4 Tips on How to Stand Out & Prove Your Worth at Work
As a recruiting professional by trade, I see the raw data that shows that as much as we believe the workforce is “equal”, the sad truth is that there is still a lot more work to be done despite an increased effort to change. The reality is that if you are a woman, a young professional, or a minority, you will still face the need to “prove yourself” in the workforce more so than if you are a man, a seasoned professional, or of a majority race. The great news is that recruiting teams, companies and individuals see the importance in building a diverse and equal workforce and the wage gap is slowly, but surely improving. There are more women executives and people of color in power than ever before and a higher level of visibility into the importance of an eclectic workforce.
At the end of the day though, the ball is still in your court, regardless if the above points describe your physical appearance or not. In a modern day where the highly desirable jobs are becoming increasingly competitive and hard to come by, how do you stand out once you secure a coveted job? And how do you continue to grow and advance regardless of where you are in your career? I realize that I still have so much to learn, but this is what I’ve found to be valuable tips in “proving” your value in an organization as you are launching this step your career.
1. Fake it till you make it:
Now I don’t mean this in the sense of tricking people into thinking you’re successful or that you’re good at your job the second that you walk through the doors. What I mean is that there is a high importance on the ability to be a sponge and emerge yourself deeply into your work area, until you truly become an expert yourself. Ask questions, show up to meetings that are outside of your comfort zone, speak up when you have something smart to say and continue to work hard and learn behind the scenes. Be confident in what you’re saying once you’ve figured out what the hell you’re talking about and let your success continue to build from there. Like any good thing in life, it takes time to learn it all, but push yourself hard to ramp up quickly and be a valued contributor to your team.
2. Learn to brag about yourself:
If you’re like me, you’ll understand that bragging about yourself is really hard to do! If you’re not and have no issue promoting your own work then good job, skip to the next tip (but remember to stay humble in your bragging…)! J As you are new in a role, you will likely be able to leverage your manager, your teammates/peers, and maybe even a mentor to help promote your successes, but you cannot always bank on this. You need to be in control of your own future and building out your personal brand at work. Talking about my wins at work was always hard for me to do; that is until I came face to face with an all too common situation that many of us unfortunately face at some point in our professional lives: having a colleague take credit for your work. I don’t think anyone is ever prepared for someone else publicly accepting misdirected appreciation for your contributions or walking into a meeting where they present/pass off your independent ideas and content as their own. Maybe it was my naivety in believing that people like this don’t really exist in the workforce or that it would never happen to me since I would never do the same. Either way, please learn from my negative experience and don’t let it happen to you. Speak up about the great work you’re doing and make sure to publically pat yourself on the back so that your management and peers know what YOU bring to the table. Don’t be skeptical, there are most definitely so many great people in the workplace who would never think to do this, but never forget to talk about your success, or someone else will happily will take your glory for you.
3. Don’t let your age or gender hold you back:
I’m not going to lie, being a young women in the tech industry is really hard sometimes. Nobody handed anything to me at work and I am still constantly questioned to back up my claims. One of my job responsibilities is managing my company’s international intern program and I can’t tell you how many times people approached me in my first intern season asking which team I was interning with. Rather than be embarrassed by the misunderstanding, I have owned the fact that I am responsible for something more than others assume that I would be based on my appearance and age. So often, I walk into a meeting room full of seasoned male engineers who look at me like I’m lost. Not only am I usually the youngest person in the room, but I am also sometimes one of the only women in the room. Be comfortable with being uncomfortable and OWN IT. Don’t back down and realize that you are sitting in the room because you are important, have valuable things to say, and are the expert in your specific area. Don’t let others lead you to question yourself and your value just because of the year you were born and/or the gender that you identify with.
4. Brush off the haters and celebrate other’s success:
As you start becoming more successful and recognized at work, there will always be others that want to steal your thunder or ignore your accomplishments (unless they can somehow attach themselves to it). Humans are competitive by nature and for some the thought of a co-worker getting more positive kudos than them absolutely destroys them. I recently saw a graphic showing the difference between a “successful person” and an “unsuccessful person”. In the side by side comparison, they both depicted a person standing on a pedestal with their team standing on a step just below them. The difference between the two was that the “successful person” was pulling up those below them, but the “unsuccessful person” was blocking the others from coming up onto the pedestal with them. Don’t let the Debbie downers like the “unsuccessful person” in that image rain on your parade or belittle your accomplishments, but don’t get a big head either! No one person can achieve true success without their team’s help along the way so bring them along with you and never forget to thank them (even for the little things). You spend more time with your coworkers than your family, significant others and friends, and it can be lonely at the top. Don’t let your small taste of accomplishment overpower your relationships and friendships with your teammates and colleagues; make sure that you share any glory and always raise up and empower your team’s achievements by celebrating them.
Always remember to be your hardworking, unique and amazing self and don’t you dare compromise for anyone. Now go out there to build your empire and kick some ass!