Work & Career
11 Resolutions to Make You Stand Out at Work
Doing “fine” won’t get you fired, but it won’t get you promoted either. Find career success by making these little changes in the office.
Ask for more feedback
You might already be meeting expectations, but exceeding those expectations will help you stand out from the crowd. But first you have to make sure you understand what’s expected of you. Sit down with your boss to figure out what you should be doing and how you can improve. Make it an ongoing dialogue so you can keep your manager up to date on how what your standard procedures are, and offer suggestions about how you can make them even better, says Bruce Tulgan, founder of RainmakerThinking and author of It’s Okay to Manage Your Boss. “You’re put in a position where the manager feels more confident delegating more responsibility to you,” he says. “That’s you to create an upward spiral.” Try these other tips for building trust with your boss.
Take a Myers Briggs test
On your day off, set some time aside to do a Myers Briggs personality test, suggests Hayes Drumwright, CEO of POPin and author of Management vs. Employees. When you get your results, don’t just shrug them off—take some time to analyze what it says about your strengths and weaknesses. “When you have an understanding of what those strengths are, focus on working on the projects and things that show what those strengths are or lean in to what those strengths are,” says Drumwright. Here’s what your handwriting could reveal about your personality.
Say yes to projects that show off your strengths
Once you have a grasp of what your personal strengths are, learn how to say no to projects that you aren’t suited for. “That can get you more bonuses, raises, fame, and notoriety by saying no to things and saying yes to things focused around your strengths,” says Drumwright. You’ll be able to pour your energy into what you do best, without getting bogged down by tasks that someone else could do better. Learn how to say no without feeling guilty.
Become the go-to problem solver
Most problems that pop up probably aren’t new, says Tulgan, so brush up on how other people have solved similar issues in the past. Analyze what went well—and what didn’t—to figure out how to proceed. You’ll probably end up finding a go-to strategy you can apply to a number of problems. “All the research shows that when people learn from existing best practices or learn from repeatable solutions to recurring problems, that’s the best way to learn problem-solving,” he says. “People who have a bank of repeatable solutions are much better at improvising when they need to.” (Try these tricks for having more eureka moments.)
Speak up more during meetings
You’ve been invited to a meeting because the leadership thought you’d have something to contribute, so don’t shy away from making your voice heard. Speaking up when you disagree might cause a little conflict in the moment, but that’s just a healthy part of helping the company move forward, says Drumwright. “Leadership needs you to speak up so everyone has a chance of learning,” he says. “If you’re going to keep your mouth shut, you don’t have a right to complain.” Borrow these tricks from successful people who criticize without offending.
Don’t be an annoying emailer
Using email ineffectively will make you stand out in the wrong way, so change your habits to avoid bothering others. If you’re part of an email chain, remove anyone from the CC list to whom your reply doesn’t apply, and change the subject line if you’re switching topics with one other person, says Tulgan. Also, don’t overuse the “urgent” option, or that red exclamation point will start to lose its meaning. “Emails should be thought out and apply in terms of scope and situation,” he says. He recommends sending a draft to yourself first, then revising it before sending the real deal. Don’t miss these other annoying email habits you should avoid.
Have more in-person conversations
Trying to explain a gripe you have about a project or your company via email probably won’t get you very far. It’s harder to hash out your thought process through writing than when you’re face-to-face. “You can’t always understand what someone is expressing,” says Drumwright. Pop into the other person’s office, or schedule a time to sit down and chat about your disagreements.
Talk less, listen more
“Watch twice as much as you talk, and listen twice as much as you talk,” says Tulgan. “You only add value in proportion to what you’re learning.” When you’re listening, you’re finding out where people are coming from, what they need from you, and what you can offer, he says. You’ll get the most out of conversations when you’re paying attention to nonverbal cues to gauge how to reply. Steal these other habits of great listeners.
Don’t just be any listener—be an active listener
Most people spend conversations thinking about what they’re going to say next, rather than listening closely and letting the other person’s point of view soak in. By actively listening without getting distracted by your own response, you’ll be more open-minded. “Think of what they’re saying and consider it for yourself,” says Drumwright. “It’s allowing yourself to be changed a little bit vs. trying to change their minds.” Find if you show these signs of being a bad listener.
Go the extra mile
Don’t be fooled into thinking no one notices the extra hours you log or the additional projects you volunteer for. “Show up early and get things done and tie a ribbon on it,” says Tulgan. Always follow through on your promises, and help others finish tasks that you’ve assigned to them. If you keep giving others credit where it’s due and take blame when necessary, you’ll earn a reputation as a team player who others can trust. Try these tips to build trust with your coworkers.
Bring back old-fashioned professionalism
Seemingly small things like timeliness, organization, and poise will go a long way in getting your boss to notice you. “The most common blind spot is these kinds of soft skills,” says Tulgan. Make sure your work wardrobe matches the company’s standard uniform, take good notes, and use checklists to make your work habits. Use these tricks to look smarter during meetings.