So, you’ve started your first real job and kicked off your career. You go into the office each day and try your hardest to do a great job. You’re on time and do what your boss asks of you. But, pretty soon, something becomes apparent: that’s not going to be enough to set you apart from the crowd.
If you want to be more than just a great employee and actually advance your career, it’s going to take more thoughtful effort. And that doesn’t mean sucking up to your boss every day.
Here are five tips to help you distinguish yourself at work, as well as help the organization achieve its goals.
1. Find your calling.
It’s a cliché because it’s true: If you really want to stand out, do something that you’re not only good at, but that you love doing. Having a true passion for what you do reflects positively in your attitude and in the quality of your work. And that can help you get noticed in a good way.
First, you need to refine your idea about what you want to do professionally. When you’re first starting out in your career in an entry-level position, there are a thousand opportunities to try different things. Seize as many of those opportunities as you possibly can while still excelling at your core responsibilities. To take full advantage, you need to know which ones are most conducive to your professional development.
Consider taking a personality test or using a career exploration app, like my company’s PathSource app, to narrow down your options. That way, when a new project comes along and offers you a chance to shine, you’ll recognize it and be able to jump right in.
2. Pick a leader’s brain.
One of the best things you can do for your career is to learn from those above you, even if they’re not your direct managers. They may have a deep understanding of what it takes to make it in the industry and in the organization. When you find a leader you admire, ask to take them out to lunch or for coffee.
Ask what traits or qualities have been instrumental to their own success. Find out what they think makes someone a valuable team member. Even if they’re just a project head and not a high-up boss, you might be surprised by the valuable insights they have to offer. If they’re working on something that is particularly interesting to you, see if there’s a way for you to get involved in your free time so you can get some hands-on experience. Just take the time to clear your involvement with your current supervisor so they don’t think you’re neglecting your duties.
3. Know the organization’s priorities.
Something that a lot of young professionals forget is that their personal career goals aren’t on the same level as those of the organization. Yes, it’s important to set and reach for your own professional mile markers, but not at the expense of the company’s goals.
Make sure that you truly understand the organization’s mission, values, and priorities. Then, find ways to make those things overlap with your own goals and values. If you focus on incorporating those aspects of the organization into your actions and work, you’ll be a lot more likely to be noticed than if you were just trying to achieve your personal goal of getting a promotion.
4. Be a team player.
This might seem obvious, but in practice it gets difficult. There are going to be days when you’re overwhelmed and a co-worker asks you to lend your expertise and proofread their work. It’s going to be the last thing you want to do, but it will pay off in the long run.
If you’re willing to lend a hand to your co-workers — without expecting a favor in return — they’ll remember it. It’ll help you build stronger connections within the company that can really come in handy down the road.
5. Focus on process-oriented ideas.
Young professionals spend a lot of time trying to come up with that big idea that will set them apart. Whether it’s a new product or a marketing campaign, they want to be the one that came up with the game-changing idea.
But then they forget the most important part: how to implement that idea.
With every great project, the how is just as important as the what. Finding ways to organize people and get them on the same page goes a long way in contributing to a project’s success. Not to mention, making people’s jobs easier is something they’ll thank you for.
If you’re trying to distinguish yourself at work, in many cases, you’ll need to take the focus away from yourself. It might seem counterintuitive, but helping others and becoming a valuable member of the organization is key to career success.
What other career tips are there for young professionals trying to stand out at work? Share in the comments below!
Aaron Michel is the co-founder and CEO at PathSource, a career exploration solution that has helped thousands of students and job seekers make better career choices through its free iOS app. To navigate your infinite career possibilities, connect with Aaron and the PathSource team on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
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