There are several factors that determine your power potential at work. These include relevance, visibility, decision-making ability, and power perks. Keep in mind, the goal should be “power to,” not “power over.”
Does Your Job Have Relevance?
Most of us begin our careers in entry level positions. While that may be expected, don’t assume that an entry level job can’t be relevant, or that an entry level job can’t lead to job progression.
Begin by learning the lay of the land and be observant. Before you were hired, you probably researched the company. Continue that research as an employee. Review reports (including past annual reports) and other materials that are legitimately available to you. Become an expert about your own organization. Then try to make yourself invaluable to your boss or your team, and your job relevance will increase proportionately. So will your power base.
Are You Visible?
Visibility is important in an organization, but you want to be known for your work efforts, not because of the way you dress or act. You don’t want a nickname like “the whiner,” or “the woman with the purple hair.”
Take time to understand who’s who. Figure out who works in what departments. Introduce yourself to others and call coworkers by name. Meet as many people as you can and offer assistance whenever possible. Let people get to know you professionally (but don’t disclose too much about your personal life.)
If your colleagues always know things before you, try to figure out why you are out of the loop or appear invisible. Are you stand-offish or shy? Do you participate fully in team discussions or are you just another attendee? Do you do the background work and prepare yourself for each meeting? Are you positive and enthusiastic? These efforts go a long way in making you recognizable.
Can You Make Decisions?
As a rule of thumb, the higher your job level, the more authority you have to make decisions, and the larger your power base. Perhaps more importantly, decision-making ability also increases your opportunity for creativity, for trying new ways of doing things, and moving ideas and efforts forward.
Almost all positions, including entry level ones, have some authority to make decisions. You need to know your job well enough to make good decisions whenever necessary. Don’t overstep the established boundaries and own up to a poor decision if you make one. If given the opportunity to be a team or project leader, jump at it. The more successful decisions you are a part of, the more authority you will be given in the future.
How Do know if You Have Any Clout?
One good indicator of clout is whether you have your boss’s ear? Can you offer an opinion or a critique without feeling tense, or fearing that your idea will probably be discounted? Do you get invited to strategic meetings? Do people seek your input?
Other power perks that indicate you’ve been noticed include being selected for participation in leadership or special training programs, being asked to accompany your boss to important meetings, or, better yet, being asked to represent your company at various places or events. Be certain to take advantage of every opportunity. The more involved you are in work activities, the more valuable you will appear, and the better known you will become at work.
It takes time to develop a personal power base in a job. This does not mean joining the gossip circle, being underhanded, or trying to control things or others. What it does mean is working hard, so hard that your efforts and ideas get noticed. It means taking on some challenging assignments, volunteering for special projects, and being a team player. It also requires some subtle self-promotion and carefully claiming credit when credit is due.