How to Get Noticed at Work

Whether you’re starting your first job or a new job, here are thirteen ways to get noticed and improve your job standing.

Have people started to take you seriously around the office yet? If you don’t know, ask yourself these questions.

1. Does your boss (or your boss’s boss) need prompting to remember your name?
2. Are you still waiting to be given your first serious project or assignment?
3. Do your colleagues barely notice when you walk into the room?

If you answered yes to any of the above, you have a problem. Namely, you’re not being memorable enough. You’re beige. Vanilla. The professional equivalent of rice cakes. And if you want to turn things around, you’ve got to get noticed pronto.

Fortunately, being memorable is rarely achieved in grand, sweeping acts. Rather, it’s accomplished with small, meaningful gestures that build on each other, fostering goodwill over time. So, if you’re looking to give yourself a little status augmentation at work, consider the following strategies.

1. Prove You Have What It Takes
To stand out, you have to do the homework (read: the hard work) that precedes talent. No exceptions. If this means you have to forgo the latest celebrity reality show to finalize the Hinkley project, so be it. If it means you have to come in early to keep up with your newsweeklies and trade journals, so be it. There are all sorts of gimmicks you can use to get noticed, but sustainable success requires the goods to back it up.

2. Polish and Project Your Image
Think social networking sites are just for your buddies? No way. Use your online profiles and updates to stay in touch with contacts, promote causes you care about, make insightful observations, direct people to useful articles, and so on. Never gripe about anything online and remember that it’s your job to ensure that when people Google you, they find material that reinforces the up-and-coming-leader image you want to project.

3. Mind Your Manners
What thoughts or reactions do you imagine people have when they think about you? If it’s something along the lines of “That’s the #@$*% who always leaves his dishes in the sink!” getting them to remember your ideas is going to be tough. This is where a bit of workplace etiquette comes in. A lot of newbies never go out of their way to do the little things (refilling the paper tray, knocking instead of barging in, standing when being introduced to someone new, and so on), but everyone appreciates the ones who do.

4. Be More Than Meat in the Seat
Get to know what’s going on in the lives of your colleagues and clients outside of work. What are their interests and hobbies? What are their kids’ names? Where did they grow up? Are they dog people or cat people? Similarly, let your coworkers get to know you. Make it easier for them to start a conversation with you by having a few personal artifacts on display in your cubicle or office. We mentioned books previously (see page 35), but what about a framed photo of you playing soccer, standing in front of the ruins at Machu Picchu, or fist-pumping Obama? Whatever provides a glimpse into your hobbies and interests is encouraged, but don’t go overboard. (If it requires a carpenter, it’s too much.)

5. Anticipate What Your Boss or Clients Will Need Next
Take the time to outline concept ideas for upcoming projects in advance. You’ll look well prepared and show that you are thinking ahead. Plus, you’ll already have a jump on the work. Speed is one of the best advantages in business.

6. Emulate the Best
Identify the most respected people in your office and observe them closely. How do they treat others? How do they react in a crisis? How do they carry themselves? What traits do they cultivate that contribute to their success? Incorporate the effective habits and attributes of your company’s best leaders into your own work and interactions.

7. Admit When You’ve Screwed Up
You have the right to make mistakes. You do not have the right to hide them. First, admitting your error lets people know that you know you blew it; second, your effort to learn from it and make amends will not only strengthen your business skills, but also earn you respect, trust, and gratitude from colleagues who may be used to other newbies ducking responsibility for their goofs.

8. Respond to All Email and Phone Messages within Twenty-Four Hours
Your prompt responsiveness will be highly appreciated, even if the only thing you have to say is “I don’t have an answer for you right now, but I’m working on it.” Remember: Old messages are like rotting garbage—the longer they sit, the more they smell.

9. Start a Collection of Business Books and Keep Them on Display
See page 35 for ten titles that should be on every professional’s shelf. The reward for this is twofold: First and foremost, the insight you’ll gain from reading them will profoundly benefit your career and help you avoid a lot of rookie pitfalls. Second, people can use the books to initiate conversations with you. For example, say the chairman of your company is in town and making the rounds of introductions. Accustomed to seeing the usual candy jars and personal photos, he comes to your desk and notices one of his favorite business titles. Not only will you make a stellar first impression, you’ll immediately establish some common ground that could lead to a longer discussion. Warning: If you can’t articulately summarize the main points of your “show horses,” don’t put them out. This trick could easily backfire if you haven’t read the books you’re proudly displaying.

10. Subscribe to Leading Business Periodicals
Read notable magazines like BusinessWeek and Fast Company cover to cover and keep a few back issues in your office. For bonus points, store relevant articles in a binder for quick reference and send the online link to others in your network who might find them useful.

11. Buy the Best Suits and Accessories You Can Afford
How you treat yourself lets others know how they can treat you. Therefore, if you dress and act like a powerful professional, you’ll find that people will treat you like one.

12. Keep “To-Learn” Lists
Create a list of five things you’ll need to know to move up (for instance, learn Excel, web design, or copy writing) and take the initiative to master each one. When you’re finished, create a new list.

13. Be a Freak about Etails
Etails are email details that can get you in trouble if you’re not careful. Therefore, always read every email you’ve composed in its entirety before you hit Send. Make sure your spell check is on, that you aren’t using abbreviated texting language, and that you are giving the recipient enough information to move the ball up the field.

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