What’s your wow factor?

Maybe your wow factor is building and riding abnormal bicycles.

Maybe your wow factor is building and riding ridiculously tall bicycles.

Last week I was perusing Facebook when I came across a post from a magazine I had applied to work for. The post was introducing the person who was hired to fill the position I had applied for.

More curious than anything, I clicked on the link that would introduce me to the winning candidate. The position was for an online communications manager with a women’s outdoor/adventure magazine. Responsibilities included blogging, managing social media and managing the website. Let’s take a little peek at the victor’s credentials, shall we?

First of all, she is a web designer. Nothing out of the ordinary, but that seems like a key position for someone to have held if they want a job managing someone’s website. She already beat me, there. She also lived in Russia as a journalist for eight years. Oh, and while there, she was part of a vocal jazz group with nine Russian guys. They recorded multiple records and toured Europe. Which means that she’s traveled all over Europe, plus Mexico, the Caribbean and much of the United States. And one final kicker: She loves skiing and was married on a mountain at a ski resort, decked out in her ski gear.

After reading this, all I could think was wow. Just, wow.

You’d think I’d be discouraged after reading something like that. After all, if this is what all of my job competition is like, you can count me out of the game entirely. But I actually felt inspired and a little humbled after reading this woman’s bio. I was reminded of how young I am and of how much I still have ahead of me to learn and experience. I want to call this woman up and say, “How did you do all of that?”

In a tough job market, a wow factor can play a big part in getting hired — or at least in getting noticed.ย To me, this woman had three wow factors: her travel experience, the fact that she toured in a vocal jazz group (in Russia!) and her wedding at an elevation of 11,500 feet.

Wow factors are great to bring up during interviews or squeeze into cover letters if you can relate them to the position. Don’t think of it as bragging. Think of your wow factor as your key to being remembered.

So what’s your wow factor? You might say, “I don’t have one. My life is excruciatingly boring.” But go back and really think about it. It’s easy to see your own life as boring because you’re living it. It seems average because it’s your definition of normal. But other’s will think it’s fascinating.

Here are three wow factors of mine to get you thinking:

1. I moved to Colorado, where I’ve hiked several 14ers and have gone on rock climbing trips. (Maybe this will be more relevant when I’m no longer in Colorado.)

2.ย I was part of two collegiate 4×400 relay teams that placed at nationals.

3. I studied abroad in Spain.

Can you list three wow factors of your own? If you aren’t satisfied with what you’ve done, what’s an attainable wow factor that you’d like to be able to add to your list?

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13 thoughts on “What’s your wow factor?

  1. Terrific post, Lauren. Your point that the wow factor is key to the cover letter/interview is right on. Companies/organizations always want to feel like they are getting the “hottest” candidate they can; someone THEY can brag about and feel proud to have snagged. You want to give them something to work with there, so identifying your “wow”s is a great place to start; I love that suggestion.

    And your “wow factors” are terrific. I’m especially impressed by #2 (given that I live with a track coach who has been running since he was 9 and who has indoctrinated me with the realities of how hard running at a competitive level really is!).

    My Wow Factors (whoa, this is hard…):
    – I walked away from a fully funded doctorate at an Ivy League institution where I had a 4.05 GPA because it wasn’t authentic to me. And I didn’t look back.
    – I managed to actually marry my high school sweetheart. He planned my surprise Sweet Sixteen, that’s how long we’ve been together.
    – I didn’t get the opportunity to get on a plane until I was 20…and I was scared to death when my first air trip came around. Since then, though, I’ve been to England, France, Wales, Scotland, Switzerland and to the Canadian Rockies twice. In addition to a lot of domestic travel. It’s never too late to start traveling, I suppose!

    Of course I wouldn’t put these precise “wow factors” on my cover letter…but they are the ones that encapsulate the real “me” best.

    • Thanks, prof! Yes, it’s definitely not too late to start traveling at 20, haha. That’s awesome! And I love that your wow factors are all moments that helped shape your life. I think it’s even more important to reflect on those moments than the activities that add a shine to a resume.

  2. I’m applying to jobs and writing lots of cover letters at the moment so this post really spoke to me! Thanks for the reminder that we should speak proudly of the extraordinary moments in our lives! They really are what make us individuals, what give us our edge.

    My wow factors:

    1) I oversaw the production of a national conference organized by the nonprofit organization that I was chairperson of during my senior year of college. I delivered a speech about the freedom of expression to 1200 delegates.

    2) I traveled through 5 European cities by myself.

    3) I’ve been documenting and organizing memories through photo albums, journal entries, and letters since I was 9 years old (long before the digital age). My friends call me “the historian.”

      • raimyd / Lauren- Thanks for the replies, guys! When I read articles about backpacking or heard travel stories from my friends, I always wanted to learn what this whole idea of ‘backpacking’ really was. My parents also used to take me to Europe when I was younger, so I also wanted to go back to those cities at a more mature age. Fear was the only thing holding me back all these years from doing it, so once I recognized that it was a true goal of mine, I knew it would be mediocre of me to not go for it. Once I put in my two weeks notice at my job and purchased my plane ticket, the whole journey began. I was scared of the little things, like not knowing French/Italian fluently or getting lost or missing my family back home, but those notions were going to be present regardless. I embraced those moments and thankfully tapped into my inner being. This allowed me to take risks, be grateful for acts of kindness, and trust my instinct. The fear, then, was overpowered. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • I’m really happy you shared this experience and your insights with us, I’ve been dealing with fear or rather letting it deal with me. Anytime I hear stories such as yours I gain a little more courage. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Wow! Seriously legit wow factors, haha. I second raimyd’s response; were you ever scared or really stressed traveling alone? That sounds like a wonderful experience and one that probably helped you grow and learn a lot about yourself. I’m also fascinated by your historian status.

  3. I’m so glad you wrote this post. I think it goes along with one of my posts about getting some identity capital so employers can remember you by what you call, your “wow factor”. I’m going to add your post to my related articles after I try to list my 3 wow factors…

    1) I was the concert head for two back-to-back concerts with a $100,000 budget.

    2) I interned and now work for Sesame Street.

    3) I’m the oldest of 4 and 14 years older than the youngest sibling.

    Short and sweet, and not as wow-ing as the traveling women you mentioned, but its a start! I bet if you called this women she would tell you she did a lot of it in her twenties ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Katie–this did remind me of identity capital. I kept thinking about how Jay said she worked that crazy summer camp job that everyone wanted to talk with her about. And I know you wrote a wonderful series on identity capital ๐Ÿ™‚

      Love your wow factors! I think the fact that you work at Sesame Street is enough to fill a page of wow factors. Thanks for adding my post to your list!

  4. Pingback: The Defining Decade: Identity Capital Part 2 | Ask The Young Professional

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