If you spend your time in an office, you often find yourself engaging in small talk with your colleagues, work-friends, and executive leadership alike. It may be a quick chat in the kitchen while getting some coffee, the dreaded elevator ride, or the hallway conversation. For some, this is an opportunity to catch up on the weekend activities or discuss sports; yet, these interactions can also serve as perfect opportunities to start advancing your career. While some are lucky to have constant exposure to senior management in which they can demonstrate their skills, present different projects they have been working on, and showcase their value and leadership potential. Many others are often left scratching their heads on how to get the attention of senior management and secure that coveted promotion. These daily small talks are the perfect opportunity to start shining the spotlight on your skills and achievements. To start leveraging these small exposure opportunities, you need to:
Clearly understand what is important for the company – what are the goals, business targets, and company values?
Understanding the company goals and business targets will create the background to highlight your projects and accomplishments. This is an important step in context setting and ensuring that the conversations connect and resonate with senior management. Their individual and team goals are often tied to company goals; thus, initiatives or projects that can help propel those goals further will be top of mind for them.
Develop a clear understanding of how your daily work, projects, and initiatives benefit or impact these company goals.
This is crucial to fully understanding the value that you bring to the company. This step can also dramatically improve the conversation during reviews and salary discussions. Additionally, this will help you understand your market worth when you are ready to explore opportunities beyond your current company. Being able to quantify the impact of what you work on is a huge plus; however, it is not possible in all situations. Therefore, you should think of value creation in three categories: generating revenue, reducing costs, improving time and/or money spent on something – whether it is for you, a team, or a group of teams.
Engage in Conversation
This is “show-time”. For most, this is the most difficult part of the process. When a small talk opportunity presents itself, use it to highlight 1 or 2 things that you have been working on recently. The items that you discuss should a) connect to the company goals / targets, and b) demonstrate the link between your contribution and how it helps move the company goals in the right direction. If you are not used to this, coming up with the 1-2 things to talk about is very difficult on the spot. Therefore, you should plan. It helps to write things down. In the beginning (or end) of the week, take 5 minutes to create a quick post-it with the top 3 things that you have been working on or completed recently. This way, you have those conversation topics readily available and you can casually glance at it to refresh your memory before you get up for that next cup of coffee. This is also a good way to screen the topics that you want to talk about to ensure that you can make the connection to the company goals. It is also important to adjust your highlights to your audience – some will care more about certain things or certain goals than others. The main goal of this conversation is to start building a connection with the senior management team members and demonstrating that you can deliver components that impact the company goals and targets. Here is an example of how this conversation can look like:
Senior Leader: Hey Joe, how is it going?
Joe: Great. I just finished coding a project that will help our sales team save time on the contract negotiations. I think that should help them close more deals.
Senior Leader: Wow, how is it going to work?
Joe: (Provide some detail on the project).
Conversation is a success – Joe highlighted a project that he was working on and made a connection with the senior leader.
These conversations take a bit of practice; however, they serve as a very effective tool in building connections outside of meetings – especially since you may not be attending regular meetings with the senior team members. Take the time to practice these and you’ll be surprised how quickly these little tidbits start rolling off your tongue. In building these connections, you’ll also be able to demonstrate the passion for your day-to-day work – which is a huge motivator for getting anyone out of bed in the morning.