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Making an impact at work

One of the common challenges my mentees face in Australia is how to make a meaningful impact and become more visible at work. The COVID pandemic and the whole remote working has made this more challenging for everyone.

It's relatively easier to stand out in those positions where quantifiable KPIs mainly measure performance. However, when we progress to more senior and complicated roles, it takes much more than just delivering good numbers to convince the decision-maker(s) that you are the best candidate for a promotion or another position you would like to get.

Although many young professionals from Asian backgrounds are extroverts, they have become the 'quiet' ones at work due to language barriers and cultural differences. Overtaken by fear, the fear of being judged or failing to deliver perfectly, many opportunities have slipped away.

The reality is that we all live in this paradoxical world. We will constantly be facing challenges regardless of our experience.

  • When you were doing exceptionally well in a position for one year and wanted to move on, someone would challenge you for lack of experience and prefer to promote someone else with more experience.

  • When you were growing steadily in the same position for five years and wanted a promotion, someone would challenge you for not being good enough as if yes, you should get the promotion years ago.

  • When you stayed in an organisation for one year or less and wanted to move on, someone would question your professional stability and loyalty.

  • When we stayed in an organisation for decades and wanted to move on, someone would question why you decided to leave since you have been there for so long.

The list of examples can go on and on. It's sad to see many capable and ambitious young professionals missing out on opportunities due to the so-called lack of visibility.

To shine or not to shine, the choice is at yours. So here are my two cents.

1. Embrace our identity and be proud of our cultural heritage.

Being an ethnic minority in Australia, you are pretty visible already because you are different. It would help if you proudly celebrated your home country's traditional festivals like Aussies celebrate their own. Everyone at work would love to have another theme to celebrate, which creates an opportunity for communication, understanding, and engagement. With good preparation, such communication would allow others to understand better where you are coming from and enhance your visibility.

2. Cultivate a different mindset to drive behavioural change.

  • Being told to be humble, we tend not to talk about our contributions.

  • Being told to be harmonious, we tend not to disagree with others despite having a different opinion.

  • Being told to be respectful to those senior to us, we tend not to push back or negotiate when we receive a request from senior stakeholders.

A coin does have two sides. However, the above actions do us more harm than good in the long run. Therefore, we must cultivate a different mindset so that we are more likely to make a positive impact at work.

As professionals, it's our responsibility to articulate what value we have added to the organisation and what result we have delivered to facilitate our organisation's decisions (resource allocation or strategic planning).

As professionals, it's our responsibility to speak up when we have doubts, concerns, or questions. We may not be able to make decisions all the time, but we should take every opportunity to contribute to a conclusion, which includes challenging an idea to make it more robust. Playing the devil's advocate adds more value than we think.

3. Leverage our strengths and be inclusive

The collaboration mindset is a natural gift we have inherited from Asian culture, which allows us to better commit to the team goal and foster collaboration among team members. We should embrace this more.

Determination and passion for winning are good strengths that we should leverage more too. Looking back in 10 years or 20 years, we are proud to consider ourselves more than an ordinary professional. To realise the goal, we keep improving with determination and passion for winning.

When you deliver a piece of work with outstanding quality, but you are shy to speak up for yourself, acknowledge the team's collaboration, which creates an inclusive culture. This acknowledgement will work wonders in creating a positive impact and showcase your leadership within the organisation.

Let's start it from today. Make it count 😊

Feel free to leave your comments or insights in the comment section. When we all make a positive impact at work, we will be living in a much better world.

Steven Yu

A thinker and facilitator helping young professionals thrive.


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