“Stars don’t beg the world for attention; their beauty forces us to look up.”
Amelia asks: I’ve grown a lot more confident over the past year at my job. Now I need to learn how to stand out at work, because I’m looking toward a promotion. What steps should I take to make that happen?
Joel replies: Maybe you’ve played it safe in the past, figuring your good work should speak for itself. But you’re right—it won’t. You need a plan for catching the eye of those with influence in your organization, or they’ll never notice you. You need to speak up, be more confident and assertive at work.
- Create a Personal Brand
Just as products need branding, so do people. Here’s how to create your personal brand:
- Ask yourself what qualities make you who you are, including your shortcomings and idiosyncrasies. People who stand out at work are known for being their authentic selves. They know how to highlight their best qualities while asking for feedback in areas where they want to grow.
- Consider your career goals—where do you want to go next? That will guide what you want to be known for.
- Choose projects that highlight those strengths, rather than just saying “yes” to any work that comes your way. In doing so, you’ll craft a reputation as a person who’s great at the particular kind of work that really fuels you.
- Track your successes so you’re always ready to describe them—say, in an impromptu conversation with that exec you’ve been wanting to meet.
- Engage in Lifelong Learning
A person who remains perpetually curious, constantly looking for opportunities to grow, is sure to stand out at work. How can you do this?
- Take a class in something you want to know more about.
- Find a buddy from another department and teach each other about your roles, so you both understand the organization better.
- Read a book about a skill you want to master.
- Support a Good Cause
Either way, becoming known as someone who cares about the broader world will build you up in the eyes of others. Here are a couple ways of doing that:
- Start volunteering with a nonprofit, if you don’t already. Casually mention to coworkers that you plan to volunteer over the weekend.
- Hang a flyer for a donation drive on the bulletin board, and mention to coworkers that you’re supporting it. Make sure not to sound pushy or self-righteous about it.
- Embrace Failure
People who stand out don’t hide behind small, safe successes—they seek out risks and take them. Of course, they’re smart about which risks are worthwhile, choosing ones they have a good chance of conquering. You won’t achieve them all, but you’ll enjoy some very exciting successes when you start seizing the day in these ways:
- Ask yourself what risks you need to take to get where you really want to go.
- Dive into a project that stretches your abilities, really challenging you.
- Share the good news—and its measurable results—with coworkers and superiors when you succeed.
- Speak Up in Meetings
Speaking up in meetings can be daunting, but it will get easier with time. Here are a few ways to start:
- Figure out one topic on the agenda that you have a lot to say about. Prepare to ignite conversation on that topic.
- Bring creative ideas that speak to the qualities you want to be known for.
- Ask insightful questions when others present ideas.
- Practice saying one thing that pops into your head at each meeting.
- Become a Mentor
Serving as a mentor to others will highlight both your expertise and your concern for the organization’s success. When your boss sees coworkers coming to you for advice, you’re sure to stand out. Here’s how to begin:
- Does your department have a new employee? Offer to show her the ropes. Just by being friendly and available to answer questions, you’ll start cultivating a strong relationship.
- Give coworkers advice about things you’re an expert on. Don’t beat them over the head with it—just share tidbits of information in conversations, and invite them to drop by your workspace if they show interest in learning more.
- Promote Yourself to a Leadership Position
There’s no need to ask for permission to become a leader. The best way to become known as a leader is to just start acting like one.
- Remember that cause you support? Organize a volunteer day for your office, explaining to your boss how this will build team spirit.
- Volunteer to lead meetings.
- Spearhead an exciting project, delegate responsibilities to team members, and give them positive feedback to coach them along.
If you take these steps, you’re sure to stand out at work. How you approach success makes a difference—you won’t be passively waiting for it, but actively reaching for it. That will mark you as a leader in the eyes of your boss and other decision-makers. In turn, this will boost your job security and lead to exciting opportunities for promotion.
Joel can help you boost your visibility among leaders and coworkers. If you want advance in your career, gain the deserved promotion or receive more work recognition, hire Joel for executive coaching.
“An image is not simply a trademark, a design, a slogan or an easily remembered picture. It is a studiously crafted personality profile of an individual, institution, corporation, product or service.”
