How to Differentiate Yourself
28 August, 2020
Even when I was a manager I was intrigued to learn how to position myself for the next challenge and differentiate myself from a number of other directors who were competing with me.
Various people have different skill sets. Some are social people and they differentiate themselves through networking and socializing. Others are technical and they add value through their technical work. A combination of the two is probably optimal, but rare. However, differentiating yourself is less about you, and more about what your company needs.
Regardless of your talent or what you want to do, you should always focus on what is necessary -- where are the gaps, what is not being done, etc. For example, if you see yourself as a person who loves to code and excels at a particular programming language, that would be a quite narrow self-definition. Instead of looking at your skill set, ask yourself what the company is trying to accomplish and what you can do to help with that. Rather than fitting into one box, you should be able to reinvent yourself and fit as many boxes as possible. Typically, you should be looking for a gap rather than what is going wrong to ensure the most advantageous opportunity at the beginning.
Before approaching other people and telling them that you are interested in tackling a particular issue, do your homework first. Being interested is not enough. You have to show why you are the right fit to handle that problem. If it is about the technology that is missing in the company, invest the time to learn it. Sometimes -- depending on your core skills -- it is not about technology but connections. Nevertheless, it would also require time and effort.
Show an initiative and the ability to drive things forward. Think about the problem, assess your skills, go and ask to be empowered to handle that problem. Come up with your own mini-project and your own small team. This is a way to create a mini career path for yourself. Your small projects can turn bigger and you can stay within the same company doing things you are passionate about contributing and adding value to the company.
- I did this several times before deciding to start my own company. You can practice by starting a company within a company or creating your own career path with cushy support of a large corporation. This is also a way to build on your confidence, but also improve your skills.
- You will differentiate yourself by being able to tune into the path of where the company wants to go and identifying opportunities where the company has difficulty going. Differentiating yourself is not about you, it is about the company.
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