As the World Cup kicked off this month in Brazil, the U.S. team is facing what seems like an impossible task: To reach the second round of play, they must play up to par with two traditional soccer powerhouses, second-ranked Germany and fourth-ranked Portugal, along with Ghana, a scrappy team that’s beaten them in two previous World Cup tournaments.
But as sports fans know well, the underdog can quickly become top dog. Long-time soccer fans probably remember the 1990 World Cup, when Cameroon upset Argentina. The reigning champion was expecting an easy match and instead met a tough, determined squad that went on to win its first-round group and eventually became the first African side ever to reach the World Cup quarter-finals.
If you’re an underdog in your workplace, you might worry that your manager or coworkers will overlook your talents or take your potential too lightly, the way Argentina underestimated Cameroon’s grit and skill. But like Cameroon proved, underdogs can be some of the strongest players in any group. Turn your underdog status into an advantage at the office by following these four tips:
1. Showcase your strong work ethic. If you’re an underdog, you’ve likely gone through considerable struggle to get where you are now. For that reason, you’re resilient, and you have an inner drive that pushes you to excel at whatever you do. Put that enthusiasm on display when you’re given tough tasks, whether that means putting in extra time, quickly picking up new job skills or turning a project around on a tight deadline.
2. Put your creativity and resourcefulness front and center. Underdogs are often more willing to try an unconventional strategy or take smart risks because they feel they don’t have much to lose. When challenges arise at work, your creativity could come in handy. Don’t be afraid to propose innovative solutions to your manager and colleagues.
3. Use your awareness of social nuances to gain an edge. As an underdog, you may have started your career as an outsider working hard to fit in. That means you’ve developed strong observational and collaboration skills. You can assess a situation quickly and figure out how to work best with a diverse group of people. Put those abilities to work when your company is looking to win over new customers, you’re asked to take part in a project that requires strong teamwork or you’re simply welcoming a new employee to the group.
4. Demonstrate gratitude. Because you’re an underdog, you’re less likely to take things for granted. You remember what it’s like to have few resources and little support. You tend to notice when people help you at work, so be sure to show your appreciation. Even a simple thank-you can go a long way toward building good chemistry with coworkers.
Many favored World Cup teams have learned the hard way not to count the underdog out. If you’re an underdog, make sure you’re not undervalued in the workplace. Use your hard-earned skills and perspective to help your company meet — and exceed — its goals.