~Daniel J. Boorstin~
Stella went out for drinks with a few coworkers after work. Over their conversation, she realized they had no clue what she did or what value she contributed. If she was that invisible to colleagues, she knew she must be invisible to leaders as well. She hopped on the phone with me to discuss how she could revamp her image at work.
Individuals, like companies, have a brand, I told Stella. Those who are proactive at shaping their own brand identity are more likely to be recognized and to get ahead in the workplace.
I then asked her to complete a simple exercise that I recommend to my clients. If you’re working to hone your personal branding at work, complete this exercise yourself:
List the three adjectives that best describe how you’re perceived by others at work.
Next, pick three adjectives that you would like others—especially your boss and key decision-makers—to use to describe you.
Now, here’s the tricky part (but it can be fun, too):
Develop specific, actionable strategies to move your brand identity from list #1 to list #2. This might involve training opportunities, volunteering for special assignments, or even changing your body language or how you dress. Make sure the appearance you project reflects the image you want to create.
For example, if one of your desired brand attributes is “creative,” look for opportunities to showcase your creativity at work. Then grow your personal brand by pitching an inventive new project or consistently offering your creativity in group efforts. Prepare to advocate for your ideas by explaining what they offer to the company—brainstorm on this with someone you trust first if need be.
Finding ways to add value to others’ projects in order to highlight your desired brand attributes is another way to make sure they take notice. Meet with them to discuss what they’re doing, and then make a pitch about how you can help.
As a publishing editor at a magazine, Stella wanted others to perceive her as savvy about bringing in the best talent. Innovation and ability to thrive under pressure were the other two key attributes she most wanted to play up. Currently, she believed others perceived her as highly accurate and organized, along with having strong communication skills—certainly all important qualities in an editor, but, well, pretty boring on their own.
Stella decided to pitch a special issue on a controversial topic, along with a design idea they’d never tried before. Her team loved it, and they hit a new record for copies sold. By revamping her image, Stella increased the success of the whole company.
Reaching out to influencers in your organization can help you make the most of such victories. According to a recent Nielsen survey, the opinions of people we trust are what influence us most when it comes to branding. Use this to your advantage with personal branding. Shifting how you’re perceived by a few key people with strong credibility can turn the tide for your career. Stella’s victory was so visible that leaders couldn’t help but notice, but you might need to make a call, send an email, or drop by an office to share what you’ve accomplished.
Crafting your own distinctive brand won’t happen overnight. But your personal branding strategy will work in due time, if you’re persistent. When you take your “brand manager” role seriously, you’ll be surprised at the difference you can make in achieving your career goals.
Contact Joel, as your leadership coach, to help craft your own distinctive brand.
“If you don’t toot your own horn, don’t complain that there’s no music.”
Janet Asks: I feel like my accomplishments go unnoticed at work and I’m not comfortable bringing them up. I want others to see my strengths and achievements, but I don’t want to come across as bragging. What should I do?
Joel Answers: No one wants to sound like they’re bragging about their own accomplishments. You want to be noticed, but not for being egotistical. However, there are plenty of ways to toot your own horn in a way that people admire and respect.
- Figure out what makes you interesting
Think about what makes you stand out at work. Do you have any hobbies most people don’t know about at work? Have you overcome any major challenges to get where you are? Figure out what aspects of your life make good stories. Sprinkle these tidbits of information into conversations at work, so coworkers see a richer picture of you.
- Create a compelling hook
Prepare how you’ll introduce yourself to new people. How can you summarize yourself in a sentence or two in a way that leaves others eager to hear more about what you do? When they have to coax more details out of you, no one will perceive you as bragging. However, don’t be too shy about opening up—when they ask, tell them more.
- Speak about recent accomplishments
When others ask what you’re doing at work these days, it’s the perfect opportunity to toot your own horn. Be prepared for those moments by mentally reviewing your latest accomplishments and current projects. Focusing on the work (rather than speaking directly about your strengths) will help you relax and start gushing about your achievements.
- Talk about your team
If you’re a manager, gushing about your team’s accomplishments shows you’re a great leader. Having pride in your team is a virtue for any leader. You won’t feel as self-conscious while focusing on them, though you’re actually speaking to your own leadership skills.
