Be Generic, But Stand Out At the Same Time

Finding a balance between being “generic” and “overly-specialized” in your career path can be a tricky situation. Growing up we are given the same advice over and over again about how to dress, behave, respond, and provide in an interview to maximize our chances of getting the job. Even though my entire generation is receiving those tips, I am still expected to “stand out”, yet my initial versions of standing out means changing the format or content of my documents, but somehow it is still considered “wrong”. Figuring out how to compete with people who have been taught the same things as you is difficult. In her book, Down and Out in the New Economy, Ilana Gershon states that “figuring out what makes you distinctive is an act of interpretation, but how people will read your efforts to portray yourself as distinctive also depends on context-specific interpretations” (62). Not only do you have to make sure that you are versatile enough to fit in to multiple careers, but you also have to stand out for the specific job you’re applying for. Being “overly-specialized” means that you are good at only one job and that can be harmful to your future as you’ll miss out on different career paths.

In her article “10 Ways to Stand Out In Your Interview”, Caroline Ceniza-Levine states that your interview starts from the moment you walk into the building and check-in at reception, however, Gershon states that the job search starts way before that. It starts when you’re building your resume, your LinkedIn profile, creating “a short, pithy way to describe what you do and what kind of work you would like to do” (63). This is what makes you stand out from other applicants.

Throughout our education we’re given the same career advice over and over again, so blending in with other applicants can sometimes be unavoidable. Gershon states that this can happen through our resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and interview answers (88). How to avoid that goes back to building your personal brand and being aware of how people interpret your attributes (83).

Knowing how to speak about your strengths to your advantage requires practice and preparation. Pridestaff’s article “How to Emphasize Your Strengths” advises readers to “rehearse specific examples of situations where you demonstrated your strengths on the job” and to “develop a series of short, versatile problem/solution scenarios that provide evidence of the skills or experience you have”. Even though talking about your strengths without sounding arrogant may seem like the tough task, there’s nothing harder than admitting your weaknesses to a potential employer. Forbes article, “How to Talk About Your Biggest Weakness in a Job Interview” states when an employer asks about your weaknesses, they are looking “for examples of how a person faced obstacles in the past”. They advise their readers to be prepared with an example of a situation where you overcame your weakness and turned it into a strength.