The uncomfortable truth about career progression

I remember being shocked some years ago, when I discovered the PIE theory about career success and progression (developed by Harvey Coleman).

Not that you need to eat pies – now that would be fun! – rather that your success at work and whether you will be promoted depends on three factors: Performance, Image and Exposure.

That part is not shocking; what took me aback is the relative importance of each piece of the pie:

Performance = 10%
Image = 30%
Exposure = 60%

You can debate the exact numbers but the main message is that you are so much more than your performance at work. It seems incredible to think that how you do your job every day can be as little as 10% of the picture. But in this scenario, doing the job well is a given and the basis of how you are seen. You are unlikely to move up in an organisation if the standard of your work is not good.

So what about the other elements?  Image is all about how you are perceived as a person, or your brand…  What people say about you when you are not in the room, how you come across to people on first meeting, how you dress, what sort of handshake you have…  All these things can seem superficial but they add up to a picture people will have of you. What is yours like?

Exposure – the huge 60% of the pie – is all about your visibility within the organisation. Who do you know and what do they think of you? When considering internal candidates for promotion, the interview panel members are far more likely to prefer people they have heard of over people they know nothing about. This is the piece where I feel women can tend to be reticent. We tend to shy away from networking, feel that our good work should speak for itself and we should not need to actually talk about or promote our successes!!  We see it as bragging. And the truth is that we need to let people know what we are working on, otherwise they simply won’t know!!

One way to approach this is to think about building relationships for their own sake. As women we are often naturally interested in other people and good at creating supportive relationships.  Rather than thinking about getting to know someone in terms of a path to the next promotion, see it as simply getting to know the person and what makes them tick, working out how you can help them and be of service.  Suddenly it feels much more natural and normal because it is just getting to know someone. And for me, it’s vitally important to stay true to myself in whatever I am doing and not get caught up in some corporate expectations which bend me out of shape.

There is a lot more that I could say on this topic, but I will stop for now.  I’m curious about how you react to this PIE.  What do you think?

What do you consider the main areas women struggle with around exposure?

What do you do to get over the cringe-factor around it?

I would love to hear your thoughts in the Facebook group.

And if you are thinking about how you are perceived in your role and would like some help to think through your image and exposure, please email me.

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