Marketers need a targeted niche, but they also know their products and services need to stand out from other products in their niche.
You need the same approach whenever you are looking for a job or a promotion. You need to make yourself stand out as well in order to get a job in highly competitive fields. Or to move ahead in an organization. Or to help you define yourself for your own needs.
One traditional way to do this that still works is to go the extra mile for others. Do just one or two more things (or one or two things to a higher level) than the typical person would do to complete your job tasks.
The only difference is that traditionally, this idea was often about working extra hard with extra hours, no matter how much you hated the extra work. That’s not how I’m suggesting you do this.
Going the extra mile is what I’ve been seeing lately when I go to one food store where staff literally put down whatever they are doing and help customers find products or easily return items. They walk you to the exact spot a product should be rather than just point and tell you aisle 5 on the left, can’t miss it. They talk with you like a person and not someone to get rid of as quickly as possible.
I’ve talked to some of the staff there about their work, and it seems clear to me that they enjoy their work more because they do this, and it’s not a problem with their management. In this case, the entire store stands out and is branding itself, but each person working there has learned a valuable lesson they can take anywhere and be a star performer.
Going the extra mile is when you’re in IT and really love to communicate your ideas to non-techies, so you figure out clever new ways to communicate all that geeky stuff by creating presentations that people understand and enjoy. That can be your brand, how you go an extra mile to stand out.
For example, one person makes up silly presentations about tech subjects that do take him a little extra time over the usual boring talks, but he loves the creativity and performance elements, so it seems like LESS work and effort and MORE FUN. It also means he is the go-to guy when presentations need to be handled. This in turn means he gets to do more of them, which is a way he likes to spend his time.
Going the extra mile is being at a networking event and instead of just promoting yourself, you help others to network better. It takes no more time. It can be a lot of fun. You can also relax more because you aren’t selling or pushing yourself. You’ll also receive support and appreciation (in other words, you become more memorable than if you just self-promoted). You can also take that approach to work trying to connect others and become branded as the go-to connector person.
Work Happier, Not Just Harder or Longer
To summarize, whatever you do, don’t just come up with things to make you work longer hours and drain your energy. We have plenty of that in our society. Going the extra mile by working overtime and hoping it will be appreciated is often a recipe for frustration and resentment.
So what should you do?
1. Brainstorm a dozen ways you could do something more than you’re now doing. Have fun with it. Ask others. These could be things you do once in a while or everyday things
2. Think about which you’d enjoy doing and would benefit others and your own performance.
3. Choose 1 or 2 ways, trying not to eat into your already busy schedule too much. Don’t take over part of someone else’s job tasks or do something that clearly is showing up someone else.
4. Start doing it and see how you feel and how much what you’re doing is helping.
5. Jot down what you did and the results. This will add to your sense of accomplishment and will remind you later in detail if you need to draw on stories for presenting yourself during job searches or for promotions or to simply give yourself a motivating boost.
6. See if these activities start to help you rethink your brand, what you offer others, what you want to most do during work hours. Maybe you are that geek who finds that making funny PowerPoints is what you really want to do. You then create a job or consulting business around that.
7. Incorporate your successes into stories for job interviews, performance reviews, cover letters. Use your examples to show how you shine at work and aren’t just another reasonably competent, nice employee. Show how you have taken initiative. Ask references if they might include these positive actions in their recommendations.
Let me know what you try and how it works out!