I work quite often with clients of various outplacement agencies. I also help coach people who are actively looking for work. The one thing that I consistently hear is that the 'competition is fierce out there'. This is a lesson they are experiencing now and learning how to combat, learning how to position themselves more favourably in this competitive environment. However, what about those of you that aren't looking, that currently have a job?
In today's marketplace you can't afford to be complacent. You need to be actively and consciously managing your career. Your boss is far too busy to do it for you. You want that next project to manage? You want the 'big' promotion? Take a lesson from big corporations and begin to think strategically about how you are positioning yourself relative to your competition.
You're likely not alone in your desire and bid for 'more'. The person standing next to you in the coffee line wants that new project or role too. How then are you going to ensure that you are seen clearly as a contendor? One strategy of self-marketing is to learn to differentiate yourself from the competition, to ensure that you stand out from the crowd. Follow the exercise below to determine how you might best serve yourself and your career by taking a closer look at those you are competing against.
1. Determine who your competition is. Before you can build any strategies you need to be clear on exactly who you are likely to be competing against for the next big opportunity. Then... create a list of everything you know about them. Their background, experience, skills, strengths and weaknesses. Really take the time to get to know your competition. Start with what you know and then access other resources to find out more. Don't forget to 'google' them, and don't overlook checking out the various social media sites.
2. Compare and Contrast. Compare your skills and strengths against theirs. The easiest way is to create a chart. This allows you to view a number of competitors simultaneously. In conducting your comparison, pay close attention to three things..
- What do they do well?
- What do they 'have' that you do not?
- Where do they fall short, relative to you?
4. Take Action. Develop actionable strategies for promoting and positioning yourself based on these differentiators. How are you going to get this message across to others? What behaviours do you need to engage in to highlight and demonstrate these differentiators? What values support them?
5. Be Proactive. Don't fail to overlook any distinctive gaps that may exist between you and the competition, what they have that you are missing. The first step is certainly to focus on your differentiators, to ensure that you stand out from the crowd. But... longer term... work to fill in any gaps in your background and experience. Doing so eliminates their potential differentiators, ensuring that you are the only person at the table representing 'more'.