difference you could be.

The trap for people who are introverted or just not comfortable tooting their own horn, is that they don’t realise that to have a wider sphere of influence, and to be seen as a potential leader in the business, or to be seen as a mover and shaker in the company, people need to know what you’re doing and what you’re good at. I see this play out when I coach people as they move up their career ladders and want to be seen as a strong leader in the business. The conversation is not always about becoming better; it’s sometimes about becoming better known.

If you are not focused on being known in the right way, by the right people – thereby relying solely on invisible work to get you through, then those that are highly visible will steam ahead – whether they are more deserving than you or not. Isn’t it time to make your great work visible?

Coaching questions:

  • Who needs to know about you in this business?
  • Who needs to be impressed by you?
  • What work do they care about?
  • How are you positioning yourself in their presence, or through their networks?

*Watch this video here for more information on invisible work (at 1.28 min mark), particularly for women in the workplace.


'Til next time