In my 20-plus years as a manager, I’ve found that the employees who make the best impression on me and stand out share a few similar traits.
1. They’re passionate about what they do
It’s impossible to be successful when the work you do doesn’t move you. Nothing gets you through a bad day—a tough business climate, a coworker you don’t get along with or a particularly hard project—than being excited about the big stuff. If you’re passionate about the work itself, the outside noise is easier to combat. A bad day is just a bad day because tomorrow is a new one and a chance to do what you love. It is also much harder—not impossible, but much harder—to be great at something you don’t enjoy. When you feel passionately about what you’re doing, you work harder; you’re more excited, more curious, probably more engaged and most likely just better at your job.
2. They hold themselves to consistently high standards
This is important in every job, from an entry-level assistant to the most senior executive. Never settle by compromising out of convenience or laziness—or because it’s “not your job.” If something’s not done good enough or if you know it could be better, help make that happen. Don’t wait for someone else to point it out.
3. They have an opinion
Don’t be afraid to speak up. I find it impossible to understand where a person stands if they don’t join the conversation. Opinions aren’t reserved for those in the corner office. Find your voice, and make sure to balance your input; you should be contributing roughly equal parts complimentary support of others with thoughtful, constructive criticism. And never be afraid to pitch an idea; we all have good ones, and we all have bad ones.
4. They stay calm
Unless you’re truly saving lives, leave your frustration at the door. The most successful people I see are the ones who make themselves easy to approach: Levelheaded and unbiased. In short, stay calm.
Jenna Lyons is the president and executive creative director of J.Crew Group, Inc. She oversees the design of men’s, women’s and Crewcuts, as well as the creative direction of the catalog, store design and JCrew.com.