Everyone has a unique selling point (USP for short). I know, it might sound like just another useless abbreviation created by some overly-keen marketeer, but there’s more to it than that. Just think about it: If we take the common belief that ‘everyone is unique’, we therefore also all have a specific set of skills and strengths – and weaknesses – that sets us apart from the rest.
Being aware of our USPs is essential in building our personal brands: it’s that unique set of qualities that we use to entice potential employers. For some people finding their USP is easy, they might have even been aware of it from a young age. Think for example of the kid who almost seems born to be on the stage, or the other one who has dreamt of becoming a veterinarian since their dog Pluto died when they were five: their dreams and talents are very strongly intertwined.
Then there’s the rest of us, of course. The ones who find it hard to pinpoint what they are good at. Not because we’re not good at anything, but because we are perhaps unsure of where our strengths and skills could take us, or because we are not convinced whether or not they are even strengths or skills at all.
For a long time I belonged to that latter category. My track record had shown me that I wasn’t particularly terrible at, well, a few things, and I had received the odd compliment here and there, but I never fully registered this. I wasn’t convinced of my own abilities at all.
Now this might seem like a bleak starting point and if you find yourself there: Hi! I’ve been there. It’s not the end of the world.
See, finding your USP might not be particularly easy, but I don’t think it’s the hardest part. It requires you to take an objective look at your past experiences and tease out all the good stuff. Noting down your successes will help you to pinpoint what you are good at as well as what you enjoy doing. Think of the accomplishments you are most proud of, the experiences that made you feel truly fulfilled, and the times you received positive feedback: all of these are pieces of the puzzle, whether big or small.
Once you’ve collected all the pieces it’s a matter of distilling the information. Your USP does not have to be an elaborate story about your dreams and aspirations; as any good piece of branding it should be short and to the point. So, for example, it could be you’re an amazing problem-solver with an active imagination, or someone who is particularly good at telling a story. Nobody is expecting you to be the next Elon Musk. Unless, of course, you want to be.
Sound do-able so far? Great, because now comes the difficult part – at least in my experience. See, I did all of the above. I crafted the CV, highlighted my ‘skills and strengths’ on my LinkedIn etc. etc. But honestly, it still felt like just words on a page. I didn’t feel like whatever I wrote there truly set me apart. And that feeling was holding me back.
The hardest thing about finding your USP is believing in it. And again, for some people this may be a walk in the park but there are those that don’t have that type of self-belief and let me tell you it can be damn hard to find it.
If you’re like me, someone can tell you a 100 times that they think you’re good at [xyz], but it might still not make you believe it. Why not? Because at the end of the day, opinions are subjective, and for those self-doubters, that’s a bit of a problem.
The good news is that I have started to believe in my USP. And it wasn’t because I suddenly woke up with a new-found confidence, but rather because I started doing a whole lot of a certain thing, and while it was hard at first, I started noticing I was getting better and better at it. And that sense if accomplishment did what nobody’s opinion of me, not even my own, could have ever done.
If this all sounds like poetic drivel to you. Sure. I’m not saying everyone has the same experience as me. But what I am trying to say is that true empowerment comes from doing, and being able to track your own progress as you go along. It’s hard to argue with that type of evidence, even for the most avid self-doubters out there.