The other night, I was giving one of my daughters unsolicited advice, as I’m often known to do. The topic of the night was what makes a worker standout, or rather, why one employee advances while another does not. There’s a lot of information and studies out there on how to excel in the workplace, but in my experience, these are the five rules that no matter where you are in your career, your position in a company, or what type of work you do, never fail to make someone a stand-out employee.
  1. If you need to bring a problem to your boss or supervisor you should also bring a possible solution. I learned this rule when I worked as a public accountant. In public accounting, the accountant must devise tests to check the accuracy of financial statements. Sometimes the originally planned test could not be carried out, which was a problem. So, I would propose alternative tests to my boss, and although my alternatives weren’t always the ones he chose, I noticed that my suggestions acted as springboards for others to volunteer solutions to the problem. Presenting your boss with a possible course of action shows initiative and creativity—always a winning combination—and gives your boss a place to start when forming a solution to a problem. Build a reputation as a problem-solver.
  2. If you ever have free time, go look for work. An average employee is content to wait idly for their next assignment; the indispensable employee looks for work to do, often with the consequence of helping an overwhelmed co-worker. Not only does this build teamwork, but it varies employees’ skills and increases their overall understanding of how the company operates.
  3. Have a sense of urgency about your work. Always assume that your work is important and that everyone has a role in keeping their company or organization afloat. This doesn’t mean that you need to be frantic or constantly stressed. Instead, be aware of your deadlines, for they exist for very real reasons. This seems simple, but it is where others miss the mark. Get your work done, and assist others when you can.
  4. Mind your manners. Manners are important, and we seem to be losing sight of that as a culture. They play a huge part in setting a professional tone in the workplace, impressing clients, advancing as an employee, or being a boss that people like working for. In most interviews, the interviewer will inevitably ask the question, “Do you work well with others?” This question could very well be translated to, “Do you mind your manners?” Emily Post, the authority on all civil matters, best sums up the function of manners in the workplace: “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter which fork you use.
  5. Appearance matters. Send out a message of self-appreciation with the way you dress and take care of yourself. If you look like you respect yourself, others tend to respect you, too.