How to Stand out at Work

Standing out at Work

“Stars don’t beg the world for attention; their beauty forces us to look up.”
~Matshona Dhliwayo~

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

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