The biggest thing I learned when I pounded the pavement as an actor was, well, me — my "uniqueness," my spark, what makes me unique, and where I thrive.
From those handful of post-college years, I learned that I loved (and got cast!) singing loud & funny; creating new, SNL-like characters; portraying multiple roles at once; and being quirky / enthusiastic / spunky / offbeat. Once I put those pieces together, I made sure to absolutely, positively bring my quirky, spunky, offbeat enthusiasm into the room the first time I entered, whether it was visually with my polka-dot dress (with matching headband!) and my headshot with a bright blue background, or audibly with the song I sang to show that I was both funny & loud (with a killer mix/belt)!
Finding my uniqueness let me be secure with bringing myself into the room and put me at ease almost instantly. I’ve been able to bring that into my coaching and pair it with what I know makes me spark (writing, speaking, coaching, collaborating, and relationship building).
Whether you’re an artist looking for a commission, or a writer seeking a freelance gig, or a musician looking to be hired for a tour, being authentic will set you apart. Some will call it branding, but how boring is that?
What makes me unique, and how do I figure out what it is?
Your uniqueness is what makes you interesting. Your uniqueness is what others will relate to. Your uniqueness is what will get you the sales, the clients, or the job. Your uniqueness is why people will want to work with you. Your uniqueness is you.
But how do you discover your uniqueness?
1. Ask your friends and family why they like hanging out with you.
Better yet, get it in writing or set up a free survey so you can see the overall “winning” traits. Is is your sense of humor, your well-thought-out opinions of the Obama presidency, or the way you can put together the cutest outfit ever?
If that is way too scary, write down the names of your Top 10 Friends (don’t worry — unless this is Mean Girls, nobody’ll see it) and the reason you hang out with them. Then put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself what you bring to their table. Be honest and egotistical — you can always buy new hats to fit your swelled head.
2. Note which of your attributes others point out to you.
Look back over any job reviews or thank-you notes/emails/phone calls and make a note of the attributes that were pointed out to you. Did a friend thank you for setting him up on that blind date with your high school pal? Seems like you’re a good connector. Did your boss make note of how your colleagues perform better than usual when they’re on a project with you? Sounds like you’re a great leader/inspirer/motivator.
Write down these traits and keep them in your front pocket. They will be a great reminder when you ask, "What makes me unique?"
3. Write about the things you love to do.
Do a stream-of-consciousness writing exercises for 15 minutes (set the timer!) of things you love to do. It could be as simple as, “Go shopping with Sally” or as complicated as “Throw my Mom a surprise party for 100 people.” What have you done in your life where you’ve felt happy, or useful, or un-self-conscious, or free, or in touch? Those situations define you, as well as giving you clues to the authentic you. Pay attention to them and do what you can to bring more of them into your life.
4. Notice what makes you feel authentic.
Carry a notebook with you and write down whenever you feel authentic (and why), as well as when someone thanks you (and why). Put a week or two’s worth of notes together, and you can really get all the pieces of the puzzle (“Felt authentic when I thanked the barista & she smiled at me-> Like being friendly, or feel like I put some Nice into the world”).
5. Imagine your perfect work day.
Think of what Your Perfect Day would hold if you had to work during it. Where would you be? Who would be with you? What would you be doing? If nothing’s coming, close your eyes and take the pressure off yourself. Just wait for it. Once you have that image, or that movie in your mind, write it down or draw it or paint it or make it into a cartoon.
Just make sure that you slay the Vampires Voices (that’s what I call the good stuff that gets sucked out of us!) that come out during it, especially the Yeah-Like-That’ll-Happen Vampire & the I’m-Not-Qualified Vampire & the I-Can’t-Really-Make-Money-From-That Vampire. They’re not welcome here.
Now, communicate what you have to offer.
Finding your authentic attributes and the things that make you spark is the way to really figure out who you are and what you have to offer. Only then can you go out into the world and tell others.
Now brainstorm how you can bring your uniqueness into your resume, your shop, your customers, your website, your blog, your email newsletter, your Twitter stream, your Mom’s house ... (see, I brought in a Your Mom joke — one of my favorite things!).
Now you should be able to answer that elusive question; what makes me unique?