Growing up in the U.S., most of us wanted to fit in, be accepted, and make friends. No one wanted to stand out and be the “weird kid” in class.
Heck, no one wanted to be labeled as the smart kid, the nerd, or the geek in school either. Sad, huh?
Maybe it was a Midwestern thing in the U.S., but it wasn’t cool to be smart (at least not in the 70s and 80s). Instead, people wanted to be popular and athletic.
The kids who stood out in school (and were sometimes bullied) suddenly had a fantastic place to fit in. They are surrounded by others just like them.
Unfortunately, this environment creates an entirely new problem when you are competing with others for desirable jobs. When everyone fits in, no one stands out.
It also seems like everyone has read the same advice about resumes, cover letters, job search strategies, and interviewing skills. As a hiring manager, I remember how 99% of the cover letters and resumes seemed to “play it safe.”
Every candidate sought to do the right thing and tried to anticipate what interviewers expected. People seemed nervous about being bold and being themselves. They wanted to be the perfect image of the ideal candidate — just like everyone else.
Wow, it’s like high school all over again. No one wants to be seen as “weird,” risk standing out in a “bad way,” and not get the job offer.
Well, I’m here to tell you that you’d better take some chances and let your real personality shine through. If you don’t, you’ll blend in with everyone else and miss your opportunity to connect with a team that would love you for who you uniquely are.
The value of being unique
Above is a photo of a custom woodworking hand plane that sells for over $5,500 CDN.
Yes, over $5K. Not the typical $20-$200 for a plane you would buy at The Home Depot.
The story behind that custom hand plane is about finding your niche and the people who are willing to pay almost anything for what you have to offer.
If you are an employee and think that this doesn’t apply to you because you have no interest in entrepreneurship, running your own business, or creating your own products, think again.
I met this craftsman at a conference several years ago. I was lucky enough to try some of his planes. They are amazing. I pushed off a curl of wood so thin that I could almost see through it.
He is a true artisan. He meticulously crafts every component of these planes.
People from all over the world pay a pretty penny for them. He can’t keep up with the demand!
He’s a talented woodworker too. This business began with him wanting a better plane for himself. Most planes aren’t that great, and they fall out of adjustment quickly.
Isn’t that how inspiration struck many an innovator? They wanted to scratch their own itch.
So, he set out to make his own hand plane. He showed it to a friend who also wanted a custom plane made to fit his hand.
Long story short, he went from barely getting by as a furniture maker to his premium-priced planes being in demand globally.
Read this post and tell me he isn’t passionate about his craft.
What is the lesson from this?
Make the “Product of You” uniquely about what only you can do.
Hone your craft to the point of expertise that few — if any — can match.
Resist the urge to be all things to all people.
Embrace your authenticity.
Bring who you really are to your role.
Work where you can be yourself.
This advice isn’t only for entrepreneurs and business owners. It applies to employees as well.
For every job opening at a fantastic company, there are hundreds of people (sometimes thousands) competing with you for that position. For every promotion available, you are competing with your colleagues who want to advance their careers as well.
A manager can’t give everyone a raise or bonus every year. Be you, stand out, and produce amazing results, so that you’re on that shortlist.
Rise above the noise.
Break free of the masses of the “Me too” people.
Remember, no one can literally be you. No one can copy “You.”
Double down on your uniqueness. Be bold and take risks. Stop creating resumes, cover letters, portfolios, presentations, and online bios that read like every other person in your profession.
There will be people who love who you are. There will be people who don’t. And that is precisely what you want. You don’t want people to feel neutral about you.
Being “so-so” or “ok” at what you do isn’t good enough. Acting like everyone else won’t help you rise to the top, either.
Aim for the love, accept the hate, and know that your uniqueness will be what sets you apart, maximizes your lifetime earning potential, and sets you on the path for a career that matters.
Did you listen to last week’s career tips?
I’ve added a weekly audio digest for my premium subscribers. It’s a great way to quickly catch up on all of the week’s career tips in one podcast episode. In the last one I talked about:
How to stop treating people in power differently
Pinning down your manager this time of the year
Why PMCS works for careers too
The benefits of putting away your phone and laptop
What I’ve been reading:
In How to Figure Out How Much Influence You Have at Work, the author shares advice on how to conduct an audit of the power you have in your career. Do you have a limited and constrained network (e.g., only within your company)? Do people provide you with more assistance and value than you give to them (e.g., helping with getting deals done)? If your power score is out of whack, then you need to create a plan to increase your value and build up your influence.
“86% of developers said they currently work remotely in some capacity, according to a DigitalOcean report.” Hey, it’s only taken decades longer than we expected, but Remote Work Is the New Norm. Some people are concerned about this shift and complain about the growing pains associated with remote and distributed teams. The smart folks realize that this is the future and are embracing it as quickly as possible.
Are you thinking about looking for a new job this year? If you do find something better, learn How To Quit Your Job Without Damaging Your Reputation. Some of the recommendations are obvious, such as giving proper notice. However, the author also suggests that you make sure your manager is the first person you tell (not your buddy at work) and that you create a transition plan.
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