10. Same-Same But Different—How Are You the Same as Your Peers? How Are You Different?

As you go through college seeking internships, fellowships, and, eventually, jobs, you’ll realize that your peers are also your competitors. If you’re the only nursing student who also speaks Mandarin, for example, you’ve got a leg up over the competition. So it’s important that you identify the achievements, skills, abilities that make you stand out from the crowd.

What do you have in common with your peers?

For example, if you’re a college student, you and your peers all had to have a certain gpa/test scores to be admitted. That makes you similar. But as you build on what you know about yourself, your similarities to your peer group become fewer, and your differentiation will become more apparent.

When you do the same thing as your competitors and there is no real differentiation, you become a commodity. 

Commodities are items whose appeal is based on price, not differentiation.

Being a commodity gives you no leverage other than being the least expensive. Your goal in personal branding is to distinguish yourself as a sought-after brand, as opposed to a commodity, because when you are differentiated as a specific brand, people will want to work with you because you’re you, not because you’re cheaper to hire than your peers.

Being able to highlight which achievements and abilities make you different and desirable is the key to having a strong personal brand. After all, personal branding is all about your unique promise of value—what you and only you can offer.

The Same/Different exercise in this module asks you to list the achievements, skills, and abilities that make you special or that you possess which not everyone in your peer group does. You may be able to use your answers from other modules, such as Playing to Your Strengths, Tell Me About Yourself, and Don’t Hide Your Light Under a Bushel, among others, to spark ideas and include as many things as you can think of on the list.

If you find that you don’t have many differences from your competition, think about how you might tell your story in a different way.What qualities you may be overlooking— personality traits and qualities matter as much as accomplishments.

Consider your own dealings with others.

Let’s say you have recently done business with two people who did just about the same thing—dry cleaners, maybe. If they were both good at doing their jobs but one was nicer to work with, then you would probably choose to return to the person with whom you enjoyed doing business, who made you feel good when you walked into his store, rather than the other dry cleaner. Mr. Feel Good could use his friendliness as a brand differentiator.

Don’t forget your unique personality attributes–including your Freak Factor you identified in the module Le Freak, C’est Chic. These could be your key differentiators that you have to offer and that your competition is missing.

As you complete the exercise below, don’t judge what is or isn’t special about yourself; you might think it’s no big deal that you speak a second language you’ve always spoken, but an employer is likely to be fascinated by that fact. So reserve judgment on the qualities as you go, and set about making a list of what you have to offer while asking “Is this the same as or different than my peers?” The example below gives you some ideas of how a completed same/different exercise might look.

Same as PeersDifferent from Peers
Bachelor’s degree in businessDouble major in business & Spanish
Semester abroadSemester at sea visiting 14 countries
Fraternity membershipFraternity leader for two years
Summer internshipChosen from 500 internship applicants
Computer savvyProgrammed three Facebook business sites
Senior projectAward-winning senior project
Dean’s listDean’s list for six semesters

Now that you’ve got a taste of what a list might look like, start your own:

The Same/Different Exercise

Fill in your qualities in the table below; if you need to expand the list beyond the space given here, go right ahead.

Module 10 | Same-Same But Different—How Are You the Same as Your Peers? How Are You Different?