3 Ways to Be Seen as a ‘High Potential’ at Work

Being seen as a high potential employee is one of 5 essential abilities for career advancement (known as the 5 Promotion Principles).

In our introduction to the second principle, Potential, we covered what being a high potential employee is about and why it matters. In today’s post I’m going to share some ideas on how to strengthen your position as a high potential.

So let’s get into it…

The great news is there are many ways to show you have the potential to take on more important work. And in our intro post we covered the first step: recognizing that just doing MORE work won’t cut it.

Being a high-potential employee is not about your ability to be a workhorse and take on more work. It’s about your ability to take on more important work. Work that is more valued and impactful to the business.

So, stop taking on more and more work. Instead take steps to learn more, speak up more, and get uncomfortable.

1. Learn more to be a high potential

High-potential employees are lifelong learners who strive to be better. It’s important you show a desire to learn and grow. This can come in many forms, but here are few examples:

  • Expanding your skills and competencies. You can volunteer to learn a new application or system (or anything), and then teach others. Or, ask your manager for a stretch assignment to build your knowledge in another department. Or, ask your company to provide you with a coach to help you become a better speaker.


  • Seeking feedback on your performance. You actively look for input on what you’re doing well, and where you can improve. Gaining insights into your strengths and weaknesses. This can be done by simply asking people—your boss, your coworkers, your customers. Or, you could ask HR to help you with a 360 review process (which may provide more direct, honest input).


  • Accepting criticism graciously. This goes hand in hand with seeking feedback on your performance. You show gratitude and humbly say “thank you” for the feedback. You don’t get defensive, instead you take it in stride to process it and decide what you will do differently.


  • Owning up to mistakes, and more importantly sharing what you learned and will do differently next time. This shows management that you’re building self-awareness, which becomes more and more important the higher you advance in business.

2. Speak up more to be a high potential

High potential employees speak up. They are highly engaged with the business, and you know it because they talk about it—asking questions, sharing ideas, and participating in discussions.

One of the most important ways high potentials speak up is in meetings. Business meetings are the center stage in business, and where professionals spend much of their time. How you perform in them matters. Yes, I said perform. What you say (or don’t say) in meetings has a direct effect on how people perceive your potential. Take the stage, speak up and say something.

But don’t just say anything. Say something smart. Everyone can see right through the guy who talks just to be heard. Be thoughtful. For example, one of the most powerful ways to add value in a business discussion is to represent the voice of your customers (or competition). By sharing what you’re hearing from customers, you show others you understand what the market needs. And therefore, show your potential to take on more important work! 

High potential employees also speak up and let it be known they aspire to take on more responsibility. It’s important to let others (your boss, your boss’s boss) know you want to be challenged, you want to learn new skills, you want to develop yourself, and you want to be promoted.

You are not content to remain where you are, at least not for too long—you want more, you believe you can do more, and are eager to do what’s needed to earn more. And management knows it.

3. Get uncomfortable to be a high potential

High potential employees believe in themselves, and their ability to succeed outside their comfort zones. They manage to overcome their fears to embrace new experiences that help them grow and become better professionals.  

It could be overcoming the jitters of speaking up in meetings or facing your fear of presenting to senior management—both of which are super important to show your potential at work. Whatever it is that you fear or avoid is probably a good place to start. But this doesn’t mean you have to start by jumping into the deep end.

It’s okay to start small, or do what I did when getting outside my comfort zone: prepare and practice. For example, earlier in my career I often planned out my talking points prior to important meetings, and then had them ready and written down for easy reference in case I lost my train of thought. It was my safety net embarassed.

Here’s the thing about getting outside your comfort zone—over time it builds up your confidence. The more often you get uncomfortable, the more capable you become and the more you believe in yourself.

And if you believe in yourself, others will soon believe in your potential too!

Key takeaways

In today’s post I shared 3 ways to be seen as someone who is ready to advance and take on more important responsibility at work:

  • Learn More – be a lifelong learner
  • Speak Up More – be engaged in the business
  • Get Uncomfortable – believe in your ability to succeed at new things

These ideas below are based on what worked for me, and what I observed to work well for others. They are intended to be a starting point for you to ideate around what can work best for you, and your specific situation. To get you thinking… and inspired to manage your career your way!


About Author

As a former CMO who started her career as an admin assistant, Alison writes about climbing the corporate ladder.

After several frustrating years stuck in middle management, Alison set a goal to use her corporate career to achieve financial freedom – and make work optional.

You can read more about her story here.



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *