How not to be a ghost worker: Tips for gaining visibility for your work without being a jerk

When Nigerians hear of ghost workers, one picture certainly jumps to mind: people on a company’s payroll who do not physically work at the company.

Up until recently, this was the quintessential corruption machine. Different variations of the names of actual workers, pure fabrications of names of people who do not exist, dead workers who stay on the pay roll, and so on. Honestly, the different permutations of this ghost worker syndrome will make the devil proud….ghost workers.

However, in the past few days, my mind has been on a different kind of ghost worker. Thanks to my darling friend who dropped snippets of this thought in my head space. This second set of ghost workers are actual physical workers at a company. Flesh and blood. They could also be badass entrepreneurs. They do great work any time any day. But….the problem is, no one knows them. Well, no one beyond their immediate team or circle of influence. ‘Real’ ghost workers! No pun intended.

Why is this a problem you may ask? It’s a problem because constantly working in ghost mode (without a fair amount of visibility for your work) is a number one career limiting factor. Oh yes! Ever heard of hugely talented people who get passed up for promotions, only to have someone seemingly not as great on the job clinch the promotion? It’s the same reason the most talented entrepreneurs are not necessarily the most successful. They’re barely getting by with just enough work. Never truly breaking forth. The reason is simple – when push comes to shove, decision makers, and potential business partners can’t reckon with these seemingly ‘great’, ‘talented’ people. They’re ‘ghosts’ remember. Not helpful. It’s so important that your work is visible to all the people that matter, so that you can be in a position to be rewarded for it , and also be in a position to maximize the impact you can generate with your gifts and talents. 

Now, any attempt at self-promotion, especially in a workplace setting can easily come off as ‘hustling’, even classless. When not handled properly and it becomes obvious, it may in fact backfire. So, many of us simply do our best, and leave the rest — to God! The God-factor is huge and definitely can’t be underplayed, but there’s a little more we can do than what most of us call ‘our best’.

Here are a few tips you can take on consciously to enhance the visibility of your work without coming off as a hustling jerk:

Tip no. 1: Do your best work always.

This is the foundation for anything else that may help you gain visibility. It doesn’t matter who you think might notice or not notice. It goes without saying that gaining visibility for crappy work is counter-productive. You had better be gaining visibility for being great at what you do. Do it for you. It’s your reputation and your career. It’s your life’s work. If it doesn’t seem to pay off now, it will surely pay off later. Trust me.

Tip no. 2: Never pass up an opportunity that will help you showcase your abilities.

Don’t be so busy with your ‘KPIs’* that you let golden opportunities to contribute value in other ways pass you by. An opportunity to represent the department in a company-wide initiative is super ideal if it comes. So put up your hand and accept ‘fitting’ additional work graciously.

For entrepreneurs, opportunities to contribute value or demonstrate thought leadership in your industry will be the corollary of this.

Examples abound – get nominated for awards, nominate others for awards, write in corporate bulletins, write in industry journals, join and be active in relevant groups, take on interesting off the cuff projects, volunteer to speak at conferences, leverage social media, etc. Just be sure to make the most of every single opportunity.

*KPIs – Key Performance Indicators – Agreed measures of success in a given period, commonly used in work place settings. 

Tip no. 3: Leverage your manager. Leverage your mentor.

Cultivating a harmonious, mutually respectful relationship with your manager is definitely an ace card. If you combine doing good work with having a great relationship with your boss, then you already have a potential winning formula for becoming more visible. I say potential because, errrrmmm, there are bosses and there are bosses. Lol. But, no matter the kind of boss, a great relationship is def a good starting point.

And mentors? The definition of a mentor is “an experienced and trusted adviser”. Now, who doesn’t need that. Let me tell you som’n, if you get this mentorship thing right, it can become the single most important thing you ever do for your career. The right kind of mentors are usually at a stage in their lives where they are measuring their success by the number of people they also help succeed. They technically carry their mentees’ matter ‘for head’. I’m going to leave it here, and do a full post on mentorship later. But, take it from me, this is the best kept secret for accelerated success. You need a mentor.

Whether it’s your mentor or your boss, deliberately cultivate a great relationship and make the most of it. Ask for their help (in promoting aspects of your work, or anything else). Ask for advice. More importantly ask to be of help. When people like and trust you, they become truly invested in helping you.

Tip no. 4: Be helpful in anyway you can.

In order to be visible you have to corner all the attention for yourself, get all the juicy projects, make sure the spotlight is constantly on you and you alone, take every opportunity to prove that you’re the best thing that’s happened since sliced bread….Right? Wrong! Bad idea!

Doing any of the above will achieve the opposite of what you want. True, you will become visible. In fact it’s the best way to stick out like a sore thumb, but for the wrong reasons and with the wrong results.

There’s a better way.

Be the one who is most eager to help people solve their problems, even when there is no apparent immediate gain. Applaud and recommend others for a job well done. Help shine the light on someone else when it’s most appropriate and some of that light will surely fall on you too. Again, the truth is that most people don’t want to owe. If you help someone in any way you can, they consciously or unconsciously make a mental note to help you too. Ever heard the saying ‘one good turn deserves another’? That’s where it comes from. And what’s more? Helping a fellow human is an indestructible seed. Yes, seed! God himself waters it, makes it grow, and brings in your harvest.

So, keep your eyes peeled for opportunities to be of help.

Tip no. 5: See tips no. 1 to 4.

This post like many others is some sort of #notetoself for me too. Now, I better get to work, and get a healthy dose of my own medicine.

Is there anything else you’d like to add? Hook me up in the comments below.

Hearty Cheers!

P.S: Don’t forget to share. Sharing is caring.

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