Building Competitive Advantages That Will Help You Capture Better Opportunities
Which would you rather have, a clear career plan or some clear competitive advantages? I ask this question because I come across a lot of people who spend a lot of time and energy trying to come up with a good career plan. Two things often happen with these people. The first is that while they may have a better idea about what they want to pursue, many do not develop competitive advantages that allow them to capture the kind of opportunities that are attractive to them. The second is their career plan usually ends up changing at some point later on.
So when coaching others on their career development and ability to achieve their career success, I tell them to focus more on identifying and developing their competitive advantages. Because it’s your competitive advantages that will ultimately determine your ability to stand out over others and become more successful.
During the early part of my career, I had no career plan. But I was still able to get into very good opportunities that were attractive to me later on. A big reason was because I had some very good, highly transferable skills. And then, later in my career, I was also able to develop a relatively unique combination of skills that gave me a competitive advantage over most others.
Think, transferable skills
I’ve talked about the importance of transferable skills before. Basically, skills that benefit you no matter what kind of industry, company, job function, or career stage you’re in. Early in my career, I wasn’t even aware of how transferable the things I was learning and doing were. For instance, I thought that my training in problem-solving skills to figure out engineering and design problems only applied to my job as an R&D design engineer. For example, as an engineer, we’re taught to identify the problem, then break it down and understand it, then analyze it, and then think about how to solve it.
It turns out that this systematic approach that I used to solve engineering problems is also the same approach you would use to solve business, finance, marketing, and even talent-related problems.
As an engineer, I also developed project management skills. I learned to lead projects from the idea stage to the design completion stage. To deliver the result, I had to learn how to develop, communicate, and execute a project plan and schedule. Again, when I began pursuing a business career later, I found out that the project management approach I practiced could also be applied to any other type of projects, including business-, consulting-, research-related ones, etc.
Both my problem-solving and project management skills have helped me throughout my career. Other highly transferable skills that allow you become more competitive and successful in any situation include your communication and people skills, analytical skills, leadership skills, and sales skills. So what transferable skills do you possess, or that your current job situation is helping you to develop?
Think, combination of skills
To develop your competitive advantages, then also think combinations. What I mean is the combination of two things that you’re able to do well. This automatically creates a more unique, competitive advantage for you. And if it’s a combination of things that are considered opposites, then this is even more so.
For instance, as an engineer, I developed strong analytical skills, which is typical of most engineers. But engineers are also known for having poor communication and people skills. So when I began pursuing a business career, I focused my efforts on building these skills.
Because there are many people who have strong analytical skills. And there are many with strong communication and people skills. But what is both less common and highly sought are people who possess both strong analytical and communication and people skills. These are the skills of successful marketing, business development, and investment professionals. And of many people who are able to reach top management levels in their career. Other very attractive combination of skills that are considered opposites of each other include:
· Sales skills + marketing skills= many of these people become department heads
· Engineering + management skills= many of these people become GMs
· Strategic thinking + execution skills= many of these people become managing directors and CEOs
· Technology + business skills= many of these people become RICH!!!
When identifying and building your competitive advantages, it’s combinations like these that naturally allows you to become more unique and outstanding. So what combination of skills do you possess, or that your current job situation is helping you to develop?
So back to my original question. Would you rather have a clear career plan or clear competitive advantages? Of course, having a good idea of what you want and need to do will benefit your career. But ultimately, developing your competitive advantages has a bigger impact on your success and ability to attain your career objectives. So pay attention to your competitive advantages that you’re building to help you capture better opportunities and achieve a better future.
To learn how to identify and develop your competitive advantages, join Larry Wang’s upcoming workshop on Saturday (5/26), on How To Build Your Competitive Advantages To Capture Better Opportunities Throughout Your Career. To sign up for this workshop or for more details, please click here： https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/JvnicAfWpFL6wAovH2n4KQ
This is the 4th workshop in his 7 Steps To Achieving Your Career Success (A Systematic Approach To Your Career Development) workshop series.