In software we have the concept of an Application Programming Interface, or API. An API is a published set of functionality with instructions on how best to take advantage of it. It doesn’t matter how powerful your software is if people don’t know how to interact with it. The same is true in your career.
Before you can communicate about your capacity you need to understand it for yourself. What are the types of problems you are confident you can help with? What is the best way for people to engage you? With answers to those questions in mind it may be useful to write it down even just for yourself.
My name is Andrew Bosworth. I like to work at the intersection of new technology and consumer products. I have a lot of experience working in complex organizations. Nothing makes me happier than unblocking progress and getting people back on track. I like telling stories that help people understand their work and feel more aligned with their colleagues. I am okay in meetings but really shine if I have time to read and write.
With something like that in mind it should be easier to execute these four behaviors designed to help your colleagues understand your unique value.
First, engage your manager. Rather than being a passive participant in the relationship you should be actively steering it. Make your manager into your sponsor. They should be sharing your narrative in rooms you aren’t in. Tell them what kinds of problems you’d like to be working on and check up with them regularly on their progress finding you more opportunities.
Second, master the art of the humble biography. When you meet a new colleague, introduce yourself and add a sentence about what kinds of things you love to work on and maybe give an example. The goal here is not to impress them but rather to enlist them so they are able funnel interesting work your way if they see it.
Third, don’t miss the opportunities that do come by. When you are in a meeting and a problem that interests you comes up don’t hesitate to speak about your enthusiasm to work on it. Ask teams who are working on interesting things what kinds of problems they have that you might be able to help with.
Finally, learn when to say no. Just as important as finding more work you are interested in is avoiding a reputation for doing work you aren’t interested in, especially if you don’t think you will do it well.
Once you’ve established a personal API people will share it on your behalf without you asking. But just remember that whenever you are introduced to a new group of people it can help them make better use of your talents if you give them a little more information.