Talk to Me: Standing Out at Work

Q: I recently started my first big girl job. I want to make a really strong impression on my new boss and co-workers but I’m shy and quiet. How can I show them I’m a good addition to their team?

A: Great question, dear reader. I think this is something that a lot of people struggle with when entering the workforce. It’s hard to assert yourself when everyone else in the room is older and more experienced than you, especially when you’re shy. I don’t say that to discourage you. I say it to let you know that you’re not alone in the feeling even if you feel alone in the room. It seems impossible not to get trampled by all the knowledgeable people around you. However, there is absolutely a way to stand out, even as a newb.

I don’t claim to be a subject matter expert on careers. I’ve only had one “big girl” job myself. I can only tell you what I’ve learned in my own career growth. Here are my secrets.

You don’t have to be the loudest person in the room, but you do need to speak up.

There’s no need to be the office jokester or the most opinioned person in the office, but you should make an effort to interact with your boss and co-workers. You know how great you are, but how will they know if they haven’t even heard you speak? Find one person who makes you comfortable and start there. Once you’ve built one relationship, that person can be your gateway to the rest of the team.

When you have a question, ask the most experienced person on your team.

The most experienced person on your department is an expert at your craft. They’ve put more time than you could even image into becoming a master at whatever it is that you do. Why would you not want to draw on a resource like that? Also, it’s a subtle way to show this person that you respect all of their hard work and you acknowledge that they know way more than you do.

Show up on time and meet your deadlines.

I know this sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how much this means to your boss. It’s a perfect way to show how valuable you are to the team without even opening your mouth. Just meet the job requirements. There’s a shocking number of people who don’t and it’s unbelievably refreshing when someone does.

Apologize when you mess up.

You’re going to make mistakes for your entire career. You can’t spend eight hours a day doing something and get it right every time. At this point in your career, you’re likely to make more mistakes than usual because you’re still learning. It’s okay to mess up and, honestly, no one is going to be surprised when you do. So, just apologize. Mistakes waste people’s time and while they are probably not angry with you, it’s still nice of you to acknowledge that you used their time and recognize that you are responsible.

Don’t try to look smarter than your co-workers.

You’re on the bottom of the food chain and everyone knows it. Keep your head down, work hard, ask questions, and soak in the smarts surrounding you. If you respect the hard work of your team, they will respect your desire to learn and grow.

Finally, I just want to let you know that you can be an introvert and still be successful. There are all kinds of tips, but the number one thing that will stand out to your boss and team is hard work. Do your job, do it well, don’t complain, and I guarantee you’ll be noticed.

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