Five Ways to Stand Out

Want to stand out? In the classroom if you’re in school or in the office if you have a job (regardless of the industry)… Getting lost in the crowd can hurt you in the long run. Really though. Stand out in the right way (aka for good reasons) and you just might get the best research opportunities from a professor who notices your outstanding talent or the promotion and raise you’ve been waiting for at work. (And… interns… this is the best way to be recognized among your peers for those coveted full time positions.)

image via

#1 Stay on top of your inbox
This is absolutely the number one way you can stand out. Everyone is bombarded with emails every day. I get it– emails can be the bane of my existence. But you don’t want to be known as the girl who’s “terrible with responding to emails.” I think nowadays being great with email correspondence is a sign of professionalism.
I personally have a “respond to everything” practice that I strictly adhere to. I don’t respond to every email I receive (like retail campaigns and junk mail and “there’s birthday cake in the kitchen” emails),  but I do make sure that if it needs a response, it gets taken care of… promptly. (If Mickey Drexler can respond to every email… it’s definitely possible.) 
This has been a priority for me and I cannot even begin to tell you how much this has made a difference in my career. Opportunities don’t knock on the door anymore… they pop up in your inbox. Staying on top of your inbox might mean something different for everyone. But I think two key factors are: keeping your inbox organized and reading everything.
I’m thinking that there might need to be a whole post about inbox maintenance– let me know if that’s something you want me to do!
#2 Know your value
This may not make you a favorite person in the moment, but you should always know your value and stand by it. The first rule of negotiation is that there is always wiggle room. (ALWAYS.) No one in their right mind is going to tell you the highest number they’re willing to offer. A good businessperson is going to lowball you in the hopes you agree because they save some money. Negotiate. Now, if you’re one year out of college, you don’t want to go into the negotiation demanding six figures. Research what the industry standard is and know what you’re going to bring to the table.
It really doesn’t just go for money, but that tends to be the easiest example to demonstrate. It’s also important to know your value for how you get treated by someone (a boss, a significant other, etc.).
#3 Have a life
This is one that I haven’t always done, but now really believe. I went into a meeting the other week that turned out to be a job interview. (I know! I was just as surprised as you are!) I’m not looking for a job, but I’m also not not looking for a job. If something amazing came up, I would definitely consider it. So I considered this job for a bit… but it was for a startup and I know how startups go having worked at one for over a year. I love having a life right now outside of work and I turned the job down.
I was totally one of those hamsters on the wheel last year and I honestly kind of loved it (even if I hated it) because I felt like I was doing something. But burning the candle on both ends of the stick does not translate into having a life. I wasn’t living, I was working.
Don’t get me wrong, I still work a lot now, but I definitely have a lot more fun and I’m more relaxed and I have lazy days when I want/need to be lazy. As a result of all this living, I think I can bring more to the table. I have more to talk about than just what’s going on on the work front, I can travel more and experience different things, and I can really just enjoy things now.
Now that I feel like I actually have a life, which I didn’t in college and the first year out of school, I feel like people definitely react differently towards me. Especially in NYC, people will always be shocked that I walk Teddy for an hour and half every morning and that I am not trapped in an office until 9pm. Instead of blending in with bags under my eyes, I can stand out for just being happier.
#4 Dress for the job you want, not for the job you have
This is the easiest thing to do and sometimes the most difficult choice to make in the morning. It doesn’t matter if all the other interns are wearing jeans and platform heels that they also wear out on the weekend, unless of course you want to look like all the other interns. Resist the urge to ask a friend what they’re wearing to something and instead imagine what your manager or boss would be pulling out her closet… Probably not that tight mini skirt with camisole and boyfriend blazer.
In addition to definitely sending a message to your boss (or professors!) that you take your job seriously, it can also help you internally feel more confident. Confidence = a very good thing.

#5 Find the good in everything
Stand out by being positive!!! I don’t think you have to go all rainbows and butterflies on everyone (they might want to strangle you…), but definitely try to avoid getting into negative conversations. Especially if it’s a gossipy conversation. So what if SoandSo did XYZ, remind everyone how she saved the day last when she had a copy of the presentation on a flashdrive. Your professor graded the papers harshly? Know that you can use the critiques to study best for the final exam!

There are people who feel wet and then there are people who feel the rain on their skin. (Go for it: break out into song and dance.)

Have you done something to help you stand out, at work or school or otherwise?


PS I had already written this post, but I just got an email from an editor from a major publication that I’m friends with. She was CCed on an email thread I was a part of… and her response (of course just to me!) was, “Lol @ ‘[exact dates and times that I sent over for something.]’ You’re so organized. (aka-blogger anomaly). I love it :)” It’s not something people are used to, but it makes you stand out and it’s not that difficult at all to do!

Say Hello

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Oh man, a post about email organization would make me extremely happy! So I cannot get rid of emails but then I just let me hoard up in my inbox and it always overwhelms me when I try to search for something later. I am good with replying, just not the organizing. My mom always says the "dress for the job you want" quote. I think it is a great life motto to live by because you can apply it to not only your outfit but your overall performance too.

