What sets you apart?

Abhishek Rathan Athreya
3 min readNov 28, 2017

A little scared, a little perplexed I walked into the room of a college senior. I had gone to my senior’s room in hopes of getting textbooks, little did I know that I would be welcomed by a group of 15 seniors. Our college had (has?) a tradition in which seniors ask open-ended questions to the juniors. The purpose of this exercise is to evaluate if the junior is interesting or not! After a whole horde of open-ended questions, one senior looked me in the eye and asked —

What sets you apart?

Without a second thought, I began reciting the highlights of my Resumé. When I was almost halfway done with the recitation, the senior signaled me to stop. The air around the room had suddenly turned serious and I was freaking out. The senior walked up to me and told me that the question was directed to my personality and not to my Resumé. He gave me a cold stare and asked again -

What sets YOU apart?

This time around, I actually thought about it. I looked back to my experiences, my struggles and my goals, in hope of finding something unique that set me apart. Alas, I had no cool answer. I was (am) a nerd with neither finesse in music nor mastery in sports.

My lack of ‘cool’ skills, made me think that there was nothing that would set my personality apart.

I finally gathered up the courage and told the seniors that I had NOTHING that would set me apart. I confessed to them that I was a nerd with neither finesse in music not mastery in sports. My seniors however didn’t take that statement too well. Was it their spirit of mentorship? Was it common courtesy? or Was it their desire to help a naive junior? I don’t know. They told me that the characteristics that set me apart didn’t have to be ‘cool’ like music or sports, me being a nerd can also be a characteristic that sets me apart.

What was started off as a scary confrontation with 15 seniors, became a life lesson from 15 mentors. My key takeaways from this incident are —

  • My Resumé is just a record of my professional achievements, nothing more nothing less. My Resumé will never set me apart, my personality will.
  • What appears ‘cool’ to me and what sets me apart may be two different things. Just because the characteristics that set me apart don’t seem cool, I shouldn’t dismiss them.
  • I know now that no matter how scary situations look initially, the end will always have a learning associated with it.

As I close this post, I urge you to take a moment and think —

What sets you apart?

Thanks for reading! If you liked this post, please show some love. If you want to know more about setting yourself apart, chat me up on LinkedIn.

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Abhishek Rathan Athreya

Self-Improvement blogger. Motivational speaker. Technology Enthusiast.