When you’re young, whatever you do that makes you stand out is a frightening thing. You learn later that that’s what you want to do, stand out.” Gabriella Wilde, actress
How can you stand out at work, especially as a young professional? If you’ve read Look Out Above!, you’ll know that “standing out while fitting in” is one of our core concepts. How can you differentiate yourself while fitting in? Here are ten strategies from the Look Out Above! team:
- 10. Become world-class at a skill that matters.
- Develop your strongest skills. Pay attention and, over time, identify your natural abilities and strongest skills. Ask yourself, “What are my best skills — the ones upon which I’ll build my career?” Determine what you’re naturally good at now and what, if nurtured, you could become great at. We all have weaknesses that we must shore up as best we can to perform our job. But it’s almost impossible to turn weaknesses into strengths. Instead, you must focus on your strengths, and spend your time and energy building your strengths into your differentiators.
- 9. Find your niche.
- As you progress, try to move within your organization to a role and a team that is a natural fit, one where the skills required are your best skills (see #10 above), and where you get to do more of what you do best. See a need and fill it. When a different role for which you’re well suited becomes available, convince others you’re the right person for it. Or identify a role that is needed but doesn’t yet exist and sell both the role and your fit for it. To find your niche you may have to move laterally, or even downward for a time.
- 8. Be the hardest working person in the room.
- That’s the Rock’s (Dwayne Johnson’s) strategy, and he’s the highest-paid actor in Hollywood, People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” (albeit way back in 2016), and the founder of a new line of tequila that the LOA! team will be testing soon.
- 7. Produce, consistently.
- Always get results – often the result of working smart and hard. To wit, achieve and exceed your goals.
- 6. Build your network.
- Develop more and deeper relationships. Have the greatest network of people who like and support you (mentors and sponsors)
- 5. Bring in new business.
- Those above you will notice and appreciate those who find new clients. Don’t assume that’s someone else’s job. Make it part of your job!
- 4. Do something special every now and then.
- Generate and pitch new ideas, source great people for the company, volunteer for challenging projects or assignments, or undertake and succeed at something difficult that adds great value.
- 3. Differentiate through character.
- Demonstrate integrity, honesty, fairness – all the time and in everything you do. Day in day out. Standing out through character requires that you first recognize when a situation calls for character – to see that a situation represents a character-indicative event. Few people differentiate through character, but some truly do, and it is noticed.
- 2. Recognize when your world has changed and adapt.
- There will be times when your company is under duress and the business world, and perhaps the press, are watching. After a merger, or going public, or a natural disaster, or a pandemic! See these moments as an opportunity. Ask your manager what you can do to help or, if he’s not available, just find a way to pitch in and help your colleagues successfully navigate the situation. Be fully present when all hands are needed most.
- 1. Seek to truly master your business.
- If you like the line of work you’ve chosen, seek to understand it at a deeper level. Go beyond mastering your job to mastering your business. Learn what factors drive the business. Learn its vocabulary and understand its key metrics. Learn its history. Think about where your industry is headed, what challenges and opportunities lie ahead, and what your company must do to remain relevant. Ready yourself now for success later when you take on a greater role.
While some people think being the smartest person in the room is a viable career strategy, odds are it will not be. A study shows that intelligence alone accounts for only 1-2% of career success. You’ll likely be surrounded by, and in competition with, smart people for the duration of your career. Don’t be intimidated by that, though — it just means you’ll need to bring something else to the table!
You’ll want to bring as many of these strategies to bear as you can, and not just one or two. How do you know if you’re succeeding at standing out? See how you stack up against these tests: Would your manager:
- Say you’re worth what you’re paid?
- Care if you left to work for the competition?
- Invite you to join if starting her own company?
Not easy tests, with each more difficult than the last. How do you fare? Hopefully, the answer is, or will be, “yes” to each test.
You do want to stand out at work. What’s your strategy, and how’s it going for you?
Look Out Above! The Young Professional’s Guide to Success has been featured in the Chicago Tribune, HR Digest, CBS News, and more. It is available for purchase on Amazon, or by contacting the authors directly for discounted bulk orders.