“In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.” – Coco Chanel
What differentiates you from everybody else, and why should people choose you over your competitors? You may think I'm talking about branding a business but Branding isn't just reserved for businesses. As a personal branding coach, I've found the strategies typically used to put your personal brand into your business can be used when applying for a career because the goal to make yourself stand out as the ideal candidate is the very same goal for a business to attract its ideal clients.
One of the biggest misconceptions in business is that you have to be better than the competition when in fact all you have to be is different. Everyone wants to be memorable yet many job seekers are stumped by the question: "How am I actually different from the competition?"
A Unique Selling Position (USP) in the business marketing sense is a brief marketing promise which sets you, your product or your services apart from others. A USP in a personal branding sense is what sets you apart from the other candidates and makes you stand out to the recruiters.
Here are my 9 simple steps to help you stand out when trying to secure your ideal career.
Step 1: Do your research.
This step is the foundation to building your personal brand. You can't possibly know what makes you unique or different if you don't know what's already out there or what recruiters are looking for.
In business, the SWOT analysis helps a company understand its Strengths, Weaknesses Opportunities and Threats, these criteria can help you as you try and find what makes you unique.
Learn how you stack up against your competitors. Take stock of your strengths and weaknesses and see what skills and experiences you can highlight or need to work on. Do you have more work experience in customer services? Have you started your own side business?
Find out what your future employers value, look at who currently works for them what skills do they encourage? What does their business stand for?
Opportunities & Threats
Too often, we compare ourselves to others "strengths" because they are the most “qualified” We become so concerned with not having the "right" degree from the "most prestigious establishments" or endorsed work experience with large corporations, but you don't have to always be better than your competitor the key to standing out is to be different.
In Dorie Clark's article How to Separate Yourself From the Competition, she profiles television chef Rachael Ray, someone who managed to reframe the lack of her expertise and make it into her Unique Selling Proposition.
In the world of cooking, television chefs were mainly seen as experts, with most owning their own high-end restaurant or being trained by the best chefs. Rachael Ray started as a food buyer for a gourmet market in Albany, N.Y. and did “30-minute meal” cooking demonstrations at the store. But it was exactly her lack of credentials that made her so popular on the Food Network, because, she represented the everyday cook. She was relatable to the audience and today Rachel has an empire, her own television show, recipe books and cookware.
Staying up to date on the industry trends can help you prepare for any opportunities or threats that are related to your recruiter's company. Is there an environmental or technology issue that you could talk about? Find out what you can offer. If it's something distinctive, different, unique, better, challenging, when given in the correct context - you can turn it into your very own unique selling proposition.
Now is also a good time to take stock of the necessary skills for your ideal career and to upgrade them if needed. You can take a short course or volunteer to update your skills.
Step 2. Use Keywords
Read the job description and highlight the recruiter's keywords. When you write your resume or cover letter simplify your communication by using the same language as them. If they ask for someone who has hands-on knowledge of Adobe make sure you highlight your relevant skills in your resume.
Step 3: Brainstorm
Make a list of the values you can add to the company?
Is there something you provide – technology designed an app, team leadership, management techniques you use, marketing tactics, wrote copy for a technology article, part of the debate team at university,
Step 4: Find your niche
Yes, they may be asking for a marketing assistant but finding your niche in the job description is a better way to way make you stand out. It shows them your immediate benefits. For example, don’t just write Social Media Marketing - niche your work and expertise - are you stronger or have more experience with Instagram than Facebook. You can state that you are more proficient with Instagram Projects but are able to transfer your skills to other social media platforms. Then highlight any recent Instagram projects you may have done. Of course, you want to make your skills applicable and extendable to other niches in the future but by focusing on your specific strengths and experience now will help you get noticed as an achiever and expert.
Step 5: Sell your benefits not your product
This leads nicely on from Step 4 where you are already highlighting what you have achieved. So you worked at Starbucks but rather than just saying what you did show your benefits.
Instead of telling recruiters "Served customers coffee" how about, "Worked on developing my customer service skills, helped increase customer interaction and engagement."
And where possible show them any tangible results you’ve generated. For example, if you're a realtor and you arranged an Open House, you could write "I organised an Open House in two weeks. I advertised the Open House using Instagram and Facebook which brought in 100 potential buyers. I presented each tour of the property and received four offers. In the end, the house owner accepted an offer at 3% over the asking price.”
Step 6: Build an online profile
Apart from a direct interview, the next reachable way for employers to assess your potential as an employee is by viewing your social media profiles. Recruiters are using this medium more and more as a way to gather information or their research on you. Having a platform that showcases your skills is often a prerequisite with most companies having LinkedIn accounts.
But remember it's not about how popular you are or how many likes or followers you have. Use your platform to showcase your skills. If you're a creative show your portfolio of work, if you're a writer - link to articles you've written. Think about what skills they are looking for and how you can show them on your platform.
Step 7. Acquire soft skills as marketable skills
Soft skills are skills we often take for granted. They might not appear on the job description but every recruiter hopes you have them. They show up in the interview process and can often make or break the interview. Are you a good listener? Can you take direction? Are you able to adapt to a different work environment? How well do you take positive criticism? Can you inspire others? How good is your time management? Do you possess critical thinking and leadership skills? Having these skills are becoming more and more essential in today’s job market. Find out what you need to work on and ensure you highlight those that you have.
Step 8: Learn to pitch yourself
A personal statement is a great way to describe yourself and simplify what you do into a pointed statement. The best-written statements leave an impression and an emotion.
Step 9 The interview: Be Memorable
You could turn up to the interview wearing a clown suit but a better technique to make yourself memorable is by telling a good, truthful story.
How much do you know about the New Zealand All Blacks? Maybe you know that they won the Rugby World Cup in 2011 and 2015 and maybe you know they have a 77 per cent winning record in test match rugby, what about being the only international men's side to have secured more wins than losses against every opponent. But what if I told you how the New Zealand All-Blacks rugby team, win or lose, cleaned their dressing room after every match. How each player sweeps and picks up and how they leave their dressing room as good or better than they found it. Now ask yourself - What do I know about the New Zealand All-Blacks. It may seem a small fact but it says a lot about their character and the culture of the team. And now that you know this - how many of you in your next conversation regarding sports, might mention this fact?
The same is with you when you are presenting your experiences. Showing your experience rather than just telling makes for a more memorable interview. Rather than just saying I was in charge of a sales team that helped bring in 6 figures explain what you did to achieve those goals. Practice telling a good story and ensure you stay on point and relevant to the question. You don't want to be remembered as the person who tells boring stories.