What makes you special?
People are not divided into those who are somewhat special and those who are not, but into those who can present their specialness and those who cannot.
How can you stand out from the crowd and make customers, employers or contractors pick you, from among all the others they can choose from?
Step 1: Prove you meet all typically required criteria
The first important thing when you want to succeed against competition is that you meet all the typical criteria required for the job. If you want a job as a lawyer, you need qualifications in the law, preferably from a good university. If your choice of field is quality catering, knowledge of, and skills in, catering are a must, together with a food hygiene certificate. Experience in a good workplace will definitely count. To get self-employed, some countries require qualifications or previous experience, and you should also have a good business plan and self-discipline.
Without meeting such requirements, you are likely to fail at the very beginning of your job search or business start-up. However, meeting those requirements will be considered obvious, not special. They will usually not be sufficient to get a good job or succeed in business, especially if you need to fight intense competition.
Step 2: Show you are different from the others
Among your competitors, many will have relevant qualifications and experience. To differ from them and catch the attention of potential employers, customers, clients or contractors, you need to show what else you can offer.
So the second very important thing is that you can present something special about you, something exceptional, which gives you an added value among all the people who have the typically required qualifications and competences.
Do you have anything that is special?
My coaching clients sometimes wonder whether there is anything so special about themselves, when they are asked about it. They think through each item on the list of their competences, qualifications, experiences, and think “so many other people have the same one”.
People often do not show what is special about them, not because there is nothing, but because they do not recognize what it is.
Your ‘unique selling point’ does not need to be a competence or experience that is so unusual that hardly anybody on Earth has it. What can make you unique is an interesting combination of competences, interests, contacts and experiences that, at first sight, might seem completely unrelated to each other.
Your speciality, your niche, will probably be based on something that is not generally required for your job, and perhaps not directly related to the field you work in.
What would you notice about others?
What positive do people notice about the others? Think of your own example, when somebody impressed you with their work.
People attract positive attention when, besides doing their work well, they surprise you by having an unexpected skill: an assistant who turns out to have a great sense of graphics when the team needs to quickly create leaflets. An IT colleague who has organized the most entertaining outdoor event for the team, using all sorts of skills he has gained as a scout. A hairstylist who, apart from great haircuts, is known for music playlists that please his target customers.
For a celebrity example, think about the following competences. How many people are good at motivating others? Not everybody, but quite a lot. There are also many people who care about the environment, and there are thousands of people who love cooking. But there are perhaps not that many people who use cooking to motivate people to change their unhealthy diets and eat free-range chicken. Jamie Oliver, has been named as the most powerful and influential person in the UK hospitality industry. He has attracted attention, because he did not do just cooking, just entertainment shows or only environmental projects. He combined all sorts of different interests, attitudes and passions – and that combination has made him special.
What is your niche?
You might have heard of the metaphor of treasure. Everybody has one, builds and carries it throughout life. It contains everything we have learnt, experienced, got familiar with, including knowledge and skills you have developed through your hobbies and in your private life, qualifications you gained ages ago and then almost forgot about, all your life experiences.
Any time you need to make a big career step such as a vocational choice, or a job or career change, or to start a business, remember your treasure chest and consider each gemstone. You might not use all of them constantly, but you can always try to combine some into a piece of jewellery, that will make you special.
Defining your niche can be a crucial step to choosing the right vocation or target group of your business, or to come up with new successful work ideas. Pay particular attention to it if you are considering a career change; it can help you make a good choice and start from much further on than zero.
Would you like some professional help with identifying what is special about you? Get a coaching session focused on defining and presenting your own niche.