How to Be a Big Fish in an Even Bigger Pond

As the calendar pages have turned to a new year, many people are setting resolutions to work harder and smarter, to get ahead of the pack. This time last year, 30 percent of employees set resolutions to get a raise or promotion in the coming year, a worthwhile pursuit. However, this may seem daunting, especially in larger companies were you can sometimes feel like a cog in a machine.

The good news for you is that you have a lot of control over how people view you, your work, and your leadership potential. There may be more competition in a larger organization, but there are also many more opportunities for growth. Here are some tips to distinguish yourself as a leader this year — and beyond.

Promote yourself, not your self-interests.

Half the battle of differentiating yourself from your colleagues lies in the nuances of communicating your achievements without bragging. Show that you’re ambitious: be hungry for work, curious and eager to learn, and invested in your team’s success. Ambition is very different from self-interest. And people can tell the difference between the two. When someone is trying to lead to promote their own self-interest, it’s detectable.

To be a true leader, it’s crucial that your decision-making and your actions serve to promote the good of the whole: think colleagues, customers and partners, and the overall company mission. In other words, over-promoting a personal attainment instead of looking out for the good of the whole is not positive brand building. In short, be a team player.

Understand and build your leadership skills.

Before you can establish yourself as a leader, you need to prove that you can manage people and tasks. Understanding your leadership style and how that translates to your day-to-day performance is key. Understanding the unique value you bring to a team and a company is even more important.

Once you understand how you work best, consistency in your behavior is critical, as is constant communication. Both create trust with colleagues and the individuals you manage. Consistent behavior and effective communication instill confidence with teams and senior management.

Companies place a lot of value on employee trust and dependability. That’s why it’s important to establish the qualities of follow-up and follow-through during professional development. Further, to build your true leadership capabilities, showcase your management skills: Share team wins and goals met, and communicate regularly with your colleagues. Become an advocate, mentor and partner to those around you.

Take advantage of available resources.

A significant benefit to working at a larger company is the amount of resources, programs and people available to support your professional development. Larger companies tend to have the financial wherewithal to invest more in people’s career growth. Enterprises often have formalized training programs or professional development programs available. Whether it’s an online training or an in-person workshop, take advantage of these opportunities. Not only are you showing an investment in your personal growth, your engagement and personal commitment to development sets the right example for those around you.

One-on-one mentorship also provides an opportunity to learn and develop new skills. A mentor can provide you with actionable advice on the internal nuances you should be aware of when working to advance your career within the company. They will know the key people you should associate and collaborate with, the skills that are highly valued by the company for people in your desired position, and the priorities of the business upon which you should focus your output and contribution. With a bit of “insider” insight, you can prime yourself for new leadership opportunities.

If your current company does not have any training or mentoring opportunities at the moment, another great way to demonstrate your leadership ability is to spearhead a pilot program to create those opportunities.

New Year, new you?

Executives and key decision-makers always identify the high potential leaders among their ranks. If you are committed to meeting and exceeding your goals within the new year, you’ll need to make sure you that you not only stand out from your peers (for all the right reasons), but you demonstrate clear potential for leadership and success. Focus on the right things in terms of your customers, your partners and your colleagues, and align with the company’s top priorities.

As a part of a larger company, you likely had an end-of-the-year performance review. I encourage you to look back at last year’s goals. How did you do? Be honest with yourself and focus on areas of development as well as your strengths. As it relates to the areas of development, create clear, actionable plans that will help you grow your skills. Ultimately, it’s up to you to take control of your own destiny and set a course for an awesome year.