HOW TO: Determine and Sell Your Differentiation | Personal Branding Blog - Dan Schawbel

Employers and clients are looking for ways in which you are different from everyone else – your unique selling proposition (USP). And if you don’t know your USP, there’s no way you’re going to be able to articulate it and sell others on your abilities.

What do you bring to the table others can’t?

That’s the question you need to ask yourself. Try this exercise: Write down every skill, piece of knowledge, ability, and characteristic you have. I find it’s often hard to evaluate yourself, so ask friends and family to add to the list once you’ve given it a first shot.

This list becomes your “unique you.”

What do you need to market your “unique you”?

  • Professional website or online portfolio
  • Presence on relevant social networking sites
  • Business cards
  • Elevator pitch
  • Accomplishment stories

What are “accomplishment stories”?

When you’re applying for a job, employers want to hear about the results you’ve had in the past and how you could repeat those results at their organization.

Take the top 5-10 bullets in your unique you list and write stories surrounding them.

Some questions to ask yourself about each skill:

  • How and why did you obtain it? (Describe the entire situation, start to finish. You can always make your stories more concise later.)
  • How can the skill be applied to situations other than the one in which it was first obtained?
  • How have you continued to develop the skill since you obtained it? (For example, have you taken additional courses or applied the skill to an after-school job?)
  • What makes it important to have?

Some questions to ask yourself about each characteristic:

  • Is there an example (or two) of a time when this characteristic came in handy? (Again, describe the entire situation to the best of your ability.)
  • How does this characteristic help set you apart from other candidates? (For example, would having a team member with this characteristic help the employer in some way?)

An alternative to accomplishment stories: case studies

If your goal is to land clients rather than a job, you can write case studies. These should contain the following sections:

  • Problem/Situation
  • Solution
  • Results

Again, notice the focus on results.

So, what do you bring to the table that others can’t, and what is your plan to tell potential employers or clients about it?


Heather R. Huhman is a career expert and founder & president of Come Recommended, an exclusive online community connecting the best internship and entry-level job candidates with the best employers. She is also the author of #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), national entry-level careers columnist for and blogs about career advice at

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