You are not special
It's true. Really. You are not a special unique snowflake. I'm not trying to bring anyone down, it's just a fact, so let's get it out of the way.
By no means am I special either; didn't want anyone out in the audience to think that I was being condescending.
Why bring up this ugly truth at all? Let me explain...
I was helping out a friend who was trying to find work. Since I don't really have that much familiarity with her background, I asked for her existing resume just to fill me in. This was, of course, my first mistake. I immediately set that aside and instead proceeded to ask her in some detail about the things that she had done, and the things she does in her spare time.
Why did I disregard the resume? Well, like many others that I have seen (mine included), her resume was pretty generic:
- Address and other contact information at the top
- Went to X school for Y program
- List of part-time jobs while in school
- One-line of interests at the bottom of the resume
Why does it matter that her resume is generic? Who cares?
Well, I care, to be frank.
My friend is not special. She's not in the top X% in her class. She hasn't won a bunch of awards. She didn't get a doctorate at age 16, or anything like that. By all means she is average, ordinary, mundane.
I'm being a little harsh, but I'm not much different in that sense, nor is anyone else. We are not special. This point is particularly salient when thinking about finding a job. We are not special and that's alright.
Again, why bring it up then, if it's alright to be normal?
In the context of a job search, you are normal; you are average. But so is everyone else, everyone that you're concerned with, at least. You're (probably) not part of the elite; you're competing with a bunch of schmucks just like yourself.
And that's the key:
"In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king".
My friend is, as we're concerned, average. But when I got to talking to her, there were a bunch of things that other people may not have that would be great at setting her apart:
- Had published a paper as part of her master's degree
- Travelled to Germany for a few months as part of a school program, and received a German language certificate
- Had written two novels that she had actively attempted to get published
- Actively participated as a community manager online
- Produced several short video productions for her classes that she could show
Again, these small things may not seem like much, but you are competing against people like yourself, and these small differences matter.
When I review co-op candidates at Willet, we get about fifty applicants a term. When I go through a first pass, I can immediately disregard about 80% of the candidates because there's nothing to set them apart. Some will have slightly better grades, or might have worked somewhere interesting, but many have nothing that really sets them apart from the others. The remaining 20% were those that had something, however minor, to make them worth looking at:
- A website
- A minor side project
- A blog
Pretty much any of those things set them apart, and it doesn't even have to be that much.
So that's it. You aren't special, but you don't have to be. You just need to have something about you that's worth noticing. If you're trying to get picked for something, at least.