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Over the past five years, I’ve delivered talks to tens of thousands of professionals across the country. After each talk, whether at a corporation or a conference, I’m always asked the same question by the audience — How do I stand out in my job and get noticed?
It’s a great question, and it’s coming from a good place. It means the person is hungry for career success, and they don’t want to be average, coast in their job or deliver work that’s just “good enough.”
My answer to the question, regardless of what stage someone is at in their career, is always the same — Do the job that no one else wants to do. At first, the response is typically something like, “But if no one wants to do that job, why should I do it?”
Allow me explain.
Over the course of a career, especially early on, opportunities for you to stand out will pop up on a regular basis. But it’s easy to overlook these moments and be totally unaware of their potential because they seem so underwhelming at the time. Do any of these ring a bell?
- A tough assignment became available, but instead of volunteering to work on it, you looked down at your notebook and said nothing because you were intimidated by how much work it would involve.
- Your boss asked for volunteers to come in early to help set up for a meeting, but you wanted the extra 30 minutes of sleep instead.
- Someone in another department — a department you have your eye on for the future — asked if you were interested in staying late to help their team finish an important project. It sounded good, but you had dinner plans and decided to pass.
- A manager you respect (not yours, incidentally) desperately needed a work-related errand to be run during crunch-time for the company, but you told yourself that your job description didn’t say anything about running errands.
- Your boss asks for people willing to train other employees on a piece of software that you happen to know well. You know someone else will raise their hand — and finally, they do — so you figure no harm done.
Sure, none of the above examples sound particularly sexy. And it’s true that they may not be part of your description. So why say yes to any of them? The simple reason — because nine out of 10 people won’t.
When requests like these are made, most employees will immediately lose eye contact with the person making the ask and demure. Your opportunity is to do the exact opposite.
Next time you encounter a request that no one else wants to take on, you can make eye contact with the person who made it and simply say, “I got it.” When an email comes in with a request, be the first to say yes. Even better, be proactive, knock on doors, and ask people if there’s anything you can help with.
The reason it’s critical to do the jobs no one else wants to do sometimes is because you:
- Are seen as indispensable and committed to your work
- Engender goodwill, and make people eager to help you in turn
- Become the “go-to person” over time, especially when it really matters
These are powerful reasons that will go a long way as you increase your influence and build your brand over the course of your career. Remember: Your personal brand is what people say about you when you’re not around.
Sure, everybody wants to land the fun project or play an important role. The way to get there is by being willing to get your hands dirty and do the less glamorous work sometimes. This is your opening.
Every day, you have an excellent opportunity to stand out from the crowd by saying “yes.” Start today.