Standing Out By Stepping Up

My wife works in finance and has been very successful in climbing the corporate ladder. She’s high in the chain of command and if you were an entry-level employee at the company, she’s someone you’d want to know and learn from.

She recently gave a presentation to the company’s incoming interns. Of the hundreds of young, seemingly energetic employees who attended, only one emailed her afterwards to thank her for her time and ask to grab a coffee.

When she told me this, I was shocked. As a young person in a new industry, I would jump on any opportunity to connect with a leader in the organization. But only one out of a few hundred seized that opportunity.

I often receive emails from individuals wanting to “pick my brain.” As you can imagine, my schedule is a bit crammed and any free time I have, I try to reserve for working on bigger projects or (gasp!) doing something for myself. So I started implementing a policy that if someone wants something from me, I want something from them. If someone asks for a brain-picking session, I’ll ask them to volunteer at one of our upcoming events. If I’m going to give up some of my free time, I expect them to do the same.

Seems reasonable right? Only about twenty percent of people take me up on the offer. The rest politely decline or don’t respond at all.

In many ways, there is more competition than ever before and it’s growing more difficult to rise above the din. But in other ways, it’s never been easier to stand out. Do not assume that everyone else is going to seize an opportunity. You can stand out just by reaching out…and following through.

The next time you attend a lecture or training, reach out to the facilitator to thank them for their time and see if they’re open to meeting one on one. If someone has helped you in your career, whether they know it or not, write them a thank you note. Volunteer for projects. Offer guidance and assistance. Say yes.

When I think about the individuals who have reached out to me over the years and the ones I’m always eager to help, it’s the ones who have written thank you notes, volunteered their time, and most importantly, acted in ways that showed that they valued our connection. It may seem obvious, but it’s clear that most people have not caught on to this. There is definitely more competition out there, but by simply seizing opportunities and making it clear that you value the time of others and are willing to reciprocate their investment in you, you will easily stand out among the crowd.

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