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How to Be a Voice Not an Echo in Your Career

Whether you’re new to your position or more experienced, we sometimes struggle with being heard in a unique, personal way.

Imagine starting as a new hire out of school, joining a new agency or returning to the workforce after time off. You’ll pick up cues from managers, co-workers, and leaders as to how to “fit in.” This is normal.

At some point, however, we want to start expressing our thoughts, feelings and ideas in a way that honors who we are, our core values and our beliefs. If you’re not comfortable with jumping in, it is my hope that this quote from Albert Einstein will help:

“Be a voice, not an echo.”

This sage advice gives you the freedom, dare I say, and the permission to speak up and share what you have to offer.

In the knowledge management space, we encourage the active sharing of knowledge to not only embolden us, but to deepen the well of tacit and explicit knowledge in the organization.

It may also help to know that many people struggle with finding their voice without sounding like someone else. Early in my career, I avoided the “dog pile.” Let me give you a typical meeting example, so that you’ll know what I mean.

You’re in a meeting. The host says something that’s brilliant. Then, every other person in the meeting “piles on” with agreements in their own words. If I cannot offer anything substantively different, I remind myself not to “pile on.” I do not want to be an echo of everyone else.

Of course, you want to actively engage in meaningful discussion, and this is where you have the opportunity to advance your career. You see, people remember when there is a bit of wisdom shared that is substantively different or unique to you. Here’s where sharing an experience, a lesson or an insight that is your own will create a more robust discussion… and allow you to be a true voice in the room.

OK enough, theory. Let’s talk practicality. How do you become a “voice” that advances your career, whether you’re a new hire, new to the team or returning to the workforce?

Here are three tips to easily “be a voice, not an echo,” and know that you’re making a difference on your own terms.

  1. When you hear other people’s words coming out of your mouth, stop and say, “Let me think about a time when…” This way you share an experience that is yours alone and make a much greater impression.
  2. Begin tracking things you learned and experienced that are relevant to your current position or a future position you desire. For example, if you are a member of your homeowner’s association, that experience of working with different people and the challenges therein are skills in negotiations, influence, etc.
  3. Avoid the “dog pile.” If you’re the first to comment, great. If you’re not, use that time to think about whether you truly have something great to share. Otherwise, your brilliance is lost in “the pile.”

As Einstein suggests,being a voice, not an echo can help you to stand out and apart from the crowd – and be seen and heard for your unique contributions.

Interested in becoming a Featured Contributor? Email topics you’re interested in covering for GovLoop to [email protected]. And to read more from our Spring 2021 Cohort, here is a full list of every Featured Contributor during this cohort.

Christine “Chris” Makell has worked for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for over four years, having held positions of increasing challenges and responsibility in that short time. She is currently a Program Analyst in the Knowledge Management & Transfer office. She joins federal service after a 28-year career in the private sector and six years as the owner of Chris Makell Consulting/Coaching working with individuals and sales teams to achieve greater success.

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