- Announce successes to organizational leaders
When you announce your successes to your boss or other leaders, no one will perceive it as bragging. They want and need to know what you’ve accomplished. In fact, it would be unprofessional not to tell them. Drop by your boss’s office; send higher-level leaders an email or give them a call, if the accomplishment seems important enough to announce to them.
- Believe in the importance of your role
When you truly believe in the positive impact you have every day, you’ll exude confidence and charisma. The enthusiasm you show for your work will draw others to you naturally. You’ll get boundless invitations to talk about how you do what you do. If you’ve gotten in a rut with your current job, reignite your passion for it by reminding yourself what you love about it and making small changes to liven up your routine.
- Get others to toot your horn
As you clue others in to your skills and achievements, they’ll naturally start tooting your horn as well, and your visibility will increase at work even more. However, it helps to ask for the support of people you trust. Cultivating relationships with advocates in your organization will build your credibility and help leaders take notice of you. Keep your advocates apprised of what you’ve accomplished, and if you’re after a promotion, tell them. People often take pride in helping others succeed.
If you were feeling awkward about tooting your own horn at work, these ideas will help those conversations feel more natural. Others will think it’s completely natural to share your achievements in these ways!
“Self-promotion is a leadership and political skill that is critical to master in order to navigate the realities of the workplace and position you for success.”
Natalya couldn’t believe her company hired an outsider rather than promote her to the position she was vying for. She knew she had everything it would take to succeed in that role. She decided to reach out to an executive coach who was referred to her – I was the person she called! “It sounds like you are producing a tremendous amount of value for your company,” I said. “Now you need to learn how to promote yourself at work (and your actual impact), so others will appreciate and recognize your value.” Here’s the plan we created together.
- Track Your Accomplishments
When put on the spot, it can be tough to remember all the things you’ve done over the past year. Instead of relying on memory, keep a file of all your accomplishments and current projects. At a performance review, meeting with executives, or introduction to a new client, you’ll have just the right examples of particular skills or competencies you want to highlight.
- Write a Success Story About Yourself
Create a short “success story” about yourself so you’re always prepared for high-stakes conversations. The story is created by identifying the problem, determine the actions you took to help solve the problem and the overall results that you ultimately achieved. You’ll now know exactly how to promote yourself when talking to organizational leaders.
- Expand Upon Compliments
When someone gives you a compliment, view it as an invitation to say more about the work they’re praising. This will feel less awkward if you share a piece of quantifiable data to sum up what your accomplishment did for the company. Rather than sharing a subjective opinion (e.g., “I’m brilliant”), you’re sharing something objective. And by focusing on results and outcomes, you’re giving them information that can help guide decision-making.
- Promote the Work of Others
When you promote others, you give them positive feelings about you in turn. This encourages them to speak highly of you as well. It’s like cultivating alliances within your organization, only there’s nothing devious about it. You’re simply working toward your mutual success and building a culture of showingappreciation for good work. Likewise, when you lead your team to success, speak about what “we” accomplished rather than centering yourself. Your boss and team will know you showed great leadership, and they’ll see you as a great morale-builder when you share the success.
- Take on a High-Profile Project
Look for a high-profile project that others can’t help but notice. Outline exactly how you’ll devote time to this project while keeping up with our current workload. (Hint: Delegate as much as possible, which willalso show your leadership skills!) Taking on ambitious projects will build your visibility in the organization, preparing you to exert greater influence.
- Sing Your Own Praises to Superiors
Tell your boss, and your boss’s boss, what you’ve accomplished. Phrasing the news in the form of a “thank you” can make it feel less awkward—for example, you could say, “Thanks for the encouragement to pursue project X. I’m thrilled about the results.” In doing so, you’ll be strengthening these relationships by making others feel connected to your success. Then sum up what the project did for the company—again, citing measurable outcomes. Take a big-picture approach, focusing on how the achievement benefits the company. This not only feels less awkward but highlights your commitment to the organization’s success.
