Were you ever surprised to find out that a colleague was assigned a new exciting project or a new role, and not you?

Jannet came to me after something similar happened to her at least twice.

“I really don’t understand why I was not chosen to head that project. I always deliver on time. I am much reliable and conscientious than the person they chose. I clearly fit that position much better”.  Jannet’s colleague was picked to manage the new cross-departmental project that they both had been involved in for several preceding months, and she felt clearly bewildered by the fact.

After some reflecting and digging, I asked her:

“What is one trait or behavior your colleague displays that is different from you?”

“Hmm Well, I guess he is more outgoing. He spends a lot of time chatting to people than in front of his computer…”

It turns out that Jannet’s colleague who was picked for the new project networked a lot within the company. He connected to people through a small talk daily. He stopped to say ‘hello’ and chit-chat with his boss (also Jannet’s boss), colleagues, secretaries, heads of other sections, top executives, even with the concierge and the canteen cook. By doing all that, consciously or unconsciously, he consistently raised his visibility. Because not only he asked about the person’s family and health, he also found a moment to mention what he was currently working on and his goals.  So, not only everyone knew him well, everyone thought of this guy as someone passionate about what he was doing and the company.

What’s interesting is that Jannet was as passionate and dedicated to the company’s goals and mission and spent perhaps more hours focusing on the deliverables. Yet she did not enjoy the same reputation.  She was known to be a hardworking and conscientious manager with the eye for detail and quality. But she did not come up as driven, or ambitious, or someone with strong people skills.  And yet she had ALL THOSE qualities!

Jannet didn’t talk about her work much outside of work meetings. She worked hard, in a very focused way, from 10am to 6pm and then rushed home to take over from her babysitter.  She was friendly in a respectful way with her boss, and didn’t think it was appropriate to come to his office to ask him about non-business questions or to report what she was doing.  She often ate lunch at her desk, focused on finishing the task on time.  

Should we be surprised her candidacy was bypassed and her colleague was chosen?

A lot of women (and many men) share the “student syndrome”  – a belief that doing our job well is sufficient, and that our effort and talent will be recognized and rewarded, even if we stay modest and quiet.

I used to be like Jannet myself. Raised in the culture where hard work and modesty are valued most, I stayed low-profile and didn’t network at the initial stage of my career at the BBC.  Until I saw that my modesty and lack of confidence were holding me back and dis-servicing me.

Raising your visibility within the company (or industry – for entrepreneurs out there) is essential for one’s success in today’s fast-moving workplace. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate your talents, expertise, your openness to learning, new skills. All that can be done in a way that is more authentic to your personality and doesn’t feel salesy.

Happy Networking!

Next Post: Practical tips on how to network successfully within organization.

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