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In 2011: Increase Your Prospects With Better Differentiation

Finding DirectionWell, it’s that time again! As we put one year behind us and position ourselves for improved fortunes, we look to the experts to give us the edge. A shot at a better career, and a better life. It’s probably why predictions are so popular at the start of each year. But let’s face it. Without a concerted effort to act on your own behalf, what good is all that advice?

Certainly, there are trends that will have a direct impact on your career prospects. For example, as social media continues to grow, employers will rely on it increasingly to source and qualify candidates. Knowing this, it’s likely that you’ve already established an online presence on LinkedIn. But how differentiated is it? Does your profile present you as a plug-and-play candidate, or does it establish you as a truly differentiated and attractive?

Hard to know, right? But knowing is increasingly critical.

In a sea of sameness, only the truly differentiated stand out. It’s as true of job candidates as it is of products. Of course, avoiding the perception of sameness has two broad, though interwoven, requirements: understanding the offering and understanding the market. In managing your career, you are the offering, and your customers are the people you’re most suited to serve.

Like an entrepreneur running a business, you need clarity about these things. In fact, making your career your business begins to drive the process of differentiation. As Pam Slim, author of Escape From Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur, says"...knowing the fundamentals of how to work for yourself is a core career competency that everybody should really be learning….” That is, you need to be in control of your career. Yet, even if you agree with this perspective, your first order of business is actually not creating a business plan. 

It’s making the choice. 

In his book, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?, Seth Godin tells the story of Binny Thomas who got a new job without leaving her old one by simply choosing to stand out rather than fit in. According to Godin, one of the most fundamental shifts in our new economy is the role of self-determination. You can no longer make it on connections. Working for the right boss matters little. Even the right background won’t help.

What matters are your internal choices. According to Godin, “How we respond to the opportunities and challenges of the outside world now determines how much the outside world values us.” Yet, this is not solely about what you deliver, but how. It’s about your ability to give generously, to transform others by going beyond the expected. Godin sees this as your artistry.

Artistry, of course, is not something you can get from a “ten tips” in a CareerBuilder article. No, it’s more a product of the deep insights that show you where you’ve been, the choices you’ve made, and what you’ve achieved that makes you the proudest. This is your backstory. Knowing it helps you uncover the themes that will be the most reliable guides to shaping your future. It’s introspective work, and until you do it, you’ll simply not be in the best position to sort out what tools and trends will work best in running your career and making a difference.

Why?

Because if you know what drives you to accomplishment, and for whom, you’re better prepared to stand up and make the choices that matter and pave the way for you to put your own artistry in service to the world.  Not an easy path, for sure. Yet, this kind of differentiation is the price of admission in an increasingly mature marketplace.

Cross-posted at Threshold Consulting

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More Stories By William Arruda

Dubbed 'The Personal Branding Guru’ by Entrepreneur magazine, William Arruda is a pioneering brand strategist, speaker, author and founder of Reach Personal Branding. He is credited with turning the concept of personal branding into a global industry.

William delivers keynotes and workshops on the transformative power of personal branding for some of the world’s most successful companies. He energizes and motivates his audiences—and his private clients include some of the world’s most influential leaders. As a thought-leader, William is a sought-after spokesperson on personal branding, social media and leadership. He has appeared on BBC TV, the Discovery Channel and Fox News Live and he’s been featured in countless publications, including Time Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes and the New York Times. William is the coauthor of the bestselling book Career Distinction. He is a member of the International Coach Federation and the National Speakers Association. He holds a Master’s Degree in Education.

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