Why You Can’t Snub Advice to Increase Workplace Visibility

What does workplace visibility really mean? Probably not what you think — but figuring it out is essential to advance your career. Here’s a simple way to do it.

      • Career advice to ‘be more visible’ is commonly given, but often misunderstood—triggering frustrations that hold back high performers.
      • After snubbing advice to ‘be more visible’ at work, I spent several years stuck in the same job.
      • Asking a simple question helped me uncover the real meaning behind this vague advice, and finally get promoted. 

    Visibility at Workplace is Essential for Career Success

    The first time I was coached to ‘be more visible’ at work was right after I was passed over for a promotion to senior management. 

    Despite giving me top ratings during my performance review, my manager said I needed more visibility to get to the next level.

    I quickly concluded these words were a call for shameless schmoozing and showboating with senior executives — and disregarded his advice. 

    I wasn’t willing to compromise my standards to get ahead at work.

    Instead, I kept working hard to deliver results — and proceeded to be passed over for new opportunities again the following year, and the next year too. My career stalled out due to my lack of visibility.

    Then came a company reorganization, and I was moved under a new manager. Suddenly, I had hope that my new boss would recognize hard work and reward me with a promotion.

    However, within a few months of working for him, he delivered a familiar message: I needed to increase my visibility. Argh!!

    But this time, instead of quickly rebuffing his advice, I took a different approach.

    I countered with a question.

    I asked my boss how he could help me ‘be more visible’ at work — and this simple question proved to be a turning point for my career.

    Suddenly, we were having a real talk about what ‘be more visible’ really meant. Our conversation went from vague words that didn’t mean much to solid plans on who exactly I needed to connect with and how to do it.

    And even better, it led to a commitment from my boss to provide me with opportunities to increase my visibility.

    Through this experience, I learned the importance of avoiding assumptions and seeking clarification.

    Even with the best of intentions, managers can have trouble turning their thoughts into actionable words, leading to vague career advice that makes you feel frustrated. 

    But don’t jump to conclusions. Making assumptions can prevent you from uncovering valuable insights and understanding the situation more deeply. 

    For example, if you assume ‘be more visible’ means you need to lobby for endorsements, you’ll probably get discouraged and swiftly ignore it. 

    Instead, ask clarifying questions to draw out more detailed and useful answers — and gain the support you need for success. 

    You might discover this advice really means you should speak up more often in team meetings or take the initiative to share your great ideas with others.


    After asking my manager how he could help me be more visible, I came to realize that my challenge wasn’t about shameless self-promotion with influential individuals, as I initially assumed.

    It was about certain leaders not being familiar with my role and contributions within the company. This was largely because I had grown comfortable working behind the scenes, allowing others to represent my work and achievements. 

    Recognizing this, I started investing more time in building stronger relationships and taking ownership of presenting my ideas and results directly. Becoming a better and more confident communicator in group settings was key to gaining greater visibility.

    After asking my boss for clarification on how he could support me, he provided me with opportunities to increase my visibility — like giving me high visibility projects working with different departments, delivering regular updates at town halls, and attending executive-level meetings for valuable face time with senior leaders. 

    Less than a year later, my efforts to gain more visibility paid off and I was finally promoted. 

    Learning how to be more visible at work is essential for advancement, but it probably doesn’t mean what you think it does.


    If you find yourself the recipient of vague career advice like ‘be more visible’, don’t assume you understand its meaning. If you take this advice to mean the wrong thing, you’ll miss out on valuable professional development opportunities.

    Remember, the person giving you this advice is trying to help you, not frustrate you — even if they’re having trouble expressing themselves clearly. So, give them the benefit of the doubt, and dig deeper to discover the real meaning. 

    Apart from asking your manager how they can help you gain more visibility, consider asking follow-up questions like these to deepen your understanding:


    • Who specifically do I need to connect with to increase visibility?
    • What does this person need to see from me? 
    • What new skills or behaviors do I need to adopt?
    • What behaviors do I need to stop doing?
    • What does “be more visible” look like to you?
    • What projects or initiatives can help increase my visibility?
    • How will we measure success in terms of visibility?

    More Advice About How to BE MORE VISIBLE at Work

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    What to Do When You Don't Get the Credit You Deserve

    Here’s how to get the credit you deserve without humble-bragging or blatant self-promotion.

    Being told to ‘be more visible’ is less than helpful advice — but that doesn’t mean you can dismiss it.

    When we receive unclear advice that doesn’t really connect with us, or even worse, demotivates us, it’s easy to brush it off and stay in our comfort zone.

    For many people, this means relying solely on hard work for career success. However, going the extra mile to deliver more results isn’t usually enough to advance in the corporate world.

    Whether you like it or not, figuring out what employee visibility really means is essential for success—and could make a huge difference in your career.


    About Author

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

    You can read more about her story here.



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