One of the questions I am most frequently asked when I’m speaking to students, is “How do I stand out from all the other students? We’re all applying for the same jobs, and we all have the same qualifications“. It is a fair question to ask – with supply exceeding demand employers tend to be picky. Very picky.
Very few people invest the time to do even the most basic things, so it’s easy to be different and to stand out. Here are my favourite ways for a student to stand out, presented in no particular order of priority – because they’re all important:
- Be the person who is punctual and courteous, who returns calls and emails promptly.
- Be the person who employers want to work with, by creating a great first, second and third impression.
- Be the person who recognises that you’re not the only one they’re talking to and who respects the employer’s time and effort to make arrangements for you.
- Be the person who doesn’t constantly badger prospective employers with pleas of “Give me a job”. Understand what you can do for them, rather than the other way round.
Preparation & research
- Be the person who recognises your own limitations, and who demonstrates a willingness to address them.
- Be the person who properly researches a prospective employer before applying for a role, and who follows all the correct instructions when applying.
- Be the person who demonstrates you are serious about your personal development by doing things and learning things outside of your formal course.
- Be the person who has already started to create a network of professionals – even if they’re not completely aligned with your chosen career.
- Be the person who doesn’t leave it all to the last minute, and who has clearly invested time and effort into the process. Cramming for exams may have worked for you in the past and might even do so again – but cramming will never work for gaining experience.
- Be the person who recognises that a degree certificate isn’t enough. It might be a great personal achievement, but it doesn’t stand you out.
Rocket science? Hardly.
“I want to be different, like everyone else” – such a common sentiment among students. It’s hard to understand why it is perceived to be so difficult. Is it perhaps that with so many online jobs boards and the proliferation of social media we’re losing sight of the basics?
Do yourself a favour: By doing all these things you make it easy for prospective employers to see how different you are.