Updated: Sep 9, 2021
I've always found it hard to pinpoint exactly what it takes to be more confident and 'visible'. People often ask me about how I put myself out there and get lots of opportunities so I thought I would write a blog post about some of the ways I have probably done this (most of the time, without even realising it) and why it's so important for personal and professional growth.
Show up AND put in the effort
You will stand out and attract opportunities if you are reliable and hard-working. Showing up is only half of the work; putting in the effort and doing things to the best of your ability is what is going to make you memorable and achieve great things.
There is no method to this - it has to come from you. I put effort into things I care about - these tend to be opportunities that are going to help me progress professionally or personally; that make a positive contribution to a cause I believe in or things that I simply enjoy and I am passionate about. When I find these things, I work towards being the best I can at them and I dedicate the necessary time to do so. Completing tasks and assignments is one thing, producing high-quality work that demonstrates your commitment and effort is another. I have always been commended on my effort and engagement with the opportunities I have undertaken.
Work smart (not necessarily hard)
Do not underestimate how important having a life OUTSIDE of your degree/career/job is (I say this around 3 times a day). The way you spend your time day-to-day defines you and although I am not trying to shove a narrative down your throat to 'be productive every single waking moment of your life'... the most inspirational people I know dedicate some time every single day working on their craft or things that they're passionate about.
For me, I spend the time I have aside from my non-negotiable/compulsory commitments (like attending clinical placements, lectures, or employment) to seek out opportunities that would benefit me and grow me as a person, work on passion projects and build my social media presence (see below).
Spend time seeking out opportunities
I have been involved in so many things because I actively seek out opportunities. In turn, this has boosted my visibility and increased my chances of being exposed to more opportunities. Why do I want new and exciting opportunities to continuously come my way? Because I want to continuously be pushed outside of my comfort zone, try new things, and never stop growing and learning (again, this does NOT exclusively have to be growth in your career or degree, it can be related to your personal life too). Many say that your 20s are your peak years to do this (and I agree)!
As mentioned in a previous blog post regarding my work-life balance, I have a spreadsheet titled 'Opportunities' (I have recently transferred this to Notion). I take a look at my database every week and review it at the end of each month. I add things that I would really like to apply for and my biggest aspirations and goals for the year.
Please note: I do NOT scour the Internet and add every single opportunity under the sun because some are simply not of interest to me - which is why it is important to have a level of self-awareness of your own skills, attributes, and interests when looking for opportunities that will serve you best. In your database, I recommend that you include details such as deadlines, links, and a to-do list of actionable points that you need to complete in order to apply for that opportunity.
Creating a database of things you want to achieve is the first step, now you need to have a plan of how you are actually going to tackle the application processes which is why the Notion template is really helpful!
Read up on your opportunity THOROUGHLY and what it looks for in applicants
Make sure your CV and/or any cover letters/extra submissions demonstrate that you meet those expectations and desirable traits
Sit down and try to complete applications in ONE sitting. I find that the more I leave it and promise to come back to it, the less likely I am to ever submit it on time.
I colour-code what I have applied for and the outcome - this helps track how much I have going on in one particular time frame and helps me visualise my successes and 'failures'. Although I apply for roles and responsibilities that I know I can fulfil, if I am really interested in something, I will apply for it regardless of whether I stand a good chance or not. The point of this is to fall in love with the process more than the result.
You will learn a LOT about yourself by making multiple applications and being unsuccessful. It builds character, believe me!
Share your achievements
When shared with humility, your achievements will not only boost your personal profile and attract powerful and influential people to want to work with you and share opportunities with you, but this can also inspire other people to achieve their best too.
In order to achieve in the first place though, you have to be self-sufficient and self-aware; seek out your own opportunities first (as mentioned above) - nobody else will do this for you and only you know where your true interests lie. Spend time every week looking and applying for opportunities to broaden your horizons and repeat.
Before you know it, you'll be able to share more about yourself and what you're involved in... people will start to understand what you like and what you stand for and THEN they will be able to send opportunities your way that they think will suit you. This snowball effect will have you drowning in possibilities and lots of extra things you can get involved in. You can then pick and choose as you see fit!
Social networking and building your personal brand
Social networking has become a powerful tool for boosting your personal profile and creating your BRAND.
Dr Amile Inusa has a fantastic post on her Instagram about building your personal brand by doing a social media audit. This involves analysing your current social media profiles and what they say about you, what you are hoping to gain from them, and if your content actually has value for those who follow you. I highly recommend going through her post and taking NOTES - she articulates everything I want to say perfectly. She has a fabulous social media presence and every post she makes packs a punch.
I believe social media (especially Instagram) is more about engagement and community than it is about followers and likes. I call it social networking because essentially, that is what I use it for. I love interacting with people and building genuine connections with those who inspire me and those who are inspired by me.
I also highly recommend making a LinkedIn if you want to expose yourself to opportunities that can develop you career-wise. LinkedIn is a great place to connect with like-minded professionals that do not have to be within your field. This is more of a professional space to showcase your achievements, projects, and notable qualifications. You can also search for jobs here. See my blog post on Linked In do's and don'ts here when setting up your account.
Collaborate with like-minded individuals (do not be afraid to reach out first)
The Internet is an amazing place to find people who share the same interests, goals, and ambitions as you. Do not take this for granted. Most of the things I have got involved in are from someone approaching me or vice versa.
For all of the Instagram lives that I have done, I have had to approach speakers and explain why I wanted to chat with them. This is a skill you can also develop by becoming a committee member in one of your student societies, for example. It is key that you know how to appropriately reach out to professionals.
Coming across as your authentic self, stating what your reason for contacting them is, the goal you're trying to achieve, and what you hope to gain from having a relationship with them are some key messages you want to get across when asking someone to work with you!
Check in with yourself (I do this monthly)
Regular self-reflection and review of your goals are essential for growth. It's what businesses and institutions do in order to sustain success and continually improve. I check in with myself every month and unconsciously do it every day (look at my to-do list and see how I got done). I go through my database (mentioned above) and see what I've achieved and then write down what else I’d like to get involved in. Although sometimes these monthly reviews mean re-directing and re-focusing my energy - seeking out opportunities is not my priority every month, I still have a degree to get! You cannot get completely sidetracked by the busy and exciting life you have aside from your degree. You need to be able to check-in with yourself so you know when you need to knuckle down and catch up with university work or any other tasks you have to complete for your job and so forth.
When starting to try and get more opportunities and exposure to things, be more open to saying YES than no. At a later stage, you can start deciding what is worth your time or not but you never know where one YES may lead to. If someone sends an opportunity your way, do not throw it back in their face by not even at least attempting to apply / read about it. If you ever hear the words 'learning opportunity', 'I can put you in contact with', 'This is something I thought you'd be a good applicant for...' DO NOT FUMBLE THE BAG.
I hope this blog post gave you some motivation and a few actionable points you can start implementing in your everyday life (especially during the pandemic when online opportunities are flying around like crazy).
Want to feel even more inspired?
I did a podcast: In Conversation with Hani and we spoke about a few of these things in it! Have a listen on Spotify now!
A book that I saw recommended on Yath Prem's fantastic weekly newsletter called Outliers: The Story of Success - the author reveals that it's as much about where we're from and what we do, as who we are - and that no one, not even a genius, ever makes it alone to the top/success. I love it so far!