You are not a snowflake

You are not a snowflake

Roughly 10 years ago, in a classroom filled with 300 or so undergrads, our Social Psychology Professor told us:

You are not snowflakes! Sorry, but your mom was wrong, you are not a precious, individual little snowflake.

Getting noticed at work (whatever you call work) isn’t an easy task in the best of circumstances. At a large company, you’re competing with all your colleagues, at small business, you’re competing with limited resources and as a freelancer you’re competing with others in your field. It turns out that in social situations, the majority of us act and react in a fairly predictable fashion. Our behaviour pretty much resembles a bell curve where most of us are in the middle and act in a similar way and very few of us are on the fringes. In other words, if you look around, there’s a good chance you are doing the exact same thing as others to get noticed.

Business encourages predictability

Seth Godin often says that business are like factories. They favour predictable behaviour and outcomes whether you’re on an assembly line or in front of a computer. All in the goal of doing ordinary work for ordinary people. In other words, they encourage our natural tendency to be the same.

Becoming a snowflake

Listen carefully and you’ll probably hear others say something along the lines of “I’ve worked so hard at this, I deserve a raise/recognition/a promotion/the contract”. If you pay really close attention, you might even catch yourself in the act.

But I’ll let you in on a secret, hard work is the predictable behaviour…it’s what’s expected.

That curve just goes from “very little work” to “way too much work”. Some people are at the fringes and work less or way more than others, but the majority put in an honest day’s work. What you want to do is step out of the bell curve altogether — it’s not that hard. You want to do great work (not busy work) and you want to get recognized for what you do. Forget about the hours spent.

  1. Where do you want to go. Not everyone has the same goals — some want to be CEO’s, some entrepreneurs and others like their freelance work. Start out by determining where you want to go, because the worst thing you can do is tag along for the ride. Not knowing where you want to go is the best way to get nowhere. Don’t compete for someone else’s objectives. Having a goal in mind, will help you figure out how to get there by allowing you to set limits. [Note: you are allowed to changed your goals and objectives at any time.]
  2. Cut out the busy work. The thing that leads you to believe you’ve put in more work than others is “busy work.” That’s anything that takes up time and doesn’t add much value. Those things include meetings, emails, Twitter, news sites, etc. And we all get bogged down by it. Start by managing your time and If you want something way more detailed, pick up a copy of Tim Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Workweek (Expanded and Updated): Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich (Affiliate link). Or better yet, just unplug yourself.
  3. Promote yourself. The thing with VP’s, managers, clients and whoever else should to be noticing you, is that they have their own priorities to worry about. They don’t have the time to stop and figure out just how awesome you are. To some of us, self-promotion is a bad word, but reasonable self-promotion is expected and even welcome — a boss once told me I needed to showcase more of the great stuff I was doing. Just remember, you’re not a used-car sales man. Use moderation and taste, but CC a boss on a positive email once in a while, keep a “brag folder”, forward thanks from clients to the boss and the team that’s worked on the project, etc.
Most of your colleagues are doing the same exact thing as you are to get noticed: They “put in the hours.” Next time you’re wondering why you’re not getting noticed at work, stop and do something different.

(Photo credit: Aaron Alexander)