fit in or stand out

To advance your career, you can only do one at a time. Trying to do both will make your head spin—and not in a good “just a glass of rose on the patio” kind of way.

Ahh. It’s really lovely here in DC at the moment. And, it’s really just for the moment because, as any resident will tell you, the weather here is exempt from complaining only about 2 days a year. It’s either too cold or too hot and humid to do anything—so we all just work, instead.

Some of the lovelies that I have the pleasure of working with daily had me thinking about this tug we all feel from time to time. It’s a tug that pulls us in-- seeking ways to make ourselves fit. At other times, it’s a tug the other way—a pull to stand up and stand out. 

Both states of being at work are right and are both important. Despite what your coach or momma might tell you, you can’t be all one way, all of the time. Building awareness of where you are in your career, what the organization needs from you at the moment, and how to intentionally toggle between the two is an important skill.  

Understanding that being new to the job or newly promoted probably warrants a period of learning the ropes and fitting in. Your days might be filled with a lot of active listening, reading, studying others, and sticking pretty close to delivering what you’ve been asked to produce. 

Other times demand that you intentionally stand up and stand out. Big changes on the horizon? Is leadership needed to set a more profitable course for the future? Assuming that you’re working under normal office conditions (i.e., not managing a crisis response team in Nepal), efforts to stand out are more effective when done from a foundation of understanding. When you have a solid grasp of your organization’s purpose and culture, your ideas and suggestions come from a point of strength and awareness, as opposed to wild ass guesses about what might just work.