Look for opportunities to connect with higher-level leaders in your organization as well. If you hear about a meeting of organizational leaders and you feel you have something to contribute, ask an advocate if you can attend or send your input with him. You have little to lose by showing some ambition, and at the very least, you’re likely to put yourself on their radar. This is an excellent way to promote yourself at work.
You now have six tactics for promoting yourself that feel more natural. With these tricks in your pocket, it will feel easier to promote yourself at work. Joel can help you implement these tips and do what is necessary to get that promotion you feel you deserve. Email executive coach Joel Garfinkle now with the area you want to work on.
“A thousand words will not leave so deep an impression as one deed.”
Client Mary asks: Joel, I’ve just started my new job and it’s been only a few months. I feel like I could be making a better impression on my coworkers. I know there’s more I could be doing to really shine. How can I stand out, aside from producing good work?
Coach Joel answers: Many factors aside from sheer ability to get the work done influence the impression people make at work. Furthermore, an array of social factors affect ability to get the job done as a team. Become a superstar employee by mastering these methods of making a good impression at work, and you’re sure to stand out.
Once you’ve created a good impression of yourself at work, maintaining it is easy. People’s expectations toward others guide how they treat them—in other words, we all tend to behave the way others expect us to act.
- Envision the interactions you want to have
Whether you’re going to a work party or a business lunch, or just showing up to your office in the morning, envision the kinds of interactions you want to engage in. Think about what you want to get out of the interactions. This will help you to focus your energy toward specific objectives.
- Be perceptive about others
Most of us fear that our contributions go unseen. Making a good impression means working to point out your coworkers’ large and small contributions, or qualities that you admire. This will go a long way toward relationship-building. Voicing your observations about little things you’ve noticed will show you have a keen eye for detail—and they’ll appreciate your presence more.
- Know your capacity
Define expectations when taking on a project (or turning it down). Taking on more projects won’t necessarily impress your boss or coworkers, who will quickly realize if you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. Articulating your capacities—regardless of whether you say “yes” or “no”—shows foresight, self-awareness, and concern for the company. If you do want to accept but know you couldn’t handle more work beyond that project, say so—it will help your boss and team plan better.
- Share your accomplishments
If you don’t point out your successes, people might not notice them. State them matter-of-factly when they happen, knowing they’re not just your personal wins but also the team’s accomplishments.
- Become a good follower
While this might sound counterintuitive, it’s not. A good leader knows how to follow the leadership of others, and doing so shows humbleness. A good follower takes initiative, welcomes feedback, and owns up to mistakes.
- Initiate conversation about ideas
When you have a new idea, get input on it. Likewise, invite others to discuss ideas with you. Brainstorm on important topics with coworkers before a team meeting, so you’ll all have more to contribute.
- Be accessible
Getting back to people quickly about their questions will signal that you’re professional. Whether replying to email or in-person requests, communicate in a timely manner. Delaying a response can feel like a passive aggressive way of saying you don’t want to be bothered.
- Stay out of gossip culture
Gossip undermines the corporate culture. This might seem like a no-brainer, but how often have you heard idle banter that could truly hurt the subject of conversation? If there’s a problem to address and people need to compare notes, that’s fine. If it goes beyond that, however, people should be putting their energy into solving the problem rather than publicly stewing over it.
- Create a 90-day plan
If you’re starting a new job, create a plan for what you want to accomplish in your first 90 days of your job. A plan will keep you on track and help you exceed your boss’s expectations. Try using this strategy even if you’ve been at your job for a while. Imagine yourself coming in fresh, with three months to prove yourself—what would you focus on? Even if you never show the plan to anyone else, it can add an element of excitement to your work.
- Share stories about your life
Develop more positive work relationships with your coworkers and boss by sharing about your life outside of work. You don’t need to relay the most intimate details; things like hobbies, volunteering, and vacations will give people a fuller picture of you. Plus, showing that you have a zest for life outside of work will give people a more positive impression of you. When people realize, “Oh, he’s not only a great accountant; he also loves nature photography and helps a local nonprofit file its taxes,” they’re sure to be impressed. Moreover, they’ll share about their own lives and you’ll find more common ground as a result.
As you take these steps, you’re sure to create a good impression at work, making you stand out to your boss and coworkers. These tips will help you become more of a team player, and people will take notice.