Facing intense career competition without a clear path forward, many people eventually give up the pursuit of progress. Here’s how you can be different.
These days, we enjoy access to plenty of self-help and job advice. But now and then, we still get stuck in our careers. Sometimes too much information leads to decision paralysis or feeling overwhelmed. There’s so much competition out there for the top jobs.
Knowing the scope of the challenge, many people settle for less; they are happy to make ends meet and snatch half-heartedly at opportunities that come their way.
You don’t have to let things slide. With better information, you can take deliberate action to improve your core competencies and compete with the best in your field.
Learning from business
Surprisingly, businesses can have a lot in common with individuals. Just as employees compete for jobs and advancement, companies compete for leads and market share. Employees can have a unique vision for themselves and prefer to do specific tasks, but the needs of the job often dictate otherwise. They have to do what’s necessary. Likewise, businesses are forced to cover many bases to stay competitive.
Not all of these bases indeed generate value. Customer service, for instance, is a basic expectation in business. Everyone, from e-commerce to medical practices, will need it in some form. But there’s rarely any competitive edge to be gained from further investment in this area. Thus, retailers automate their chat support, and doctors use a patient portal service to drive efficiency and lower costs.
By defining their core competencies and separating them from the overhead and other cost centers, companies can focus their efforts on what differentiates them from the competition. They allocate no more resources than necessary for support operations. Human talent and labor can be freed up to innovate, which is something you can’t get from automation or outsourcing.
Finding focus and practice
As an employee, you also possess core competencies. You’ve probably enumerated and articulated them without realizing it. The process of updating your resume or going through a job interview is an exercise in communicating your real value to a prospective employer.
Many candidates fail because they don’t stand out in this way. They might meet the requirements but fail to highlight the unique value they bring to the table.
Just like a business, you can get better by identifying and intentionally improving your core competencies. And doing so often starts with maximizing your free time.
Think of how you allocate your time and energy each day. You want to maintain essential support activities, such as getting a good night’s sleep or ensuring proper nutrition. But you can significantly reduce the amount being devoted to frivolous pursuits or leisure activities.
You can also take steps to reduce the amount of stress you’re dealing with as part of your job. Either find more efficient ways to accomplish unpleasant tasks, or seek to delegate or collaborate if possible. Doing these things will free up more bandwidth each day. That gives you room to work on sharpening your competitive edge.
Information will be a vital tool throughout your quest to improve. Initially, like many people, you might struggle to define even a single attribute that qualifies as an X-factor. That’s nothing to be ashamed of; every employee starts from scratch. But at some point, you have to improve or get left behind. How can you build up your first real core competency?
We all have so much information at our fingertips through the internet. But not everyone puts it to great effect. While your competition is wasting time on social media and falling prey to groupthink, look for reliable sources. Start following industry experts and thought leaders; go niche instead of sticking with what’s popular or trendy.
Using information properly gives you a better picture of what companies are after in the positions you’re targeting. It might give you better insight into the values and competencies of a specific company where you plan to work.
If you’re still a relatively raw prospect, this information serves as your guide on what areas you’ll need to polish. And if you’re already an experienced candidate, it will help you to align your improvement efforts with what they’re after. Or it can help you avoid forcing an odd fit.
Recognize that things are always changing; what sets you apart today might be tomorrow’s standard for your job. By the time people are writing about this stuff on the internet, it might be months (or even years) too late to adjust.
Ultimately, if you want to take full control over your development, you have to recognize the limits of your information sources. Take charge of feedback; it’s the source of firsthand information relevant to your career. Like a business, use this feedback and attempt to innovate even when you’re doing great. Your actions will serve as the probe for what might work even better moving forward.