Annie Belle

Kayla Kristina

This post was a gem! Especially since I'm starting my freshman year of college as a journalism major this August, God knows the internships I'm going to want to apply to when the time rolls around.

xo KK

Samantha Kay

These are really great, helpful tips that I think anyone can gain from. I definitely struggle with wanting people to notice my work. Great positive motivation.

Kayla B

I would love a post on inbox maintenance! As an organizing junkie, I am way nosy and love to see how other people keep on top of things. 🙂

Also, I liked how your tips were a mix of what you can do for others and what you can do for yourself. It seems to me that people often err on one side or the other of that spectrum when it comes to professional life.


Ah! That is such a good point… I didn't do that on purpose, but you're SO right. Standing out is not just about what you do for yourself, but how you make other people feel!

Kim Topolewski

I'll admit, sometimes I don't always dress 100% professional at work and it's mostly influenced by the fact that no one else does! I work in IT so the expectation is very casual. I still try and keep my jeans to only one, possibly 2 days a week (if I've run out of dress pants/skirts!). But I always get compliments when I "dress down", even from my Managing Director!

I've found that you need to have at least that ONE thing that makes you stand out – for me, it's making everyone laugh and not taking things too serious. Tons of people I work with get really stressed out over things that are not that stress-worthy. While we know it's important stuff, I at least try and make them laugh. 🙂



Dressing for the job you want may actually mean dressing down in your case!! It definitely seems like your boss notices that!

Ashlie Boren

Really great tips. I especially like #3 I really think so few people take time to themselves, and it is crazy what a difference it makes. Your work is always better when you have had time away to do the things that are important to you.

Alex Byer

You put in some great tips, but I just have to say that not every startup leaves you without a life. Some very actively promote the work/life balance because they're people too and they understand that less stressed employees can be more productive! I just don't want you or anyone else to think that ALL startups are like that all the time because of a bad experience!


Sometimes I hate standing out, but the way you put it seems like standing out will make me a happier person. I'm probably going to re-read this later and try to apply it to my hectic life. Please do more post like this and an email maintenance post!


I would love a post about email organization! I just started my first full time job & feel like I have a grasp on it, but would love to hear your tips!


Great post, and I couldn't agree more with all of these points!!

Sometimes, when things get crazy, I neglect #1 and 4 a bit…but at my office, even on a casual day, I'm still one of the most dressed up people there!

xo Jackie
Something About That


All great tips! I would really love an email post, on organization and correspondence, but maybe also jargon tips!? As a millennial in a company of predominantly Gen-Xers and older, I struggle way more than I anticipated with finding a good balance between friendly and professional- no one wants to seem unbudgingly serious, but I always have that haunting fear of being tainted by an occasion of unprofessionalism.

Taylor Hoffman

This is such a great post!! I think these are great tips that don't make you overtly stand out (especially for something you shouldn't stand out for…if that makes sense)!

xo, Taylor

Katherine L

I love the forth point. For years, I've had friends and family say to me, "Why are you so dressed up?". But you never know when an opportunity might strike (like when a meeting turns into a job interview, or an appointment with a professor results in a research position). Chances are, people will respect you more if you dress for the part you want to have.


Gigi @ Dolce and Gabriella

These are great tips. It's so true that if you want to go places, you need to be an outlier. Especially in the industries we work in, competition is so steep that "good" isn't good enough–you've got to be fantastic at something.

I think what I'd add is the importance of sincerity when you make connections. People can spot fake from a mile away. We've all had those conversations with someone whose laugh is a little too loud or who doesn't *quite* look like they're paying attention to what we're saying. If you genuinely listen, ask questions and give thoughtful responses, and then remember that conversation next time you talk to them (remember names!!)–you'll stand out as a truly compassionate person.

Love, Gigi
Dolce and Gabriella

B. L. J.

Hey Carly I love reading, everything you write about is just so interesting and helpful to me. It always puts a smile on my face to see what you've posted! Can't get enough, and I'd love to hear more about how you organize your inbox. Also, I'm curious to know more about how you organize/ manage all of your electronics(phone, laptop, desktop, email, etc.) in general becasue I seriously need help in that department, lol.

Jasmine Brink-Li

I absolutely love the 4th tip – dressing for the job you want, not the one you have. I need this printed out and posted in my closet and bathroom. I go through phases, but really need to clean up my work wardrobe! Especially since my workplace is so casual.

Alexandra Zambrano

This is an amazing post. I love it when you write about these kinds of topics. They really help me reflect on how I'm leading my own life (also yes please post about inbox management)! You are awesome as always!!


I think that another thing that really makes people stand out is not asking questions when you can research it on your own. I think a lot of times people go with the easy way out and ask their mentor questions that they could work through on their own or research on their own. By showing independence you can really set yourself apart and become a stronger worker.



That's such a good point!! And if you do the research and have a followup question, you'll get a way better response too because it's specific!


Um….except my company sent you an email invite and there was no response. Not even a decline. Guess you missed that one?