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Standing Out in a Crowded World

Ideas for your professional and personal life.

Key points

  • Sometimes people are more successful personally and professionally when they lead with what makes them unique.
  • Saying what they think others want to hear will only make them disappear into the crowd.
  • Strategies like being authentic, finding a niche, and highlighting their strengths can help people be more memorable and make a real difference.
João Jesus/Pexels
Source: João Jesus/Pexels

You’re single and want to stand out from the zillions of other single people without appearing desperate.

Or you’re in private practice, whether a psychotherapist, a yoga instructor, a financial advisor, whatever. The trouble is there are zillions of others doing that. How do you stand out without being cheesy?

Or you're an employee and would like to get promoted or at least keep your job.

Here are thoughts on how you might tastefully and ethically stand out.

Finding a compatible romantic partner

These days, especially with the pandemic, apps are wildly popular. The key to standing out without seeming desperate or cheesy is to describe how you’re importantly different. That is, what would make you a better fit for your desired partner.

Examples include: “I love discussing intellectual issues”; “I enjoy processing feeling”; “I’m a change-the-world kind of person, although not always in the most popular direction”; “I'm addicted to practicing my guitar and watching, would you believe golf”; “Nothing pleases me more than a languorous morning in bed”; or conversely, “I love to be always going.” Those won’t get you the most responses, but that’s not the goal. The goal is to get the right responses.

When reaching out, similarly, look for the distinctively well-suited, not just the oft-stated—for example, “I’m intelligent, witty, and successful"—which often is puffery and, at minimum, puts you in competition with many more people.

Asking friends to set you up is another common approach to meeting someone. Again, say what makes you different, which your ideal partner would welcome or at least accept. For example, if I were single, I’d mention that I work long hours and want a partner who does the same.

Getting more clients

Having a niche helps. What kinds of problems and people do you work best with and enjoy working with? For example, if you’re a psychotherapist, perhaps it’s trauma victims who are committed to moving forward expeditiously. If you’re a yoga instructor, maybe it’s older people who have restricted mobility. If you’re a financial advisor, perhaps it’s clients who want a slow, steady, low-adrenaline approach.

Once you’ve picked your niche, tell it to your friends and colleagues. If you choose to market by writing, public speaking, or even advertising, make your niche your underlying theme or title of an article or talk. To take the previous examples: “Getting Past Trauma Now,” “Comfy Yoga,” or “Investing for Turtles.”

Standing out as an employee

Let’s say you’re one of a zillion managers, coordinators, executives, whatever. Which of these might help you stand out without seeming like you’re waving your arms, yelling, “Look at me! Look at me!”?

Take the time to prepare to say something smart at a staff meeting. Review the agenda items and ask yourself, “What would add value and likely be well-received?"

Share drafts of your reports and ideas with peers and bosses for feedback. Doing that ensures that someone doesn’t steal credit for your idea or work product.

Propose a special project that would add value that you could do well and, ideally, that you’d find fun. For example, in that this is Psychology Today, might you want to propose monthly get-togethers, even if virtual, where people air their feelings about work? Or organize a monthly brown-bagger in which employees get to share their favorite ideas, even if impractical. Or create a pro-bono project, in which one Friday afternoon a month, the team does something for the community: converting part of a vacant lot into a community garden, inviting kids to visit the workplace, painting a mural on a blighted wall, etc.

The takeaway

No one wants to feel like an unwanted, fungible clone of countless other people. We all want to feel special. These ideas should help.

I read this aloud on YouTube.