One of the coolest things about college is that it’s a fresh start. No one knows who you are or where you came from. They don’t know what clique you belonged to in high school or who you dated or what your hair looked like in eighth grade. This is a completely new world where you can be whoever you want to be, free of any bias based on your past.
From the first day you step on campus, it’s totally up to you to tell the world who you are, to hang out with whomever you want, to pursue whatever interests you. Most important, it’s your chance to celebrate your uniqueness. To stand out from the crowd. To get your freak on!
Embracing Your Freak Factor
Your freak factor is an innate aspect of your personality that separates you from others in your peer group. It’s what makes you different, unusual. Chances are it’s something you tried to hide when you were in high school, where being different can lead to teasing and alienation. But college is different. Here being different is an asset. It’s something to celebrate and share with others.
You may have heard us talk about personal branding, i.e., finding your own voice, feeling empowered to take ownership of your educational and career path, and deciding what it is that you will contribute to the world. Personal branding is all about owning your freak factor and leveraging your uniqueness to get noticed. It’s your most powerful differentiator as you build your brand and make your intrinsic value known to potential employers.
Discovering the Real You
I remember when I first got to college (a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away). At first I just assumed it would be just like high school. So I tried to be cool and censored my words and actions. I was wary about letting anyone know about me and what my true interests were until I found out what was acceptable in this strange new world.
But after just a few days, I realized that college was way different than high school. There weren't any standard cliques or rules of behavior. There were kids from other towns, other states, other countries. Their backgrounds were completely different than mine, and what was ‘cool’ for me in high school wasn’t necessarily ‘cool’ for them. Pretty soon everyone started to relax and show more and more of their personalities, and I did the same. It was freeing. It was empowering. It was wonderful!
After just a couple of weeks, I had already found a brand new group of friends, all of whom came from different backgrounds and had different interests than me. And that’s what made it so great—we celebrated our differences; we shared stories and learned from each other. And unbeknownst to us, we were transforming as individuals and beginning to become more real, more authentic. We were growing into who we were always meant to be.
And it’s all because we embraced what made us different, unique, remarkable. We embraced our freak factor.
Leverage Your Unique Value
So why is this important? Because you weren’t meant to be like everyone else. Each of us has some an intrinsic value to offer the world. When you try to hide it because you’re embarrassed or afraid that you won’t fit in, you’re suppressing the very thing that makes you you. Will some people avoid you or maybe even ridicule you for your differences? Sure. But who cares? Others will recognize the brilliance that is you and the value that you offer. And those are the only people that should matter to you.
In his book Choose Yourself (2013), James Altucher says that throughout your life, “you will always have 30% of people who love you, 30% who hate you and 30% who couldn't care less.” You’ll never change the minds of the 60% who either hate your or don’t care. Focus instead on the 30% who love you; who accept and celebrate you for who you are.
Celebrate your freak factor. Embrace what makes you different. Who knows? One day it may be the very thing that catches an employer’s attention and gets you the job of your dreams.
Activity: Take some time to do a little brainstorming about what makes you different. List the various clubs, classes, groups, and activities at your college that are most likely to have people who share your interests and then research them to see if they may be right for you.