À l’échelle humaine: February 15, 2017
Welcome back to our careers column, and our continuing series on setting yourself apart from the crowd. After exploring ways to stand out through online networking and managing up in the workplace, we’re moving on to another opportunity to showcase our leadership skills: by going beyond our core responsibilities.
Stand out at Work: Take Initiative
Want to position yourself as a competent, trustworthy professional at work? Going the extra mile in order to add value to your organization is an attitude that sets you apart, and it will always be a highlight of your resume.
Yet there can be risk involved. Will your actions come across as arrogant? Will your manager perceive them as a threat to their expertise? Will your co-workers think you’re a know-it-all? Planning ahead and determining when, where, how and why you will show initiative can help ensure your performance gets the results you’re looking for.
If you’re just starting in a new position, this is not the time to start imposing your ideas on how things should run.
Even if you have prior experience in a similar role, do not assume that you are already an expert. Factors such as company culture and differing customer demographics means that you must first familiarize yourself with your organization as a whole.
Give yourself six months to learn as much as you can about your surroundings and show that you are there to learn and adapt as much as you will contribute. That’s how long it will take to earn the trust of your co-workers.
Your first six months have passed, and in that time you’ve demonstrated that you understand and can deliver on the expectations set for you. During that time it’s likely that you’ve had some ideas on how to add value and make the work processes, project plans, or communication practices better.
Start within your specific department, and preferably within the framework of your own role. Even if you feel your ‘big picture’ ideas are relevant to the company president, you’ll want to get buy-in from your manager first.
A window of opportunity may present itself, but as someone who wants to demonstrate their initiative, why wait? There are many ways to do so:
- Propose to synthesize the findings of a benchmarking study you are completing into a presentation for your manager and his/her peers
- Put together complementary metrics or statistics related to your work inputs, customer interactions, and/or impact assessments
- Share relevant articles you’ve come across with your immediate supervisor
- Document the department’s best practices
- If your department does not have a document on standard operating procedures in a particular scenario, offer to create one if it could in turn minimize onboarding time for your coworkers and successors
- Did you recently attend a conference or complete a course? Offer to present on what you learned.
It could even be as simple as volunteering your time to support the company’s corporate social responsibility activities or helping to organize the department’s holiday party. All demonstrate your ability and willingness to add value to your work and workplace, and will go a long way toward earning you appreciation, respect and recognition.
Ultimately, the reason behind your actions is not simply “because I want my boss to remember me,” or “I think it would be a neat thing to do.” What you propose has to support your department’s key performance indicators. Could your ideas and additional contributions help your team, or the company overall? Is there potential to positively impact customer satisfaction? Will they increase the organization’s reputation, visibility, or increase the efficiency of its internal processes?
The initiative you demonstrate must align with your organization’s vision, market positioning and specific goals, and that is how you make yourself stand out.
Stay tuned for more articles on the topic of how to Stand Out at Work; our next topic will be on tact. Because how we communicate is just as important as what we say.