In his book, Better than Average: Excelling in a Mediocre World, Todd Brockdorf offers 11 suggestions (because 10 is average) for making an impression:
1. Understand expectations and exceed them. Always make a point to ask clarifying questions to be sure you understand the task at hand—and then over-deliver. "Know when the work product is expected so that you can properly prioritize your tasks," says Brockdorf. "If your boss asks you to complete your monthly report by the close of business on the first Friday of the month, send it on Thursday." When you provide something unexpected, you will leave a positive and lasting impression.
2. Make small miracles happen. "Become known as a trusted resource who can save the project. Pull off the end-of-the-month sale that puts the team above quota. Find the cash in the budget to make payroll," Brockdorf notes. If you can overachieve, you'll stand out from the crowd and become the go-to leader when the going gets tough.
3. Demonstrate leadership. Leadership is more than just a title. According to Brockdorf, "Leadership is about taking responsibility. Responsibility for your actions, your in-actions, and most importantly, your faults." How can you be an effective leader? Organize projects, start initiatives, and suggest improvements. When you take responsibility for your area, it makes a difference to the people within the organization who make decisions about your career path.
4. Network up, down, and across. Become "that guy" who seems connected to everyone in the organization. While you don't need to know the answer to every question, Brockdorf suggests: "Always know who can answer every question." Start early—create relationships with people in collaborating departments so when you are in a tight spot or need help, you will have a network of colleagues willing, ready, and able to help you. You'll want to also maintain a strong network outside your company, though you shouldn't underestimate how important it is to have strong, in-organization ties.
5. Volunteer for challenging projects. Who doesn't want to work with the colleague who can get anything done, and who isn't afraid to step up to the plate when the going gets tough? Stand out from the crowd by being the hero. Brockdorf explains: "If you are willing to accept projects that are not guaranteed to succeed and can turn those opportunities into wins, you will be revered by your peers and superiors." One thing to keep in mind: Be sure to seek out tasks that play to your strengths, so you'll have a better chance to hit it out of the park.
6. Work where you're needed, not where you're deserved. We all deserve to work with the top performers, the best teams, and the most successful projects. "However, that's not where you are needed," according to Brockdorf. "You are more valuable working on struggling products, with the challenging employees who show great promise, and improving the inefficient processes." Think about where you can make a significant difference and move quickly.
7. Be known for something. Everyone loves someone who is always reliable. You might be the guy who knows how to sooth an irate customer. You could be the woman who can always close an important deal. Or you could simply be known as the person who can usually fix the jammed copier. (Who wants to let that guy leave?) "Be an expert in something. It demonstrates your value to the office, team, and company. When they think you're more valuable, you're no longer a number," Brockdorf says.
8. Be present. When your co-workers stop by your cube or your staff walks into your office, give them your full attention. Everyone loves a listener. If you pocket your iPhone, ignore incoming email, and always focus your attention on the people with you, it leaves a favorable impression, if only by comparison to the majority of the workforce. "If it is not a good time, politely send them away with a recommended time to return. When you are present with your co-workers and staff, your opinion, guidance, and wisdom will be more valued," Brockdorf says.
9. Turn boring time into productive time. Maybe you have to transpose numbers into a spreadsheet. Perhaps you need to package and ship the latest direct marketing mailing. Do what you can to turn that tedious chore into a learning opportunity. How? Brockdorf says: "Listen to the latest business bestselling audiobook. Take some mandatory Web-based video training. Listen to an educational podcast. Feed your brain to make the mindless task more productive."
10. Do error-free work. No one likes to redo anything. It wastes time, money, and energy. Become the person everyone knows will get it right the first time. How can you become that colleague? If you don't know the proper way to do something, be confident enough to ask. Brockdorf notes: "I would rather have someone ask me a few questions up front than have to correct the errors later." Mistakes happen, but if you are known to cause work errors, you'll begin to stand out for all the wrong reasons.
11. Keep candy at your desk, preferably chocolate. This one may not have a direct impact on your performance review, but it will help you build good rapport. You will become the most popular person in the office, and Brockdorf says, "Expect a crowd around 3 p.m."
Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer, and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to empower their success.