We all want to make a difference in the world and at work. But it can feel frustrating if you’re in a limited role or part of a much bigger operation, where it can be difficult to point to something and say, “I did that.”

Yet making your mark is crucial for your career.

So, how do you demonstrate your impact and have a meaningful influence at work?

Here are three steps to making an impact from wherever you are:

  1. Figure out what is valued in your organization
  2. Communicate your influence in a way your stakeholders will understand
  3. Be open-minded about how and where you make a difference

What does impact look like in your organization?

Since there’s no one-size-fits-all way to make a difference, you have to figure out what counts in your organization or unit. Is it growing market share, increasing revenue, innovating, or something else entirely?

Start by observing what gets talked about and praised in meetings and memos from management. Then think about how you contribute to that outcome.

You could also ask others, including your boss and mentors, the following questions:

“How do you think about the difference we as a team are making? How do you talk about it with upper management?”

“Who do you see as really influential among people who are (insert your seniority level)?” And then ask, “What has that person done that demonstrates they’ve made an impact?”

Once you understand what being impactful looks, sounds and feels like in your context, you may discover you’re showing your value already without realizing it.

Based on what you’ve learned, what are you doing that can be seen, felt and heard across the organization or with clients and customers?

And if you’re not yet doing those things, you now know what to focus on in your work and what to emphasize when you talk about your work.

This leads to the next step.

Communicate your impact in a way stakeholders will understand

It feels good to know on a personal level that you are making a difference. But if you want to advance in your career, it’s important to communicate your work to key stakeholders – especially your managers and the senior decision-makers outside of your direct reporting line.

A great way to demonstrate your impact is through the way you talk about what you do. Creating an attention-grabbing narrative or storyline can help other people to see the effect of the work you’re doing. And finding ways to bring stakeholders along on the journey with you can give them a chance to see you in action.

For example, if you’re in sales and about to embark on a series of sales calls, you could give a senior stakeholder a preview of what you’re about to do:

“I’m excited about the next quarter because we’re looking to double down on our top-tier prospects to set us up for a strong high momentum going into year end. I’m thinking we focus our efforts on product X because it’s the one that differentiates us the most against our top competitors. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.”

At the end of the conversation, you can say, “Thanks for your advice. I’ll report back in a few weeks’ time with early signs of how things are going.”

This sets up the next chapter of your story, and in the meantime, you can decide what data would be most interesting to collect.

And in the future, you can get your stakeholder involved in some of your prospecting calls or meetings. That way, they can see for themselves how you’re making an impact with these top prospects and customers.

Which leads us to the third point.

Be open-minded about how and where you demonstrate your impact

If your role is limited in scope or a small piece of a much bigger process, it might feel challenging to leave your mark in your organization. Especially if there are defined tasks you’re required to stick to.

This is when it’s helpful to look beyond the limited scope of your job. Realize the difference you’re making doesn’t have to be directly related to your assigned tasks.

It could be how you go about doing your job and the effect you’re having on the people around you. For example, are you an energy booster who lifts the mood of the entire team or an energy drainer who hurts everyone’s motivation?

Your influence might also be more visible in an “extra-curricular” contribution. For example, playing a leadership role in a cross-divisional project outside of your unit, an employee network or a fundraising effort – all of which provide opportunities where you can broaden your reach and reputation.

Setting your intention is the first step to demonstrating your impact

The fact that you want to make a difference puts you on a pathway to discovering how you will achieve it. Keep following your intention, and as you do, remember to:

  • Start by figuring out what impact looks like in your organization
  • Communicate your influence in a way your stakeholders will understand
  • Be open-minded about how and where you make a difference

Whether you’re in a job where there’s limited scope for influencing outcomes or you have ample opportunities to make a difference, the ability to make an impact will help you stay motivated and advance in your career. So keep going!

What will you do today to demonstrate the impact of the work you do?

Leave a comment below – I’d love to know.

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