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How to Be Remarkable (While Most Everyone Else is Terrible)

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Stand out from the crowd

One aspect of professional life that transcends industries, companies, cultures and geography is the presence of crappy co-workers. Not people who are unlikable or annoying, but the people who just suck at their jobs.

No doubt you’ve seen your share of the tell-tale signs — sloppy emails, thoughtless answers to questions, late all the time, awkward with clients, clearly coasting on the job — the list could go on forever. You can only see so many of these guys before concluding that most people are terrible at what they do.

That might sound overly general, but consider that most people dislike their job and that one out of four people with a job plans to leave in the next year (some put this number at one out of three). If someone wants to leave their job amidst 9.1% unemployment, they probably dislike it enough to not care about their performance. It’s not exactly a stretch to think the majority of people doing a job they dislike will do it poorly.

Crappy colleagues and co-workers cause plenty of frustration, but they also create opportunities to stand out. Indeed, the presence of so many terrible people generally results in the absence of remarkable people. So how do we fill that void? How do we become remarkable? Doing just a few little things right will not only keep you out of the “terrible” bucket, but it will make you seem remarkable — in a good way.

It helps to first understand three types of Remarkable: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Good

Probably the most obvious because the word remarkable tends to carry a positive connotation, the Good Remarkable people are reliable, competent and capable. They seem rare because, as explained above, most people are just not good at what they do.

The good remarkables are the people you can count on to meet deadlines, hit goals, deliver what’s expected, and demonstrate professionalism at every turn. In other words, they do what they say they are going to do.

Bad (or Unremarkable)

These are the people who fade into the background, never really screwing up, but never really doing anything good. They tend to go through the motions, stay out of trouble, but always do the minimum. Unremarkable people are not the worst people to have around, but they certainly aren’t the ones you want on your team.

Ugly

The shockingly inept, seemingly incapable of doing their job well, probably indifferent, remarkable for how bad they are. Again, these people are everywhere and can really suck the life out of a team or project.

Obviously we all want to be Good Remarkable, and it actually doesn’t take much to get there. Just doing what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it, is a great start, one that can put you ahead of most everyone else.

For example, when hiring web developers, I’ve really struggled to find someone that could communicate reliably via email. Think about how easy that is — returning an email, even if it’s to say, “Tim, I’m swamped right now but haven’t forgotten you. Here’s where we are in the project, can we talk later this week?”

Even if one developer is more talented than another, I will hire the reliable communicator 10 times out of 10, all because they do this one simple (but important) thing better. I know firms that have lost business because of poor communication, which is a shame because this is such low-hanging fruit.

Another way to stand out, unfortunately, is by delivering a quality product when you said you would deliver it. I say “unfortunately” because this is as rare as it is obvious! How often do you get a product — whether it’s a meal, widget, plan or service — that is hastily slapped together or carelessly executed? Just by doing what you said you would do, you can separate yourself from the vast majority of people who regularly cut corners or skimp on quality.

Now that we’ve been over the easy and obvious ways to stand out, check out one over-the-top example: HARO founder and new Vocus VP Peter Shankman sent out a tweet to Morton’s steakhouse — and this is how they reacted. If you don’t call this an over-the-top example of Good Remarkable, I just don’t know what to tell you.

So, after reading that most people are terrible at their jobs and considering different ways a person can be remarkable, which one are you?

Take a critical look at yourself and develop an honest professional assessment. If you fall into one of the Bad Remarkable categories, dig until you find out why.

Chances are it’s because you are missing a few really easy ways to stand out from most other people. Brainstorm how you can start standing out, and go from there. The positive feedback you’ll get, not to mention the improved reputation, will certainly provide the fuel to keep improving.

If “good help is hard to find,” doing the little stuff will make you Good Remarkable and, considering the quality of most other workers, make you an easy-to-find standout.

Tim Murphy is founder of ApplyMate.com, a free application tracking tool.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

  • Anonymous

    It’s so easy to be a Bad Unremarkable, especially if you are at a job that you do because you have it and not because you love it. But these days you should be happy to have any job at all and be thankful for that. This is a great reminder.

    • Tim

      Hey Trisha,

      It really is easy to fall into the Bad Remarkable bucket (I may or may not be speaking from experience here… :)). Hopefully people can change a few little things to stand out in a good way. Thanks for reading!

  • Anonymous

    Love this post!

    • Tim

      Charismanclass,

      Sweet – glad to hear it! Thanks for the feedback.

      Tim

  • http://twitter.com/CareerSearchAM John U Lord

    Haha…what a great post — sad, but true, isn’t it? I’ve learned over the years that it’s critical not be be distracted by crappy/terrible/unremarkable coworkers. You really just need to do your job, do it well and constantly be thinking how you can do it better and more efficiently.

    • Tim

      Hi John,

      Great point about not being distracted by crappy co-workers. My post focussed more on how to avoid being one of those crappy guys, but you’re right – it takes some patience to keep doing your job amidst the bad ones. Thanks a lot for contributing.

      Tim

    • http://www.casinomigliorionline.it/ Gray33

      You are absolutely right, no doubts about it :)

  • http://alexisgrant.com Alexis Grant

    This IS so true! Sometimes it only takes being consistent and reliable to stick out from the pack.

    • Tim

      Thanks, Alexis!

    • http://twitter.com/mycolleges MyCollegesandCareers

      It’s unfortunate how much our generation struggles with reliability and dependability. If you can show up and deliver on what you’re promise, people notice. -Sarah

  • Deadhedge

    How does cross dressing at work fit on your list? Is that good, bad, or ugly?

