Cookies 🍪

We use cookies to improve your experience on this website.

How much consideration do you give PIE?


Unfortunately, I’m not talking about the tasty kind of PIE, but the kind of PIE that is really important to keep in mind when thinking about your career progression.

In 1996, Harvey Coleman explored the impact of PIE on your career success. Simply put, his work looks at 3 key elements that contribute to people progressing in their careers. He explains these 3 elements as:

1.     Performance – how good you are at your job and how good the results are of what you do.

2.     Image – is about you and how you are perceived. In the 1990s, the term ‘personal brand’ was even more used than it is today.

3.     Exposure – is all about how well people know about what you do i.e. not just your line manager but the level(s) above hi/her too, as well as the leaders and partners of other departments.

As you will have heard me say before, there is so much focus on technical skills and knowledge as we progress through education and indeed as we enter our first roles. However, as we move through our careers, those skills are expected and it is about what else we can offer. This is particularly the case as there are fewer senior level jobs. Coleman asserts that actually just 10% of career progression is down to performance. Yes, you read that right just 10%.

This might sound very low but imagine the situation where there are several people going for promotion, they will have all been through interviewing to get the role in the first place and held onto their roles by proving their technical capabilities within the team. Therefore, that box is pretty much ticked, so when the committee that decides who gets promoted discusses it, they will assume the people being suggested perform well in their roles. This brings us onto the other 90%.

In this model, a gigantic 60% of career progression is based upon the exposure element. So when the committee hears your name being put forward, the individuals will search their minds for what they know about you, if anything. If they know nothing about you i.e. they have had no exposure to you then your chances of promotion are likely to be slim, your best outcome is probably a pay rise for the good performance. Assuming they have had some exposure to you then this links into the final 30%, which is image – what has been their perception when they interacted with you? Do they perceive you can take the next step up and do well? What is their experience of you interacting with others?

Every model can and should be subject to scrutiny but even if you were to modify this data a bit, the message is still the same. Performance is a box ticker for career success; exposure and image are the ones that make the real difference. If you are happy getting a pay rise each year and not changing roles then that is fine, Image & Exposure will matter less and that is a very valid choice to make. However, if you want to progress then they are really important to consider.

Some questions to consider:

  • How well known are you at the company you work for? After all, you need to be known about before others can know more about the work you do.

  • What would be the benefits of having a plan to improve your exposure in you company?

  • Can you think of the actions you might start to take?

  • Thinking about your image - what are others’ perceptions of you? If it’s negative or neutral, this is adversely going to affect your career success when important decisions such a promotion ones are made.

  • What benefits could knowing what to work on have on your image and career success?

Download this free resource from my book Getting On: Making work work to help you build a strategic relationships plan.

Read the article which inspired this one.

If you’d like some help to assess where you are currently with your level of exposure at work and your image, to make a plan to work on both and start putting it into action to improve your career progression, contact me for a 30 minute, no obligation Career Booster session.

Image courtesy of


Find out more about Joanna's book, packed full of practical guidance, with 19 support resources by clicking here.