Five Ways to Make Your Mark in the Workplace: Show Them What You’ve Got!
I never thought I would have missed it, but on my first day at my new job, the beauty of wood-trimmed cubicle walls, the luminous fluorescent lights hanging overhead, and the feel of high pile carpet underneath my high heels was a sight for sore eyes. As I strolled down the hallway towards my new office, lyrics to a song bounced in my head, It’s a new dawn, it’s new a day, it’s new life for me, and I’m feeling good.
Yet, at the same time I carried an air of confidence, it also felt a lot like the first day of elementary school -- the same excitement and nervousness rolled into one but with an adult twist. The first few weeks were a blur, so many new faces, so many departments, so many systems and passwords, and so many products and initiatives. I thought to myself (in a slight panic) how am I ever going to keep up? And more importantly how am I going to contribute in a significant way? After all, this is the big leagues, and I am the new kid on the block. I am going to have to show them what I've got.
That’s right. Just because you landed a secure job and feel a sense of accomplishment from all those late nights of emailing resumes and attending networking events and figuring out your LinkedIn strategy, it's no time to rest on your laurels. ¡Ay Dios mío! Can’t I just take it easy now, you might ask yourself? Quite the opposite, my dear. Once the new job smell wears off a bit, it’s time to really dig in. It’s a fresh start, an opportunity to reinvent yourself and learn from your past foibles and stumbles.
As you know, networking is complicated but "netweaving" – as a colleague of mine puts it – is about timing and continuous exposure. So while you are assimilating into the new corporate culture, you’ll want to make sure to mingle with colleagues in other departments as well as your own. This will help people get to know who you are, while at the same time give you perspective about the company’s products, initiatives, and business objectives.
You will have to keep your eyes open in order to find new opportunities, wherever they may lie. Use your innate passions to help guide you. For example, because I have worked so many years in the nonprofit world I naturally gravitated towards volunteering for my company’s local grants committee. Additionally, I joined the company’s Latino Business Resource Group and soon after, became involved in the planning of an internal conference. In a short amount of time, I have leveraged my passion to begin making my mark. However, in reality it’s been more of a combination of both deliberate action and organic evolution. It seems that once you begin to
take on new challenges in your role or give of your free time for good causes, more opportunities present themselves. Case in point, I just accepted the role as President of the Center for Hispanic Leadership's inaugural chapter in Atlanta. Always remember that opportunities like these are yours for the taking.
Here are the top five things to keep sight of once you are in sitting in your new office and ready to seize the day:
- Netweaving: As you attend meetings and events, remember to always introduce yourself, get business cards (yes, even within the same company – remember, it’s netweaving) and follow up with LinkedIn invitations. After a while, you will also notice that you’ll find ways to connect people and projects with each other for the benefit of all involved.
- Volunteer: If your company is involved in the community, seek out the volunteer opportunities from donating books to digging holes for a community garden to building homes. Remember, you are fortunate to be where you are, so give back as much as
- Ongoing Education/Training: Often, companies will offer online or in-person leadership development workshops and courses as well as host internal and external speakers’ series. Take advantage of these early on since they will help you meet a cross-section of individuals as well as aid you in your professional development. Keep yourself motivated to continually augment your repository of skills to become more well-rounded. This is your life, your career. It’s important to continue to deliver your brand with conviction and dogged determination.
- Business Resource Groups/Corporate Affinity Groups: If your company has BRGs, then join them. Remember to be an active participant and even help support the other BRGs by attending their events as well. No BRGs, you say? Then start one from the ground up. You will need to think about what the business case is for creating a BRG. This way your leadership will know that you are equally passionate about your heritage and culture as you are about being a professional and in growing the company’s business.
- Size Doesn’t Matter: Whether you are in a small company with less than 50 employees
or in one with over 200,000, there are still a myriad of opportunities for you to step up to the plate, contribute, and be noticed for taking the lead. It could be something such as organizing an employee task force to help boost morale with a scheduled employee appreciation event every quarter or asking your colleagues to bring in their hotel shampoo bottles and soaps to donate to a local women’s shelter or at your weekly staff meetings raising your hand to take on a project that’s been sitting on the backburner. It is these moments in time that will begin to define who you as a person and as a professional. Follow your passion, let your light shine, and you will become a trailblazer who leads by helping to bring out the best in others.
Remember that every day is a new day to work towards your goals, to be bold, to ask questions, to become engaged, and to do what may have not been done before. Sure, it’s scary. Don’t think for a moment that I don’t sometimes also have qualms or misgivings about my abilities, but I know from experience that the risks are always worth taking. Cue the music, crank up the sound, hear the lyrics, It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me, and I’m feeling good. Now, show them what you’ve got.