Sitting down with Tim over a cup of coffee, he asked me, “isn’t this a waste of my time? Aren’t I better off spending my time developing the skills that will actually make me money?”
I’m always thinking this is what people are thinking, but Tim was the first one to actually ask me. He was obviously a smart guy; well-educated and competent but his wife knew there was a reason that he’d been passed over for promotion recently and that was why he and I were talking. Tim was smart and Tim was competent, but Tim didn’t get noticed. All he needed was the opportunity to prove himself but he couldn’t get the attention of the people that mattered to show them how great he could be.
The world is full of Tims. People willing to grind it out and learn all of the hard skills but they lack the soft skills to stand out and get attention.
No matter your profession, standing out and getting attention are crucial to your success. It’s true of the development director for a nonprofit, of the business development professional in the private sector, the engineer and the attorney.I’ve been writing and speaking about improving executive presence, because I believe it’s the most effective way to stand out and get noticed. The engineer that presents herself well has the advantage over the one that doesn’t. The salesperson in the killer suit stands out through the sea of golf shirts and pleated khakis.
How you look, how you carry yourself, how you communicate are your keys to setting yourself apart. It’s the first step to getting the attention of people that matter, and getting attention is how you overcome the obstacle of being unknown.
During my Developing Executive Presence Training, I always make the statement that you have to get noticed to get the appointment. Substitute the word appointment with whatever is relevant to your field. You have to get noticed to get the promotion. You have to get noticed to get the donation. You have get noticed to get the client.
Attention is what matters. Obviously you have to prepare and have the skills to deliver once you get noticed but skills without attention is just as bad as attention without skills.
It’s worth the time to grind it out and develop the hard skills of your trade. You cannot get ahead, close the sale or secure the gift if you aren’t competent, but it’s also worth the time to grind it out and develop the soft skills required to present yourself well because without being noticed, you’ll never get the chance to prove yourself.