How To Stand Out – Part 1

If you want to get to the top, you need to stand out. This does not just mean doing a good job, because if you are not visible and seen as someone who is worthy of attention, your good work will only be taken for granted and you might actually ensure that you will never get ahead.

Part of standing out depends on the industry and department. In my experience, marketing driven organisations follow distinctly different rules than finance driven companies.

During my studies I did an internship in the marketing department of a consumer goods company, along with several other students. Putting modesty to one side, I was the hardest worker, had the most creative ideas and was obviously highly qualified to work in marketing.

When, at the end of our internship, there was a chance of receiving a scholarship from the marketing department, I didn’t receive it.  The scholarship went to a guy most of us thought of as an arrogant airhead, who really wasn’t all that good at anything.

A few days later I had the opportunity to overhear a conversation between him and the HR director (I probably don’t have to point out that eavesdropping is an important tool if you want to get ahead) and here is the sentence that blew my mind: “Congratulations on the scholarship, you stood out from the start because we noticed that you are always wearing monogrammed shoes!

As silly as this may sound, you need to dress for the part. Not for the part you want, but a level or two above it.

According to a survey by, 41% of employers say that workers who dress better tend to get promoted more often.

Depending on the company, the top people might have certain interests that they bond over. I once worked at one of the largest car manufacturers in the world and if you were not a member of the riding club, you were not part of the management fast track. So you don’t like horses?

At least research them, get yourself up to speed on what is important about them, so you can at least hold an interesting (for them) conversation with the people who are horse fanatics. And stop eating horse meat when they are around.

This is more important than you might think, because there will be many occasions to stand out and some of the most useful ones are business lunches, road trips, flights, etc, all opportunities to show that you have potential outside of your current position.

So here are a few rules:

– check out the top people in your industry and analyse their dress sense, their body language and the way they speak and replicate it

– groom well, more conservatively than you might like (obviously exceptions are the rule in some software companies and start-ups)

– if you are below average height, think about wearing lifts in your shoes. US studies have shown that for every inch above 6 feet, people earn about a 1.5% higher salary

– find out about what the top people bond over and ensure that you can intelligently converse about those subjects.

Stay tuned for part 2 on how to stand out.

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