I never meant to be a marketer. Not once did I position myself for a marketing career. However, after months of unemployment, Instagram, and Star Wars nerdom I found myself in the career of my dreams, excited about my potential and eager to dominate my field.
I know, this doesn’t seem to make any sense right now, but trust me – it will. And I’ll prove it mathematically.
The Corporate World
I didn’t have a set career path after graduating, at the time I just wanted a “good job” so I could start making some money and paying off my student loans. I spent the first five years out of college working for a retail technology integrator. If you don’t know what that is don’t worry – neither did anyone else that I explained it to. Basically, we were the company that large retailers like Wal-Mart would hire to maintain their data infrastructure and install new debit/credit card readers and phone systems. Very sexy stuff.
I started in an entry-level role and was promoted after a few years to a National Account Manager where I was challenged daily and was learning more than ever before. And I was burning out quicker and more than ever before. Thats when I started to think about changing careers entirely. My heart wasn’t in the retail technology world, and I couldn’t see any other account management roles that would make me substantially happier – at least not enough to be worth the paycheck I’d receive and the time I would put in.
Choosing Long-term Potential over Short-term Profit
So, disregarding the advice my father always gave me, I quit my job with zero prospects on the horizon. At the same time my wife and I moved from Chicago to Seattle for a new adventure and a better job for her, enjoying the road trip out West while we were both unemployed. She started working a week after we got to Seattle and I…didn’t.
I was decidedly hesitant in finding work. I didn’t want to get another job just because it would be a “good job” or because I could make good money. I wanted a career that I enjoyed and one that I would enjoy growing into. I spent the next few months exploring the local landscape, talking to everyone I came across and constantly assessing and reassessing my skill set and career aspirations.
Two nagging thoughts alternated in my consciousness during this time. First was the understanding that I was good at a lot of things, but couldn’t place my finger on one specific trait or skill that I uniquely excelled at. Second was the following;
The belief that every single person is uniquely positioned to excel over all others in a hyper-specific niche.
At first, these ideas seemed to conflict. How could I be more successful and have success come more naturally to me than to anyone else when I didn’t even have a single attribute that definitively differentiated me from the rest of the world?
When I stepped back and looked at it mathematically, though, it started to become clear. If you were to take all of the different traits and predispositions that people can be born with, such as height, visual acuity, artistic and intellectual inclination, or general disposition, and then tally up the remaining traits and advantages that people acquire throughout their lives, such as negotiation skills, networking, influences of your surrounding ecosystem and society, technical skills and so on, you could graph out each individual’s unique value based on their varying aptitudes and accomplishments (or lack thereof) in each category. With hundreds, likely even thousands of traits and skills, both inherited and acquired, the statistical likelihood that any two individuals would be predisposed to excel in the same hyper-specific niche and with the same level of proficiency is, for all practical purposes, zero.
Proving your UVP (Unique Value Proposition) Mathematically
To prove this, lets conservatively assume there are 1,000 different skills, attributes and traits that individuals can possess and up to 10 levels of proficiency or variety that can be achieved within each skill, attribute or trait (ex. I might score 4/10 globally in French proficiency, and 8/10 globally in outward positivity). The conceivable number of unique persons then would be:
Possible combinations of unique individual values = 10^1000
That equals 10 billion multiplied by itself 10 times
Or, it could be represented as a 1 followed by 1,000 zeros!
That’s a lot of possibilities!
Now considering that there are only about 7.5 billion people on Earth at this time, Discovering this empowered me to seek out what made me uniquely qualified to excel. I quickly realized that my lack of a single strong suit wasn’t a detriment at all. Instead, it forced me to discover what other key attributes combined to make my unique, personal value proposition.
Trust your Instincts (and May the Force be with you)
Yes, I’m going to talk about Star Wars (and yes, it does have direct relevance to this post). Having come more and more to the realization that I was uniquely qualified to excel in my own way was a seed that I had nourished over several months and had grown from a mere idea to my driving mantra, pushing me on towards greatness.
However, greatness at this time still seemed far off. I was unemployed, and without any great prospects. The one constant during that time was that I was feeding my creative side with my Instagram account, @avaderaday. I would take photos of myself in very goofy or pedestrian situations wearing a Darth Vader helmet and then post them to my Instagram account. With each photo I posted a short caption that would encourage folks to give up “the dark side”, pursue their dreams and fight for the life that they really wanted. I was only half-aware at the time that keeping this account was a form of self-motivation.
Unexpectedly, I was receiving an incredible response to my account. My base of followers was constantly growing, I was getting incredible engagement on each post and people were constantly commenting and sharing my account with their friends! In under a year, I was featured by Huffington Post, Repost, and Instagram and grew my followers from a few hundred to over 36k! Right after my Instagram feature, I was interviewed by Bill Radke on the local NPR affiliate, KUOW!
This overwhelming response stuck with me and inspired me to find a social media marketing career. I applied around the Seattle area and found a small business that wanted my social media skills and offered an environment that would let me grow in the marketing field.
I’ve now been at this company for about a year and am constantly reminded of how great it is to work for a company you love, in a career that challenges you to grow daily.
Have any questions about finding your UVP? Just send me an email at devin.cloud.kelly at gmail.com.