What’s My Competitive Advantage?

Call me dorky, but every once in a while I learn something in a business class that I want to apply to my personal life immediately. I had one of those moments a couple of weeks ago in my business strategy class when we began discussing competitive advantage. Immediately after class I couldn’t help but remember the diagrams as I applied for jobs and thought to myself, “What’s my competitive advantage?”

In my mind, getting hired and finding my edge began to boil down to an equation. If I were a product being sold to a company, my value would be the difference between the value of the services I provided and my hiring cost.

Cost is the fairly easy component to tackle. As a college student, I can expect I’m more expensive than a high school graduate but fairly bottom-of-the-market for professionals. This doesn’t mean that I’m necessarily more or less valuable than one or the other, as each hire is expected to maintain a level of value-added in comparison to his or her cost.

The perceived value of services, however, is where you can gain a differential competitive edge. What extra skills are separating you from your competition? Whether it is a foreign language, html coding, an advanced level economics class or first-aid, we all have skills that add value to employers without adding cost. The kind of skills an employer looks for varies, but when they are there, they can take your application to the next level.

What I realized during this lecture is that I don’t focus enough on my own competitive advantage. I thought about cover letters and job interviews and I realized that a large part of the discussion centers around features that I presume most of the interviewees have. I’m sure most other applicants are business majors, impeccably organized and skilled in Excel.

Looking at my past employers, the skills that eventually landed me the position were not necessarily the ones listed in the desired qualifications. Instead, unique features such as study abroad, writing skills and extracurricular activities have been real selling points for employers. With my head swimming with diagrams for comparing competition, I’m beginning to feel more like a product than ever, but I’m ready to begin marketing myself as such.

Of course, once you get a job of there’s the question of sustaining competitive advantage; but that’s a post-job-acceptance topic and the topic of another lecture.

By Emily Noonan, the Wall Street Journal

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