self improvement tips

5 Steps to Standing Out As a Professional

We have so many people competing for the same opportunities these days. Whether it’s professionals competing for jobs or getting new clients, everyone needs to understand their unique value and how to stand out. If you don’t stand out, you will get passed over, it’s as simple as that. Here are five ways that you can stand out as a professional so that people pay attention to you.

1. Know who you are and who you aren’t. A lot of people fool themselves into thinking that they are someone who they aren’t. They are influenced by others to a point where they want to become them instead of look inside and become more of who they already are. Just because you can play basketball doesn’t mean you should join the NBA and just because your friend start a mobile technology company and sold it for a million dollars, doesn’t mean that you will receive the same result. Start to assess your own strengths and ask your family, friends and co-workers about what they think you’re good at. Write down your strengths and compare that to how people perceive you to uncover your unique value proposition. Once you have a better understanding of your unique value, you will feel more confident in your career path and recognize how you can stand out in the crowd.

2. Become an expert in your field. In a recent study, we asked what type of workplace diversity would make professionals most successful at work and they unanimously said “subject matter experts”.  Note that they didn’t say people of different genders or ethnicities. In a separate survey, we found that 65 percent of managers are more likely to promote subject matter experts. Aside from in the workplace, if you want to be a consultant or entrepreneur, it’s easier to get visibility if you’re already known for your area of expertise. To become an expert at anything, it takes a lot of reading, performing and measuring your results. Wake up each day and read as much as you can about your subject matter, take classes, apprentice under an expert and take on freelance projects to practice.

3. Position yourself online and offline. You need to be found and thought of as the “top of mind brand”. Just like when people walk into a grocery store looking for soda and immediately choose Coca Cola. In order to do that, you need to have a specific audience in mind as you position yourself, just like any company would. If you’re an expert, who can most benefit from that expertise? If you are a personal finance wiz, target a certain age group or location. For instance, you can position yourself as a personal finance expert for students in Boston. This way, when a student in Boston is looking for help managing their finances, they will think of you first.

4. Produce noteworthy work. If you want to get people talking about you, you need to produce superior work – work that is so good that people notice it. If you’re copying what others are doing, or you’re just putting in minimal effort, then you won’t stand out. Find ways to make your work exceptional by  going beyond what’s asked of you. For instance, if you’re asked to write a white paper on a topic, go to the extra mile and conduct interviews with people that you can quote in the white paper to make it more interesting.

5. Let people know about you by supporting them. A lot of people would say that you have to self-promote in order to get noticed. I actually think that if you find ways to help others, they will discover your talents.  Another part of this is sharing credit at work instead of taking credit without citing anyone else. If you’re working in a team, every member should be rewarded. By helping out other people that you’re working with, they will be more likely to want to help you out or recommend you to someone else, and that’s how you build a strong reputation.

Dan Schawbel is a workplace expert and the New York Times bestselling author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success, now in an expanded paperback edition.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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