Young professionals frequently ask me what they can do to distinguish themselves from their high-achieving, type-A peers at the office. Essentially they are asking about what traits, characteristics or behaviors define a top-tier performer. From the thousands of cases I’ve analyzed in the career consulting work I do, I can say with confidence that it comes down to three primary qualities: trustworthiness, network quality and intelligence. Here are three practical tips you can put to use right away to help advance your professional standing.
Show up early
Punctuality only gets you so far as you move up the corporate ladder. You have to start showing up early in addition to showing up on time. If your group generally starts the day at 8:30am, you should aim to be in your office by 7:30 am or 8am. And here is the secret as to why: your boss or the head of your group gets in early. If you start mimicking your boss or the schedule of your boss’ boss, there is a high likelihood that that boss will notice you and you will become known as the one who comes in just as early as he or she does. This is a great reputation to have if you can swing it. Now, what is the reason your boss or head of the group gets in so early? Well, the three hours before 9 am are usually the only hours in the day when your boss can do actual work (like e-mail, review reports, analyze news, etc.) – the rest of the day she is in meetings, on the phone or on the road.
Meet one new person outside your group every week
Venture outside of your comfort zone by making a commitment to meet and get to know at least one new person outside your immediate team each week. Scheduling a simple coffee with someone referred to you by someone else in your network is a great way to get to know different parts of your organization. Knowing internal trends and dynamics will allow you to share best practices or insights your current team may not know about (thereby increasing your professional presence) and will also allow you to identify new roles that you could compete for in case you want to switch jobs at some point in the future.
Subscribe the New York Times or Wall Street Journal – and read it!
Read some sort of reputable business publication every day. At least the front page. You should be aware of where the market is in general (U.S. indices and abroad) and know about what headlines may impact your business’ interests (the recent government shutdown or political bickering, etc.). It doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to become aware of the most interesting bits of information that leaders of your team, group, or division may want to get your opinion on, and it does your reputation no good to shrug your shoulders in ignorance.
Debra Wheatman is a certified writer and career coach who has guided the professional development of thousands of clients globally. She is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org.