What Would You Need To Change To Be More Visible At Work?

What Would You Need To Change To Be More Visible At Work-Add heading (1)

Last week I had new website photos taken (stay tuned for the launch in a month or so hopefully!). Not only did I have an amazing experience, which I know I will end with amazing new shots, I also gained new appreciation for what it takes to increase professional visibility and really be “seen.”

So many growth-minded professionals and leaders I speak with struggle with how to get more visibility (and then promotions) in their workplace. It’s something I work on with my clients and in workshops daily, but I found I had some new insights when the lens was literally being directed towards me.

So I compiled my top four lessons on being more visible that I culled from being photographed:

Jo’s Spotlight Visibility Lessons:

1) Don’t Criticize Yourself.
I found myself apologizing to the photographer for my “mommy middle,” the fact my eyes are uneven, and that I automatically blink whenever a camera is trained in my direction. WHY?

While some guys do this as well, I’ve noticed its even more common for women to point out their imperfections or weaknesses to others. This can sometimes be a protective measure: “Let me mention it before they do.” Or a demonstration of humility: “I don’t want them to think I think I’m too great.” Either way – I can guarantee you at work, it’s not working for you!

If you must call attention to something – call attention to your strengths – so that they are what people remember most about you. Such as “I love leading teams make harmonious decisions and it seems to come naturally to me.” That way when others at work need that skill, your name will come to mind. The last thing you want to leave others at work remembering about you is all your imperfections (and yes, we all do have them.)

2) Be Willing Pitch A New Idea:
Towards the end of the session, the outfits weren’t working anymore, and the photos seemed less inspired. My photographer said she had a lot of great shots (which she did) and we should just wrap up. I had this one last outfit that I thought would shoot really well so I suggested that we just do one last set of photos in that dress. The dress turned out to photograph really well and at the very end of the session, we ended up with some great last photos that I loved. It can be tempting at work to feel that you need to defer to the experts. And many times you do. But often being more visible at work means pitching a new idea, even when the prevailing wisdom might be leaning the other way. Keep it mind that this is different from always playing devil’s advocate or having to get in the last word. It is about respecting your intuition and experience enough, however, to bring it up when it could have real value for your team.

And even if it doesn’t end up being the answer, it shows your willingness to engage deeply and be part of the solution.

3) Being Willing to Be LITERALLY Seen:
Part of being visible at work is literally allowing yourself to be seen. Just as black and white don’t photograph well (according to my photographer), you don’t want to dress so that you blend into the background. While I’m not advocating wild and crazy clothes at work, you can use your wardrobe to express parts of your personality and catch attention. A statement necklace if you are a woman can be fun and appropriate, and guys, there are bolder ties and even socks that break up the standard work uniform. If you aren’t willing to be physically seen – you’re not going to catch others’ attention in the workplace either.

The other side of being physically seen is to leave your desk and interact with people. While phone calls and email have taken over most workplace interactions, the truth is that stronger connections are frequently cultivated through in person meetings, coffee runs and informal lunches. So the next time you are tempted to shoot back your third email of the hour to a colleague, consider stopping by their office instead.

4) Don’t Let Potential Criticism Stop You:
As I contemplated doing this photo session, I wondered, would people think I was vain for investing in a good photography session rather just having my Dad take photos of me (my first 2 website headshots were shot by him.) I worried that I would put myself out there (i.e., invest the money) and then feel stupid if I wasn’t happy with the results.

Is this natural? Yes. Should you let your potential naysayers hold you back? Definitely not!

As you move towards more visibility in your workplace, you might find yourself worrying that people will think you are overstepping your role, trying to cozy up to the boss, or play too big. But don’t let that theoretical worry stop your actual progress.

The fact is that for everyone who loves Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In – there is someone else who criticizes her for addressing such a limited audience or being unrealistic. Being in the spotlight can mean getting reactions from people that are not always favorable.

The question then becomes – how do you build up the parts of yourself that are secure in your value, so you can weather the critiques, questions, or mishaps that inevitably follow you when you shine brightly and visibly?

So let me ask you – which one of these pointers rings true for you? Are you willing to take it to heart to move you forward and upwards in your career? Let me know in the comments below.

And if you’re looking for more ways to step up powerfully into a leadership role – download my complimentary leadership guide by filling your name in on the sign-up below.

Jo Ilfeld, PhD

An executive leadership coach, Jo helps C-suite leaders, executives, and high-potential managers develop the flexibility, skill, and frame of mind to meet the challenges of the next five, ten, twenty years…. and beyond. She works with individuals, teams and organizations on four core areas of leadership development. Check out Jo's bio page for more information.


  1. Toni Nettles on September 17, 2019 at 7:03 am

    Awesome content. I am discussing this with my team today!

    • Jo Ilfeld on September 18, 2019 at 11:01 pm

      Dear Toni,
      I’m so glad you liked it and that it resonated with you. Let me know how you use it with your team and what your team thinks!

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