Most people don’t realize how unique and valuable they are. How could personal characteristics seem to be unusual, or even rare, to oneself? After all, people are with themselves at every moment, view their own qualities as being normal, and cannot hope to perceive and understand others nearly as well.

As a university professor, I am constantly astonished and filled with joy by the unusual, delightful qualities of my students. It’s as if God had convened a symposium of world-class learners about to accomplish amazing things just for my benefit.

Because I am so grateful for working with these students, I am constantly telling them how preciously unique they are. The most remarkable part of these exchanges is that students always let me know that I’m the first person to share such observations with them. Could it be that lacking perspective isn’t limited to self-assessment?

Let me explain how I have gotten to know so much about each student’s uniqueness. Having followed a nontraditional route into university teaching, I don’t have as much training in educational and teaching theories as many professors do. It’s fortunate that I usually teach either through the Oxford tutorial method, or seminars that require students to do much of the research, writing, and presenting.

Lacking educational theories about how to teach, I decided to develop one and then follow it until I could find a better theory. Here’s my teaching approach: Treat students as if they had already earned a PhD degree in how they think, ask them how their thinking occurs, then provide a few alternate methods that could work better, and encourage students to only use the methods that actually improve results over what had worked best in the past.

While watching students blossom in such different ways, I often scratch my head in wonder about how such uniqueness began. In some cases the answer is pretty obvious: Someone has had a much different life experience than most other people.

In other cases the result seems a bit more random. For instance, there’s no predetermined neural set of pathways for reading, such as there are for many physical and mental tasks. Consequently, some people’s reading processes are quite unusual. It’s hard to know exactly how these neural connections developed. However they did, some people were left with legacies of uniqueness that can be a blessing to them and others.

Failing to appreciate their current uniqueness, most people naturally fail to seek opportunities to increase their most valuable rarity. Little do they realize the great increase their careers would experience by so concentrating.

Here’s a hypothetical example to demonstrate the potential career value of increasing uniqueness. Imagine that of all the people in a country between the ages of 35 and 45 that only 500,000 of them have graduate degrees. Of that half million, further assume that 75,000 have business-related graduate degrees. That’s still quite a large number.

Now, let’s imagine that a business wants to hire someone with a graduate business degree who also has technical skill in a field related to what the company does. Let’s assume that there are only 2,000 people in that age group with such a technical degree at the graduate level.

If we now combine the group of 75,000 and the group of 2,000, we may find that there are only 15 people who have both degrees. Now, isn’t that interesting?

Next, assume that there’s yet another level of graduate training needed to be a truly outstanding job candidate for this position. Within all the people in that age group, there might not be a single person with all three graduate degrees. Think of that!

Now, turn that lack of candidates around and ask how many organizations would prefer to hire someone with all three kinds of graduate training. Well, there might be over a hundred.

Finally, imagine that you acquired all three types of training. Wouldn’t it be interesting to experience having over a hundred organizations vie for your skills?

So what’s my advice? Well, it’s to create uniqueness based on combining types of graduate education that rarely occur, but which have enormous potential value to employers. Naturally, you shouldn’t study things just because they would give you a huge occupational advantage. You should instead seek training that advances what you enjoy doing. Chances are good that such a pursuit will create a uniqueness that will make your skills much demanded.

Let me give you a brief example to show how this can work concerning Dr. Kenneth Levy, who earned his Ph.D. in medical and scientific affairs management from Rushmore University, where I teach. Dr. Levy worked as a senior executive for a large international healthcare company. In October of 2012, after 22 years with the same company, he retired from the healthcare industry and was appointed as an Adjunct Faculty member in the department of Clinical Pharmacology at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

When asked about some of the reasons for his outstanding business success, Dr. Levy pointed to having a unique combination of clinical, scientific, and business experience. When I thought about that observation, I tried to remember how many people I had met with all three kinds of academic and career experience. I couldn’t think of a single other person.

Dr. Levy first earned an undergraduate degree in biology and chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania. After that he completed three years of a PhD program in pathology at Hahnemann Hospital and Medical College before earning an MBA from Weidner University.

He also gained on-the-job training in management from one of his medical-company employers. Throughout his career, including international assignments, Dr. Levy gained valuable on-the-job experience managing clinical laboratories, overseeing clinical and scientific research, maintaining documentation in a highly regulated environment and leading a large staff of professional and lay personnel.

I’m quite sure that his credentials are uncommon in today’s world of specialization. Wouldn’t it be great to have such a wonderful advantage in as important an industry as healthcare? Today, Dr. Levy’s academic and practical experience continues to support him in his “second career” of academics and clinical research in Pharmacogenetics.

Perhaps science isn’t one of your interests, but other important subjects are. Have you considered how you might upgrade your knowledge, skills, experience, and credentials so that you would establish a rare and highly valued uniqueness to open the door for attractive jobs? If you haven’t, you may be missing an important chance to advance.

You may think that unless you are still young that such thoughts aren’t practical. You should think about this opportunity. That’s because it’s easier than ever to attend graduate school part-time while having a demanding full-time job.

More and more universities are offering evening and weekend classes for those who are usually otherwise engaged during weekdays. In addition, online learning is ever more available, as well.

In some cases, universities offer flexibility about when the assignments are done so that work deadlines aren’t affected by trying to finish papers and exams on a fixed schedule.

If you now appreciate that you may have enough time to gain such advanced education, you may still be concerned about the expense. While full-time learning in traditional day programs has never been more expensive, the programs followed by those with full-time jobs are often available at a fraction of the cost. Look around!

In addition, education in most traditional academic fields is more generously funded than ever before. Many graduate students receive free tuition and stipends that more than cover living and educational costs without requiring that any teaching be done.

If your mind is fully open now to accentuating your most unique characteristics, let me suggest some questions for you to answer that may help you determine what to do next:

1. What are you passionate about that you are not given enough opportunities to do?

2. What credentials or experiences are usually required to obtain such job opportunities?

3. How do seeking education, volunteering, and gaining on-the-job opportunities compare as ways to gain such attractive positions?

4. What other credentials or experiences might, if added, make you an irresistible candidate?

5. Is there any way to add two types of qualifications simultaneously so that you can go from being seen as just one of the pack to becoming the most desirable candidate imaginable?

After you answer these questions, put together a plan and start acting on it to gain these advantages.

What are you waiting for?

Author's Bio: 

Donald W. Mitchell is a professor at Rushmore University who often teaches people who want to improve their business effectiveness in order to accomplish career breakthroughs through earning advanced degrees. For more information about ways to engage in fruitful lifelong learning at Rushmore University to increase your effectiveness, I invite you to visit