Career ITFI

What is a Unique Value Proposition and How Can It Help You Stand Out in a Fashion Job Interview

What is a Unique Value Proposition?

When I first started out in the industry, social media didn’t exist the way it does today and the job landscape looked completely different. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the need for aspiring fashion professionals to truly differentiate themselves and communicate their value in powerful, authentic ways.

As someone who’s mentored many early career professionals over the years, I’ve seen firsthand how challenging it can be to stand out in this highly competitive industry, especially when you’re first starting out.

Before breaking down the specifics of a Unique Value Proposition, I want to share a story about one of my former students, Olivia, just to give you context and a brief example of what we’re going to be talking about.

Olivia had always been passionate about the fashion industry, but she came from a pretty conventional background without any real industry connections or experience to speak of. 

When she graduated, she was eager to land that dream fashion job, but she kept getting rejected interview after interview. She was frustrated and more than anything, confused. 

Olivia didn’t understand why she couldn’t make it past the 1st round of interviews when she did everything right. She would meticulously create resumes that checked all the boxes: good GPA, relevant coursework, a few internships. 

But during interviews, she found herself stumbling, giving the same generic answers as every other hopeful candidate trying to get that same role.  

When Olivia came to me, I really took the time to dig into what made her unique. I saw the information on her resume, but it didn’t give me a full picture of who she was and where her skills truly lied. 

Olivia grew up in a small town, the daughter of hard-working parents who owned a local boutique. From a young age, she learned the ins and outs of retail operations, customer service and building meaningful connections with the community. This grounded, relationship-oriented perspective turned out to be a major asset.

We worked together to reframe Olivia’s experiences through that lens. On her resume, she highlighted how she spearheaded community outreach initiatives and used her deep empathy to deliver personalized shopping experiences. In job interviews, she spoke passionately about wanting to bring that heartfelt, personalized touch to the often-impersonal world of fashion.

The results were incredible. Olivia’s unique background and problem-solving abilities resonated with hiring managers in a way that generic skill sets simply could not. Before long, she landed an entry-level role where her ability to create authentic connections with customers quickly made her an invaluable asset.

So what exactly is this “unique value proposition” I keep mentioning?

In simple terms, it’s that special, hard-to-replicate combination of skills, experiences, traits and perspectives that allow you to solve an employer’s problems better than anyone else. It’s not just about your talents on paper, but your entire personal and professional journey up to this point in your career and in your life.

Your most powerful unique value proposition usually lies in the ordinary parts of your background and experiences. The key is having the self-awareness to identify and proudly own what sets you apart. Because I can promise you, there is something distinctly unique that you alone can bring to this industry… you just have to find it.

Identifying and leaning into your UVP is such an important step when looking to stand out among the competition of fashion applicants for those coveted roles you’re applying to.

how do you figure out what your unique value proposition is?

A great first step to understanding your UVP is taking the time to do some serious self-reflection.

For this, I actually have my students work through a series of exercises to develop that all-important self-awareness. The first step is taking a thorough inventory of your proudest accomplishments and experiences so far, both inside and outside of the classroom or workforce.

Think about projects you’ve poured your heart into, challenges you’ve overcome or recognition you’ve received. What are you most passionate about and what specific skills or perspectives did you contribute? Remember that it’s not just about listing facts and figures, but instead, really reflect on what made those achievements meaningful and memorable to you.

Another insightful exercise is asking for honest feedback from your peers, mentors and even former managers. Ask them what they see as your unique strengths, talents or personal qualities. You may be surprised by the outside perspectives that emerge from this request. Their observations can shine a light on aspects of yourself that you may have overlooked or hadn’t even considered.

Finally, don’t be afraid to get a bit more scientific with personality and strengths assessments. Consider tools like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which dives into your personality type and can provide valuable insights for leadership development, career coaching and decision-making.

Similarly, the StrengthsFinder quiz can help uncover and nurture your innate talents. By gaining a deeper understanding of yourself through this assessment, you’ll be better equipped to leverage your unique strengths and navigate your career path with confidence.

The key with all of these self-reflection exercises is to develop a heightened sense of self-awareness.

  • What truly motivates you?
  • Where do your authenticity and expertise intersect?

Answering those questions will give you the solid foundation to then identify and understand your unique value proposition a little better.

From there, consider your real-world experiences that set you apart. Maybe you honed your communication skills through leading group projects in college, showing your ability to collaborate effectively. Or maybe you developed problem-solving skills while working part-time at a customer service job, where you had to quickly address issues and find solutions on the spot.

