Working with students, across the world, has opened my eyes to a common trait among those that are accepted at competitive universities, candidates hired by the most desirable companies, and successful entrepreneurs.
They are all "pointy".
From a young age, parents and teachers advise students to be "well-rounded". We carry this advice with us into adulthood.
What if I told you to do the exact opposite?
Most people work hard on improving their weaknesses. They try to present a reasonable good front across all areas. As a result, they are mediocre at most things. The well-rounded strategy backfires in most cases because the person comes across as average in all fields and does not shine in any one field.
Apple, Google, and Amazon are not average companies. Why would they hire an average candidate?
Harvard is not a mediocre college. Why would they accept a mediocre student?
The strategy I suggest is quite different.
Work diligently on your strengths. Forget about striving to be well-rounded. I see "pointy" students gain admission to the top universities in the country. They are extraordinary at one, maybe two, areas.
Is this strategy easy to implement?
It takes time, persistence, and dedication to become a specialist in your field. That is the exact reason why it is so extraordinary.
The first time Tiger Woods picked up a golf club he was not a pro. Even Picasso had to start somewhere.
The key is the willingness to put in consistent, sustained effort in your chosen field until you achieve the kind of success that makes you stand out among your peers. ‘Pointy’ people demonstrate that they have the direction, the groundwork and the passion to do exactly this and that is why they are successful.
It's not easy! And that is precisely the reason why these candidates stand out.
Top companies and universities seek specialists: individuals who are so driven by one aspect or one field that they are enthusiastic about devoting their entire time and attention to achieve outstanding results in that area.
I will let you in on another secret.
This strategy also works for entrepreneurs. One of the biggest lessons I learned in business school was to not try to be all things to all people.
Find your niche, develop your niche, and be a leader in your niche.
Make your company "pointy".
As a pointy entrepreneur, customers and other businesses will regard you as an expert in your field. This will allow you to dominate your niche market. You cannot dominate your niche if you try to bend to make all your potential customers happy. Remember, you can't be all things to all people. There will be times when you will have to turn away customers because they are not in your highly targeted market. This is ok. Yet, it is a difficult task for many business owners. A difficult task, yet a necessary task.
The "pointy" person stands out: in college admissions, in business, in entrepreneurship, and in life.
This article was contributed by Kristen Moon - an independent college counselor and founder of MoonPrep.com. She specializes in guiding International Students through the U.S college admissions process. Her students have been accepted to the most prestigious universities in the world, including the Ivy League.