"Inconspicuous Visibility" will get you noticed—in the right way
Got a dream client or employer you’ve been wanting to work with? Great! Me too! Ever felt like there’s no way it’ll ever happen? Yep, me too, again!
Wondering why that second answer was so enthusiastic? Because I have a strategy for pursuing work I really care about. I call it Inconspicuous Visibility.
Everyone’s heard that saying: “it’s all about who you know.” This is absolutely true—it just needs one little addition. Here’s how I would put it:
“It’s all about who you know—and how you know them.”
Here’s why that second part is increasingly important:
Self-promotion is just a form of advertising…
This is the era of the personal brand. At this point, for better or for worse, everything you do (especially online), is a part of your promotional package. In fact, many freelancers behave like tiny little companies. But even those just looking for their next 9-to-5 must cultivate a personal brand by cleaning up their social media presence and creating a personal website or logo. The simple act of choosing what to include on a résumé is also an act of advertisement. Your personal brand is important, now more than ever.
…but advertising is changing rapidly…
The standard sales pitch is extinct. People have zero patience for overt adverts! When was the last time you didn’t click “skip” as soon as YouTube’s five-second waiting period was over? When was the last time you actually read a banner ad on a website? We barely even think about these forms of promotion anymore. Advertising has become an arms race: people are becoming immune to ads, which forces advertisers to capture their attention in new ways. So how do you advertise to someone who doesn’t see ads? You start to think about self-promotion in a totally different way. You create entire new categories of “advertising.” (See: affiliate marketing, branded original content, micro-influencer sponsorships, whatever Snapchat does.)
…because people don’t like being sold to.
When the bottom of a job application says “no phone calls,” it’s because they’re tired of being harangued by people with faux enthusiasm. Conspicuous attempts to fast-track one’s application to the top of the pile aren’t effective: do you think the person answering that phone is going to believe that you, a person they’ve never met, is really more excited about the opportunity than the next stranger who calls? After all, how enthusiastic can you be if this is the first they’re hearing from you?
What this means for you
Advertising content is becoming more and more subtle, as advertisers struggle to sneak their messaging in front of people who are increasingly immune to it. But corporations aren’t the only ones who can benefit from marketing themselves inconspicuously—individuals need to consider fresh vehicles for self-promotion too.
Potential clients and employers need to know who you are, what your deal is, and that you’re interested and available—but you can’t just flat-out tell them. You have to position yourself in their orbit. You have to practice Inconspicuous Visibility. If you do it right, the next time they need something you can provide, they won’t even have to think—they’ll just know that you’re the perfect person for the job.
Note, however, what I said at the very beginning of this piece: I use this strategy to pursue work I really care about. Authenticity is key here. Inconspicuous Visibility has been effective for me, but I find that I don’t have the energy to implement it unless I feel strongly about the project or client I’m pursuing. It works best when you actually care—and when you do, it almost comes naturally!
Here’s how I practice Inconspicuous Visibility:
Strategy #1: Engage on social media
This one should be easy—most people are addicted to social media and spend a bunch of time there anyway. You know you’re going to spend time on these platforms, so why not convert some of your aimless scrolling into more intentioned interactions that could benefit your career? If you treat your professional contacts the same way you treat your friends on social media, it can be just as fun. Comment on their posts! Share links they’d find interesting! Tag them in relevant posts! And pay attention to what they’re promoting, because you’ll use it for…
Strategy #2: Attend and/or volunteer at events
If your dream client is holding an event, be there. Even better than attending, however, is volunteering! This works best if you like working with non-profits, like me. Either way, showing your face and meeting the people you want to work with in a professional-yet-casual environment like an event is a great way to make yourself visible without being pushy. Between posting about an event on social media beforehand and sharing photos showing how much you enjoyed it afterwards, there’s a lot of room for synergy between these first two strategies.
Strategy #3: Refer or convert others
Everyone wants more followers, more customers, more business. As you learn about the needs of your potential client/employer by following their social media and attending their events, find people you could connect them with. Do you have a friend who would be a good fit for a different job opening? Are they looking for donations or sponsors? Maybe you’ve noticed that their promotional materials could use some updating and know a graphic designer. I guarantee that at the very least, you have a friend who would be interested in their work and might want to follow them online. Make that connection for them—and do it publicly if it’s appropriate for the situation.
Strategy #4: Follow up
In general, I believe you should follow up with everyone about everything. But once you’ve had some contact with your potential client/employer, following up becomes even more important. It shows a sustained interest in their activities, and further cements you in their mind as a genuine person who has something to offer.
Strategy #5: If all else fails, do something they can’t ignore
Instead of explaining this one, let me just give an example: Taylor Swift recently performed in Philadelphia. So in the weeks leading up to the concert, street artist Nicole Nikolich decided to try to get Swift’s attention by creating a series of eye-catching installation pieces around the city using her lyrics. Sure enough, Nikolich was able to drum up enough media coverage of her stunt to get a meet and greet with Swift before the concert!
Do you practice Inconspicuous Visibility? Are there other strategies you’ve come up with to present yourself this way? Send me an email and let me know!