John Akerson's Thoughts

Business, technology and life

Personal Professional Competitive Advantage

Personal Professional Competitive Advantage

Dan Schawbel  is eloquent and persuasive when he advocates personal branding. He evangelizes personal branding like it is the be-all, end-all. He is perhaps the foremost expert, a syndicated columnist, and he is intelligent and extremely professional. I think that he is right about the importance of personal  branding… to a point.

His dream is to “To become the bridge, where qualified applicants can cross to land the positions theybridge deserve.  To create a personal branding class in every school internationally, helping students follow their passions”  That is a good star to shoot at, but he is slightly misguided.

The important thing in finding a job and building a career is not to build a brand. There are dozens of examples. There are hundreds of examples out there – Jeff Bullas, Ashton Kutcher, Mark Cuban, Matt CuttsGuy Kawasaki, and Danny Sullivan each have a fantastic personal brand. Collectively they have billionsashton of dollars and millions of followers. They have people who are evangelists of their personal brands. They have originality, intelligence, and each is unique.  Building those personal brands, to be sure, were important. I’d argue that the brand wasn’t the absolute essential component of their success, but rather that it was only one important component.

The most important thing in finding a job and extending a career is building a Personal Professional Competitive Advantage.  Think about that for just a minute:

  • Personal. It is about you. It is unique. It is synonymous with you. It is elementary to you. It was Michael Jackson’s moonwalk and infectious beats. It is Beyonce’s … uh, voice. It is Obama’s ears. It is Tiger’s Wood. (sorry, couldn’t resist)  It is something about you makes you who you are. It could be as simple as where you are from, or as complex as where you are going. It could be as static as where you are, or as whirling as what you are about.  Danica Patrick is a driver. Sean Connery is an Actor. Morgan patrickFreeman has Gravitas. Mark Cuban is that eccentric personal billionairre who is willing to dance with stars, and wrestle. What does that mean to YOU? Think about yourself, from other people’s perspectives. Is there ANYTHING that is that personal?  There should be. Think about it. Make it happen. Decide what the unique personal qualities are, within yourself, that make you a rock star, every day. Accentuate those qualities, Refine them.
  • Professional. It is about your job. It is about your profession. It is about your career. It is about your path. It is about the passion that pays you, in whatever way you want. There must be something
  • Competitive.  It is about a burning torch inside you, flaring up at the sight of the next torch. It isbolt about Usain Bolt’s speed. It is about you. You must seize a job search like a competition. Someone else is going to spend 10 hours researching a company before a job interview. Someone else is going to figure out who the people are. Someone else is going to remember the names, make eye contact, dress to impress, perfectly craft a resume. Somebody else is going to write thank you letters, is going to send follow-up emails, is going to be sincere, thoughtful, and is going to fight with every ounce.  Fight harder. Spend 20 hours. Figure out who the people are, what schools they went to, who their families are, what their hobbies are, what charities they lead. Know everything there is to know, and know it as well as it can be known.   As for your job – your career, profession, your gig… be the best. Simply be the best. Work the hardest, the longest, the strongest and be the most devoted – and to tip my hat to Dan Schwabel – ensure everyone knows that you are.
  • Advantage. Be first. Be the best. Don’t just do enough to get by. Do enough so that nobody can get by you. Don’t just keep your place, keep your status quo, and keep your own rut. Be better, faster, bigger, stronger, smarter, and be far, far ahead of your competition.

So – this seems like lots of flowery language and motivational clichés – what is a Personal Professional Competitive Advantage?

Here’s an example.  In the last 3 years, I’ve completed about 60 classes across a broad range of professional, technical, management and leadership topics. I’ve completed an ITIL V.3 certification, and taken courses at Stanford and Notre Dame. I have a strong belief that technical and business changes are moving so fast that if I don’t take a huge number of classes in those areas, my baseline of knowledge will become obsolete in about 18 months.  I have developed a presence on Twitter, written a blog, attended chamber of commerce meetings, built a business, consulted with some local companies, and I have done essential things at work.

But that isn’t enough. It is not enough to develop a Personal Professional Competitive Advantage. What I’ve done is more than most people in my career field do, but to me, what I have done is really just enough to keep up to speed. It is not enough to be right at the bleeding-cutting edge. To do that, I probably need to complete a minimum of 4 Ivy League courses annually. I probably should edit or write a book or two.   

Perhaps I should write something on Personal Professional Competitive Advantage as a an essential component of career development.

What do you think?


December 15, 2009 - Posted by | Business, Competitive Advantage, Continuous Improvement, Life


  1. […] This post was Twitted by JohnAkerson […]

    Pingback by Twitted by JohnAkerson | December 16, 2009 | Reply

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by John Akerson and John Akerson, John Akerson. John Akerson said: My new blog entry on Personal Professional Competitive Advantage: Thoughts? Retweet please? […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention John Akerson's Thoughts » Personal Professional Competitive Advantage -- | December 16, 2009 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: