THE BLOG

How to Make the Team

03/26/2015 12:02 pm ET | Updated May 26, 2015

If you've ever tried out for a sports team, you know the importance of training and practicing to perfect your skills. When it's time to try out, you want to be ready to give it your all and stand out from the crowd. Your goal is to be one of the few tapped on the shoulder by the coach to become part of something special -- the team.

It's no different in STEM fields or the rest of the business world. We all want to do well, to be noticed, to be selected to become part of something special. We all want to be part of the team. But with so much competition out there, what does it take for you to stand out and get that coveted tap on the shoulder? It's ultimately up to you, but here are four things you can do to improve your odds.

1. Make a good first impression. There are no do-overs, so take a long look in the mirror before your meeting. Make sure your outfit is appropriate for the occasion. If you're not sure to go business casual or business suit, ask for advice. Are you tired (definitely not a good thing and usually quite noticeable) or are you alert and engaged (what every "coach" is seeking)? You only get one chance at that first impression. Make the most of it.

2. Get engaged. It's important to a team's success that every team member contributes. Ask questions, articulate your ideas and contribute to the improvement of ideas shared by others. Avoid taking a passive role and just observing the rest of the team. That's how you end up on the bench.

3. Communicate effectively. Both written and verbal communications matter. And everyone is in sales. For some, it's products and services, but for others it's ideas. (Even scientists, doctors and engineers are in sales!) The ability to quickly, succinctly, clearly and simply communicate verbally and in writing is an invaluable asset to bring to any team and should not be underestimated.

4. Take risks. Allow yourself to push beyond what's comfortable. Remember when you first got behind the wheel of a car? You weren't born with this skill, so you had to learn it and practice it to be skilled enough to drive solo. This willingness to try, to do something different, to tackle a new challenge -- even when there is a chance of failure -- is another way to get noticed.

It doesn't matter whether the team you want to join is a new start-up, a large corporation, an internal project team, a local weekend soccer club or an Olympic squad. In all cases, nothing speaks louder than your actions and what you can contribute. It's up to you. So, are you ready to get in the game?