The Importance Of Standing Out At Work

In most companies, as a general rule, there are more than one person doing the same job. Often, you’ll have entire groups of people dedicated to the same job title, whether it be Engineer, Project Manager, Nurse, Assembly Line Worker, Accountant, Lawyer, or whatever.  The point is that in most jobs, you’re likely one of many performing the same job role.

Standing Out The Right Way

There are many ways of standing out at work.  Many of them are not such a good idea.  You don’t want to be the guy that dresses funny or the girl that gets wasted at the holiday parties.  Nor do you want to be the perpetually tardy employee or the one that the company could probably live without but that they keep around because they tell funny jokes (note: when it’s time to cut, the humor won’t cut it and you’ll be the first to go).

Nope.  You want to stand out for the right reasons.

Your goal should be to stand out because of what you offer the company, and how you go about offering it.

When To Know You’re Standing Out

Nobody will come and tell you when you’re standing out, but you will know.  Personally, I have been working in my organization for about seven years, and I know that I stand out.  My manager doesn’t come to me and tell me in so many words, but I know because of mb-2014-06crowdwhat I’m pegged to work on.

I work as a Project Manager in the IT area of a hospital.  Over the past two years, there have been several major projects rolled out.  I’ve been brought onto all but one of them.  The reason I wasn’t on the one, because it was running in parallel with another project…that I was chosen for.

In each case, I was told that I was being brought onto the team because it was a high impact project with a lot at stake.

In other words, they needed somebody that could…stand out.

Keys To Stand Out At Work

So how do you go about standing out from the crowd?  How do you take yourself as one person filing a role that many others occupy and rise to the top?  There are a few steps:

  • Get the basics down – Your job description will have a key list of the things which you are expected to do.  Understand them.  Know them.  Master them.  If you are short on some of the skills, look at those who are good at them, and figure out what steps they take.  This step is key and it might take a while in your job before you can move on, because without being good at the job itself, you’ll often be seen as a hack by those who really know what they’re doing.  So, first and foremost, know what you’re doing!
  • Understand the business in and out – Your job description will be filled with the things you need to do.  Once you understand them and can do them, take a step back and look at how the steps add value to the business, the department, or whatever area you work in.  A successful (or unsuccessful) business does not happen as a result of doing just one thing well.  It comes about from doing many things well.  Understand how your role fits in.
  • Add value – Once you understand the key success factors of your business or group, start looking at how you can add value.  How can you personally improve what the business does and make it work better?  You don’t have to revolutionize the world (though that’s OK if you do), but just improving a simple process or adding some information to a report that will help someone else do their job can be the difference between you and the rest of the group.
  • Communicate your accomplishments  – If you are doing your job and adding value, make sure people understand.  Don’t brag, but make sure you point out what you’re working on and why.  This can impress managers who will notice your efforts to stand out.
  • Also, communicate your desires – Along the same lines, if you have aspirations to become involved with something more, whether it be a bigger project or additional responsibilities, make that clear.  Don’t be a pest, but make it clear that you think you’re ready.  In the projects I mentioned above, a key factor in me getting placed on the bigger projects was asking “Anything big coming up?” and expressing interest when hearing about the opportunities.
  • Stay positive – Things take time, and while you might be ready to show the world what you can do, sometimes businesses and groups move at a snails pace.  Don’t be discouraged by this, and don’t take it personally.  Stay positive, keep putting yourself out there, and keep doing the great work.  This will improve your chances of having things click into place.
  • Be relentless – Don’t stop improving yourself.  Even if you feel you’ve hit the ceiling in the role you’re currently in, don’t stop trying to improve.  Look at surrounding organizations.  Look at new roles.  Talk to different people.  You can make a name for yourself in many ways.  Don’t limit yourself.

Many people have no interest in standing out.  They are perfectly fine being one of the crowed.  If that’s you, then that’s perfectly OK.  But, if you are one that wants to stand out and move up, then keep these tips handy, and work to move yourself from one of many to one of a kind.

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4 thoughts on “The Importance Of Standing Out At Work

  1. Oh hey, I’m also a Project Manager! Like you, I know I stand out. When my boss wants advice, he seems to come to me. New, hard project to work on – that’s me, too.

    I’d add to your list (especially for teamwork roles) to establish rapport with your team. They’ll make your job easier, which helps you stand out. And sadly, sometimes just being a team player makes one stand out from the crowds.

  2. When I worked for others I would always find ways to enhance my skill and add value to the company. I’d do the work with the purpose of learning and making myself more valuable before asking for anything. That has worked for me ten folds. Plus, if you’re doing all the things you’ve outlined and your company doesn’t recognize you especially when you highlight your efforts it’s time to take your new skills to another.

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