Want to stand out? In the classroom if you’re in school or in the office if you have a job (regardless of the industry)… Getting lost in the crowd can hurt you in the long run. Really though. Stand out in the right way (aka for good reasons) and you just might get the best research opportunities from a professor who notices your outstanding talent or the promotion and raise you’ve been waiting for at work. (And… interns… this is the best way to be recognized among your peers for those coveted full time positions.)
image via Art.com
#1 Stay on top of your inbox
This is absolutely the number one way you can stand out. Everyone is bombarded with emails every day. I get it– emails can be the bane of my existence. But you don’t want to be known as the girl who’s “terrible with responding to emails.” I think nowadays being great with email correspondence is a sign of professionalism.
I personally have a “respond to everything” practice that I strictly adhere to. I don’t respond to every email I receive (like retail campaigns and junk mail and “there’s birthday cake in the kitchen” emails), but I do make sure that if it needs a response, it gets taken care of… promptly. (If Mickey Drexler can respond to every email… it’s definitely possible.)
This has been a priority for me and I cannot even begin to tell you how much this has made a difference in my career. Opportunities don’t knock on the door anymore… they pop up in your inbox. Staying on top of your inbox might mean something different for everyone. But I think two key factors are: keeping your inbox organized and reading everything.
I’m thinking that there might need to be a whole post about inbox maintenance– let me know if that’s something you want me to do!
#2 Know your value
This may not make you a favorite person in the moment, but you should always know your value and stand by it. The first rule of negotiation is that there is always wiggle room. (ALWAYS.) No one in their right mind is going to tell you the highest number they’re willing to offer. A good businessperson is going to lowball you in the hopes you agree because they save some money. Negotiate. Now, if you’re one year out of college, you don’t want to go into the negotiation demanding six figures. Research what the industry standard is and know what you’re going to bring to the table.
It really doesn’t just go for money, but that tends to be the easiest example to demonstrate. It’s also important to know your value for how you get treated by someone (a boss, a significant other, etc.).
#3 Have a life
This is one that I haven’t always done, but now really believe. I went into a meeting the other week that turned out to be a job interview. (I know! I was just as surprised as you are!) I’m not looking for a job, but I’m also not not looking for a job. If something amazing came up, I would definitely consider it. So I considered this job for a bit… but it was for a startup and I know how startups go having worked at one for over a year. I love having a life right now outside of work and I turned the job down.
I was totally one of those hamsters on the wheel last year and I honestly kind of loved it (even if I hated it) because I felt like I was doing something. But burning the candle on both ends of the stick does not translate into having a life. I wasn’t living, I was working.
Don’t get me wrong, I still work a lot now, but I definitely have a lot more fun and I’m more relaxed and I have lazy days when I want/need to be lazy. As a result of all this living, I think I can bring more to the table. I have more to talk about than just what’s going on on the work front, I can travel more and experience different things, and I can really just enjoy things now.
Now that I feel like I actually have a life, which I didn’t in college and the first year out of school, I feel like people definitely react differently towards me. Especially in NYC, people will always be shocked that I walk Teddy for an hour and half every morning and that I am not trapped in an office until 9pm. Instead of blending in with bags under my eyes, I can stand out for just being happier.
#4 Dress for the job you want, not for the job you have
This is the easiest thing to do and sometimes the most difficult choice to make in the morning. It doesn’t matter if all the other interns are wearing jeans and platform heels that they also wear out on the weekend, unless of course you want to look like all the other interns. Resist the urge to ask a friend what they’re wearing to something and instead imagine what your manager or boss would be pulling out her closet… Probably not that tight mini skirt with camisole and boyfriend blazer.
In addition to definitely sending a message to your boss (or professors!) that you take your job seriously, it can also help you internally feel more confident. Confidence = a very good thing.
#5 Find the good in everything
Stand out by being positive!!! I don’t think you have to go all rainbows and butterflies on everyone (they might want to strangle you…), but definitely try to avoid getting into negative conversations. Especially if it’s a gossipy conversation. So what if SoandSo did XYZ, remind everyone how she saved the day last when she had a copy of the presentation on a flashdrive. Your professor graded the papers harshly? Know that you can use the critiques to study best for the final exam!
There are people who feel wet and then there are people who feel the rain on their skin. (Go for it: break out into song and dance.)
Have you done something to help you stand out, at work or school or otherwise?