No, really, what makes you so special? And, I don’t mean the fact that you can wiggle your ears or that you make a mean chicken alfredo – unless, of course, either of these talents are requirements in your chosen career field. What makes you special as a professional? What makes you stand out from the hundreds of thousands of other professionals out there, some of whom may be applying for the exact same positions to which you are applying?
Maybe you’re wondering why it’s even important to think about what makes you special. In my article, “Job Search in Tough Economic Times,” I mention that it’s not a good idea to blend in. You want current or potential employers to recognize your value – in order for that to happen, you need to not only recognize your value, but be able to articulate your value, as well. Knowing the ways in which you are special helps this process.
Many of us don’t take the time to really stop and think about the characteristics that make us especially marketable. So, I challenge you to do so – take a moment to think about 3-5 specific characteristics, (i.e. personal traits, skills, knowledge or experiences) that make you special as a professional within your chosen career field. Keep in mind that many of your competitors, (fellow applicants), will likely have similar skill sets, educational backgrounds, or even work experiences as you. So, if for example, your education is a characteristic you’ve identified as making you special, be sure to think of the aspects of your education that may be different than those of other candidates. Did you work full time while completing your studies? Were you an active member of student organizations? Did you write a paper on a particular topic that might be of interest to potential employers?
Once you’ve identified your 3-5 characteristics, take a few more moments to think of examples that illustrate each one. Then, become comfortable talking about these characteristics. Yes, I mean out loud. These characteristics will eventually become part of your “brand.” (I apologize, I know “branding” is a somewhat overused term, but I think the word really does fit in this situation.)
Then, as you write resumes and cover letters, as you network, and as you interview for positions, allow these characteristics to become something of an over-arching theme for how you market yourself. Of course, over time, re-evaluate these characteristics – you’re likely to have developed new ones.
Hopefully, you’ve been told you’re special; hopefully, you know that it’s true. Now, my hope is that you can articulate why.