I have recently come across an article with an intriguing title in Harvard Business Review: “Being invisible can help your career”. As a personal branding specialist I was extremely intrigued by such a title and very eager to read the article, although I have to admit that I was quite biased from the very beginning.
The author’s main points were that if you are invisible you (1) learn to wield informal power, by building a support network outside your workplace since your colleagues and superiors ignore you, (2) it gives you a reason to work even harder, therefore you bring a lot of success to your team/department even though no one recognizes your efforts and positive input and (3) invisibility provides cover to disruptors, meaning you can gain a lot of power and influence within your workplace and “overthrow” the big guys. By the end of the article I was not only in total disagreement, but actually outraged!
Let me take you step by step and explain, from my point of view, why I believe the main points made by the author are very wrong and detrimental to career success, especially in today’s working environment.
You learn to wield informal power: to wield any power, being formal or informal you need to be seen and recognized as having at least some sort of influence within the structure you work in. To be successful you need a strong support network both within your organization and outside of it. To build such a network you definitely have to be a “solid connection”, either extremely well connected and hence influential, or financially able and hence investment worthy, or very accommodating and hence usable or simply very charismatic and therefore entertaining.
Any of the above would make you visible since none of the above could be attributed to someone invisible.
Gives you a reason to work even harder and hope that someone would actually notice you. Recognition is one of the most important driving forces behind hard work. If no one cares or bothers to notice your hard work, why even try. Furthermore, if you work really hard but no one notices, doesn’t it mean that you don’t deliver good results and quality work? It’s like pedaling on a fixed bicycle and expecting to win a race. Let’s be serious!
In today’s world if you don’t make sure everybody acknowledges your efforts and positive input to the team and the company, somebody else will definitely take the praise for, benefit from and become very successful because of it.
Invisibility provides cover to disruptors: the author’s point is that “flying under the radar” gives you the opportunity to grow bigger and stronger and, when the time is right, become visible and take over the positions of the big guys.
Well, it hardly ever works like this. We live in a very visible world today in which all efforts are made to be as visible as possible or all chances will pass you by. Unless you are present in social media, network groups and become easily recognizable at least within your group, chances are nobody will take you for serious when you finally become visible.
The only positive thing that being invisible might bring to your career is job safety, with hardly any prospects of promotion, of recognition and definitely no success. But even that would probably come with an expiration date when someone visible will be a much better candidate, one visibly aligned with the company’s brand.
Being invisible is frustrating even for the shyest and most introverted people and can easily lead to depression and far worse.
In today’s world nobody can afford not to be visible with unemployment being so high, people are fighting to be visible, to be noticed and to be chosen. Being invisible makes you redundant even if you might actually be very valuable, but since no one noticed your value, there is no visible reason to keep you on board. Furthermore, being invisible makes you mute as well, so people not only don’t see you, but they don’t even hear you! Maybe the author confused being anonymous with being invisible …
My Conclusion: being invisible is the death of your career!
My Advice: do everything possible to be as visible as possible.
Work hard, but make sure people know and recognize your achievements, build strong networks that can act as a safety net or a trampoline for your career, fly safely on the radar without being threatening and conquer your way to the top of your successful career. Be DISTINCT or be EXTINCT!
Words – Links:
Article: (p1, l2) links to article page
Network (p4, l5) links to MBerciu website (Essential Networking)
Brand (p10, l5) – links to LINKED into Company Image
Successful (p13, l4) – links to Career Success Coaching page