When I started my career in investment banking in the early 90s, I participated in a six-week graduate course in New York, where approximately 100 graduates from around the world underwent extensive and rigorous training. Interestingly, not a single hour of the programme was dedicated to what has since been referred to as ‘soft’ skills and is now considered as ‘core’ skills.
Since that time, the landscape of career development programmes and opportunities has significantly expanded. Whilst this is an important development, has it also raised the bar for what ‘good’ and ‘great’ look like?
On the one hand, you could argue no. There are certain skills that have always been essential because, at the very core, human behaviour has not changed. We put these skills into four categories – Exposure, Performance, Impact, and being Conscious – which we call the EPIC Formula®.
At Elevate Talent we have been running monthly career development webinars for future female leaders for over 8 years now. While we never repeat a session (considering the constantly evolving business world), certain themes, ideas, and strategies remain consistent.
In January, we started the year with the first of our four-part ‘Mastering…’ series. In each session of this series, we rotate through the four pillars of the EPIC Formula®. The January session – ‘Mastering Visibility’ – focused on the ‘E’ for Exposure.
Mastering Visibility involves establishing strong connections, having a good reputation, and others remembering your contributions and results. Let’s face it though, this has always been a key ingredient to career success. That said, how has this skill been viewed over the years and is it being embraced?
To find out the attendees’ thoughts on this, we started with a poll asking ‘How do you feel about taking the action that gives you high visibility giving them four options:
- Like it
- Depends on my mood/who it is
- Don’t mind it
- Hate it
Just over 1000 women voted on this and as the image below shows 37% said they ‘like it’ with only 6% saying they ‘hate it’ (Click image to enlarge).
What is interesting is we ran the same poll back in September 2020. In the past, it was often viewed that working on our visibility meant ‘blowing our own trumpet,’ a notion that doesn’t sit well with many people. So, it should hardly be a surprise to learn that attitudes towards managing your profile were not as favourable.
The results can be seen here (Click image to enlarge).
Whilst ‘depends’ and ‘don’t mind’ are the same or very close to the 2024 results, ‘like it’ was 30% lower in 2020 at 26%, with ‘hate it’ three times higher at 18%.
These changes in the poll results from September 2020 to January 2024 suggest there has been a shift in attitudes towards visibility and actions that give high visibility. But why has this happened? There are several possible factors at play here:
- Evolving Perspectives: Over the years, societal attitudes towards self-promotion and personal branding have changed, impacting individuals’ comfort levels with visibility. This, coupled, with the continued rise of social media and professional networking platforms, places a growing emphasis on actively managing one’s professional image.
- Changing Work Environments: The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed the working landscape, with many individuals adopting a hybrid work model. This shift may have altered perceptions of visibility, as remote work often requires individuals to be more proactive in highlighting their contributions. Changes in workplace dynamics, leadership styles, and organisational values may also have played a role in shaping attitudes toward self-promotion.
- Impact of Professional Development Initiatives: Organisations and professional development programmes, such as ‘Elevate’ may contribute to changing attitudes. Our focus on skills like exposure, one of our four pillars for career success, involves redefining these concepts and dispelling associated myths, which have potentially contributed to a positive evolution in participants’ perspectives over time.
On that note of redefining concepts, we advocate for a set of steps that are far more powerful and consistently effective in achieving favourable visibility than ‘tooting your own horn’. These steps start with understanding the psychology behind capturing and maintaining attention, encapsulated in the following three principles.
The first, the Primacy Effect, states that our ability to recall information is better for details shared at the start of a conversation. This underscores the importance of making a positive first impression, not only in interviews and special events but also in our daily interactions. Similarly, the Recency Effect, dictates that we tend to be better at remembering the last things that are said, which emphasises the importance of concluding meetings and conversations on a good note. Finally, the Exposure Effect, highlights the crucial role of repetition This is a well-known and influential tool used in advertising to foster familiarity and trust which is equally powerful in the workplace.
In summary, these changes in the responses from 2020 to 2024, highlight the importance that development programmes stay up to date with evolving trends. Although the data shared is exclusively female, it would be interesting to discover if there would be a similar evolution if we had equivalent data for an all-male audience. The comparison could potentially offer valuable insights into gender-specific shifts in attitudes toward career-related perceptions.
If this resonates with you, have a look at our upcoming sessions to see how we can help to unlock – and elevate – the potential in your workplaces.
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