We all want to get recognized and noticed for our work. And just because you want that, it doesn’t make you selfish or less humble… it simply makes you human. The real question is: “Are you getting recognized and noticed at work in the right ways?” The challenge in this question lies not in asking the question, but in answering it. What makes this question particularly sneaky is that it’s not a “yes” or “no” question. There are “levels” and “degrees” of recognition we need to consider. For example, it’s one thing for your boss to give you a “pat on the back” and a whole other thing to get tapped as a rising star by senior leadership. As you think about answering this question for yourself, consider the following “levels” of recognition at work. I think you’ll find them handy.

LEVEL 1 – I’m valued in my group / department

• Does your boss say “thank you” and “good job”? – Are you getting frequent “pats on the back” for your efforts and hard work from your boss? If so, you can check off this first step in getting recognized at work. Consider this the “meat and potatoes” version of recognition. We all want it and need it. It feels good, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t necessarily mean we are on the fast track to anywhere. In fact, it could very well mean that we are making our boss’ life so easy that he or she has incentive to NOT let us move. Our departure means more pain for him or her. Not a good position for us to be in.

• Are you getting regular promotions / salary increases? – Are you consistently getting merit increases and promotions at or ahead of schedule based on your work? Is “steady and consistent” your middle name? If this is you, you can check off the box of being seen as a “high performer” in your organization. However, as a good friend once told me, “there is a big difference between a ‘high performer’ and a ‘high potential’.” High performers are steady and are kept in their respective areas. High potentials are given new challenges and are seen as the future. Which are you?

LEVEL 2 – I’m valued in other groups / departments

• Do people know you by name when you walk around? – Do people know who you are outside of your department as a result of the impact you are making (not because you are the only one who wears tight jeans on casual Friday)? Do you walk around the office to regular greetings by people you don’t even know? If so, you may have expanded your recognition beyond your immediate sphere of influence and may be on your way. Consider this an honor and use it to your advantage.

• Are you getting “high profile” fires? – Have you noticed that the “messiness” and “importance” of the projects you are getting continues to rise? This is not a form of masochistic punishment, rather a sign that you are being valued and trusted beyond your proven track record. People throughout the organization believe in you enough to trust you with big fires. You are on the radar. But be careful. As a neighbor of mine once said, the trick is not to mess it up (although she used much more colorful language than that). This is a very high form of recognition, but one slip and you’re off the radar once again. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if things are getting too messy.

LEVEL 3 – I’m valued by senior leadership

• Do members of the senior leadership team make it a point to greet you and thank you for your contributions? Do you get the sense that many of the leaders of your organization know more about you than you know about them? If so, this is not necessarily a sign of “creepiness.” It is more likely a sign that you are not only on the radar, you are on the map. They know you by name and have you on a secret list of up-and-comers somewhere. While it may feel strange to you, it is a sign that you are being noticed as a “rising star.” Use this as an invitation to engage them more.

• Are you being talked about in high profile meetings as a solution to the organization’s problems? If you have ever had a colleague say to you, “your ears must have been burning,” don’t throw that statement out as fluff. That is an important piece of data that you are being talked about as a solution to other’s problems in meetings in which you are not in attendance. If you are hearing that comment as it pertains to senior leadership meetings AND you are learning that multiple people were bringing you up, you have arrived. You can’t get any better recognition than that. Bask in all of your glory… and then get to work.

So you see, getting noticed at work is not a simple “yes/no” question. It has everything to do with who is recognizing you and for what. If you didn’t check off every form of recognition from the list above, never fear. In the next several posts I’ll tackle the most common ways we prevent ourselves from getting recognized and the steps we can take to overcome those challenges. Stay tuned!