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How to Be Impressive at Work (and Why)

Like many people in the shifting industry of life-sciences and clinical research, I worked at a company that was purchased by a large corporation. As you might expect, there was a new boss – someone for the team to impress. While many of my colleagues started competing for the boss’s attention, dropping by and calling him to share stories of their skills and past successes, I took a different path and helped my teams through the transition. After the merger, it was especially important to make sure that business was running smoothly in its new form and that everyone was staying focused on their targets.

You can probably guess which, between the schmoozers and doers, impressed the new boss.

I wanted to impress the new boss just as much as everyone else, but I realized that the best way to get noticed was by working hard, being pro-active and delivering growth. Apparently I took the right tactic, because the new boss congratulated me on my strong teams, our performance and the numbers we achieved. To this day, this is how I define “being impressive” on the job. But what does being impressive mean to you?

Or, rather, the first questions probably should be: Do you want to be impressive? Why or why not?

What’s the Point?

There are a lot of people who aren’t looking to advance “up the ranks” in the life-sciences industry and are really happy with the job they have. That’s great; it’s really important to enjoy what you do and to do a good job at it. Many also simply see their job as a source of income and tie their feelings of success to external factors, like family and personal projects or hobbies. However, even if that describes you, you’re still going to want to impress your team. Not only is it good for your continued employment (and potential raises), but it’s good for your self-esteem.

However, many people do want to advance, either to more senior roles with more authority (and money) or just in their expertise and capabilities in their current role. The defined career paths that comprise much of the clinical-research industry (e.g., CTA -> CRA -> LCRA -> CPM -> Director of Clinical Operations) make advancement a natural goal. There is also a lot of opportunity for so-called “sideways” moves, giving professionals the chance to explore different departments and try their hands at different functions (e.g., going from a study manager to an outsourcing manager or a scientist to a business developer). Obviously, if you want to make any career advances or changes, though, you’re going to need to impress someone.

So, whatever the situation is for you…sure, of course you want to impress. Now comes the trickier part: how?

The Impressiveness Exercise 

At Seuss, we did an exercise with the team: everyone was first asked to write down what they thought were the most basic things every employee needed to get right on the job. Answers included things like dressing appropriately, showing up on time, being prepared for daily tasks, having the right tools and mindset ready, doing the work assigned, being pleasant to colleagues, etc.

In the next round, everyone was asked what it meant to be impressive. Answers ranged from solving the bosses’ problems, going the extra mile and being beneficial to engaging, encouraging and supporting others, anticipating problems, coming up with solutions, etc. Whatever each person said, the main underlying themes were being pro-active, working hard and problem solving. It also made people question whether they were being impressive and think about what they could do impress their Seuss co-workers as well.

In short, everybody walked away with a fresh shot of motivation and a direction in which they could put it to use.

Your Turn

The first step to becoming more impressive is making the decision to do so. Just remember that being impressive is different from being ambitious! It’s okay to stay where you are and be excellent at your 9-to-5. You can still reap the benefits of impressiveness without looking for “something more.”

The next step is making sure that you’re not only meeting the minimum requirements of being a good employee (see our list above, and do go ahead and make your own). It is important to be on time, but to really impress you need to commit to being really be present in your work. Each day is a chance to make small improvements (that add up quickly).

Being impressive isn’t about schmoozing or constantly telling your boss how much work you’ve been doing. It’s about having good ideas with substance and thinking about how to solve your bosses’ and company’s problems. You should share your achievements and celebrate your successes, but you never want to be so loud about your ideas and successes that it becomes obnoxious to others around you. If you keep making incremental improvements and submitting solutions for consideration, you’ll not only impress your bosses but your colleagues as well. This will help you get your colleagues on your side and get stuff done. (Plus, who knows when those colleagues might be looking for an impressive person like you after they’ve undergone their own career moves in the future.)

We wholeheartedly encourage you to take a short break to ask yourself honestly: are you impressive? And if so, how and why? Or more importantly, why not?

Written by Sabine Hutchison who consistently impresses everyone with her dedication to providing recruitment and business development solutions for pharma, biotech and CRO clients.