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Three Strategies for Success in Your Job
by Vaughan Evans


You figure you’re in the right job or business. But you’re not fully satisfied. You feel you could be doing a bit better. And things may be set to change in your market or company. What should you be doing now to prepare for such change?

You need a robust strategy for success. Here you would do well to borrow from business. Whether you’re employed by a company or self-employed, think of yourself as a business and adopt one of the tried-and-tested strategies used by business to achieve competitive success. 

Start by envisaging what the ideal provider of your services would look like in three to five years’ time. Do some brainstorming. You need to think creatively about how your marketplace may change over the next three to five years and how the needs of your employer or customers may be affected. What will the ideal provider of your services look like? To what extent will he or she be different from the ideal provider of today? More qualified? In what? Better trained? In what way? More experienced? In which areas? More skilful? How?

Next, set your sights. To what extent do you wish to become like the ideal provider? You’ll never get there, of course. No one is perfect. You may not want to get there, given the impact this could have on other aspects of your life. But you may want to stretch your sights and narrow the gap. You need to pinpoint your goal.

Finally, adopt one of the three generic strategies for success, detailed below, needed to bridge the gap. The first two are based on generic business strategies. To develop a sustainable competitive advantage, companies generally follow either a differentiation strategy or a low-cost strategy. They either do something distinctive and well, or do more or less the same as others but at lower cost. What they would be well advised not to do is exactly the same as other companies do, the so-called me-too recipe for lack of success. The third is a strategy not recommended for business, but appropriate for individuals in certain circumstances: working on your weaknesses.

  1. Differentiate with the Stand Out! strategy. You can use this differentiation strategy whether you’re employed or self-employed. Stand Out! is about making what you offer distinctive and different from others in your position. It builds on your strengths and circumvents your weaknesses. A study by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton found that people’s greatest room for improvement is in the area of their greatest strength. Identify your greatest strengths, and figure out ways to build on them to set yourself apart from others or become special to someone or some group of people (customers, for instance). Think Madonna. Love her or loathe her, her sustained Stand Out! strategy since the 1980s of image reinvention and self-publicity has yielded extraordinary success.

  2. Go low cost, with the easyU! strategy. If you’re self-employed, your earnings are typically a reflection of your charges on the one hand and your volume of work on the other. Are your rates keeping you from being as busy as you want to be? If you’ve researched the market, as suggested above, you probably have a good idea of what the market can bear. Sometimes, to maximize your exposure in the market, get more clients, and generate more free advertising via word-of-mouth, lowering your rates can be a sound growth strategy. Perhaps you need to make it easy for clients to call you first, before anyone else. (Think Southwest, which found a way to do it cheaper—and stole customers from the rest of the airline industry.)

  3. Improve your competitiveness with the Sharpen Act! strategy. You may not be able to differentiate sufficiently in your job, and you may not choose to become the lowest cost provider, but you do need to stay in that job. To pre-empt being squeezed out, you need to improve your competitiveness. In the Sharpen Act! strategy, you build on your strengths to the extent that you’re able to in the circumstances, but meanwhile you work on some of the weaknesses that are holding you down. These could, for example, be presentation/public speaking skills, computer skills, appearance, leadership skills, marketing, networking, or organization. Identify one or two and work on raising your capabilities, narrowing the gap with the ideal provider. Who knows, you could even transform a weakness into a strength.

Take Debi. She works in the marketing department of a professional services company.  Her brainstorming reveals that the ideal employee a few years’ hence will need to be adept at presenting on her feet. Yet public speaking is one of Debi’s greatest fears. What should she do? She can’t carry on as is. She has either to look elsewhere, or bite the bullet. She joins Toastmasters International. As for thousands of others, worldwide, it transforms her life, and is a huge amount of fun to boot. Her Sharpen Act! strategy enhances, possibly even saves, her job.

Many people feel stuck in their jobs. But they know they could do better, for themselves, for their company. The best way to boost your performance, pay, and job satisfaction is to follow a robust strategy, whether Stand-Out!, easyU!, or Sharpen Act! Such strategies work for companies, and they can for work for you as well.


The Author

Vaughan Evans

Vaughan Evans is a renowned economist, business strategist, sought-after speaker, and the author of Backing U! A Business-Oriented Guide to Backing Your Passion and Achieving Career Success (Business and Careers Press, 2009, 

Many more articles in Personal Development in The CEO Refresher Archives
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Copyright 2010 by Vaughan Evans. All rights reserved.

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