How to get others to see your potential
Overcoming people’s past perceptions of you isn’t easy. Years after I l aunched my consulting business, I was astonished to find that acquaintances and even friends hadn’t kept up with my career transition. They’d ask about my past work in politics or non-profit advocacy, obliv i ous to t he changes that had been consuming my life. It wasn’t their fault; it’s just not realistic to keep up with everyone’s latest developments. But the fact that they weren’t aware of my new business meant I was losing out on referrals and potential clients. I realised I had to ensure that they took notice.
Of course, you can’t just force people to read your white papers or watch your webinars. So how do you get others to realise and remember what you’re doing now – and grasp what you’re truly capable of? mote,” says Jeffrey Pfeffer of Stanford University. “But ironically, if you self-promote t hrough t he mouths of other people, somehow that stigma doesn’t get associated with you. It’s much better to have someone else toot your horn.” If you can afford one, you could certainly hire a publicist. But another option is to find a like-minded wingman and take turns promoting each other. At cocktail parties or conferences, you and your friend can make a point of mentioning each other’s accomplishments or bringing up conversational topics where your partner excels. It may sound artificial, but it doesn’t have to be. Just consider it a chance to help your friend shine – and let him reciprocate.
In a frenetic world where we’re all stretched far beyond Dunbar’s number (the idea that humans are optimised to handle about 150 social relationships), it can be exceedingly hard to get noticed by others – and especially hard to ensure that they’re thinking about us in the ways we’d like. But we have to take action somehow, or we risk missing out on professional opportunities. By creating robust and regular content, mobilising social proof and finding a wingman to help spread the word, we can begin to break through and take charge of our reputations in the world.
Dorie Clarkis a strategy consultant and the author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future.
© 2013 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.