As an immigrant to the United States, I am not what one would consider part of the fabric of mainstream culture. Of Asian descent, I belong to a group that makes up just 4.4 percent of the population. I have dark hair, big eyes, a Singapore smile and an unique accent influenced by my British English education, American immersion and Chinese upbringing.
I realized I was “different” through occasional reminders such as this: when walking to school in New York many years ago, someone yelled “Ni Hao Ma?” (i.e. How Are You?) from a block away. I looked back and a fellow college student I didn’t recognize started waving frantically and flashing his electric smile and blazing white teeth at me. I wondered what I’ve done to deserve such warmth and friendliness from someone I didn’t know. Was it simply the color of my skin?
I learned in a flash that you could turn your “weaknesses” into your strengths. In PR terms, you could brand yourself through your USP, your Unique Selling Proposition. Instead of denying my background and experiences, I decided to embrace them.
- I would carve a career and eventually launch my own PR firm leveraging my understanding of Asia and Asian companies to support them in penetrating the American mainstream.
- I would pitch to reporters in my natural accent influenced by all the places I have lived. And because it was slightly different from a pure American accent, the reporters seemed to remember my voice and my pitches, and soon became my friends and willing contemplators of story ideas.
Can you think of people you know who have turned their weaknesses into strengths? Our current president Barack Obama did not have the pedigree of a Kennedy, but he leveraged his bi-racial background, his humble international upbringing to win hundreds of millions of supporters around the world. Take a moment to contemplate your “weaknesses,” perhaps they are really your strengths and can be turned into your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) with a little creativity and panache?