What Is Your Competitive Advantage In Your Career and Life?

by Hank Coleman

assembly_lineMy boss asked me something last week that made me really think about my life and my career.  He asked me, “What do you want to be known for by people, your peers and superiors?”  I used to have another boss who said that two things would precede you when you moved up the corporate ladder: your reputation and your integrity.

What are you known for?  What is your best attribute?  Are you the “go to” guy?  What is the best thing you contribute to your team?

My boss gave this example, and I thought that I would share it whether it was right, wrong, or indifferent.  Lets say that there are ten skills that your boss and employer value in its employees.  Maybe those skills are selling, closing the deal, giving presentations, financial prowess, research, organizational skills, public speaking, or a host of other skills.  Your employer ranks everyone in all of the skills from one to ten with one being the best person at a certain task and ten the worst.  And, lets say that one person vying for a new position is a solid three out of ten in every single attribute that your boss values.  But, the competition, the other guy, is an eight in every skill set except one.  He is an incredible oral communicator. He is a one in that skill.  He can give fabulous, interesting briefings on any random topic you choose.  He can spout diatribes on “oral tooth decay” after only three minutes of preparation. 

Which person is more valuable to the team?  Is it the guy who is a solid three average or the guy who can blow out anyone in a verbal battle?  If your team already has an average score in all of the attributes, what does the “three” scoring average guy add to your team that is already average?  What does he really contribute except keeping up with the Jones or the status quo?  Can we overlook the communicator’s faults in other areas because he is the best in one important skill? According to my boss, he said that he would take the great speaker every time.  He brings something new to the team that they didn’t have already.

What is your competitive advantage?  What makes you indispensable to your boss?  A competitive advantage for a business exists when the company is able to deliver the same benefits as competitors but at a lower cost (cost advantage) or deliver benefits that are better than those of competing products (differentiation advantage). The same can be said for a person as well with respect to differentiation.  Separating yourself from your peers and competitors can help you become indispensable to your employer.

There are ways to increase your worth to your employer….

  • Go back to school (earn an MBA)
  • Learn a new skill, language, etc.
  • Work on your weaknesses (public speaking)
  • Become more efficient
  • Save your company money
  • Focus on one skill and exploit it

Now is the time in this challenging job climate to invest in yourself and acquire those skills that will boost your career.  We all need to increase our competitive advantage relative to our coworkers and competitors in order to stand out from the crowd and excel.

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