Should you be Standing Out, or Fitting In?

Row of (near) Identical Clothes

One of the risks that comes with flying solo in your career – whether as a freelancer, consultant or other kind of independent worker – is not standing out. 

Being unremarkable, easily missed. 

This opposite is more often the risk in the traditional job market. 

Here, it’s usually better to fit in. The standout candidate tends to fit. Yep, it’s something of an oxymoron, but it makes sense when you think about it.

On the face of it, you may be working hard on standing out to get a job, but you may in fact need to be working hard on fitting in. To be what they’re looking for, to meet the needs and requirements. Sometimes, fitting in can be what allows you to stand out.

If you’re going independent you have to work hard to stand out, as fitting in doesn’t cut it. You’ll become a commodity, or even worse, be ignored.

It’s also important to be clear that standing out isn’t necessarily better.

There are many situations in life where it’s important to fit in – to be included, to be seen, to be heard, to collaborate, to understand and be understood. 

The challenge is that whichever way you’re heading, you’re probably going to need just a little bit of the other to succeed. Even the most iconoclastic and headstrong independent needs to fit in from time to time.

It’s really easy to get confused here.

What further complicates things is that this is a complex topic with far more layers to dive into beyond the scope of this post: questions of identity, culture, purpose, representation, inclusion.

But as a starting point for a job search, a new venture, or leveling up an existing practice, it helps to have a good handle on whether you’re really more focused on Fitting In or Standing Out.

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