Here’s an email I received recently that I think applies to all of us regarding making the choice to stand out or to fit in…
Dear Dr. Sylvia,
I am having a real struggle with the opposing desires to stand out or to fit in.
I’m a millennial working in a big city marketing company with tons of really smart people and, I just want to be liked. However, I have good ideas I believe can help some of our campaigns. Yet, I don’t want to be seen as ‘the smart guy’ which would be said with a snicker.
I was always a leader in school, head of this and that. Yet, now I’m hesitant. I’ve just hit 29 and that seems old to me. Hey, I just had a thought. I wonder if I would see some young teen with an idea speak out would I call him ‘the smart guy’ with a snicker on my face. Hmmm!
Okay, back to me. Any advice about speaking out or shutting up?
Climbing the Ladder
Dear Ladder Climber,
It’s always an issue for everyone, when to stand up and when to stay seated. To stand out, first, you have to earn it. So, here’s some advice about taking the right steps:
- Start quiet: Get the lay of the land. Do your work and contribute in small ways. Don’t be the Debbie Downer who says nothing will really change at work and don’t be Cheerful Claude who makes everything too sunny.
- Volunteer: Raise your hand to do what others don’t want to do. Or do it on your own. Stay late to help a colleague complete a project. You’ll find endless places to help.
- Ask for help: Only ask when you really need it. There are so many things you can figure out yourself. However, my rule of thumb is that after 3 attempts at something complex and still no resolve, go ask, don’t wait.
- Accept others: Find time to say Hi to people, just because. Everyone wants to be seen, heard and accepted.
Now, it’s time for you to speak out. You’ve proven yourself as a great employee. When you speak out you will do best with short sentences, not paragraphs.
Simply, say you have some good ideas and you would love to hear from others. That’s enough to get you started.