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Career Elevator: 9 Ways to Help Your Image and Exposure

Michael Clegg | 08/04/2021

If you ask 10 Executives what each employee needs to do to have career success, you might get 10 different responses.  Are there secrets to success?  Are there steps that you can take to ensure your success?  Harvey Coleman’s book “Empower Yourself, The Organizational Game Revealed” describes that P.I.E. determines your career success.  It stands for Performance, Image and Exposure.  Mr. Coleman even weighs these categories in order of importance. 

Performance = 10%

Image = 30%

Exposure = 60%

Early in my career, I had a boss named Chris and he was a great leader.  I learned a lot about leadership from him.  Everyone loved his personable style, and he took an interest in all of us.  Our team was high performing and always ranked near to the top offices in the country.  Due to our tremendous success, Chris interviewed for a Regional Executive role, which meant he traveled to headquarters and interviewed with the Executive Leadership Team.  We thought he was a shoo-in for the role, but he didn’t get the job.  Chris had more tenure; higher performance and was the more decorated leader.  In hindsight, I am convinced he didn’t get the job because of his Image and Exposure weren’t high.  The challenge was he didn’t socialize outside of our team.  He stayed comfortable in his bubble.  He didn’t go to company networking events.  At corporate meetings, he was the first person back to his hotel room.  Some would describe him as an introvert.  He was not comfortable around people he didn’t know, and he would often say, “I’m not playing political games.”  The other candidate Jim got the job.  Jim had much less company and industry tenure, a smaller team and a significantly less decorated career. I think he got the job over Chris because he is a great communicator.  Jim’s funny, sharp dressed, highly engaging and someone that I would call a conversationalist.  Jim is one of those guys that you meet, you immediately like him.   His Performance might not have been as strong as Chris’, but his Image and Exposure were viewed more favorably.  We all know that first impressions matter.  If Chris was being judged on his performance alone, there is no doubt he would’ve got the job.  Have you ever seen someone get promoted vs. someone that you thought was more qualified for a role?  How much did Image and Exposure play into that decision?

Most people that have never heard of PIE, might be surprised that Performance only accounts for 10% of the equation.  I think it is safe to say that without Performance, that Image and Exposure wouldn’t matter.  Performance is the foundation where success begins.  He’s not saying that Performance is not important.  He is explaining what moves someone up the career ladder. In his book, Harvey Coleman says “Performance will get you paid but Image and Exposure will get you promoted.”  Performance is objective but also short lived in a “what have you done for me lately” society. 

My explanation of P.I.E.

  1. Performance: the results to the tasks and expectations given to you in your role.
  2. Image: what coworkers that you work directly with think about you.
  3. Exposure: what the people you do not work directly with hear about you. (Bosses boss, Senior Executives, Vendors/Suppliers, peers in other groups)

Image and Exposure are subjective.  It is how others “feel and think” about you.  Here are some steps to increase your Image:

  1. Have positive interactions with your co-workers daily.
  2. Be helpful.  If someone needs to take their car to the garage, offer to pick them up. 
  3. Be authentic.  Authentic is a bit of a buzz word these days but people are attracted to genuine people.
  4. Volunteer. Take on tasks that others in your department don’t.  No one wants to work late or on weekends at the tradeshow, but these gestures can go a long way.
  5. Be an active listener.  Data shows that people think highly of others that actively listen.  It can give the perception that you agree with them even if you don’t.  Body language is important.  Nodding, smiling and having an open posture is a great way to give off “I’m listening to you” vibes.

Exposure is 60% of the reason for your success.  What others say about us influences the decisions that impact our careers.  Therefore, it is the most difficult to impact.  How do you get others that we don’t interact with daily to speak highly of you?  Isn’t this a form of social influence?  I turned to a marketing guru, Mark Schaeffer.  Social proof is the influence that the actions and attitudes of the people around us (either in real life or online) have on our own behavior.  Mark Schaefer, best-selling author and marketing expert talks about the importance of social proof in a business context. He uses examples like; “In our busy world, we constantly look for clues that can help us determine the truth in uncertain situations.” Here are some examples:

  • I was in a new town and judged the popularity of a restaurant by the number of cars parked outside.
  • Two people were shouting directions in an emergency. I made a judgment that a man had more authority because he was wearing a doctor’s lab coat.
  • I visited a client and tried to learn a little about her personality by the items she had displayed on her desk and on her office walls.

Exposure is determined by the influence of others.  This is very similar to Social Proof.  Having the ability to network with others that you do not come into contact daily is a key part to building your Exposure.  It’s creating a network outside of your daily environment. 

Below are networking steps to build your Exposure:

  1. Find a mentor or an ambassador.  This person should be helping to introduce you to a network outside of your daily inner circle.
  2. Build new relationships.  This is uncomfortable for many.  Get comfortable being uncomfortable.  Your career success is worth it.  Spend time with people that are dissimilar to you and your environment will help you learn and grow new skills.  Take a genuine interest in the value that someone new can bring.  Many people walk into networking events with the “what’s in it for me” mantra.  “YOUR” expectations are about “YOU”.  Make these events about them.  Ultimately, it will come back to benefit you. Be patient.
  3. Show genuine interest in strangers.  Don’t fake this.  People see right through that.  If you meet someone new who has a hobby of participating in book clubs, but you don’t like reading, try and take a genuine interest.  You can say, “I don’t read much but hear more people participating in book clubs.  Why do you like it so much?  Genuinely listen to their answer.  Ask a follow up question or make a comment.  “It really sounds like I’m missing out and should probably branch out and try new things.  What type of books do you read?”
  4. Give and expect nothing in return. Just like above mentioned, avoid “what’s in it for me”.  Find ways that you can help at least one person.  This will feel fake in the beginning.  Trust me, if you start building a mindset of helping others without expecting anything in return, you will start to enjoy it.  “You can have everything you want in life if you help others get what they want.” – Zig Ziglar