The Truth About How to Advance in the Corporate World

Performance is important, but it’s not enough. Here, an IT service veteran discusses the possibly missing ingredients for advancement.

Did you ever expect a promotion, one that you knew you deserved, and then watched another review cycle go by without anything happening? Or better yet, have you applied for a position that you didn’t get, and you just know that you were more qualified and just better than the person who got it

I still remember the day I met Harvey Coleman, author of Empowering Yourself: The Organizational Game Revealed. Harvey was speaking at a management academy and spoke about the P.I.E. Theory (Performance, Image, and Exposure). He said that our future growth is based on 10% performance, 30% image, and 60% exposure. When he dropped those percentages, I was immediately turned off, but then quickly realized that he was right.

“Work hard and you will get ahead” is, in most cases, just a dream. This thinking is not based on having a negative mindset; it is just a fact of life. Many people work hard, but very few get where they want to go. So what is the solution?

The first step is realizing that stellar performance is a foundational expectation to move ahead in one’s career. Strong performance is absolutely essential, but it’s not everything.

Image might not be everything, but it is certainly something extremely important. For years I would travel into the office in rather casual clothing because that was the culture of the environment. No one thought any less of me, but what it took me too long to realize was that no one thought any more of me, either. Since I wanted a higher career trajectory than most, what people thought mattered. What my image portrays matters. What my personal brand is matters. Whether we want to pay attention to it or not, our image is going to go a long way in determining our career trajectory. Isn’t it worth the investment to shape it?

Next, let’s talk about exposure. Realizing how important exposure is can be the missing link between being a high-performing employee and being the high-performing executive that you feel you are. If the people who make decisions don’t know you, your career will languish.

Exposure is the reason why having a sponsor is so important. A sponsor is someone who actually has the ability to make doors open, and sometimes can create jobs for top talent. Sponsors also look for ways to expose you to their peers, who also might have opportunities available.

Just because you haven’t reached all of your goals doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with you. You might be the rock star performer that you know you are,and you have a necessary foundation for greatness, but you just have one piece of the P.I.E. and arguably the smallest piece.

What is your image? Are you conscientiously aware of how your image is shaped, and working hard to ensure your image matches what you want to convey? If not, are you ready to put in the work? Finally, how much attention have you been putting into getting the exposure you need to have key organization executives know who you are?

Everyone wants a bigger piece of the P.I.E., and you have the tools necessary to get it. If you are willing and able to do the work, your performance shows it. Now if you are willing to put the work in on your image and actively work to increase your exposure, you might find your career trajectory taking off like you always imagined it could.

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