Many safety professionals are uncomfortable in the spotlight. But just like everyone else, people working in safety deserve to own their success with confidence.
Want to help remind your employer why you’re part of their team? Here are 10 tangible and intangible things you can do to stand out from the crowd.
1. A Personal Mission Statement
Organizations develop mission statements to help them focus on their purpose and values, so why shouldn’t safety professionals? Since writing a personal mission statement often starts as a private, personal exercise, it may not earn you instant recognition. However, people will notice when you start saying “yes” to challenging new projects and “no” to things that aren’t aligned with your goals.
Keep your mission statement short and sweet for added clarity, aiming for one or two sentences at most. Use “I am,” “I do” or “I believe” statements to spark your creativity.
2. A Certification
Dozens of occupational safety and health certifications allow you to demonstrate your skills. Perhaps the best known of these is the certified safety professional (CSP), which requires a bachelor’s degree and four years of experience. But other certifications, such as the certified safety and health manager (CSHM) and certified industrial hygienist (CIH), may also help you advance your career.
Keep in mind that you can earn several certifications relevant to your job over time. If your goal is an immediate payoff in the form of process improvements, productivity or higher pay, don’t be afraid to ask questions of your potential certifier.
3. A Mentor/Mentee
It’s one thing to go through several years of classroom learning and walk away with examples of how to manage a safety program under ideal circumstances. It’s another thing to relate on a meaningful level with another safety professional who can share their experiences working in a world that is nowhere near textbook. Consider taking advantage of formal mentorship programs offered at your company, or explore mentorship opportunities through reputable third-party safety organizations.
Whether you’re a seasoned professional hoping to connect with the next generation or an emerging professional who needs guidance, mentorship can help you solve problems more quickly and effectively.
4. A Volunteer Leadership Position
Volunteering with an organization outside of the place you work can give you priceless experiences, opportunities to meet new people and chances to help your community. If you spend enough time with a group that matters to you, there may be times when you can choose to take the lead on a project, join a committee or nominate yourself for a board of directors.
On top of the personal benefits volunteerism provides, it could help you distinguish yourself at work. Most employers value having well-rounded team members who use their leadership skills for good causes after hours. Volunteering reflects positively on your company and shows your passion for protecting others.
5. An Online Presence
Developing and maintaining an online presence can seem intimidating at first, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’ve resisted social media or other digital communities for safety professionals, ask yourself why. Are you unsure where to start? Consider using an online platform to ask. You will find plenty of safety leaders who are eager to share the benefits of cultivating a professional, digital persona.
For instance, many organizations begin and end their recruiting processes on LinkedIn. If you don’t have a complete profile with a headshot and occasional updates, you might be missing out on exciting new opportunities.
In any safety classroom around the world, you are likely to hear about the importance of relationships. There’s a reason for that: It’s nearly impossible to be an effective safety professional if you spend your day sitting behind a desk. Developing meaningful relationships with people from the front line to the C-suite is the best way to build a culture that sends everyone home safely at the end of each day.
Think your workplace relationships could use some attention? Try scheduling one-on-one time with the people on your team, either at lunch or in a more formal way. Do your best to keep your talking to a minimum. Actively listen to people’s concerns to cultivate trust and improve morale.
7. Communication Skills
Standout safety professionals are usually proficient in many styles of communication. In a sense, they’re tri-lingual, speaking the languages of business, compassion and risk management.
As you continue to focus on improving your communication skills throughout your career, it’s easy to lose sight of your strengths. People naturally have different ways of sharing information with others, and tapping into your instincts could give you an edge. Are you drawn to data when you’re convincing others to take action? Lean into that and see where it takes you. Are you an extrovert who enjoys taking center stage during safety training sessions or meetings? Have fun owning the room for a while, then make space for others to shine.
It’s a simple idea: If you want people to listen to what you have to say, they need to see you leading by example. If you want your direct reports to do their best work, you can’t be missing in action when questions arise. However, it gets complicated when you’re forced to strike a balance between showing up at your job site and stepping into the outside world to learn new things and grow your safety program.
This is where video technology can be a big help. If you’re unsure whether to stay close to your organization at the start of a new project or go out of town for a meeting, see if you can meet via Skype, FaceTime or Google Hangouts. If you’re off-site and an incident occurs, consider going beyond a quick email and connecting face-to-face.
Even the most dedicated and enthusiastic professionals know that safety can seem dry, if presented incorrectly. There are plenty of ways to liven up your hazard communication and training processes, from gamification to storytelling to group activities. But when it comes to problem-solving, hazard identification and culture-building, creativity can look very different.
Safety professionals who think outside compliance requirements and PowerPoints are bound to get noticed. Not only are their key performance indicators (KPIs) likely to reflect their creative approach, but their teams are also more likely to come forward with their own innovative ideas.
Empathy, the ability to relate to the emotions and experiences of others, is essential for keeping people from harm. It helps with nearly every other aspect of the safety profession – understanding human factors, preventing hazards through design, overcoming unconscious biases and more. If you’re a person for whom empathy does not come naturally, there are ways to learn.
Start by removing yourself from the environments where you work most often. Being mindful of privacy, you may want to try walking the spaces where your team works, keeping your eyes and ears open. Up for an added challenge? Try reading more fiction. Research has shown that this habit is a great way to practice walking in someone else’s shoes.
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