[SDL is honored to present guest contributor, Ms. Solange Lopes, an expert in helping women in the corporate world to become stronger, more influential leaders. She will share her sound perspectives on how women professionals can best stand out at work. (see bio at end of post)]
Imagine attending a high-level negotiation meeting with some of the most prominent executives of your organization sitting around the table. As the lowest-level senior professional in the room, and the only woman in the room, you definitely feel like you’re standing out. Although not quite in the way you’d have hoped for…
When it comes to standing out at work, differentiating yourself in a positive way can be a great career asset. In a corporate environment, where most people strive to be the same, positioning yourself successfully can help you build an undeniable, and indestructible, competitive advantage. However, there are also many ways in which standing out, especially in the workplace, can feel rather awkward.
I remember feeling intimidated in high-level meetings, afraid of standing out as inexperienced and incompetent. So I hid a lot of made me truly “me”, and instead embraced the status quo. If I didn’t make myself noticed, I wouldn’t run the risk of being wrong. Or right, for that matter…
What I didn’t realize then, was that standing out, in life and at work, is actually a good thing. Especially when done the right way…
Here are 10 ways of standing out at work, the right way:
1. Find and embrace what makes you unique. That’s your value proposition, your “ mojo”, your “secret sauce”. The one thing, or the combination of things that make you YOU! And don’t think it doesn’t exist at work, because most people in Big Corporate are just used to going through the motions. My writing skills always made me stand out in otherwise seemingly unrelated Accounting and Finance fields. That was my “value proposition”, my “secret sauce”, my “mojo”. Do you have outstanding presentation, writing, motivation or any other skills that set you apart? Embrace your individuality, and let it shine. Actually, you can even go a step further and promote your unique skills.
2. Pick a niche… There’s something to be said about being considered an “expert “ in your field. Is there a particular area that inspires you? Are you interested in specializing in a particular niche? Being viewed as an expert is one of the fastest and most effective ways of standing out at work and be a reference to others.
3. But be consistently decent at a lot of things. It’s one thing to focus on a particular niche and establish your expertise in it. Yet having a combination of complimentary skills also goes a long way at turning you into the go-to-person in your team, department or organization.
4. Share what you know. Sharing is caring, and that applies to your career as well. Stand out by sharing valuable knowledge with others, establishing yourself as a resource, and showing strong leadership skills.
5. Nurture your relationships. You’ve heard it before: “It’s about who you know.” While I wouldn’t necessarily agree that your entire career is based on your relationships, they are a big part of it. Show empathy towards others, and be a reliable resource for your co-workers and teammates.Practice being a leader at any level, it’ll go a long way in pushing your career to the next level.
6. Learn to say no. According to prolific writer and executive producer Shonda Rhimes, “saying no is a way of freeing yourself to do what is most important.” If you truly want to stand out in your career, focusing on what’s important to you and your success is crucial. And so is eliminating all the distractions and time stealers you frankly can’t afford to let in your already busy life…
7. Give yourself less time. Speaking of time and saying no, another area where you can also apply some restrictions is the time you allot to complete tasks. There are 24 hours in a day, and if you allow tasks to take up that time, they will. However, if you discipline yourself to do more in less time, chances are your tasks will adjust to your allotted time. If you know you only have two hours to complete the quarterly report, there’s a high probability it will get done in just that time.
8. Speak first or last in meetings. Research shows we tend to remember the beginning and end of a list better. In the same way, when it comes to standing out at meetings, people tend to remember the first or last person they heard speaking.
9. Tackle tough issues. How you handle challenges and tough issues also sets you apart from the crowd. Don’t shy away from issues in your career. Instead, face them head on, and always offer alternative resolutions. Be willing to be in the hot seat for some time, and let your leadership skills shine!
10. Have a life! This may sound counter-intuitive, but actually taking the time to enjoy your life outside of the office also makes you stand out. Media icon Arianna Huffington recommends finding ways “to step back, disconnect, reconnect with our own peace, strength, and wisdom – and enjoy the unanticipated detours along the way.” Taking the time to enjoy your life and relax not only makes you healthier and happier, but it also lets you get more done in a better way. Not to mention distinguishing yourself from the sea of frazzled, exhausted, and average performers at work…
Which tips have worked better for you in your career?
How else do you stand out at work?
To your success,
The Corporate Sis.
Solange Lopes is the founder and editor of The Corporate Sister (www.thecorporatesister.com), an online publication for successful, striving career women. She’s also a mom, wife, CPA, and incurable coffee addict.