You have probably figured this out already, but it is important to stand out from the rest of the crowd in order to get noticed and get ahead. Just doing good work that no one ever notices, is not enough!
Now many of my clients have expressed the concern that standing out or attempting to make a favorable impression on others can appear self serving and lacking in integrity. That is certainly one perspective.
I think another perspective to consider is that standing out or making an impression is really about communication. Leave it to the other people to decide how they feel about you, but don't fail to give them the chance to make up their minds. By sitting in the shadows and being overly modest and humble, you are in fact hiding from your potential and keeping people who could be of great assistance to you, in the dark about your ability and potential. This is hardly fair and it does nothing to serve either you or the organization you are working for.
Now of course, like many things in this world, a lot depends on "how" you choose to make an impression. I daresay you don't want to develop a reputation as a "butt kisser" or "boot licker", (the proper word is sycophant but you know what I mean.)Nor do you want to be seen by your peers as someone who is ruthless at self promotion, often at the expense of other contributors.
So - how exactly does one go about this? Here are some very easy tips on how to get noticed in a positive light.
Probably the most simple (and yet sometimes difficult) thing you can do to be recognized and appreciated up, down and around the organizational hierarchy is the name game or to remember people's names. Sounds simple enough, but being able to refer to people by their names can have a huge impact on how well and how favorably they remember you. This is one of the oldest sales techniques in the book - and good sales people always remember to refer to their repeat customers and clients by their names. If you work in the service industry, this little thing can have a huge impact on your tips!
Now - don't over do it! There is no need to use a person's name in every sentence! Not only does this sound stupid, it is completely inauthentic. If you use the person's name or even refer to an individual's name in the course of your dialog - you will have "made" your point and created the right impression. Here is a quick example:
"John, thanks for bringing up that point. I think it confirms the perspective that Susan offered earlier..."
All of a sudden, "John" feels like he has been seen and heard, and wonder of wonders, so does "Susan". It is not hard to see how this is much more powerful than saying:
"Yeah, I agree and I think this aligns with what someone was saying earlier..."
I may have said this before but it is worth repeating. I always make a little diagram of the table and jot down people's names based on where they are sitting and as they come up in conversation (if they have not already been introduced formally). I can almost hear people saying, "But Gord, don't the people sitting next to you see the diagram? What do they think?". Quite often people do see the diagram, and if they ask me about it, I tell them that getting to know people is important to me and this is one way of helping me learn who people are. Very simple, honest and straight forward. The truth is, rather than ask me about it - people sitting next to me often ask me to SEE IT, so that they too can address people properly! Hey - I am always glad to help.
This is another straight forward way to get noticed in a room full of people. Rather than in an intimate setting, such as sitting around a table - if you are in a room with thirty or more people and you have a question or someone asks you something, stand up when you answer!
This can feel a bit awkward the first few times you do it, but trust me on this - it will be appreciated by everyone in the room. First of all, they will know (by seeing) who is speaking. Secondly, they will be much better able to hear what it is you have to say. And thirdly, if it doesn't seem to be appropriate to introduce yourself when you respond, e.g. "I'm Gord Aker of the Calgary Military Museums Society and I have a question about...", then others may very well take the opportunity to ask people around them, who you are. In any case, you can't really lose doing this and when others fail to do so - they come across as either invisible or shy/nervous.
I think I may have mentioned this on another page of this web site, but it is worth repeating again. Keep your comments and or questions short and concise and if you are asking a question, ask only ONE. Compounded questions are brutal on the speaker and I think poor form in general so leave those to the amateurs!
Okay, I am not going to lie to you. When I first read about this tip, I almost laughed out loud. But, and this is a big but - I have tried this and it works so - here it is!
Whenever you enter a room where a large group of people are gathering, pause just after entering the room and scan it slowly as if you are looking for someone. It is amazing how standing at the entry (not blocking it mind you) and gazing around the room seems to capture people's attention! Seriously - it is crazy, but people will actually look at you to see who you are! Bingo- you have been noticed! Once you have paused for a few seconds, then walk smartly into the room and meet someone either that you already know, or even that you don't! Your entrance has been made!
One of the gentlemen I used to work for did this pause technique incredibly well and lest you think that this only works for tall, good looking well dressed people, let me tell you that this gentlemen was shorter than average, overweight and had poor skin. Hardly movie star material, yet when he walked into a room, people noticed!
The book called "Lions Don't Need to Roar" by D.A. Benton is the book I got this technique from and has numerous other great tips on how to stand out at work without coming across as egotistical or self serving.
Another key thing you can do to get noticed is to be positive and have a lot of energy. It seems to me that the proverbial "pity party" is gaining ever more favor at gatherings, which is great for us - because it allows us to stand out and above the crowd.
Have you noticed this? The minute people get together, they start complaining about things - the weather, their favorite sports team that just lost, their job, their boss and on and on and on. Gross! Who wants to listen to that? And interestingly enough, as soon as one person heads down that rat hole, the old adage of misery loving company seems to kick in. Oh, you think the weather during your vacation was bad...let me tell you about the earthquake we had while I was on vacation...blah blah blah. Please give it a rest!
So - if you show up in these conversations and focus on the future, on the positive and do so with excitement, energy and anticipation - you will stand head and shoulders above the crowd and you will be remembered in a positive light. Again this is such a simple thing to do - but it does require a bit of discipline to not fall into the complaints are us camp. Resist the temptation and keep things positive and energized!
The other obvious thing is to smile. Not only will you feel better for smiling, but others around you will have a hard time resisting giving you a smile back. They can be contagious and again it is you who are influencing their outlook - just by smiling at them in a genuine way.