Everybody would like to have an edge over their competition. Athletes, businesses, executives, colleges, and even cities strive to be the best at something. I want to share some suggestions on how you can get an edge without too much trouble. These ideas, when put into place, will be YOU taking action. YOU really are taking the initiative to be above the rest. It’s really easy to become complacent and to just go about doing what you’ve always done. After all, it’s real comfortable — like an old pair of sneakers, sweats or PJs. That’s comfort, huh? yea… hmmmm. Well, that’s not going to put you above the rest at work or in life, or allow you to feel good about yourself at the end of each day. And if you’ve been doing the same thing, had the same job, or working for the same company for a long time, you may not be challenging yourself.
You see, last year, in spite of the cost of my continuing education, I felt very proud and knew it gave me a competitive edge over other coaches. It was time and money well spent. With that in mind, take a look at these 7 tips for getting an edge over your competition, and start implementing them for yourself:
1. Hone your skills: You should always be looking for ways to expand your knowledge and existing skills. No matter what role you’re in or how long you’ve been there, you always have room to improve and grow. If you ever find yourself saying, “there’s just nothing more to learn,” then you’re kidding yourself and not being honest. There’s always more to learn as technology, for example, is constantly changing. Look for opportunities to expand what you know, practice different skills, and implement new processes. Get creative if you have to because if you’re sitting still “you’re falling behind!”
2. Invest in Yourself: There are numerous ways to invest in you. This, of course, requires time, energy and money. But, some people sit around and wait for their company to foot the bill for all of their additional training. This is backward thinking. Why would someone want to invest in you if you won’t invest in yourself? There are hundreds of classes, workshops and webinars available for a reasonable charge, not to mention books (like mine) that will help you learn and grow. Give yourself an annual budget for these types of growing experiences and use them. It’s a personal investment that’ll pay off over time.
3. Join a professional association: I’ve long extolled the value of professional associations for a wide variety of reasons. First off, when you’re involved with a group of like-minded professionals, you gain access to a world of wisdom and experience. You create amazing business relationships with people who can help you grow in ways you could never imagine. And these same people can help you tap new, exciting opportunities you would otherwise never know existed.
Aside from incredible networking, most professional associations also give you access to valuable learning opportunities, whether through featured speakers at meetings, annual training conferences or newsletters highlighting trends in your field. There are hundreds of organizations; visit several different ones or even different chapters of the same organization and see where you best fit in. Join, and then get active. You won’t reap as many benefits by JUST attending the meetings. Sign up to help with a small group activity or project to start, and then progress.
4. Volunteer: Consider volunteering a few hours a week with an organization for which you feel an affinity. Pet rescue organizations, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and domestic violence groups are just some examples where you can make a difference. Aside from personal satisfaction, you gain valuable knowledge that you’ll be able to use in the workplace.Much of what you do will be different from what you do on a daily basis. You’ll find yourself stepping out of your comfort zone, and there’s definitely growth in that!
Depending on your role and the organization, you may also gain some great networking opportunities. Remember that everyone you meet is a potential business contact so take your volunteer work as seriously as you take your regular work.
5. Network: Attend regular networking events in your community. (Your local Chamber of Commerce may be a great resource for this.) Sadly, too many people associate networking with job searching. They wait to do it until they need something from the people they meet. That’s a horrible way to start a relationship! And that’s what makes people dread the idea of networking. Get out there now and start developing real, authentic connections with other business professionals. Build trust. Have fun. Get to know people for who they are, not what they can offer you. Then, should you need a little assistance in the future, you’ll have a strong network to call on. And they’ll be more than willing to help you as a friend, not just a “contact”.
6. Hone your leadership skills: Any person in any position at any level in any industry will benefit from leadership skills. Seriously!
Look for opportunities to take on leadership responsibilities at work, in your community, and anywhere else. As a leader, you’ll practice a variety of skills including communication, management, negotiation, collaboration and more. Regardless of your career aspirations, you’ll benefit from this, even if you have no desire to grow into an “official” leadership capacity.
Acting as a leader also improves your visibility and helps you build a powerful professional reputation. My book The Power of EQ; Stronger Leadership Through Emotional Intelligence teaches many of the skills and can be a start. I’m thrilled to say it will be published in June, and you can order it here
And let’s face it: A big part of being competitive is getting noticed in the first place.
7. Challenge YOURSELF personally as well as professionally. Seek out opportunities for growth, even if you don’t immediately see how they relate to your career. The more you expand your horizons, the more you have to offer in the workplace-and you never know how it will pay off. One example of this is that when I joined Toastmasters years ago to be a better public speaker, I nearly passed out during the first four or five speeches. Today, I’m not only a paid speaker, but I don’t pass out!
Find something that inspires you and go for it. You’ll become a better person and, by extension, a better professional with an edge!