  • Kevin

    I think you’re missing a category:in addition to Good, Bad, and Ugly, there’s the Activist. These are change agents. The have to be Good members also or they’ll be perceived as simply complainers (and depending on company culture, may be anyway). But activists are interested in improving the status quo for the company, for workers, for customers, for all three. They are disrupters, one hopes in the best way. They are memorable as well as remarkable which can lead to greater power (power defined as the ability to get things done) and influence. Perhaps Activist is a special sub category of Good, but it may be worth thinking about…

    • Tim

      Kevin – great point. I think Disrupters/Activists can be a subset of Good Remarkable. While I didn’t mention them specifically, that’s exactly the kind of person I’d consider Good Remarkable. Thanks a lot for adding!

      Tim

  • Ashley

    Very good article. Unfortunately, in today’s workplace, a lot of employer’s prefer to keep the unremarkable and bad employees over those that are remarkable.

    • Tim

      Hi Ashley,

      Why do you think this is? I’m going to write a post that loosely deals with this issue. Would be curious as to why you think employers prefer unremarkable and bad employees over those that are remarkable.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Tim

      • Ashley

        From personal experience of having my position recently eliminated for being “remarkable.” What I found is that my employer, while claiming to hire me for my “creativity” (position was created just for me while I was at another company), really wanted someone who would fall in line and do things the way they’ve always been done. Remarkable employees are more apt to stand out and stand up. I wasn’t afraid to say “No, this won’t work. Let’s try it this way.”

        • Tim

          Hi Ashley,

          Sorry to hear about that – sounds like your employer really didn’t know what they wanted. Don’t let that keep you down though, I’m sure you’ll find a gig where you’re actually appreciated for your creativity. Best of luck.

          Tim

        • Victoria

          I totally agree Ashley, I was hired into my current role because I could think outside the square and I have a track record for improving processes, but now I get shot down any time I take innitiative or come up with an idea.

  • http://www.htcsimunlock.com/htc-incredible-2-unlock.html Damoobile

    I always try to be remarkable, however it isnt always like that. Some ppl have more courage than me, and they will stand up from others. Thanks for the post.

    • http://windows7speedup.com/ Rich

      I have exactly the same issue. I’m too embarrassed from who I really am. However, I hope that changes one day.

  • Ev

    I would say there are people who very much start out as the Good yet become disillusioned with their company’s bad culture, lack of strategy or support, or dead-end progression.

    • Tim

      Hey Ev,

      Yeah, it’s a shame how many people just get beaten down by poor corporate culture. Hope this isn’t you…

      If so, keep up a good attitude as long as you can. Being good remarkable might not pay off until you need a recommendation down the road, but it will certainly pay off someday.

      Thanks for the input.

      Tim

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  • http://buykindleuk.co.uk Buy Kindle

    Thanks for the tips. I love attention. So this reading was worth.

  • http://www.getknownseo.com Adam Perkins

    Read a great book recently about placing talent in the correct roles and I was reminded immediately after reading this. I think a lot of folks aren’t in the right roles and this is a great example. This line of thinking can also illuminate why we try so hard to be things we aren’t terribly good at. Find your strengths and passions and chances are they are have a lot of crossover.

  • http://howtogetlaideasy.com Marc Asper

    Thanks for the interesting post. My wife has troubles getting enough attention at work, so I gave her this article. Thanks!

    • http://www.cheapcarhirerates.co.uk/ Reigo

      Same here, I will let him read the article :P

  • http://www.getmyexboyfriendbackfast.com Steff@get-my-ex-boyfriend-back

    Hi Tim,

    It’s so true, isn’t it? Whenever there is a problem, there is opportunity. I read the Morton Steakhouse story. One question though. I have in the past bent over backwards for my customers but they seem to be thinking that this is the standard service they should receive. What do you make of that?

    • Tim

      Hi Steff,

      First of all, thanks for the comment. Yours is a good question and something that service people and business owners struggle with on a daily basis. Is the customer always right? While you should emphasize customer service and make it a center piece of your business, there comes a time when a client or customer becomes more trouble then they are worth. At that point it might be time to “fire” your customer, rather than spin your wheels to answer what can be endless and unproductive questions. You’ll have to take this on a case-by-case basis, and the decision should never be made lightly. But in the end, focus on the best customers most and weed out the time-waster clients as needed. Check out the 80/20 principle for more on this.

      Thanks again for the comment!

      Tim

      • http://www.photoincanvas.co.uk/ Jessy28

        Thanks for the reply, I appreciate your kindness.

    • http://www.gamblestart.com/ Mason

      I luike your reply. Seems to make point :)

  • http://www.premiumjetset.com/ victoria alex

    This is a great article , very true and i know , i have been there . You have to be positive and really push to be consistent and stand out and don’t give in . Thanks for sharing this , fantastic

  • http://sims-3-cheats.net/ Jim

    Very interesting points you got there. My wife is remarkable person, but yet she is not “brave” enough to show it on her work. However, I try to convince her.
    THanks for the tips!

  • http://google-redirect-virus-removal.org/ Mike

    you should also write article “how to get courage” since I would like to be remarkable, but I’m just afraid. Don’t really know what to do in this case…

    • http://cheatsforskyrim.com/ Lexxy5646

      Yes, maybe someone can share this kind of article? Thanks…