There are some people who revel in that question and have no problem running through a litany of attributes and quirks they find charming about themselves. Then there are others who shrug and have a slight panic attack. It is something most people do not give much thought about, even though it is a desirous thing to know.
If you are in business and trying to appeal to a niche audience, they want to know what makes your offering unique. Why should they pay more attention, and maybe more money for your services versus someone else?
If you are searching for a job, you can be sure someone in the hiring process is going to ask you a variation of the question. It might sound like, “tell me your strengths”, “what are you most proud of” or more bluntly, “why should we hire you?” If you provide typical answers, you will not stand out, and won’t be called back.
Trying to get the attention of someone attractive? Sameness is not going to work. Uniqueness might.
So how do you find your uniqueness? You can take some online assessments or read your horoscope, but the Barnum effect is too great, and the temptation to believe how stereotypically wonderful you are will do little to prove your uniqueness. You might think you have a one-in-a-million personality, the gift for fashion, a winning smile or fabulous wit. Maybe you do. So do thousands, if not millions of others, and that makes carrying the mantle of unique a little harder to claim.
Better to seek an outside perspective. Find ten people you know; customers, colleagues, vendors, people who have worked with you a couple of times. They come back. Why? Ask them. Don’t put them on the spot, because you’ll more likely get a platitude rather than the unvarnished truth. Instead of an uncomfortable conversation near the vending machine, send each one a text or an email. Write something like; “I’m working on my personal development, and my coach insists I ask ten people, so at the risk of sounding arrogant, what do you think makes me unique? First thought is best. Don’t worry about offending or flattering me.”
If making that kind of request feels awkward that is okay. Conquer it and move forward. People like to be helpful, and they already know and like you, so they will respond. When they do, say thank you, nothing more. Do not encourage them to expound on your virtues, deny their perceptions, or start an argument with them. You do not want to get hung up with individual responses. Look for patterns in the aggregate. You will notice a couple of things emerging. No one thing will make you unique. It will be a few which will accompany other layers and variables that you add in, like geography and your personal demographics.
You are the only one in this place, at this time; that has those unique combinations. The reality is you are already unique. Now, go own it.
Karl Bimshas is the guy who makes sure your direct reports never have to work for a lousy leader. He’s the author of “How to Stay When You Want to Quit; Strategies to get over yourself“.