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6 Ways to Distinguish Yourself as a Business Professional



6228823-portrait-of-a-smiling-african-american-business-man-showing-a-thumbs-up-sign-on-white-backgroundSo you have a degree maybe two. Perhaps you studied abroad, your CV is so rich; you were offered a job at the company of your dreams. You are very excited, you can’t wait to start. Then in your first week, you discover that all your colleagues have similar educational backgrounds. Few even have PhDs – you are not that special. What now?

Deciding to stand out may be your best option of getting ahead in such an organisation. These six steps should help you get started:

Know Yourself 

Many potential high flyers spend years trying to fit in that they never reach their peak. They are so afraid of being different that they never discover who they are but gradually become clones of those around them.

This is sadly unproductive because the truth is that you are not like everybody. In fact, you are not like anybody! There is only one person with the unique combination of your background, personality, talents, skills and experiences. That means that there are thing(s) you do better than most people. It is a good idea to spend time in discovering your gifts then revel in them. You stand a better chance when you spend your days doing things you are naturally good at. What more? Everyone will soon notice that you are good.

Adapt Less

For many people, the first day at a new place is terrifying. For some weeks, you may feel out of sync, anxious, as you observe your environment. In this time, you are mentally documenting the behavioural patterns, habits, actions, of those around you. Naturally and subconsciously we start to mould ourselves to reflect the same attitudes. Adaptation to a new environment would have been completely positive except that some people do not have a cut-off point. They are so bent on fitting in that they lose themselves.

Remember, you probably won’t have been hired if you did not stand out at the interview.  Why then would you, after getting the job throw away all the reasons you were chosen in the first place? The trick is to fit in so much as to be part of the team without burying the traits that make you unique. It is a chameleon’s ability to adapt that makes it so hard to kill but you never see it becoming a stick or a stone just to stay alive.

Dress Up

Imagine you resume work for the first day at a bank and find everyone in your office wearing torn, oil stained jeans and rumpled tee shirts. Would you join them? Hopefully you will have the presence of mind to be grateful for such a liberal bank and make sure your jeans are ever neat and your shirt crisply ironed. Unwittingly, many people are unaware of how useful their dressing is in setting them apart. They get into an organisation, and then follow the dress code to the letter. Some people lack imagination so much that they buy multiples of a particular shirt and wear it throughout the week! Life is not that bad. Your ability to interpret your company’s dress code in a way that reflects your individuality and professionalism says a lot about you. It says you are a team player yet an individual, you are creative, you are confident, and you can apply yourself. Even if it’s only a brooch or a scarf you feel comfortable adding, it will set you apart.

Be Informed

It is baffling to hear adults say that they hate the News. They dislike it so much that they steer clear of it over any medium. The moment it comes on, they are looking for the switch to flick it off. Of course everyone is entitled to their proclivities but it is mind boggling how anyone can live without information about what is happening around them and in the larger world. Information is the currency of the future and by information, I refer to news from reputable sources not tabloids or blogs that specialise in irrelevant news-who is faking a baby bump or who recently bought a new car.

As a savvy professional or business person, you are after information that will enable you have better conversations, predict the future and make better decisions. This is not restricted to current affairs but also to industry relevant news. You never know when your knowledge of stock market movements (as boring as it sounds) will be the perfect ice breaker.

Participate and Contribute in Meetings

Most professionals will tell you that they find meetings very boring. For that reason many would beg off under the guise of being too busy not minding that someone else gets sent in their place. If you are one of those people, it is important that you look from a different perspective.

Meeting(s) may look like a few boring people sitting around a shiny table yapping about nothing but in reality meetings  are more important than everything on your desk (unless you are a doctor in the operating room). Meetings provide an opportunity for you to see and be seen, make contact with senior colleagues you might not normally get the chance to chat with, contribute your ideas; looking smart in the process.  If you play your cards well, you will be building stronger relationships with the people who matter.

Ordinarily, nonentities don’t get sent to represent their departments or bosses anywhere. Bosses send upcoming, promising staff like you so be careful not to sell your birth right. Even if you think he/she is sending you for the wrong reason, be prepared to maximise the opportunity-make sure you give your best.

Be Upfront

A close friend told me about how in her work place, she was the most hard working employee. She would come in to work early and be the last to leave each night. When an unpleasant task came up, she got saddled with it and always did a spectacular job. Two years into her stay at this company, an opening for a junior manager became available. Susan wanted it badly so she started to work twice as hard as she was already doing. To her disappointment, she did not get the position. Instead a less capable colleague (in her opinion) was promoted, thereby becoming her boss.

