Stand out at work

There’s an old joke about farmers:  They are “outstanding” in their fields.  Or is it “out, standing” in their fields?  

If you want to be outstanding in your field, you probably don’t have acres of land to make the anecdote amusing.  But there is nothing funny about being a standout at work.  In fact, it’s a topic we take very seriously. 

Businesses depend on strong relationships to make them work.  Everyone needs to contribute, to pull their own weight, to get the job done.  Things work well when everyone gets involved and does their part.  They work even better when someone goes above and beyond to ensure success.  There are everyday hard workers, and then there are standouts.  

Teamwork is a lesson I preach day in and day out.  Team players will always have a place at the table.  But if you’ve been sitting in the same place for far too long, perhaps it’s because you haven’t gotten the recognition you deserve.

At the risk of looking like a show-boater, you have avoided taking too much credit or bragging yourself up.  You’ve done your job well – in fact, some projects would never have been so successful had you not been involved.   So how do you get people to notice?  

Doing a good job isn’t enough to succeed at work.  You’ve got to be visible to make a real impact.  Here’s how to raise your profile in your workplace:

  • Talk to your boss.  Make time to check in with your manager when you don’t have a problem to report or a question to ask.  Don’t impose on his or her time; just discuss what’s going on, drop a suggestion or chat.  This builds a routine of regular, informal communication that can enhance your boss’s opinion of you.
  • Show up on time, or even better, be early.  Regardless of how well you perform, if you aren’t there when the workday starts, you are missing prime time to connect and get organized for the day.  Latecomers get noticed, but for the wrong reasons.
  • Dress appropriately.  Whether the office is formal or casual, your appearance makes a big impact.  You’d rather be noticed for what’s in your head than what’s on your body.
  • Network to share your expertise.  Get to know the most talented people in your organization, regardless of their job title or position. You’ll earn a positive reputation if you help them out whenever you can.  You’ll establish positive relationships and gain a reputation as someone who puts the organization’s objectives first.
  • Ask for help from people who can mentor you.  Seek advice on skills you need to develop from someone whom you admire and want to emulate.  Let them know that you are ambitious and want to succeed.   
  • Be friendly.  Your demeanor gives away your desire to get along.  Make sure you project a pleasant attitude.
  • Praise others.  Sometimes the best way to gain credit is to give it.  When you achieve something significant, make sure your boss knows who helped you (and that they know you’re sharing the information).  Not only do you look like a generous colleague, but you’ll also be seen as a good team player.
  • Volunteer.  Don’t wait for your boss to ask you about joining a task force or committee.  It’ll bring you into contact with colleagues outside your department and brighten your image throughout the organization.  
  • Take on projects that no one else wants.  Every company has a few tasks that other workers are afraid to tackle.  The work still has to get done, and the boss is looking for a volunteer.  Step up and get the job done, and you’ll be someone’s hero.
  • Attend company events.  Take advantage of opportunities to connect outside the regular workday and get to know your managers and co-workers on a new level.  I love it when I see my co-workers mingle outside the workplace.
  • Stay ahead of industry developments.  Read trade publications and study market trends.  Learn new technology that could benefit your organization.  Be ready to move up the ladder before the next promotion opportunity arises.
  • Finally, and most importantly, show enthusiasm for your job.  “Give me a stock clerk who wants to work and I will give you a person who will make history,” said department store founder J. C. Penney.  “Give me a person who does not want to work, and I will give you a stock person.”

Mackay’s Moral:  To be a standout, you must stand for only your best.

By Harvey Mackay

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