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Men at Work | 6 Lessons from the Spice Girls on Standing Out in the Workplace

By Will Stroude

Before starting my own business I spent 6 years in banking. Not the fat-cat banking you hear about in the news, with trading floors, derivatives and big fat bonuses. I worked in Retail banking, the less sexy sibling that deals with things that affect every day people, the ones you see on your high street that provide your current accounts, mortgages and loans.

I managed to progress relatively quickly through the ranks. I was made a Branch Manager at 23, at 24 I was then put in charge of service and performance of 14 branches in West London and by 26 I had held Senior Management positions in Strategy and eCommerce.

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Did I work hard to get there? Absolutely. But working hard is only half the battle when it comes to getting promoted. I’ve seen plenty of people who are extremely talented and work extremely hard but don’t get anywhere. In my view that’s because they are missing the other half of the story – getting yourself noticed and being seen as credible by the people doing the promoting.

So if you are working hard climbing the snake up the ladder to that next step, here’s some ideas on how to stand out like you’re wearing a leopard print cat suit and platform shoes. As there’s all these Spice Girls rumours about at the minute around the 20 year anniversary of Wannabe I’ve categorised them using lyrics from their songs, because what’s driving you is ambition, I’m betting.

1) Holler


Don’t be shy. The next few ideas will only work if you are willing to stand out as wanting to progress and not be ashamed about it. You have to be bold to stand out and so many people I meet don’t want to for fear of being seen as the goody-two-shoes of the work place. On my first day of induction in banking I walked straight up to one of the Executive Directors in front of a room fool of people and asked to shadow her. I got mercilessly teased by my mates for doing it but two years later I was working for her. It’s worth the ribbing if it gets you noticed.

2) I’ll tell you what I want


This one’s really simple. Tell your boss that you are keen to progress. You can’t just expect them to know that this is the case and they might just assume you are happy what you are doing. You don’t have to do a zig-a-zig-ah about it, just let them know that you are keen to move forward in the organisation. The next step is to let them know what the next role you want to do is and ask them what they see as the key things that you need to improve on or achieve to get there.

3) You have got to reach on up


Once you know what your boss sees as your key development areas you can combine this with your own thoughts and feedback from others to put together a personal development plan. This will outline the areas that you need to improve on to move up to the next level. The key now is to actually use it and work towards making progress in those areas and this can be reviewed regularly with your boss. If you do this and then reach the level they outlined you needed to be at, it shows that you are working hard to develop. It also then becomes hard for them to not consider you for promotion the next time it comes up if you have reached the targets that you have set with them.

4) Say you’ll be there


There’s an optional networking event? Say you’ll be there. There’s a presentation on something outside of your current role? Say you’ll be there. Putting your hand up to take part in things that aren’t compulsory gets you noticed. When I was a branch manager the head of our group of branches needed someone to review the complaints of all 14 branches in the group every week. I put my hand up to do it. This wasn’t required as part of my job and was pretty tedious, but it got me noticed and it was one of the reasons I ended up getting moved into my next role.

5) Now I see through your eyes

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Ask to shadow people more senior to you and not just your boss. Ask to sit in on a senior leadership meeting to understand the decisions that go on at that level or in meetings that you wouldn’t normally get to be part of. This not only lets you see first-hand what it is like operating at a more senior level, it also gives you the opportunity to get noticed. Making a couple of astute observations or relevant comments in these meeting helps leaders in your organisation see that you have potential.

6) Overwear, underwear, anytime, anywhere


Dress for the job that you want rather than the job you have. Make sure you look the part and are smart at all times. Even on dress down Friday’s in some professions it’s advisable to still look pretty smart. Look at what your boss wears and take your cues from them. Even if you’re hungover from Thursday night at G-A-Y Late resist the temptation to dress comfy, you might not think people notice, but they do.

So there they are my tips for getting noticed. It’s up to you what you do with the advice… Take it, or leave it, or just don’t even bother…

Sanjay Sood-Smith is a food entrepreneur and former candidate on The Apprentice. You can find out more about his business Tuk In, which makes curry-in-a-naan, at

Follow him on Twitter at @sanjaysoodsmith

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