Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
Is there a surefire way to distinguish myself at work? I’m very
ambitious and want to get promoted, but my boss pays me little
attention other than my annual performance review.
Dear Upwardly Mobile:
I’m assuming you’re getting good reviews, or you’d be writing about
your layoff notice instead. That’s a decent basis to start from. I’m also
assuming that you are one of a roomful of people your boss
supervises, and that s/he knows you by job title and possible by sight
though probably not by name or personal/familial details.
Ultimately what you are asking for is training and mentoring. You’re
going to frame it in the guise of wanting to do more, help more, be
more productive, take on some special project, help save him/her time
or money. But the core of it is that you want to stand out from the
pack, you’re asking to a diversion of attention to help you accomplish
that. Start by assembling a quick summary of who you are, what your
skills are, what you currently do, and how you are underutilized. That’s
your opening paragraph in the email you’re going to send. Then
identify one or more specific problems that cost the company (or your
work group) more than it should. Send your boss an email that says,
his is who I am, and I have a possible solution to Problem X. May we
meet so I can explain how we can be more efficient?
Note that there’s always some risk in being noticed more, whether you
ask for it by knocking on your boss’s door, or attract attention through
screwing up in some way. You may want your boss to notice only to
the good things you do. But once you’re in the center of the
viewfinder, everything you do or say may come into play. So before
you request to be mentored and to be made more useful, be prepared.
Get rid of the shirts with those little stains. Clean your desk/office. Get
your daily habits ready for greater scrutiny, whether it’s the folks you
hang with at the water cooler, or the ones you forward bad jokes to.
Review personnel policies to be sure you’re not inadvertently crossing
any lines, especially if you are leap-frogging a direct supervisor to get
the attention of a higher-up. Anticipate anything that might backfire, so you can focus your boss’s attention on your accomplishments, not