Background Image

  The Ultimate Competitive Advantage

Sep 25th

The Ultimate Competitive Advantage

Never Stop Networking!, Personal, Success

s a headhunter, I had a unique vantage point with insight into how thousands of people make career and life decisions every year. Within those interactions, I observed the ultimate competitive advantage that allowed certain people to create extraordinary careers for themselves, free from fear, constraint, and mental, financial, and professional limitations.

In summary, their Ultimate Competitive Advantage was this simple principle:

Persevere at something you love doing AND are good at.

That's it. It can't be more simple that that. Here's an example. A CEO I was working with needed to staff up his team's 2nd-tier leadership band. His background, people skills, and business acumen made him as close as possible to a perfect CEO, thus it was easy to hire for him. This is his 3rd company straight out of his Post-Doc, and I have no doubt it will be another resounding success. How is he able to achieve this level of success sustainably when there are literally millions of PHDs who studied the same subject yet unable to achieve at his level?

It's because, he found something he's good at, and LOVES it. Many senior leadership like the Wells Fargo guy are in it for the wrong reasons! Do they really love their job, their product, their mission, or are they there just to collect some money to pay for their extravagant lifestyles? Do they have the right skill-set to excel in their career space? Did they get into their careers for the right reasons to begin with? Or was it just for the bragging rights? You'll find that those shallow motivations for ego and wealth are fleeting; you may potentially land in hot waters like Bernie Madoff or {insert any greedy/immoral businessperson}. Is that a meaningful legacy to leave?

Tune into the Daily DANDAN Podcast to hear an extended audio version of this principle in our mini-series on doing what you love.

Food for thought: the failure rate for businesses are high because too many people are in it just to make money, there is no sustaining mission or passion, so it's much easier to throw in the towel, close up shop, and head right back into a salaried role. It's those who really care that make it!

The CEO I worked with truly cared about his company's mission of providing valuable drugs to solve rare diseases. Money was not his key concern. He never let a candidate's price tag stop him from moving forward. When you love something, you tend to care about it, so you won't be doing things for the sake of things anymore. I made sure the candidates I brought forth were similarly passionate, long-term minded, and looking to really get their hands dirty. The candidates that would suffice for large pharmaceutical companies were not good enough for this CEO, he truly wanted the cream of the crop.

Not only does he have the basic qualifications to be great at his craft (he was always top of his class, natural inclination towards the sciences), he actually deeply cared about his mission and what they're doing, which is going to drive his business to financial success as a byproduct, not as an end in and of itself. He's driven by something that's beyond money - that is a scary opponent to be up against!

Examine what you enjoy doing, now, during college, high school, even as a kid. What were you adept at and cared about passionately enough that you can potentially craft a career around it or monetize it? For me, the answer was, sales. Despite everyone telling me that sales jobs were "easy, anyone can do sales", it's "not prestigious", I knew myself well enough by my early 20s that I had an inkling this was an area I may have an advantage in due to my experience in people-based jobs as a waitress/bartender in the bottom right quadrant (services). I was now going to shift into the top right quadrant (sales).

TIP: Ignore conventional wisdom and strong-arming from friends, family, professors, and others who say that "XYZs do well, why not do that?" Use your own internal compass to break through societal propaganda and find where you belong with your existing skills.

Question to answer: What is your potential competitive edge? What can you do with your skills? What passions are truly enduring (not your recent obsession with Pokemon Go!) that you can create a mission around to achieve greater meaning?

Dandan is an NYC-based entrepreneur, headhunter turned career coach and go-getter businesswoman. Check out Dandan Global for REAL advice on job search, career management, and creating a successful life.