Just how important is getting your name in print and your ideas noticed for an executive career?
Plenty important, say headhunters, career coaches and management-development professionals. "You have to arrange your own discovery," one executive search professional explains. But short of establishing your own vanity press and putting out books on topics you know something about -- assuming, of course, you have a book's worth of hot ideas in you -- just how can you get the visibility in your field that will lead headhunters and other talent scouts to your door?
Here are a few possibilities:
Get Out of Your Office: Go to conferences, speak up in discussions, have people notice your ideas. Choose your meetings and conventions wisely, where you'll be likely to meet people from different levels in your industry. Don't view the time as a play day away from the office, but rather as a time to showcase your own competence and style. Read and think about the theme of the conference or seminar before you go so that you have some intelligent things to say there.
Get Quoted: Find friends of friends or family members who write articles about business or your field. Come up with some fresh ideas and get yourself introduced to somebody who is writing relevant articles and might quote you.
Speak Up: Volunteer to give talks anywhere there are people to listen -- in your community, at your college or in your industry. Have something novel to say -- you can't tell who might be around to quote you.
Study Your Favorite Trade Magazines: Consider how you might get mentioned by someone else, or consider writing something yourself for one of those publications. Or get the annual Writer's Market, a bible of who's accepting articles on which topics in every kind of publication. Chances are you could find 20 or more likely publications. Some will pay well and some will pay in reprints, but money is not the issue here -- what counts is just getting your name out there so some headhunters will want you on their prospect list.
Go to Events: Whenever something's happening in your community or in your industry, go -- whether you want to or not. Being seen and heard often can give you the visibility you need to be perceived as a leader, someone to watch.
But What If All This Visibility Isn't Your Thing?
Well, here's the rub. Being visible, enjoying the limelight and having valuable things to say about the state of your industry, your community and the world are a major part of life at the top of the executive heap. Being honest with yourself about whether you really want to do that is an essential part of your own executive self-assessment and career management.
If doing these five things sounds like an intriguing challenge, then you'd probably enjoy the extracurriculars of senior management. If you find yourself recoiling at the thought, then that tells you a little something about whether you'd be better off planning your career a different way. Life at the top is not necessarily about who is the best or the most talented -- it's largely about who enjoys the art and science of self-promotion. Only you can know if that's you or not.