Discovering your Unique Value Proposition is about recognizing the diverse range of experiences and qualities that make you stand out. It might be a specialized technical skill you’ve mastered, a unique career experience that broadened your outlook, a natural personal attribute, or even a blend of strengths and influences. The crucial step is expressing it in a clear and convincing manner that not only resonates with others, but also sets you apart from the competition.

use your unique value proposition on your resume and during job interviews

First, think about what sets you apart from others in your field. For example, if you’re aiming for a project management position, you could showcase your organizational skills and attention to detail by quantifying the successful completion of a project within tight deadlines or under budget constraints.

During interviews, use storytelling to illustrate exactly how your unique skills and experiences made an impact in previous roles. For example, if you’re discussing your leadership abilities, talk about a time when you stepped up to lead a project and successfully motivated team members to achieve positive results by reaching your team’s goal. Make it visual and tangible for them.

By incorporating these personalized examples into your resume and during your interviews, you effectively communicate your distinct value proposition and help hiring managers visualize how you could add value to their team.

The most important thing I want you to remember as you’re working towards standing out in these interviews is that they should ALWAYS be a two-way conversation where you get to ask insightful questions as well.

create a powerful Unique Value Proposition that helps you stand out

Let’s go over, step by step, what you need to do in order to create a strong-one-that speaks to your individuality and your experiences:

First, thoroughly research the company and the role you’re interested in applying to. I mean, we’re doing that anyway …hopefully, right?  

So, let’s say you’re targeting a marketing position. In your research, you might discover that the company is looking to increase brand visibility among a younger demographic. You’d realize this by a recent product launch or by paying attention to their current content.

In this scenario, your unique value proposition could be your deep understanding of social media trends among young consumers, gained through managing your own successful blog or creating engaging content on platforms like TikTok, that have been shown to cater to a younger demographic. By aligning your UVP with the company’s need to reach a younger audience, you can showcase how you’ll make a meaningful impact from day one.

This approach demonstrates how your research and understanding of the employer’s challenges can shape your Unique Value Proposition and make you a compelling candidate for the role.

Another thing to keep in mind is: try to avoid generic responses during interviews. Instead of clichés like “I’m a team player” or “I’m great with time management,” DIVE DEEPER into what truly sets you apart. For instance, consider how your background, skills or interests offer a fresh perspective or approach to the role.

During a mock interview with a student aspiring to be a stylist, she initially gave standard answers about her passion for the fashion industry and her creativity. 

After asking her a few questions to help her dive a little deeper, she mentioned that she also studied improv comedy, something she never brought up because it didn’t seem relevant to her fashion stylist goals.

With this information, we explored how she could leverage a unique perspective of using styling as a storytelling medium, much in the same way she did with her improv, to differentiate herself in a crowded industry.

Through our discussions, she gained a new understanding of how her background could transform the narrative of her career aspirations and ultimately of  her resume. Armed with this insight, she felt so much more confident in her interviews, knowing she had a unique perspective to share and a value proposition that set her apart from other candidates.

In the end…

Your unique value proposition is your ticket to making a lasting impact and gaining a competitive edge that’s truly one-of-a-kind. It positions you as a proactive problem-solver, someone who doesn’t just fit a role but transforms it into different opportunities. 

These are the hires that brands compete with each other to secure.

If you take nothing else from this episode, let it be this:
Remember to constantly reflect on and refine your unique strengths. Embrace what makes you stand out, fearlessly showcasing your unconventional experiences and identity in unexpected ways within your field. It’s this genuine authenticity that will set you apart from the crowd and lead you towards your career goals.

RECAP
Let’s quickly summarize the essential steps to developing and showcasing your unique value proposition:

  • First, engage in deep self-reflection by assessing your strengths, gaining outside perspectives and identifying your core motivations. Don’t be afraid to get introspective!
  • Next, pinpoint the specific experiences, skills and traits that make your journey uniquely yours. What sets you apart from others in your field?
  • Then, master the art of communicating your UVP clearly and convincingly in your resume, during interviews and any professional interactions. Use vivid examples to illustrate your value in action.

By following these steps and confidently owning your unique traits and experiences, you’ll instantly set yourself apart and become that much more memorable to hiring managers. This will help you unlock opportunities that perfectly align to your talents and goals.

So have faith in yourself and trust the process, my sweet friend. You’ve got this.

xM

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