We live in a competitive world. If you aim to have a standard package of offering, you will not be ahead of the game.
You need to offer something extra for you to stand out from the crowd. And that extra factor has to be regularly, if not constantly reviewed because in no time, others will catch up and overtake you again. You need a plan to have a competitive edge against your competition.
Look, for example, at the accounting profession in Malawi. In the 1980s, having a diploma in accounting or finance was enough to stand out. In the early 1990s, having a bachelor’s degree in finance made one to stand out. Later, one needed to acquire a ‘chartered’ certification with Cima or Acca to have the necessary competitive edge.
When most of the accountants achieved the chartered status, others started to add a master of business administration (MBA) qualification on top of the bachelor’s degree and the Acca/Cima certification for them to really stand out. I do not know what is next now as many outstanding accountants have the three qualifications!
This example should not be taken literally. It is an illustration for a very important point. You need to have the competitive edge for you to stand out from the population set that you are competing from. We are not just talking of qualifications. Even when it comes to skills and competences, you need to offer something extra.
How do you go about the journey towards having the competitive edge? First, determine what you want to achieve. Then list what are the mandatory or necessary requirements for you to achieve your goal. That may be in terms of the qualifications, skills, know-how or even other resources and experience. Then, consider also what are the good attributes that if one had, he or she can make a compelling case? Consider especially those attributes that many of those that would be bidding for your target goal would not ordinarily have. Then set out to secure those attributes.
The good news is that certainly in Malawi here, most people only begin to want to acquire particular attributes when they see that many others have them and they are benefitting from that unique competitive edge. Work to be the pace-setter. Be the first to do possess value adding features, qualifications and competences.
Do not rely only on what is the norm now. Consider also the expected challenges of tomorrow and what kind of people and skills will be in high demand. Be ahead of the game by acquiring today the skills and resources that you will need tomorrow in order to stand out.
Remember that such an approach will not be easy or cheap. In fact, it will rarely come for free. You may need to spend and invest not just the time but even money at times. However, remember that the return on investment can be so many times bigger than what you invest. It therefore makes a lot of sense to make the required investment of time and resources in order to acquire that competitive edge.
Sometimes money is not required at all. But you might need to spend a lot of time to acquire that particular competitive edge. For instance, for you to be uniquely skilled and qualified, you might need to work many long days and nights and perhaps even forgo some of your holidays. In the end, you will likely be handsomely rewarded.
Therefore, do not hesitate to make the required investment in your professional development or training. Many people fail to stand out or to have a competitive edge because they are so hesitant to invest in something that may yield them good fruit tomorrow.
Good luck as you set out to establish your competitive edge. This way, you will truly rise and shine!