HOW TO BUILD INFLUENCE AT THE START OF YOUR CAREER
by PHOEBE VERTIGAN
At the start of your career, it’s easy to feel invisible. It’s often hard to know where your work fits into the grand scheme of things, and it’s easy to feel like your opinion doesn’t matter. But don’t be fooled — influence isn’t reserved for senior managers and leaders. Influence is power, and it’s critical no matter what stage of your career you are at. Even if you are the most junior person in the room, building your influence has huge rewards. It will help you get the respect of your managers and broader team, get your voice heard and make it easier to get your job done.
Whether you have just entered the workforce, or recently changed jobs, here are some tips to help start to build your influence:
Learn your environment
Don’t underestimate the importance of taking the time to understand how your organisation works. This isn’t limited to your team or the part of the business that you work in — understanding your broader environment helps you to identify what motivates people and how the business works.
In addition to helping you build your influence in the long term, knowing what the rest of your company does will keep you focused on your job, and how you can make a difference.
Create a network of influence
Once you have learned the ins and outs of your workplace, map the organisation thinking about who has power, and who are the great collaborators you can work with. Once you have an idea of who you can work with and who you can help, take the time to build these relationships.
These relationships can go both ways! Even at the start of your career, it’s important to have people you can call on if you need a favour, a sounding board for a tricky issue, and an influential mentor or sponsor who will stand up for you.
Put in the hard yards to build trust
To build influence, you’ve got to be able to walk the walk – and there’s no quick hack to earn trust – you’ve got to do the hard yards.
Be open and honest. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and if an issue arises that you can’t solve, alert the relevant people and share what you think a potential solution could be. They will be thankful that you alerted them to the issue, and are offering a potential solution to the problem.
Beware of the “it’s not my job” attitude. In addition to opportunities within your own team, look for opportunities to help out other colleagues. Small favours can have a huge ripple effect, leading to promotions, recognition and of course, influence. Plus, you never know who the person you help out is connected to… so being trustworthy and known as a person who delivers can go a long way.
Be an active listener
When you are in a new environment, it’s natural to want to demonstrate all that you know. Sometimes it’s easy to fall into the trap of jumping into every conversation to prove your contribution– even if it means cutting someone else off. I once worked with someone who was desperate to prove their value, butting into conversations and even talking over members of the senior leadership team. Needless to say, this had the opposite effect.
Take the time to listen to your colleagues across the business, and show them that you are taking what they say on board. It’s amazing how much information you can miss when you are not listening, just waiting to talk.
Don’t be afraid to show a bit of personality
We are all humans after all. When you are working to gain the respect of your colleagues, giving them some insight into who you are, your interests and passions can help them connect with the real you. In fact, experts say that getting to know colleagues on a more personal level is an attribute of high performing team.
A little discretion is important here… obviously, it’s better not to blurt out details of your crazy weekend on Monday morning! Used wisely, building a more personal connection with your colleagues can be a great way to build influence.
Don’t forget that true respect and influence has to be earned… and there’s no reason not to start building your influence today. With time, commitment and a bit of passion, you are on your way no matter what stage of your career you are at!