After weeks of depression, Susan worked up the courage to ask the head of her department why she was not promoted considering how hard she worked. The answer was quite simple. Apparently no one had an idea that Susan wanted the new position. She had been working hard as usual but no one thought any of it. After all she had always been that way. On the other hand, the colleague who got the position had sort a private time with the Head of Department where he stated why he thought he would be a good fit for the job. If only my friend had done the same thing.

Most times being upfront about what you want sets gives you a head start. The worst thing that could happen is you don’t get it but at least you tried. It would hurt more if you didn’t try then lost the opportunity to someone less ‘capable’ than you.

In all, each of us is responsible for our actions or inactions. ‘Sidon look’ is not a beneficial strategy when the world is moving. Guard your careers with diligence but make sure you make good friends along the way.

Photo Credit:
Kome Olori Agulonu is a writer and business analyst. She is also the CEO of Chunky Jewels, a brand of unique, handmade, African inspired costume jewellery sold in the United Kingdom. You can follow her on twitter @komeolori or email her at [email protected]

Kome Olori Agulonu is a writer and trade finance analyst. She is also the CEO of Chunky Jewels, a brand of unique, African inspired costume jewellery sold online in the United Kingdom. You can read more of her writing on her blog: Connect with her via twitter @komeolori or email her at [email protected]


  1. Timilee

    April 24, 2013 at 9:41 am

    I really like! Recently got a promotion and can testify to most of your points. Also learnt alot from the post. I dont understand why people are bitter at their jobs when they have this ‘sidon look” approach to alot of things.

    Also, any opportunity to have an intelligent chat with a senior colleague should be grabbed. Even if you have nothing intelligent to say to impress the person, ask intelligent questions. The person would be impressed and you would also learn a thing or two for the future.

  2. bafy

    April 24, 2013 at 9:42 am

    Well said Kome….. wise words :-). Let those who have ears hear!

  3. Her Excellency

    April 24, 2013 at 9:53 am

    Very Intelligent and practical tips. Nice

  4. Olanrewaju Abdulfattah

    April 24, 2013 at 9:59 am

    Ur tip bit informed me change my thaught about business. Thank u

  5. Sassy Diva

    April 24, 2013 at 10:08 am

    This is so apt and right on point. I am an extremely high flyer who just left where i’ve been a star for so long and jumped into an organization that is so up there and on point. Its been pretty challenging and I have to keep asking myself why am i here- not anymore; this article has helped me realized that if I had not stood out at the interview, I wouldn’t have been hired. I am so making this work and getting my mojo back… Thanks Bella

    • Jo!

      April 24, 2013 at 1:28 pm

      hunh… “extremely high flyer”, “so on point”… hunh?

  6. Ochuko

    April 24, 2013 at 10:19 am

    Nice article, it is helpful. 😉

  7. jK

    April 24, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    God bless you for writing this. Being non chalant about my job for a while. But reading this has set me on track.

  8. ayo

    April 24, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    thanks a couldn’t have come any sooner,just resumed a new job at the critical care unit yesterday and i will surely apply some of these points you raised.Again, thank you

  9. Tosin

    April 25, 2013 at 6:06 am

    Serious jobs are annoying 🙂 Adapt, don’t adapt, dress code, express yourself, contradictory and a bloody waste of a human being’s energy.

  10. Lola

    April 25, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    Great stuff Kome! thanks for the tips! very useful…

  11. Ej

    April 25, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    believe me when i say i totally understand what you mean. I just changed jobs, moving across continents to a new place and recently got a feedback from the mgmt personnel that interview me. He said one of the reasons he employed me was because i was different and that even though i have been here for a short period of time i have kept that uniqueness and that in his opinion he thinks that’s why i’m shinning here.

  12. Ej

    April 25, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    believe me when i say i totally understand what you mean. I just changed jobs, moving across continents to a new place and recently got a feedback from the mgmt personnel that interviewed me. He said one of the reasons he employed me was because i was different and that even though i have been here for a short period of time i have kept that uniqueness and that in his opinion he thinks that’s why i’m shinning here.

  13. Ray

    April 26, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    Qc girls 2003 set are on fire today on bell naija sha, Kome and Ifesinachi, we are very proud of u both, keep it up! Well written articles, in true Queenly fashion.

  14. collins

    April 27, 2013 at 11:38 am

    9ice article, am nt yet employd bt dis write up hv given me d strenght to prove myself were ever i see myself working. Tanx

  15. Rita

    April 27, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    Inspiring… Exactly what I need fo a career lift!

  16. Kome Olori Agulonu

    April 29, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    Thank you everyone for your nice comments especially Ray. I am glad we make you proud. Pass on the Torch!!!

  17. oluseye

    April 30, 2013 at 11:08 am

    Nice write up here…

  18. Ifesinachi

    May 6, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    Just seeing this. Great tips, Kome! Will definitely come in handy.

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