Bolster Your Position at Work

By Dr. Lynn Friedman
Special to
Tuesday, November 29, 2005; 3:08 PM

You are in a job with a great title and interesting duties, but the internal politics are "eating you alive." You are working hard and learning a lot. But, your boss keeps you and your contributions a secret. You'd like to increase your job security. You'd like to get recognition for a job well done. But, you aren't sure how to go about getting it. You're worried. You're afraid that if you get recognition from the brass, your boss will be threatened and alienated.

Believe it or not, successful employees find themselves in this situation all of the time. To deal with this challenge, focus on networking and skill development


Develop your contacts outside of your particular workplace, locally, regionally, nationally (and, as a colleague once said, intergalactically) in both the professional and lay arenas. Join your local trade/professional organizations and become very active. Be sure to do this after work hours, when your time is your own. Get involved in committees that are of interest to you and begin to work your way into a leadership position. Be thoughtful about the kind of role that you select. Choose a role that provides considerable positive exposure to people who are in the position to hire you. Also, take on tasks that will reveal your best work. If you enjoy your role and you are good at it, you may volunteer in a comparable capacity at the regional and national levels. Again, carefully select the situations where you can put your best foot forward. Give presentations that showcase your work at the local, regional and national conferences. Ask senior people, with whom you would like to work, to participate in panels with you.

In this way, they will get to know you as effective, reliable and conscientious.

Reach out to the lay public, too. Select a civic issue that allows you to make use of your professional skills in a volunteer capacity. For example, if you are an attorney, do a bit of pro bono work. Choose wisely. Select something that will make a valuable contribution and can garner community respect for you. If you feel that colleagues might benefit from knowing about your work, you may want to describe your efforts in a trade publication. If you have worked hard and performed well, you will gain visibility and recognition.

Skill Development

Take active and significant steps towards honing your skills and developing your credentials. Seek additional training and certifications. For example, if you are an engineer, consider becoming a Certified Professional Engineer. If you are an accountant, consider becoming a Certified Public Accountant. These credentials may make you more skilled and more marketable.The beauty of this sort of approach is that you will meet professionals in your field, many of whom will be hiring people like you. This may lead to professional opportunities.

Your boss will inevitably learn of your good work and fine reputation.

This may increase your value to him or her. It will also make it harder for him to push you out or hide you away. However this method is not without its risks. You could be perceived as a possible threat. But, with your excellent reputation and skills in the professional and lay community, you will be harder to cut loose. Your boss will be reluctant to jettison you knowing that it will not reflect well. And, even if she/he does, your good efforts will likely culminate in job offers.

Lynn Friedman, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist/psychoanalyst and work-life consultant in full-time, private practice near the Bethesda metro. She is on the adjunct faculty in the Organizational Development-Human Resource program at Johns Hopkins. More of her work can be found on

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