Dan Schawbel, the Gen Y personal branding guru, wrote a post last week that resonated with me on a number of levels.
Point #5 of the post, entitled “Relevancy Will Become Our Greatest Challenge”, is as apt as the overblown claims that surround it. Who skims 800 blog posts a day, I ask. But being relevant when there is so much information bombarding us and so much competition surrounding us does seem to be the greatest challenge in separating ourselves from the crowd.
I was meeting with a high school junior today, and we were discussing how tough it is to write a college application that really stands out. It’s difficult to write something so personal, so raw, so self-exposing that it connects with the admissions committee and makes them realize that you should be one of the chosen few to be accepted at the college of your choice.
We talked about the expectations of excellent students with top grades and board scores, and also those with records that are just one tier down from that. The question is always: how to distinguish yourself?
From my interviews with undergraduate admissions heads for my upcoming book, there was one consistent thread that I truly believe. It was this: Stand for something. Yes, it means you will be rejected by some schools, but more importantly it will mean that by declaring yourself to schools you will be more likely to find the right fit. In other words, you will be relevant to that school. No, you won’t be relevant to every school, just as you won’t be relevant to every job you apply to in the future. And that’s okay—it’s supposed to be a self-selecting process. So don’t be afraid to make your pitch: your specific interest that makes you the relevant applicant to a particular school. Be generic at your peril—it won’t help you, and it’s more likely to hurt you. Not just now, but throughout your life.