How can you be more visible with your work, and how will it help you and your career?

Published on 12/14/2023

A common piece of advice for breaking through the middle section of the career ladder is to increase your visibility. But what exactly that means isn't always clear, so let's take a look at some ways to accomplish being more visible, as well as see what additional benefits can come from having more eyes on your work!

Being More Visible

Take Important Projects

Finding the important projects isn't always straightforward, and the projects aren't always easy. Sometimes, the problem has been identified already, and it'll find its way into a standup conversation or your manager asking for volunteers on something high priority. Sometimes the solution is also pretty well-understood and someone just needs to put in the time and effort. In which case, great! You should fit as many of those opportunities into your work calendar as you can!

It won't always be so easy to find the projects, unfortunately. The simplest way to find out what the important problems are is just to talk to a variety of people - seniors on your team, managers, your skip, folks from other teams. Not every problem you'll hear about is company-wide important (although the problems someone tells you about are almost definitely important to them, so that can still be good info!), but keeping your eyes open for them will help your general awareness.

When you find a problem that seems critical and important, try to get as much information as you can and maybe spend an afternoon writing up a quick proposal doc (problem, context, high-level solution ideas). This will help organize the problem in your mind, and it gives you a starting point to collaborate on and iterate with your manager or a team mate. Plus, for visibility - after an iteration or two, you can share this with your team!

I mentioned the projects aren't always easy. The risk with taking on important projects is that you do need to succeed, and if you don't, the hit to your reputation will take some time to recover. I don't recommend avoiding the challenge! But have honest conversations with your manager and your fellow ICs who have reviewed your work directly about picking realistic projects.

Share Your Work

Not every project you work on will be something that gets a celebration and a pizza party, and that's okay! It's still a good idea to keep people aware of what you've done, and capping off your work with a summary Slack message for something small, or a page or two as an internal blog post or an internal "Learnings" doc to share with your team is a great way to spread knowledge (mentorship opportunity!) and get more eyes aware of the stuff you're accomplishing.

In addition to the visibility, this is also a good way to have some recurring writing practice, and it doubles as easy contributions to the brag doc you should be keeping for promo packets and performance review season.

Help Out!

Another advantage of talking to a wide swath of other folks in your organization is learning about the problems they're having. Keeping a pulse on those problems opens you up to a lot of opportunity to offer advice or insight, and maybe you can save someone hours or days by just offering a small slice of your day and some knowledge and experience.

This method is admittedly unreliable, as it relies on others bringing visibility of their issues to a space you're watching and on your ability to help them progress. But it's also not that risky, unless you develop a reputation for taking people's time and not solving their problems. As long as you're genuine when you reach out, and have good reasoning about how you could help, you should be safe from that risk.

Hidden Benefits

So that's a few ways to increase your visibility: work on the important projects; always share your work; and volunteer relevant knowledge when it can help others. Let's examine what other ways more eyes on your work benefits you!

Organizational Footprint

Are there some people in your company who seem to have Slack messages, design docs, and commits under every proverbial stone you peek under? Are there some people who don't seem to have their name on anything you look at even though you are sure they are real people?

Those are two extremes of organizational footprint, and technical skills being equal, one of them is a lot easier to get approved for promotions, and decision makers will be more likely to approve projects with the first person's name attached. It's a fair heuristic that someone with a broader footprint is getting stuff done, so you can use this tendency to your advantage!

Force Multiplying and Mentoring

Sharing your work and helping others are forms of knowledge spreading, and this outcome can naturally be interpreted as mentoring and improving other members of your company. Mentoring specifically is something that large orgs often require for senior-level ICs, but not all companies have plentiful structured mentoring opportunity. So make your own!

Communication and Soft Skills Practice

In order to successfully convince stakeholders that you can deliver an important project, you'll need to do at least some writing, a lot of talking, and a lot of persuading. In order to share your work, you need to make effective summaries or demonstrations. In order to help others, you need to understand what they're working on and provide your input appropriately.

In all cases, you're trying to communicate effectively, even if the form of that communication is rather variable. Right under technical prowess, communication is an absolute necessity for senior+ ICs (and probably all managers). Practicing these skills early and often will pay off for the time you start working towards promotions - and if you're already working on a promo, the best time you can start is today!

Ego Boosting

We have to be honest here - it's a pretty good feeling to take something you've done well and put it in front of others! There's nothing wrong with being confident about what you've accomplished and knowing that there's more you can accomplish.

That said, don't let it turn into arrogance! It can help to do mini-retrospectives of your projects and outputs to make sure you're always aware of what could be improved and what you did that contributed to their success. Our processes and personal systems are at least as, if not more, important for making good work than your knowledge and technical skills.

In Summary

We looked at some ways to be more visible, not just with big projects, but also with smaller micro-interactions with your team and others. We also looked at the additional benefits of these kinds of activities and interactions, from the political benefits as well as the personal and intrinsic benefits.

I hope this article has given you some ideas to get more eyes on your work, and I hope the positive impact it has on your career and you personally have convinced you to try them out in the near future! Thank you for reading!