There’s an interesting paradox that plagues our workforce: Professionals want to be given opportunities to grow, and leaders want driven team members who step up and make themselves indispensible. Yet, we keep hearing, “Why don’t they see how hard I’ve worked and promote me?” The problem is that most people are waiting for someone to notice them, and employers are waiting for them to own their brilliance, step up and add value.

I recently gave a presentation to a group of emerging leaders from various industries, where I met Barb, a young financial services professional. She stood up and said, “I wish the woman who started my company would shut up about how great she is. I know she worked hard to build this business from scratch, but at some point it’s gotta be someone else’s turn.”

Curious, I asked her, “What do you want her to talk about?”

“I’d like her to notice my skills and give me opportunities to grow,” Barb said. When I asked what opportunities she would like, she quickly responded, “I want to be in charge of customer relations. I love interacting with customers and really think I can increase sales and client retention.”

I was impressed. Unlike many people, particularly young pros, she knew exactly how she wanted to add value – one of the most important messages for professionals of all ages to communicate to leadership. “Have you shared this with your boss?” I asked.


And therein lies the problem. Like most talented professionals, Barb was hoping to get noticed and be handed opportunities. Meanwhile, her boss was probably hoping someone would step up, take ownership and make things happen for her business.

I encouraged Barb to discuss her ambitions with her boss – which she did. While Barb’s boss was unwilling to give her the position immediately, she is helping her gain the experiences and skills to be successful when the time comes.

Your leadership team is waiting for you to own your brilliance – to step up and say, “This is exactly how I can add more value to our company.” 

Here’s how to get the opportunities you crave: 

  1. Show up. If there’s a company picnic, open board meeting or any other networking function that will help you gain visibility, go!
  2. Speak up. Even the best boss in the world isn’t a mind reader. Figure out what you want to do, be able to communicate how those interests align with your company’s goals, and then ask.
  3. Step up. If you don’t yet have the job title you want, find ways to take on some of those duties or to help out in that area. You’ll not only demonstrate your interest; you’ll also show what you can do. For example, if you work for a financial services company and want to be a client services manager, get out there and secure some new customers.

You don’t need permission to be powerful. Or maybe you do. If so, here’s your permission. Rather than waiting for someone to tell you how great you are, take responsibility for communicating your value to them.

Rock on!

Misti Burmeister