It’s amazing how many people tell me they feel like they aren’t heard by their employers. My 20-something students claim they are undervalued and overlooked for their potential and contributions. My 40-something friends talk about being passed over for promotions and not being challenged at work. My 60-something industry peers say their opinions are dismissed and no one believes they could possibly have something valuable to contribute to conversations.
My question is: If all of these people are being ignored, who is everyone listening to?
The 20-something that can measure their contributions
If you feel you’re undervalued, do something measurable to show your worth. A common challenge among talented social media strategists is proving to employers or clients that they’re worth the compensation they’re requesting. A portfolio and references are excellent. But an SMS certification, a list of measurable results, and anything else that can prove your skill set is what opens doors.
What’s the solution? Instead of thinking about how you feel, how hard you’ve worked, or what others have done, create a list of measurable goals you’ve accomplished or would like to achieve. Focus on how you can describe what you’ve done in quantifiable terms that can’t be ignored.
- Complete a certification or other continuing education
- Contribute to a project in a way that can be measured as more than just effort (e.g., project results, not the time you put in)
The 40-something that actually goes above and beyond
For a lot of working professionals, their 40’s is a challenging time when they are either changing directions and need to establish credibility in a new area or feel they have established themselves and simply aren’t being recognized for their contributions. When I talk to people who have feelings like this, I often ask them to list their accomplishments – particularly where they’ve gone beyond what was expected of them in their workplace or industry. What often occurs is a painful realization that they have been performing at the status quo and the reason they haven’t been recognized is that everything they feel is extraordinary is actually part of what is expected of them.
What’s the solution? Armed with your better understanding of what others expect of you, look for opportunities to stand out. And, if you assessed your contributions and did find that you were exceeding expectations, look for opportunities to let others know about your work. For example, if you realize your boss has no way of knowing what you do, you may request a weekly 15-minute one-one-one meeting to update them on your top priorities each week. If you’re doing really amazing work on a project (that isn’t confidential), there may be an opportunity to write about it, post the project description on LinkedIn, or provide updates to the wider organization.
- Look for volunteer opportunities inside your organization and in your industry where you can showcase your skills
- Find ways to share what you’re working on
*This is exactly why I got certified through NISM, by the way! I was going out on my own as a consultant and I knew I needed a way to stand out as a trusted expert.
The 60-something that demonstrates how current their thinking is
Plenty of people over the age of 60 are recognized as thought leaders, so what’s the difference between them and the people whose opinions are immediately dismissed as outdated? There are a few common reasons – most of which are fully in your control.
Do you find yourself constantly telling people your ideas are relevant? It may be time to prove it. If you’ve been an expert in the neuroscience of marketing for 40 years, you have relevant content to share – but you may have to make the connections for people (e.g., “Here’s what we know about social media marketing and neuroscience…”). Also, like the 40-somethings, you may need get in the habit of talking more about what you’re doing to stay current so everyone realizes your ideas are directly related to their plan.
What’s the solution? First, be honest with yourself about how current you are. Are you putting all of your energy into convincing people your contributions are critical and none of your energy into making sure they actually are? If so, do what you need to do to get caught up. Second, take control of your image. Share what you’re doing to stay up-to-date and don’t expect other people to find the value in your work – show it to them.
- Stay current and talk about what you’re doing, reading, and creating
- Show people how your past experience is part of the solution for the problem immediately in front of them
What’s the common theme?
In each of these situations, you may have noticed a common theme: If you don’t like where you’re at, do something about it. You are welcome to sit around and complain all day long about how no one appreciate how amazing you are, but that isn’t going to change anyone’s mind. You want people to hear you? Take responsibility for your own future and find a way to establish your credibility.
If you liked this post, you might want to check out a couple of our other posts such as, “Trust Me; I’m a Marketer”? and “Your Social Media Career and the Value of Education”.
Author: Amy Jauman
Dr. Amy Jauman, SMS, is the Chief Learning Officer at the National Institute for Social Media and author of the Comprehensive Field Guide for Social Media Strategists. Amy is also one of 58 members representing 12 countries in the inaugural class of the Prezi Educator Society. Previously she was the Social Media Director for Women Entrepreneurs of Minnesota (WeMN) and she currently serves as the marketing director for the Minnesota Chapter of the National Speakers Association. She is also an adjunct professor in the St. Catherine University Business Department and the St. Mary’s University of Minnesota MBA program.