Quick, think of a woman at work who is “different.” Why did she come to mind? What made her stand out? Is her difference positive or negative?
Now think about yourself. What makes you different, and how can you use your difference to your advantage?
Too often we put “difference” in a negative category. We note someone’s weight or other physical attribute (height, pink hair, tattoos) or what they wear (4-inch heels, sweatsuit, nose rings). Sometimes, we include personality characteristics such as an odd sense of humor, shyness, or bragging.
Depending on your own personality and confidence level, perhaps you feel you don’t want to stand out, that you prefer to blend in, to be one of the crowd. If so, you may enjoy a certain comfort level, but staying within your comfort zone is frequently a barrier to moving forward, achieving deserved recognition, or attaining workplace success. It can mean being passed over for a promotion, not earning that bonus, or staying in a position longer than useful.
Instead of always being “part of the herd,” give some thought to how you can be different. If you have a talent (for example, good with numbers or statistics), let that skill be known. Ask to be included on the team that will prepare the new budget, or offer to do some of the statistical calculations for the annual report. Similarly, if you are good at writing, volunteer to write a meeting summary or assist with documenting the strategic plan. When you have a creative idea, take a risk and speak up. It may not be the approach selected, but it will highlight your thinking and your willingness to be part of the solution.
While teamwork may be expected and acknowledged at work, teamwork often overshadows individual effort and talent. That means it is up to you to highlight your abilities and contributions in positive ways and at appropriate times. This may require some risk taking and some additional self-confidence, but letting your value be known can go a long way toward personal and professional success. Make certain your difference makes a difference.