How to stand out in the workplace (10 tips for interns and recent graduates)

Career Advice
24 July 2017 | Career Advice | Guest Author

1. Dress for success

People that dress well for work carry themselves with a certain confidence and have this "ready for anything" type of vibe. It's noticeable, and I tend to see that they bring that some energy to their work. Dressing well doesn't mean buying expensive and flash work clothes. Dress appropriately (according to your workplace guidelines) and wear things that make you feel good. When you look good, you feel good, you do good! In addition to this, how you dress creates a perception of you, and a lot of the time that's all people have, because it will take you a while before you can really start to make valuable contributions to your team. Start on the right note, by dressing for success.

2. Become an SME

Become a subject matter expert with regards to your role and the area you work within/are responsible for. When you become a mini expert in something, you become the go to person, which reflects that you are trusted and have a reputation for knowing your stuff. It's also a great thing for you, in terms of developing a deep understanding and being able to communicate that information to others. Becoming a subject matter expert takes time, but here are some tips:

  • Ask lots of questions, especially of the people who did your role before you. Take advantage of online training modules if your company has them.
  • Networking and shadowing: meeting with other people within your area, who aren't necessarily in your team can be really good in terms of offering a different perspective / knowledge your team may not have. For example I used to support several trading desks, so I made the effort to shadow a few of the traders once a week when I first started.
  • Once you're confident, share your knowledge with the team. Present to them, train up some of your colleagues on your area of expertise, and if you can, create a beginner guide to make it easier it easier for the next person.

3. Be known for something specific

This is closely linked to the above but this time, more skill specific. Are you really good at fancy PowerPoints, or an Excel pro? Are you a good communicator and can present well? Whatever it is, make sure people know! This becomes really useful, especially when trying to get projects outside of your day to day work, for example I'm known for training people to a high standard, so whenever a new person joins my team, they sit with me for a few weeks and I take them through everything.

4. Positive attitude

Not every day is going to be fun or exciting. Some days will be long and stressful, but your ability to remain positive and upbeat will really standout, and help increase the team morale.

5. Diversity networks/company initiatives

In the same way that universities have societies, most companies have networks (same concept). Some are sports related, others more diversity orientated (e.g. Women’s network, Black professionals, Asian professionals, LGBT, Disability networks and more). Some of these networks may be firm wide, or organised according to regions / divisions. Try and get involved with some of these networks and advocate for them in your team. For example one of the new graduates in my team had someone from the LGBT network come to our team meeting and present to us which was really insightful. I would say get involved in networks you are genuinely passionate about, not just because you want to look good.

6. Commercial awareness

Demonstrating that you are fully aware of what is happening in your industry and how it may affect your company /department shows that you're a broad thinker and have a genuine interest. You can demonstrate this by sharing the links to relevant articles with your team and briefly talk about new industry developments in your team meeting etc.

7. Create your own projects

If you identify something that could be done better or that your team currently doesn't do, but you think they should, make it into a project for yourself. It will show that you think outside of the box, take initiative and you're proactive.

8. Offer to help

If your colleagues appear super busy and stretched, offer to help them, even if you have no idea what to do. It's so much easier sometimes to do the work they set you as an intern, but helping out in other areas shows you're a real team player and actually, the work is due to be way more interesting.

9. Bring your own authentic self to work

Just because you are entering the corporate environment, it doesn't mean that you must now leave your true self at home. One of the few ways you can truly differentiate yourself is by being you, because let's face it; the workplace is full of such a diverse range of people from all different backgrounds, with different interests etc. During my placement year, I created an awards evening in my team (CDMO Awards) with categories such as Male and Female Hot spice (aka most attractive male and female), Best One liner, Double Act of the year, Biggest Diva and more. My manager helped me to create certificates, I got the team to vote, it was something that everyone looked forward to. When I came back to the firm as a graduate, the awards evening I invented continued and that was my thing, what I was known for. Another intern in my team was a keen baker, so created a baking competition where everyone had to bake the best cake.

10. Be excellent and work hard

Be excellent at what you do. Deliver everything to the best of your abilities and to a high standard. Don't be afraid to get stuck into issues which are unfamiliar to you, this is where you'll learn the most.

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