How to Stand Out
How to build your personal brand by letting your personality out at work.
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My friend David Wood just wrote a book, Get Paid for Who You Are. It teaches people to take their unique skills and talents and build a business around it. That sounds like a fine idea! The more I thought about it, the more I realized that more and more, we all get paid for who we are, not just what we do.
How to Stand Out
In school, they said good grades would lead to a great college, and then, to a great job. My command of computer science was supposed to skyrocket me to the pinnacle of money and power. Then I hit the real world. It seemed lots of people could program. Who knew? Sure, I created a machine intelligence that could solve poverty, feed the world, and fix climate change. But no one cared. They just wanted a new instant messaging client. Sigh. A lifetime developing skill didn’t set me apart.
These days, you need more. You’re competent? How nice. That means you’re a pleasantly interchangeable cog who can be replaced by a competent person in another country who is willing to work longer hours for less pay.
Use Your Personality to Stand Out
For years, I wore a suit and used words like “value chain.” (And no, not the kind you buy for 40% off from the Walmart jewelry counter.) No one took me seriously. I tried to act like a serious businessperson. But deep down, I just didn’t care how many basis points would cause our projected ROI to win the World Series.
A couple years later, I started a podcast about business. It was very businesslike, and a stunning success. Of course, by “stunning,” I mean “dismal,” and by “success,” I mean “failure.” So I started the Get-it-Done Guy, mainly as an excuse to be myself, have fun, and give some good advice in the meantime. It hit #1 in iTunes Business a month later. Hmm…
People like personality! After years of hiding my personality and style, fearing it would be inappropriate in business, I let myself peek out of my shell and Wooph! My alien abduction fantasies become an asset and source of perspective… rather than a matter for the Human Resources director to worry about.
My personal style will even come forth in my book. It’ll be informative and funny. Why? Because I’d go nuts otherwise. I really think it’s more interesting to read about zombies than paper clips. (Unless the paper clips are being used to hold together zombies.)
Use Your Personality to Stand Out at Work
Now that skills are a dime a dozen, what sets you apart from everyone else is … you. People form bonds with you, not your skill set. Yet most of us wait for the weekend to be ourselves. We live based on what we think people expect. Of course, they’re doing the same thing, imagining that we expect them to fit a mold.
If you want to stand out as exceptional, sure, develop your skills. Then enhance them by finding ways to add your personality into the mix. Do you have unique knowledge? Do you know the name for every muscle in the foreleg of the Zambian Water Cricket? Cool. Put it on a poster in your cubicle. Bring it up in conversation. “Melvin, your new pompadour looks just like the mandible on a Zambion Water Cricket.” He’ll be impressed. If you know the local nightlife, start recommending fun ideas for friends and colleagues who have out-of-town visitors; become an unofficial office concierge. Make that part of how you show up!