Six ways to stand out at work
In today’s competitive world of work, being good at your job may not be enough to get you the rewards you want and deserve, and to progress your career.
‘They say hard work is its own reward, but without visibility there’s a good chance it’s the only reward you’ll get,’ says Kris Flanagan, associate director at Robert Half.
If you keep your head down, some of the decision makers in your company may not be aware of you, so you could miss out on the most interesting assignments and promotions.
‘In a busy office, others are also vying for a higher rung on the corporate ladder and your contributions will most likely get lost on the collective climb up, unless you call attention to them,’ says Flanagan. It may seem unfair, but those of your colleagues who know how to maximise their visibility will often get there ahead of you.
Granted, many professional workplaces have continuous work assessments and formal appraisal processes, which should make the ‘climb up’ fair for all involved.
‘If comparisons are made based on the quality and quantity of work produced, then there should be no difference in who "gets noticed",’ says Mary-Lou Duggan, practice manager at Pierce Business Advisory & Accountancy Group.
‘However, to be really noticed, you will need to be outstanding in some way – this is the same in a professional practice as it is in life,’ she adds.
In many ways, ‘getting noticed’ boils down to establishing a good reputation for yourself – or building a strong personal brand, and then promoting it.
‘Your brand personality is how others see you,’ says Roger Delves, director of general management qualifications portfolio at Ashridge Business School. However, many people cringe at the thought of self-promotion, equating it with incessant boasting and generally being very annoying to all around them. But self-promotion doesn’t have to mean shouting from the rooftops about how good you really are. There are more subtle ways to make yourself visible.
1. Step forward
‘If you think you can handle more work alongside your regular tasks, raise your hand and volunteer for extra assignments,’ says Flanagan.
‘Broadening the scope of your responsibilities shows your willingness to be a team player,’ he adds. Your managers will also appreciate that you show initiative rather than wait to be asked.
Also, ask to be involved with projects where you can work with other teams and across departments.
‘This will increase your internal network of contacts,’ says Karen Young, director at Hays Accountancy & Finance. Even more importantly, ask to be involved in high-visibility projects, such as those that have a big impact on your company’s bottom line. This will help you gain exposure to decision makers above your line manager.
Go beyond your job description, too.
‘Consider registering for additional training to undertake positions of responsibility in your office such as fire marshal, first aider or team representative on an employee social committee,’ says Young.
Does your employer support a local or national charity?
‘Put yourself forward to coordinate or get involved with this,’ says Young. Participating in charity events is also great for raising your profile, beside contributing to a worthwhile cause. You could ask to be sponsored to take part in a charity race or another fundraising event.
2. Speak up
Departmental meetings are great for increasing your visibility within your immediate team, provided you speak up. If you are shy or worried you don’t have anything worthwhile to contribute, read the agenda beforehand and plan what to say and what questions to ask.
If you are a trainee, you may think yourself too inexperienced to make a workable contribution, but most employers welcome ideas from all levels of staff. So don’t be afraid to pitch in during brainstorming sessions. After all, you may be sitting on a gem of an idea, but unless you voice it, it counts for nothing, says Flanagan. ‘Contributing ideas also shows you’re an innovative thinker and demonstrates your desire to benefit the company,’ he adds.
3. Own it
Experts agree being too modest will get you nowhere.
‘If someone acknowledges a contribution you made on a project and you respond, "It was nothing", then don’t be surprised if nothing results from it,’ says Flanagan.
‘It’s perfectly acceptable to take credit for something that’s well earned, so don’t let the fear of sounding boastful keep you from getting the attention you deserve,’ he warns. A simple, ‘Thanks, I’m glad what I did was helpful’ boosts visibility, self-effacement does not.
4. Share it
Equally, leave your modesty at home and let others know when you have achieved something you are proud of, rather than simply wait for them to notice.
‘Share your successes and any excellent feedback received with your colleagues,’ suggests Young. This may encourage them to do the same rather than leave them feel resentful of you getting the limelight.
But do give credit where credit’s due and share that limelight with those who have helped you along the way. Similarly, spread the word about the achievements of your colleagues even if you have had no part in their success. You will help them raise their visibility and will raise your own profile in the process.
Sharing your knowledge will help raise your profile too. You could volunteer to blog on your company's intranet or website, or speak about your area of expertise at networking events. Developing a reputation as an expert can lead to interesting work projects, speaking and training opportunities, all of which increase your visibility.
5. Get connected
‘What’s in a name? Not much if more people don’t know you,’ points out Flanagan.
Distinguishing yourself from the crowd requires being well known outside your immediate team.
‘Make the rounds at corporate parties and events and introduce yourself to professionals in other departments. Creating new contacts builds camaraderie and is a good way to ensure you’re known throughout the company,’ says Flanagan.
Just be certain to always know your stuff and keep up to date with company news.
‘If you are put on the spot or bump into senior management, you will feel more confident to start a conversation and demonstrate your knowledge,’ says Young.
‘If you work for a listed business for example, you should always know the share price!’
Don’t forget to connect online, too.
‘Make sure your professional online profile is always up to date and has the correct contact information. Then, if you extend your internal network in person, connect with the same people online too,’ says Young.
6. Finally, mind your manners
‘People who have the best and the most-polished manners, and who can communicate well, will always stand out from the crowd,’ says Duggan.
‘Keep calm, even if you think you are being judged unfairly, and you will win the respect of your mentors. Be discreet, even-tempered and smile, and you will be noticed,’ she adds.
Roger Delves explains there are two aspects to a person’s (or a personal brand’s) appeal: one is rational and tangible and relates to what you do; the other is emotional and intangible and relates to how you behave.
‘The first is important because it relates to your professionalism. But it’s the second that is the differentiator – how people respond to you at an emotional level is what will cause you to stand out,’ he says.