Do you want to be more visible and valued at work?

After all, these are both important ingredients for career advancement and satisfaction.

But for most of us, the workday is dominated by a combination of urgent deadlines, mundane tasks and firefighting, all of which have to get done but most of which won’t make us more visible and valued.

What makes you visible and valued are the really important projects

That means being part of projects senior decision-makers care about. Ones where you get to use your best strengths to make an impact that can be seen, heard and felt in the organization.

So how can you find the important projects that will get you the visibility you need to advance your career?

Here are three questions for identifying the really important projects to help you advance in your career:

  • What gets praised publicly and by whom?
  • What creates problems for senior management?
  • What’s going on that’s big and visible?

What gets praised publicly and by whom?

One place to look for clues is identifying what gets praised, especially by senior management. Internally, this can happen in big town hall meetings or in smaller team meetings. It’s also worth listening to what gets highlighted in quarterly earnings calls (if you’re in a public company) or bragged about in client pitches.

What your boss praises is useful as well. But if your boss is pretty far removed from decision-makers, use your judgment as to whether they understand what’s truly important in the organization beyond their specific remit.

Once you’ve identified what gets praised publicly, you can work back from there to see how you and your team can contribute to those outcomes or initiatives.

For example, early on in my career, I noticed that bringing in first-time business from a new client segment was praised to the skies while doing yet another deal for a “house account” that’s done business with us for decades brought fewer accolades. That led me to say, “yes” when an opportunity came up to call on new prospects that the senior managing directors didn’t have the bandwidth to call on.

For your organization, it could be reducing the carbon footprint, developing cutting-edge new products or reducing customer complaints.

What gets praised in your organization and how can you be part of a project that contributes to that?

This leads us to the second question.

What creates problems for senior management?

In contrast to what gets praised, identifying the problem areas and being part of the solution can also raise your visibility and demonstrate your impact.

One place to focus is on what internal stakeholders are complaining about. What interferes with the smooth running of the business? For example, the lack of a centralized system for sharing knowledge and best practices or an inefficient process for onboarding new customers.

It’s also useful to look at what external stakeholders like the press, social media or research analyst community are picking up on and criticizing. Maybe it’s a stale product pipeline. Perhaps it’s a high degree of employee turnover.

These problem areas can provide important clues and even inspiration for projects that contribute to solutions, especially ones that you might be uniquely qualified to help with. So think about what you can do to contribute to solutions given your sphere of influence and skillset.

For example, Wendy, a lawyer in the litigation department of a Fortune 100 company, noticed the number of lawsuits was increasing. She learned there were warning signs during the sales process that, if addressed, could prevent many of those lawsuits. While this wasn’t part of her day job, Wendy felt something had to be done.

With her boss’s support, she spearheaded the development of an “Early Warning System” that ultimately saved the company millions of dollars in litigation settlements while also protecting their reputation in the market. Creating this project led to Wendy winning the CEO’s award for innovation and being promoted to head of litigation 18 months later.

What kind of projects can you get involved in and which do you want to prioritize?

Which brings us to the third question.

What’s going on that’s big and visible?

Really important projects often are tied to what’s big and visible. It could be a project that’s already underway that’s getting a lot of attention from management or external stakeholders. For example, cross-divisional initiatives that are focused on solving a business problem or generating a business solution.

Or it could be a project that has yet to be formed, in which case you’ll want to step back and look at big, visible trends that are going on internally as well as externally. Maybe there’s a market trend or disruptive technology that will have a significant impact on the organization, whether positive or negative. Perhaps it’s a shift in demographics or customer preferences.

Think about how these are likely to affect the results of the business, whether it’s revenue, profits, market share, productivity, stock price or whatever else your management cares about. And consider which aspects could use your talents and perspective.

For example, the rise of generative AI could lead you to get involved in a project to embed that capability into a business process or product. And you can add value without being a technical genius if you understand the needs of the end users or have experience with the systems and processes that already exist.

Once you’ve identified the big and visible project or topic, it’s a question of getting involved.

What do you want to put your hand up for? Who can help you get involved?

Don’t make the mistake of assuming a project is important just because it gets talked about publicly

Make sure it’s also related to the organization’s bottom line or whatever metric senior management cares about, which can be different for each organization. For example, operating sustainably might be equally talked about in two companies, but for one it’s a part of their core values while for another it’s ticking a box.

Also, remember that priorities can change, so it’s worth revisiting and reviewing what’s really important so you stay current.

So, how will you improve your visibility and impact at work?

Working on projects that are really important to your organization is a great way to do that. While you won’t be able to choose every project on your list, all it takes is one to put yourself on the map.

To identify the important projects for your organization, ask yourself these three questions:

  • What gets praised publicly and by whom? Focus on the views of senior stakeholders.
  • What creates problems for senior management? See if you can be part of the solution.
  • What’s going on that’s big and visible? See how you can get involved and add value.

Which of these questions is most helpful for figuring out what projects will help you be more visible and valued at work?

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

Recommended Resource

How to Stop Being Undervalued at Work

When people at work don’t really “get” who you are and what you’re capable of, it’s not only frustrating, it also holds you back in your career.

Being undervalued keeps you from getting the best assignments, being included in conversations where decisions are made. It also keeps you from getting promoted and paid more. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

In this Career Mastery Training, discover the steps needed to go from being misunderstood and underestimated to being valued at work so you get the respect and opportunities you deserve.

  • The common mistakes that will keep you stuck and undervalued
  • 5 Key steps to help the right people understand your value
  • The single most important action you can take to stop being undervalued at work
  • And much more

Access this Career Mastery Training and become more valued at work