You Have to Be Different to Stand Out In The Crowd

Many people, young and old, often wonder why they’re not getting the next promotion or that new job. My question back at them is always the same: Are you standing out? Are you different than the rest of them? Are you unique?

If you look the same and sound the same and are the same, it will be very difficult to get picked out in the crowd. When I was trying out for football team in grade 9 we were all told to wear white. I did, except for the blue football jersey I threw on at the last moment. When the coach was looking for one of us to lead calisthenics on the first day of practice my name was the only one he knew because of that blue shirt and, of course, I got the call.  I stood out the crowd, broke the rules slightly, and found a way to be different than everyone else – to my benefit.

At work, short of bending the rules we need to find ways to stand out and be different.

My friend Roy Osing wrote a great article in the Globe and Mail last week entitled “Note to Young Readers, To Be Successful You Must Be Seen” ( Among his five tips to the readers were:

Deliver your stuff unconventionally
go the opposite direction
create your statement of uniqueness that covers everything you do

When you’re presenting to an internal or external group, customers or major stakeholders, dare to be different.  Start your presentation with a pop: words or a visual that will pull everyone to attention. Very few presenters start this way.

When you’re writing a report that is intended to influence people, start with the last paragraph and go from there. Work backwards so your readers know exactly what’s coming and what the ask is right up front. Not many people do this.

When you’re heading out the door to a networking event, put on something that will get you recognized in the crowd like I did with that football shirt.  You will stand out and people remember you.

When you introduce yourself for the first time, be unique and stand out right from the start. Maybe this includes a fun branding statement after your name. “Hi I’m David Barrett, the only one in the crowd that doesn’t know anyone.”  or “Hi I’m David Barrett, one of the handful of people in this room looking for a job – how do you like me so far?”  (Okay, that last one may be a little much.)

Look different, sound different, be different. You have to do something these days to stand out in the crowd.

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