Today is about being different.
To start, I have two sacrilegious admissions. One: I read outside of classwork (note to Professor Shah: this is not an invitation to Shah-ttack me with more readings!) Two: I read a book written by a professor from another business school. Shock! Horror!
As a RAMS board member, I attend many other student groups' events, and the Toastmaster's Club held a lunch & learn this past week on interviewing tips. Club President (and RAMS VP) Marcus Silva invited second year MBA students Brandon Sachs and Michael Sarshad to speak about their internships and job interview experiences to us increasingly tense first years. The challenge? How to sell yourself. How to stand out from the crowd. How to isolate the elements from your profile that truly sing. How to be different.
Different, by Youngme Moon, an HBS professor who has written many case studies which MBA students are familiar, appealed to me instantly, and I think it resonates with RBS students, or any business school student for that matter. MBA students, like organizations or brands, compete vigorously to succeed, whether it's for advancement or market share. Professor Moon laments this vigorous competition, because rather than leading to true standouts, it leads to everyone competing on identical points, leading to shockingly similar results. For example, in the CPG industry, vigorous competition has resulted in this (image blatantly ripped from Moon's book):
And the problem with this? Vigorous competition morphs into to "best practices" which Moon claims leads to even more dilution. In the consumer products world, best practices result in mandatory offers of hyperbolic claims such as "Now with More!" or "New & Improved!" In the far right of the image above, does anything truly stand out? If you're a bottle designer, yes. If you're a random, regular consumer, no; nothing is different. It's a cluster of sameness. Next, look below:
Now, consider this in the context of you and your profile and background as it relates to your internship/job chase: if this chart represented you and measured your personal attributes, what would you do with that middle attribute that is clearly below average? "Smooth" it out and improve it? Moon paints two possible reactions:
This dramatically illustrates how a devotion to being different can lead to true standouts, and how "competing" leads to more sameness around the norm. Being different is difficult, because it means being courageous and lighting your strengths with rocket fuel, and leaving your weaknesses linger. But this is the crux of Moon's book: everyone is different, and it's vital to capitalize on your differences rather than attempt to "normalize" them and completely ignore what could be an important competitive edge. Being different is good. Being different gets you noticed. Being different gets you hired.
How are you different?
Video epilogue #1: Moon's book has a video describing in more depth the concepts of her book:
Video epilogue #2: Marcus Silva needs some more YouTube hits: