4 Ways New Graduates Can Stand Out From the Competition
"Many students will graduate with a huge digital footprint, but it may be scattershot and unhelpful with job prospects"
Even a college degree isn’t enough these days to differentiate yourself to potential employers, who have their pick of 1.85 million college students graduating this year.
Based on research from my new book Stand Out, here are four ways I’ve discovered recent graduates can demonstrate their unique value.
The fastest way to make a billion dollars, says author Peter Diamandis, is to help a billion people. In that vein, a sense of purpose is immensely appealing to employers. It doesn’t have to be a socially-focused mission (though companies like TOMS Shoes have gained significant notice in recent years).
Instead, it’s about demonstrating a can-do vision, a willingness to tackle difficult problems and the persistence to keep pressing even when others have given up. Who wouldn’t want an employee like that?
Draw On Your Personal Experience
In Stand Out, I profile Rose Shuman, who founded a nonprofit called Question Box, which brings Internet access to the poorest people in the developing world. Shuman was inspired to start a career in international development because of a formative family trip she took to Nicaragua shortly after the Contra War, to visit her stepmother’s relatives. She was overwhelmed by the poverty and disarray she saw and vowed to get involved.
For all of us, there are precipitating incidents – moments when our view of the world shifts. If you tap into your unique experiences and perspective, you can make the difference you were meant to.
Form Your Own Board of Directors
If you already have a mentor, that’s fantastic. But for many people, the archetypal mentor – an older version of you who offers up wisdom and professional advice – is hard to come by. Instead, I advocate forming a “Mentor Board of Directors,” which enables you to tap the wisdom of multiple people.
Start by making a list of people who have skills that you admire, whether they’re peers, older colleagues or perhaps even talented younger people you know. You don’t have to admire every single trait they have; the key is to identify one aspect and try to learn from it. Perhaps one friend is brilliant on social media; your thesis advisor is incredible knowledgeable about finance; your friend’s dad is a successful businessman; and your colleague on the debate team is an unparalleled communicator.
Now, make a plan to spend more concerted time with each of those people so you can begin to learn from them. It doesn’t have to be formal; you can just ask them out for coffee periodically and see if they’d be willing to answer a few questions. But having an open channel to learn from smart people is always beneficial.
Having a robust online presence that reflects your professional interests is another way to stand out. Many students will graduate with a huge digital footprint, but it may be scattershot and unhelpful with job prospects.
We all know it’s bad to have keg party photos online, but far too few people think about the downside of having a mixed-up or aimless brand identity; photos from your Ultimate Frisbee tournament intermingled with an op-ed for the campus paper about the decision to remove 24/7 froyo access doesn’t tell an employer very much about why they should hire you.
Instead, start now and begin blogging about topics germane to the field you’re hoping to enter. You don’t have to start out as a world expert; you can blog about your learning journey, as Josh Kaufman did in writing his popular book The Personal MBA, which chronicles his personal effort to read all the business classics.
The competition for great jobs is always intense – especially during graduation season. But with these strategies, you can dramatically enhance your ability to stand out.
Monster Wants to Know: What are ways you've tried to differentiate yourself from the competition? Share with us in the comment section.