On Friday I gave my first lecture to the BUS4050W (Strategic Thinking) class. My main focus for the session was to relate strategy to their careers and how they could get ahead. Part of this was about differentiation, or how they could stand out from the crowd.

I explained that many of them will be competing for the same jobs, along with other graduates with similar degrees from around the country (and the world). In order to get ahead, they need to develop a strategy that sets each of them apart from this crowd. And the strategy will depend entirely on their own objectives. The questions I posed to them were as follows:

  1. Where are you now?
  2. Where do you want to be?
  3. How do you get there?

In other words, they need to analyse their current position, set their goals based on what they want to achieve and then come up with a set of coherent actions that will get them to that goal.  And they need to make sure they set themselves apart.

The Red Fire Extinguisher 

To illustrate my point, I told them a story that I borrowed from the past course convenor, Dale. It goes as follows:

Dale was working at a highly disruptive and innovative fintech startup in the early 2000s. Their team was growing quite rapidly, and they had hundreds of job applications for various positions.

One day, a bright red fire extinguisher was dropped off at reception, with the instruction that it get to the CEO. The CEO came down to check this weird arrival and opened the attached note. The note on the fire extinguisher said:

“I want to set your marketing department on fire”

It was accompanied by a formal CV showing that the person had an impressive work history.

They were hired, and started their job the next week.

Differentiation to get ahead

This story is simple but powerful, because an action like that can fundamentally alter your chances at success. It’s not to say that this exact strategy would work everywhere. Dropping off a fire extinguisher at an accounting firm is likely to just get you some weird looks and no job.

So it’s important that we develop our own strategies to set ourselves apart. In doing so, we get ourselves into a more powerful position and ultimately are able to reach our objectives and goals.

Image is from this afternoon’s prom walk 🙂

Song of the day: Particula - Major Lazer & DJ Maphorisa(ft. Nasty C, Ice Prince, Patoranking & Jidenna)
Blog 105/365. Read more about my #365of25 journey here


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