Make an Impression: How to Stand Out as an Employee No Matter What Business You're In

Business.com / Careers / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

How do you stand out in the workplace? The attributes that separate a good employee from the chaff are near universal.

A new survey by Earnest indicates that higher student debt on average is causing recent college graduates to change the way they approach the first time job search.

Out of all Millennials surveyed, 55 percent said they’d accepted a job more quickly in order to obtain income that would help them climb out of debt.

Unfortunately, these first-time job seekers were also less likely to have obtained jobs related to their major and more likely to report being less happy with their jobs. Does this sound like you?

The modern reality is that college graduates new to the job market are much more likely to “settle” and jump at the first opportunity for work, regardless of what the job is.

However, even if your skills and experience may be tangentially related (at best) to whatever field you’ve chosen, this doesn’t mean that you can’t or even shouldn’t try to stand out in the workplace.

This is because whether you’re looking to stick with the field you’re in or switch over to a new one completely, the attributes that separate a good employee from the chaff are near universal.

Related Article: Not Just LinkedIn: How to Brand Yourself Online When Job Hunting

Adaptability and Learning

An AE Magazine industry expert expressed his advice that those new to the job market should “join a company with an exceptional leadership team, strategy and culture. If you find that, you will have the opportunity to learn from the best and apply your strengths immediately."

No matter what field you’re in, try to find an organization that knows what they’re doing. Even if you can’t, that’s still OK. The point is not just to latch onto someone or something awesome, but to learn how to be awesome through osmosis.

See, you might think you’re woefully unprepared to do your job because you jumped on the first ship that came by, but the funny thing is that even new hires who are joining fields mirroring their majors often face vast knowledge gaps.

This is because the way that technology changes seemingly daily means that businesses and entire industries change with it. Think about it. Five years ago streaming television wasn’t really even a thing. Since then it’s blown up. Those content providers who’ve learned and adapted have succeeded against the odds. Learning to leverage that knowledge from key players in your industry, and essentially learning to be adaptable yourself, is how you’ll succeed in whatever type of organization you become a part of.

Soft Skills and Emotional IQ

Hard skills are defined as “specific, teachable abilities that can be defined and measured, such as typing, writing, math, reading, and the ability to use software programs.” Because everything is moving so fast, hard skill acquisition is born from learning and adaptation. Soft skills, on the other hand, are defined as “personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people,” and is often associated with a person’s emotional intelligence quotient or EQ.

Here’s the thing about hard skills: they’re usually limited to one or a small number of industries, and while they are extremely important, they’re always going to be reshaped, sharpened, and sometimes abandoned depending on what industry you’re in. Soft skills, however, are pertinent to anybody working with other people.

Related Article:Old Dog, New Tricks: Is It Too Late for a Career Change?

Adaptability and a love of learning are actually considered by a few to be soft skills, while communication skills are almost always recognized as crucial whether you’re looking at bolstering teamwork, becoming a better leader, or even increasing customer conversions. While there are plenty of ways to increase your soft skills, the best two best things you could possibly to increase all of them at one time is to listen and reflect often.

Focus, Productivity and Discipline

The last thing you need to know is basically the essence of every self-help, get-motivated, take control of your life book that’s ever been written, and it was summed up succinctly on Reddit just a few days ago: muster up your focus, quit procrastinating, and discipline yourself so that you approach every problem in life that way. It boils down like this.

Society has conditioned us to believe that a successful business person can do a million things at once but that’s totally bull. Whether it’s trying to watch TV and converse at the same time or driving with hands-free tech, the fact is that humans are absolutely horrible multitaskers. What’s worse, we’re easily distracted, and many of us, due to the very nature of the society we live in, are easily distracted, switching focus from this to that in a matter of seconds.

Every time we lose focus and refocus somewhere else, we’re giving up just that much productivity. If, however, you were disciplined enough to keep that focus, you’d find a massive increase in productivity. Simple as that. Highly successful business people are able to accomplish a million things just not all at once.

Related Article:Mishap Management: 7 Mistakes Most People Commit in Their Careers

With these elements, you can essentially step into any position and embody the perfect employee, sans, perhaps, the hard skills that individual jobs require. After a little practice and some experience under your belt, you might just become the best employee in the office even if you never intended to.

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