Don't Be Afraid To Stand Out -- Be Afraid Of Blending In (2023)

One of the biggest job-search mistakes you can make is to play it safe. The more you look and sound like every other job seeker, the worse your job search experience will be.

The best way to get overlooked by employers is to brand yourself like an anonymous clone, put up with every kind of job search abuse and agree to every obnoxious demand an employer makes of you. This strategy will extend your job search, destroy your mojo and get you a lousy job. In short, it doesn't work very well!

My son has a hedgehog named Rocky. When Rocky gets spooked (and he gets spooked easily), he curls up into a ball. Then you can't see his face or his little soft belly. All you see is a ball of outward-facing spines.

Job seekers tend to do the same thing. They curl up into a ball and then all you can see of them is a public face -- on LinkedIn, in the job-seeker's resume and even in an interview conversation with them -- that doesn't resemble the real person at all. It's a protective shell.

Employers hire real people. They don't hire bundles of skills and certifications.

If someone wants to hire you mostly because they like your credentials, I don't want you to work for them. If they're hiring you because of your resume rather than because of who you are, it means they're afraid of getting in trouble for making a hiring mistake and they figure your resume makes you a "safe" hire. You can't afford to work for a fearful manager like that!

You deserve to work for someone who gets you (the person) way beyond whatever is on your resume. You and your hiring manager need to resonate at the same frequency or it's not going to work out -- and if you've ever worked for the wrong person, you know what I mean.

Job seekers are afraid to stand out, but standing out is the most important part of your job search.

I'm not talking about bragging. Boasting about yourself is the most fearful thing you can do. It screams desperation. That's why resumes with language like "Seasoned senior multi-skilled executive with outstanding leadership abilities" go right into the trashcan. Anybody can brag about themselves. Truly confident people wouldn't dream of doing that.

They simply tell their story and let the reader decide whether or not it's impressive. They don't stoop to praise themselves -- and neither should you.

If you want to stand out in your job search and attract the right people (simultaneously repelling the wrong people, the best way to avoid wasting your time with folks who will never deserve your talents) here's how to do it:

1. In your LinkedIn profile

A confident, non-boilerplate LinkedIn profile uses the word "I" and a conversational tone throughout. Not every recruiter or manager will like your human tone -- so what? You don't need everyone to like you.

2. In your resume

Your resume can also use the word "I" and complete sentences, rather than done-to-death sentence fragments like "Motivated self-starter." What does that even mean? You get motivated by exciting things, like everyone else. Tell us what you get excited about!

3. In your networking conversations

The world's worst answer to the casual networking question "What do you do professionally?" is "I'm job-hunting; know anyone who's hiring?" You are much more than a lowly, needy job seeker. You are a professional, and you are a consultant -- whether you've ever thought of yourself that way or not.

Decide which area you want to consult in, and then you can answer the question "What do you do?" like this: "I've been in supply chain management for years, and now I consult in that area." Then you can have a real conversation. "Oh! That's interesting. What are the big topics in supply chain management these days?"

Don't be afraid to re-brand yourself for a new year, and at a new altitude. You are getting smarter and wiser all the time. That wisdom brings confidence with it -- if you're willing to accept it! Don't be afraid to sound like yourself. Don't be afraid to step into your power.


4. In your job interviews

Fearful job seekers treat interviews like oral exams in school. You will never get the job you deserve by sitting in the chair with your feet crossed at the ankles, meekly answering questions like a fourth-grader and then going silent to wait for the next question. Make every interview a conversation by turning your answers into questions, like this:

Interviewer: So, how long have you been using Excel?

You: Let's see, I guess I learned Excel when I started at Acme Explosives in 2004 -- I used it for Inventory reports back then but now I use it for forecasting. How do you use Excel here?

5. In your questions

You will distinguish yourself from other candidates with your questions at a job interview, rather than your answers to the interviewer's questions. Take the time to get to know each organization you're going to interview with, and to formulate smart questions about the industry, the firm, the role, the goals and the likely obstacles you'll face on the job.

Here's an example:

Interviewer (your hiring manager): Do you have any questions for me?

You: Yes, thanks! Your company is expanding beyond North America and I see that you work with a mix of resellers and your own European and South American subsidiaries. How do you see your expansion plans playing out in 2018? How do you see the mix of distributors and your own sales force evolving?

6. In your salary discussions

The posture most of us have been trained to adopt around the salary topic is "Please your Majesty, pay me whatever you think I am worth!" Where did that goofy posture come from? We sure don't hear plumbers and electricians saying "Pay me whatever you want for unclogging your drain or installing your hot tub." You are a business owner just as surely as any other business owner on earth. You get to set your fee schedule.

You have a market rate. You are not desperate. Know your worth. When you're asked "What are you earning now?" say "I'm looking at opportunities in the $50K range. Is this job in that range?"

7. In your willingness to walk away

Standing out means standing in your power, something many job seekers struggle to do. Standing out will attract the right managers -- confident people themselves -- and turn away the ones who want to hire you to be a cog in their machine.

You can't afford to waste your time and precious mojo working for someone who wants to dim your flame.

