Maintaining professional visibility is about active participation in a team. During check-ins or meetings, prepare your contributions ahead of time, making sure you are covering all relevant areas of a project, not just the ones that come to your mind on a call. Another great way is to praise a colleague’s off-screen input into a situation. This highlights that you are paying attention both on and off camera.
Professional visibility for those of us in industry can be an issue, pandemic or not. We simply don’t publish or go to meetings for our jobs as much as our colleagues in academe do.
So job 1 is to decide what visibility is important: internal or external? If internal, recognize that the opportunistic gathering for coffee or lunch with colleagues isn’t happening, so make sure you keep a list of people in your network and make it your priority to check in with them. Schedule a brown bag Zoom lunch, just to catch up. These people are not just in your network—they’re people. Take an interest in them and work a little harder to stay current with them.
Externally, your professional society is still a place to see and be seen. The need for volunteers at the Local Section and Division level hasn’t gone away—it’s just a little less obvious. The benefits can include leadership opportunities you might not get at work and the opportunity to meet other people with an interest in chemistry and add them to your network. Contact local section and division officers and ask how you can be a little more involved.
To summarize: you need to be a little more proactive under these circumstances. Reach out to keep your relationships fresh.
In these pandemic times, many chemists and scientists are forced to work remotely. This can be challenging for chemists since we learn a lot from personal interactions with our peers at work. Often a chemistry problem is solved in the group discussions during a coffee break. Working remotely will have limitations for such personal interactions but modern technology tools provide us opportunity to fill this void.
I suggest to many of the people that I coach to set aside a few hours each week for such remote interactions and plan for Zoom meetings which can be used for personal interactions, problem solving, as well as discussions about a common topic that can help in professional growth. I encourage chemists to take initiative to set up webinars on topics of common interest and encourage fellow chemists to not only participate but ask probing questions. Another important thing is to make sure all the folks in the video calls turn their camera on so that they can be seen by others for fruitful interactions. So, the key mantra is “use modern tools” to maintain professional visibility.
Time-honored strategies I recommend are:
- Step out from incognito life behind your computer and into the spotlight. Seek opportunities to participate in high impact and high visibility projects. Demonstrate your expertise. Volunteer to represent your team in cross-departmental meetings; speak at project or committee meetings. Highlight others' achievements.
- Speak up: make your presence felt, even if colleagues are scattered across the globe. Form network bonds from “C to shining C”.
- Be organized: Plan what you could say, read the agenda, think about questions and points you want to make. You will gain confidence to speak up.
- Interact well with your supervisor and your direct reports. Communicate well, up, down, and laterally.
- Participate in learning opportunities: Company-wide training events, such as seminars, provide opportunities to become better known. Remind people of your forte to keep you front and center in coworkers’ minds.
- Enjoy work and project competence and optimism.
This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.
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