Career Planning: How to Be “Discovered”

Just as in sports, some people in business seem to have the knack – and luck – of being in the right place at the right time. But how do they do it, and what can you learn from them that can work for you?

Here are six things you can do to raise your discovery profile:

1.  Do great work. There are people who get ahead and are mediocre, but not a lot of people who get ahead who are just downright awful. Doing good work day in and day out is a foundation for getting noticed. It may not be glamorous, but no one every passed by a “steady Eddie” when all the other choices looked pretty bumpy and unproven.

2.  Be able to be located. My former Barclays Global Investors colleague Michael Gill fresh from getting his MBA from Chicago, took a job with Samsung in Korea. Looks like a good job move but the thing he was reminded that he needs to do is keep his circle of contacts updated by sending out new contact information.

It’s tough to talk to someone about a new bigger job if you can’t find them, and although things like LinkedIn have make it easier, it still helps to make sure you’re given out contact info like an e-mail address or phone number so folks can reach you. See the “Losing Touch ” portion of 5 Landmines to Sidestep When Changing Jobs here .

3.  Work for bosses who promote their people. There are bosses who take all the credit (and never let the sun shine on their people) and there are bosses who do just the reverse: avoid the former and seek the later if you have a choice.

When I worked with McKesson I had a couple of chances to work with Hubie McMorrow, who was a role model for how to showcase and promote people. While he had more than his fair share of people hired out from under him to be promoted to other areas in the corporation, he also got his pick of the best as replacements since everyone wanted to work with him. Find your version of Hubie if you have a chance.

4.  Keep yourself visible. From time to time – and now is one of them – there is a lot of good talent that is “on the beach” waiting for the next good opportunity to come along. But the shelf life of that beach time is limited: stay too long and people will think you’ve retired, and become a beach bum. The trick then is to stay active and stay visible.

Former Yahoo President Sue Decker’s move to teach at Harvard of of the schools new Entrepreneurs-In-Residence  is a great example of someone raising their visibility while they’re between roles. [Disclosure: While I don’t know Sue well, her daughter and my son were in the same kindergarten class last year. ] This sort of role at Harvard means that Sue – even apart from her work on several prominent company board of directors – continues to meet interesting people and interesting opportunities (see #5 below) as she considers any next role.

5.  Be present where people who might hire you can be found. The tag line from famed robberWillie Sutton to reporter Mitch Ohnstad, who asked why Sutton robbed banks was “because that’s where the money is.” The same is true of getting discovered. While I think it’s a good thing to belong to professional peer groups, peers are usually not the one who are going to discover you unless they get discovered first. It means you need to belong to associations or groups where the type of people who might hire you belong.

Steve Enna , a former head of Human Resources at the old Wells Fargo, and who I know, is a good example of someone who has a nose for being around senior execs who can hire him (or his firm) by belonging to things like senior banking associations populated by banking CEO types.

6.  Show-up (and follow-up). The Woody Allen line about 80% of success is showing up continues to be true. Most people don’t do what they’re say they’re going to do. Do what you’re going to say you’re going to do and you’ll place yourself in the 20% category but just doing that.


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