Be ready to walk away from the wrong opportunity, early in the process or at the very end of the conversation. Always be ready to walk! Your desperation is an attractant to people who want to mistreat you -- and a repellent to leaders who want to hire strong and confident people.

8. In your confidence

Confidence is not the same as cockiness. Cockiness is a fear-based demeanor we assume when we want to appear strong but inside, we feel weak. To replace brash cockiness with true confidence, the kind ninjas and gurus practice every day, pay attention to your breathing and your fear reactions.

We all feel fear, but we often tell ourselves we're not afraid while displaying every known sign of fear to anyone who is paying attention.

Step out of fear and into confidence by noticing when you feel less than steady on your feet, and when your tongue refuses to speak and your backbone doesn't feel as strong as it should.

Confidence is a lifelong journey. Don't beat up on yourself when you feel less powerful than you want to. It's part of life. Don't beat up on yourself, but don't give up the journey!

9. In your job offer discussions

If you've already come to terms with your manager when they extend a job offer there's no reason not to say "Sounds great -- I accept!"

If you haven't come to terms when the offer is extended, feel free to ask for a written offer letter and take a few days to review it.

Run away from any employer who says "You only have 48 hours to sign the offer and get it back to us."

That's a sign of fear. What are they afraid of? You are making a major life decision and you need time to consider the moving parts.

10. In your mindset

Your mindset is the key to your job search and indeed, to your career.

You get to decide which organizations to work for. If you give up control of your path and say "Anybody who wants to hire me is good enough!" the gods will surely hear you. It's your life. It's your career. It's your path. You are the CEO of your life and career -- and not everybody deserves to travel that path alongside you!


Is it better to stand out or blend in? ›

Blending in, by definition, makes you “average.” Standing out, by definition, makes you exceptional. Children, when interacting with other children, prefer to be included, rather than excluded, from “the crowd.”

Why do people not want to stand out in a crowd? ›

People want to feel accepted and sometimes will drastically change their morals, values and beliefs simply to fit in with the crowd of people they want to be associated with.

Why do people not want to stand out? ›

1) fear of what peers will say

Stand out too much within a profession, and you'll threaten leaders or others with powerful positions. If you start to develop your own ideas into projects and programs with your signature brand, your grandness might threaten the peers you leave behind.

Is it more important to fit in or stand out? ›

New research finds that the best road to career success is to understand corporate culture but not be a slave to fitting in. If you've ever wondered whether it's better to fit in or stand out at work when you're gunning for recognition or advancement, new research indicates that it may be best to do a little of both.

Why do people blend in with the crowd? ›

The other reason people conform and go along with the crowd is that we all want to be liked and accepted. The desire to fit in is so strong that people sometimes conform to a group consensus even when it goes against their own judgment—at least in public. In private, they're much more likely to follow their own minds.

What makes a person standout? ›

The first step to standing out from the crowd is to embrace your true self. By being genuine and authentic, you instantly differentiate yourself from others who may be trying too hard to fit in or follow the crowd. Your uniqueness is your strength, and it sets you apart from everyone else.

What are the benefits of standing out? ›

Some of the people we interviewed suggested that standing out gave them more positive attention, a chance to be a positive example, and more opportunities in general. They also experienced the chance to take advantage of positive stereotypes and there was more appeal to the opposite sex for some people.

What do you call someone who stands out from the crowd? ›

Someone who stands out by displaying excellence is sometimes called a standout.

Why do some people stand too close to others? ›

As to why some people stand so close, other than cultural differences, it could be down to the brain. It's known that dementia sufferers and those on the autism spectrum often have no awareness of personal space, for example.

How do you deal with people you can't stand to be around? ›

If you take these 12 tips to heart, you'll be able to successfully deal with a person you disdain.
  1. Let It Go. ...
  2. Focus On Healthy Ways To Communicate. ...
  3. Practice Civility. ...
  4. Sidestep When Possible. ...
  5. Fake It Till You Make It. ...
  6. Be Mindful Of Your Emotions. ...
  7. Put A Positive Spin On It. ...
  8. Find Common Ground.
Oct 2, 2017

How can I be unique and stand out? ›

7 ways to stand out from the crowd
  1. Add a personal touch. ...
  2. Do your research. ...
  3. Start doing the job already. ...
  4. Make use of your other skills and experience. ...
  5. Show your creativity. ...
  6. Show some grit and resilience. ...
  7. Demonstrate a growth mindset.

What does born to stand out never blend in mean? ›

We think the quote is saying everyone has a unique purpose, that each of us is here be outstanding in some way that only they can be. And we do face pressure to fit in. It's natural and very common to worry that if people know who we really are, if we stand out, people might not like what they see.

What does it mean when you blend in? ›

to look or seem the same as surrounding people or things and therefore not be easily noticeable: We tried to blend into the crowd. They have adopted local customs and tried to blend in with the community. SMART Vocabulary: related words and phrases. Mixing and mixtures.

Why is it good to stand out from others? ›

IF you want to get on in life and are motivated then you have to be able to stand out from the crowd and get yourself noticed by the people who count. Of course you have to be ambitious, be driven and work hard if you want to achieve your goals and aims in your chosen career.

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Author: Saturnina Altenwerth DVM

Last Updated: 27/06/2023

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