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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Want to grow your career in SMEs? Network more

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If you are one of those people who believe that hard work can take you places, you need to rethink. Who you know matters as much or perhaps even more. Put yourself out there—on social media, in meetings and industry bodies, etc—so that people know you and your ideas

Most Indians have been brought up to believe in “Karmanyeva Adhikaraste”, which roughly translates to “you should do your duty.” It is a mindset that encourages people to keep performing to get what they deserve—a mindset often seen in founders of small and medium enterprises (SMEs). They believe in manufacturing the best products but, in turn, neglect the importance of marketing by assuming that the product will speak for itself.

Have your PIE and eat it too

For those who work in SMEs, career progression has always been a sore issue. Harvey Coleman, in his book Empowering Yourself, The Organizational Game Revealed introduced a concept called PIE, which may be a good guideline to follow. It is called the PIE model after the first letters of the three elements it is based on.

for Performance, which is about the day-to-day work one is tasked with and the quality of results that one delivers.

I for Impression, which is about one’s brand— what other people think of you.

E for Exposure—who knows you in your organisation?

Does the founder know you? Does anybody else inside and outside the organisation know about the work done by you?

Performance is a necessary condition for progress, but not the only one. Delivering on the goals—you may know them as KPI, KRA, OKC, or something else—is critical.

However, performance counts for only 10 percent of the pie in the PIE theory. People do pay some attention to their personal brand and understand why it is important. The impression holds another 30 percent weightage.

The biggest piece of the pie is “Exposure”, a whopping 60 percent weightage. One can argue and nit-pick that differences in culture, region, type of industry, etc affect the weightage but these are anecdotal weightages the three aspects have.

How can you gain exposure and enjoy the lion’s share of the PIE? It starts by understanding what it is. It is not just about gaining an identity or recognition; it is also about learning and building a halo.

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Learning through observation, rich feedback from others and networking with others. This provides renewed personal insights and broadens perspectives on the current role, and expands your developmental horizons.

For business leaders, it allows them to discuss, learn and understand multiple concepts—decision-making, budget allocation, expansion in new markets and innovation.

Other aspects that help build exposure are meetings, staying connected with different sets of stakeholders, reaching out to offer help or ask for help and stepping outside the boundaries set by the organisation. Here are some thoughts for you to consider for growth:

1 Embrace networking and social media sites. Just about everyone can learn the art of networking. Even introverts can connect asynchronously using social media. They can network with people whose work interests them. Of course, they need to join these social media platforms. Following select influencers is one idea and tagging them too in relevant messages. Many of them are open to one-on-one queries and conversations through direct messages—a Bengaluru-based techie had stuck a friendship with Elon Musk through Twitter.

2 Self-promotion is a necessary evil today. When most LinkedIn profiles are about inflated self-glory, mentioning your real achievements in a simple form will be inadequate for standing out in the crowd.

This may seem uncomfortable to some. However, self-promotion based on facts can be highly effective. If you have a world-class product, at least your local town must be aware of it. This also helps in bringing the attention of important stakeholders. When you join a company whose name you are very familiar with, being associated with it brings a sense of pride. A similar sense of confidence holds for products as well.

3 Be active in professional bodies that are of your interest and industry. These can be a major source to gain exposure. It can be gained not just by registering as a member but through active participation.

The beauty of volunteering is that it gets appreciated by the industry body and it can bring in much-needed connections. This giving and receiving are asynchronous. Hence the returns come in unexpected ways at different points in time.

4 Try writing a blog or an article in relevant trade publications. It is a great medium of exposure in several ways. When you write about something, you realise how little you know and how much more knowledge is out there.

It also helps to build perspective. You can write a journal too, but that will only serve to improve your expression and understanding, not get exposure. You need to be courageous enough to share it with others.

On social media, you do not need to impress a publisher. You can post it on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram concisely and elicit feedback. You can use it to improve yourself through exposure.

Improving your visibility and having a strong public profile is good for you, your career, your business and the others involved in your business.





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