The Top Do’s and Don’t to Be More Visible at Work

What does advice to be more visible at work really mean? Probably not what you think. But figuring it out is essential to advance your career. 

If you’ve ever been told to be more visible at work, I’m guessing these little three words made you cringe a little (or maybe a lot).

However, as someone who heard this trigger advice more than once over the years, I also learned the hard way that ignoring it isn’t a good approach—at least not if you want to take on additional responsibilities and advance your career.  

The Problem with Advice to Be More Visible at Work

First, let’s talk about the problem with advice like “be more visible at work.” It may be given with positive intent, but it leaves way too much up for interpretation.  

  • Does it mean you need to speak up more often in team meetings? 
  • Or maybe you need to get more face time with senior management? 
  • Perhaps you just need to be louder to get others attention?
  • Or does it mean you need be more boastful to get recognized for your results?

Based on comments from a recent LinkedIn post on this topic, all the above are common ways professionals translate this vague advice. In fact, several people believe this advice only applies to women, while others saw it as good advice for introverts. 

Here’s the thing. If you take this advice to mean the wrong thing, you’re going to have problems. But if you disregard it entirely, you may have even more challenges, like what I experienced several years ago…

Don’t Disregard Advice to Be More Visible at Work

The first time I was told I needed to be more visible at work was shortly after I had been passed over for a promotion. My manager told me I was one of his top performers, but needed to “be more visible” to advance my career.

Now, those three words didn’t sit very well with me. In fact, even to this day they trigger a negative reaction. I automatically associate “be more visible” with schmoozing and showboating to get promoted. Both of which are in direct conflict with my personal values of modesty and humility, and belief system that if you work hard, you will be rewarded.

As a result, I flat-out rejected this advice. I wasn’t willing to behave in ways that were in such opposition with my standards.

So, I didn’t change anything, remained firmly on my high horse, and proceeded to be passed over again the following year. My career continued to suffer due to a lack of visibility. 

But then something happened. A company reorg landed me with a new boss. I suddenly had a glimmer of hope that this time it would be different. Surely my new boss would recognize my value and reward me with a promotion, right?

Well, after a few short months working for him, guess what he told me? Yep… he told me I needed to be more visible at work! Arghhh!!!

Do Ask a Clarifying Question

But this time, I tried a different approach. I countered his advice with a clarifying question.

I asked my boss how he could help me be more visible at work—and this turned out to be a game changer. 

Asking this simple question is one of the most effective ways to change the conversation. For me, it led to a much more constructive discussion about what “be more visible” meant. 

It went from surface words lacking meaning to descriptive actions centered on developing new skills. And equally important, it led to a commitment from my boss to provide me with opportunities to develop these skills. And his active participation helped me take my workplace visibility to the next level. 

In my case, I discovered the issue wasn’t that I needed to lobby for myself with senior leaders. The problem was the influential people who could decide to promote me didn’t know me or what I did for the business.

Why? Because I was comfortable working behind the scenes and letting others represent my work and results. Simply put, I needed to make it easier for higher ups to recognize my great work and promotability. 

Do Reframe the Solution

My solution was to take new actions that were in lockstep alignment with what I valued most at work. Yes, this included humility, modesty, and a belief that hard work should be rewarded. But I also valued personal accountability, pushing my potential, and continual learning.

So, my new game plan to “be more visible at work” centered on these qualities and attributes:

1. Rather than blame my boss for not giving me credit for my good work and positive impact to the business, I took ownership for my situation and finding a new way to advance into a leadership role.

This included enlisting support from my manager, who began giving me high-profile projects – like bringing me with him to give regular updates at executive-level meetings. Eventually, as I grew more confident and competent, he sent me alone to represent the business.

2. Rather than lobby for my promotion, I pushed myself to get out of my comfort zone. This meant spending more time building relationships and presenting my ideas and results myself vs relying on others to do it for me.

Becoming a better and more confident communicator in group settings was key to my professional development.

 3. Rather than boast about my results, I chose strategic topics for one-on-one discussions with senior managers, including my boss’s boss. Ones where I could gain more perspective on key business challenges that in turn could help me improve my quality of work and deliver even better results in the future.

Ultimately, I didn’t need to lobby for myself or hold babies and kiss rings. I simply needed to help the executive team understand that I was more than ready and deserving of a promotion. Which I did in a way that felt authentic for me and ultimately helped me finally get promoted.

Do’s and Dont’s to Be More Visible at Work

In summary, here’s a few do’s and don’ts when it comes to discovering the real meaning behind “be more visible at work” and taking action to advance your career:

  1. Don’t assume

Don’t assume you understand what is meant by “be more visible at work” – you may be wrong. This commonly shared phrase can have many different meanings. The person giving you the advice likely has positive intent, but may struggle to put their thoughts into helpful, actionable words.

  1. Don’t disregard.

Don’t ignore advice to “be more visible at work” because it makes you feel like you need to behave in ways that aren’t authentic for you. Don’t assume the only way forward is to behave in a way that conflicts with your standards. There are many different ways to go about learning a new skill and achieving career success.

  1. Do dig deeper

Do dig deeper to understand what is really meant by advice to “be more visible at work.” Your next step is to ask questions until you get answers that can help you develop and hone your action plan, for example:

  • Who do I need to “be more visible” with?
  • 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 can help me “be more visible”?
  • How will you know I’ve succeeded in “being more visible”?
  1. Do get help

Do ask others how they can help you “be more visible at work”—enlist them in your action plan. Your boss and coworkers can play an important role in helping you be more visible at work.

  • If you learn that “be more visible” means you need to get more recognition for your results, ask your work besties for help calling out your contributions on key projects. 
  • If you discover “be more visible” means you need more exposure with senior executives or other influential individuals, ask your boss to get you added to the agenda to present at critical meetings. 
  • If “be more visible” means you need to speak up more in meetings, ask your team members to direct more questions your way for input. 

5. Don’t play it safe

Embrace different projects and new opportunities that push you outside of your comfort zone. This act alone will show key decision makers that you’re serious about reaching your career goals. Employee visibility isn’t about playing it safe by finding a quiet seat in the corner and doing a good job. Good things come to those who face their fears.

More Advice About How to Get More Visibility at Work

Speak up in meetings

5 Easy Ways to Speak Up in Meetings and Say Something Smart

For anyone who’s been told to speak up more in meetings, this post is for you.

When is the Best Time to Get Promoted at Work

Get the Credit You Deserve at Work

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

how to get ahead at work

4 Ways to Get Promoted Using Your Introverted Strengths

You don’t need to become more outgoing to succeed in business. You can use your natural strengths to get promoted. 

Discover the Real Meaning for Career Success

Bottom line, being told to “be more visible at work” is less than helpful advice. But if you find yourself the recipient of vague career advice like this, don’t automatically reject it.  

Dig deeper to discover the real meaning behind workplace visibility, because like it or not, there’s probably something there worth learning. And this can likely be the difference maker to open doors for your career progression and advancement opportunities. 


About Author

Alison started her 20+ year career as an admin assistant and eventually advanced to a CMO role. But, as a quiet introvert, she was often overlooked for promotions. And in 2012, while stuck in middle management, Alison made a goal to use her corporate career to achieve financial freedom and retire in her 40s. You can read more about her story here.



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