6 Ways to Gain a Competitive Advantage in Your Career

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated December 18, 2020 | Published December 12, 2019

Updated December 18, 2020

Published December 12, 2019

Obtaining a competitive advantage during the interview process or throughout your career increases the likelihood of getting the job or promotion you want. It also positions you for salary increases and rapid advancement in the workplace. Gaining a competitive advantage takes time and practice developing the necessary skills. In this article, we discuss in-depth what a competitive advantage is and how you can gain or maintain one throughout your career.

Related: 10 Best Skills to Include on a Resume

What is a competitive advantage?

A competitive advantage is the ability to stay ahead of your present or potential competition. People typically gain a competitive advantage by evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of their competitors and seeing how you could improve your own performance to obtain an advantage.

To obtain a competitive advantage, you have to be clear about three things:

Benefit

You must know the real benefit that you have to offer, the real value that you bring to your organization to increase profits. This requires you to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and skills for someone with your position so you can continue providing value over time.

Target market

As an employee, your target market is your employer. You must know exactly what you can do to bring value to the organization.

Competition

To gain a competitive advantage, you must know your competitors. As an employee, your competitors are other employees and technology.

When you are interviewing, you communicate your competitive advantage through your resume, appearance and performance at the interview. Once you have obtained a job, you communicate your competitive advantage by continually exceeding expectations in the workplace.

How to gain a competitive advantage

Gaining a competitive advantage can set you apart from other applicants during a job search or position you for rapid career advancement and additional compensation. And while it’s important, working harder isn’t the solution to gaining a competitive edge. You must work strategically to lift yourself above the competition. Here are the steps you can use to gain a competitive advantage.

  1. Maintain your skills.

  2. Add value to the company.

  3. Develop new skills.

  4. Improve interpersonal skills.

  5. Communicate effectively.

  6. Exceed expectations.

1. Maintain your skills

There is always room to improve upon your skillset or learn about innovations being made in your field. Be eager to master your skills and then go beyond. If you continually learn the newest, cutting-edge skill sets or technologies, you’ll find that you quickly become the go-to person and will be viewed as the expert in your workplace. This can rapidly give you a competitive advantage over others.

2. Add value to the company

Identify how you and your job fit within your organization and what you do increases the bottom line for the organization. Also, identify which of your responsibilities delivers the most value for the organization. Make sure that those high-value activities are your greatest priority and go above and beyond in your performance. This assessment of your responsibilities will also allow you to see what additional skills you could develop that would further add to this value.

3. Develop new skills

Expanding your existing skills and developing new ones will make you more valuable to your company. In today’s world, companies are adopting new technologies and trends at a rapid pace. Read up on the latest trends and technologies in your industry and be willing to take on new responsibilities and try out new technologies to remain competitive. You can also improve your knowledge and skills by attending classes, workshops, seminars and conferences.

Related: How to Develop Your Skill Set to Advance Your Career

4. Improve interpersonal skills

Hard skills are, obviously, essential for your job, but what truly gives you an advantage over others is your mastery of interpersonal skills. Your ability to work as part of a team and get along well with others is just as important, if not more important, than your mastery of hard skills. Some of the top ones to focus on are:

  • Leadership

  • Teamwork

  • Social skills

  • Problem-solving skills

  • Communication, both written and verbal

  • Encouraging and supporting others

  • Persuasion

  • Positivity

Related: Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

5. Communicate effectively

Your ability to communicate effectively can increase your significance in an organization. For example, if you can explain the needs of a project clearly and succinctly that the recipient understands fully in the first email, you will get results more quickly.

6. Exceed expectations

When you go above and beyond in your work, others will notice. When you go beyond what others are doing or are willing to do, you will stand out to management and achieve a competitive edge and, most likely, see more rapid advancement in your career.

Tips for gaining a competitive advantage at work

Here are a few extra tips to help you gain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

Invest in yourself

Be willing to invest time and money into your professional development. Read books, listen to podcasts, attend classes, workshops, webinars and seminars. If you are ready to go all-in on your professional development, you could even invest in coaching for yourself.

Join a professional association

Professional associations give you instant access to like-minded professionals in your industry who can help you gain access to new and exciting opportunities. Through professional associations, you can access learning opportunities, training conferences or online education platforms.

Hone your leadership skills

Look for any opportunity to take leadership responsibilities at work. As a leader, you’ll be able to practice a variety of skills, including communication, negotiation, management and collaboration. Leadership roles also improve your visibility and professional reputation.

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