How to Create Your Own Unique Selling Proposition

Everyone is seeking to get the edge on the competition, from students to those already on their career path. One way is to borrow an idea from the world of business and create an individual unique selling proposition (USP).

Competition begins early in academic life and continues into the workplace:   high school graduates compete for college admissions and scholarships, undergraduates for internships, interns  for employment, and employees for promotion. The sooner you can differentiate yourself by establishing what makes you the best choice out of many, the better.

The good news is that Gen Y is equipped with two of the most important tools necessary to develop a far-reaching and effective USP:  confidence and technological know-how.

How to Define Your USP

A unique selling proposition is just what it sounds like:  an explanation of what you have to offer that no one else does.

It should be clear, accessible and unforgettable. Consider some of your favorite brands. In all likelihood, they have powerful USPs that expresses their unique and unbeatable value. In order to derive yours, run a question-and-answer session addressing the following:

  • What do I have to offer that no one else has?
  • How can I express my unique value in an authoritative and credible way?
  • What action do I want my audience to take?

While the answer to the final question will differ from situation to situation, the first two should remain constant, allowing you to tailor the same message to each audience you engage over time. USPs should be no more than one or two sentences, maximum.

Remember:  it’s branding. The message is more powerful if it is both concise and emotionally resonant.

How to Promote Your USP

Start with your social media profiles, even the ones you use strictly for personal reasons. Clean up any questionable or superfluous content, and be sure every post (yes, every one) reflects your USP to a certain degree.

If this sounds like an arduous task, chances are your USP itself needs a tweak:  expressions of personal value should be organic, if not effortless. Look at the posts you already have and consider any emerging themes or commonalities. It is tempting to brand our ideal selves, rather than the people we actually are, but your USP will only be as effective as it is accurate. Even qualities that seem like weaknesses  can actually demonstrate your strengths.

Example:  I have a hard time making quick decisions, but I am open-minded, careful and deliberative.

Once your existing online presence expresses your USP, consider starting a blog or even a website. Do not over-complicate things or adopt an artificial tone. Just be yourself and focus on regularly producing online information that reinforces and builds upon your USP.

Find Your Balance

As you grow and change over time, so will your USP. On the other hand, the most effective USPs are nothing if they are not consistent (consider how long M&M’s have been melting in your mouth and not your hand). Whether your value changes slightly or radically, your USP should always be precise. It is critical that you find a balance between expressing your personal growth and staying true to your original branding.

Friends who know you well enough to be both accurate and honest are an excellent resource in cultivating USP at any stage in the game, and particularly when it is time for an overhaul.

Above all else, never stop having fun with it! Selling yourself should never feel like a chore. Embrace what makes you unique and valuable and your positive energy alone will engage everyone you meet—including your next client, customer or employer.


Tyana is a writer for Bisk Education. She works with the online programs from colleges such as Villanova University and New England College. Tyana covers a variety of topics centered around the collegiate community. She is currently a junior at the University of South Florida studying Technical Communications and New Media. Tyana has a passion for learning, technology and internet trends. Email Tyana or Follow her on Twitter: @tyana_daley.

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    Dan Schawbel, the founder of the Student Branding Blog, is a world renowned personal branding expert, the international bestselling author of Me 2.0, as well as the publisher of the Personal Branding Blog.

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