If you are new to the profession and hope to move up, it’s important that you stand out in the right way. From someone who has plateaued, here are some tips to make sure you don’t get noticed for the wrong reasons.
Don’t be a conversation crasher. You have ideas. You know a thing or two. But that doesn’t mean you should leap at every chance to demonstrate that you’re a know-it-all. Popping up like a Whack-a-Mole when your coworkers are having a conversation in the next cubicle to tell them how it’d be So.Much.Better if they did it your way is only going to increase your chances of getting whacked on the head. Resist the urge to jump in to their conversation or invite yourself to their meeting unless they specifically invite your input.
Don’t obsess over what’s next. Prove that you’re competent and high-performing in the job you currently have before you start talking about your next position, your next job, your next project. You were hired to work at this library, in this position, doing these things–make sure you are absolutely killing it before you shift your gaze to the horizon and start asking about doing other stuff. That doesn’t mean you can’t stretch yourself or let your boss know that you’re interested in doing more; just make absolutely sure your current work is stellar.
Don’t be a copycat. Once in an interview, when I asked the question about long-term career goals, the candidate said, “I want your job.” I tried to reframe it as, “Oh, so you want a position like mine?” and she said, “No, I want your job. At this place.” I chose to overlook how creepy that was, and let me tell you, that was a mistake. The entire time she worked for me, I felt like Bridget Fonda to her Jennifer Jason Leigh. I didn’t trust her. Every thing she said or did, I filtered it through her “I want your job” comment. Did she act like that/send that email/say that thing because she wants to make me look bad so she can get my job? It can also creepy, in the same Single White Female way, to be imitated. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but it can venture into weird territory if you emulate your boss or your mentor too much. Haircuts, glasses, tone of voice, vocabulary–these are all going to be influenced by the people who surround you, sure. But don’t take “dress for the job you want” too literally.
Don’t be a Queen Bee or Big Man on Campus. You are the go-to person on staff. People like you. In the staff break room, it seems like everyone takes their break when you do. You are a star. But don’t let the social ladder interfere with you doing your job. Keep the gossip to a minimum. Don’t talk loudly about others who are nearby. Don’t start whisper campaigns. Trust me, your bosses know it’s you, and they’re considering that as they consider you for promotion–can you maintain confidentiality? Can you put the organization’s needs ahead of your friends’ needs? If you are promoted to a supervisor or manager level, the transition from coworker to boss is difficult enough as it is without being complicated by work-friends who see your promotion as an opportunity to use you as a double agent, giving them the inside scoop and a free pass on their bad behavior.
What about you–what’s your advice on how to be ambitious without being over-the-top?