ABOUT BE-EDGES. Strategy Frameworks behind Personal Strategy of Boutique Employability:
Focus Differentiation, Blue Ocean, and Distinctive Capabilities

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Personal Strategy Should Be About Strategy


This post is about understanding the strategy behind the personal strategy, and not just any personal strategy but Personal Strategy for Boutique Employability.

First of all, the term Personal Strategy is overused, while not really defined.  While it obviously includes the “strategy” in its definition, it almost always used by psychologies for empowering their message that a person should define and own their own path in life.


When you are at the “what’s next?” stage in life, and you have options in your strategy for career design. You might choose a conventional approach for a personal strategy for fitting a job or target big career goals, or you can try a “BE” personal strategy for crafting your space for a job market.


You might have even bumped into my book  “Crafting Your Edge For Today’s Job Market” that promises that if you follow the E-D-G-E steps in your personal strategy formulation, you will invest in your personal capital, social capital, and professional capital, which then could be utilized in your BE – boutique employability. I wouldn’t be surprised if you wonder “What is this boutique employability about? Do I need that BE personal strategy, or I would rather follow a conventional way of sending my resume to the jobs and try to be hired?”


I must say, that these would be perfect questions to ask. So, this post is about the BE personal strategy and how it differs from the conventional. Let’s start with the definition of the “BE” personal strategy, and then go through some details of what this strategy means comparing to others.


Defining the “BE” Personal Strategy for Boutique/Built-in Employability


Boutique employability is for those who do not want to be just another job seeker. The “BE” personal strategy is for those who want to design their own, unique, space at the market, which makes competition irrelevant. Millennials labeled this approach to employability “BE,” “Boutique Employability” due to its uniqueness and multidimensional approach. Veterans called it “BE,” “Built-in Employability” because the steps lead them to “cash in” on acquired skills when entering the civilian job market.  What does it mean from a strategic angle of view?



This is about a Focus Differentiation in Personal Strategy


As it’s described on my website, Both BEs — the Boutique Employability and the Built-in Employability — refer to a niche personal strategy for employability, that prioritizes “being special in a narrow area” vs. “being better in a wider area” of conventional employability.  In the same way, a niche market differs from a mass-market or a boutique differs from a department store, the focus differentiation strategy for boutique employability differs from a wide market differentiation of conventional employability. Such an angle of view on personal strategies refers to an infamous Michael Porter’s generic strategies and applies it to our own personal strategies.  It means that


  • If you are interested in conventional employability, you would target a wider scope of organizations and jobs and try to be better in a wider competition. Because you want to fit a wide range of companies, your own “core” must be easy to understand and apply.  So, you choose a conventional title (say, an accountant), apply to tones of accountant jobs, and are ready for harsh competition for a spot in your industry (because there are so many well-educated accountants there!). So, you are trying to become more attractive for an employer with a better diploma, a better experience, or better connections. The pro of this approach to personal strategy is the size of your market: there are many companies you can outreach. The con of this approach is that the competition is tiring and never-ending, with more and more new “accountants” graduating colleges every year.


  • If you are interested in the BE niche employability, you target a smaller group of jobs and companies to work for. You understand their unique needs and position yourself as having a special, unique set of capabilities that would serve them best. So, if you have a background in accounting, you specialize in a specific type of company or provide expertise in a very specific accounting service. The pro of this approach to personal strategy is that the competition is much lower, and you are hard to substitute. The con is in the number of companies that need such a unique skill set as yours.


This is about Blue Ocean for Personal Strategy


I love the concept of Blue Ocean Strategy, developed by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, professors at INSEAD. This concept claims the motion of creating an unexplored “blue ocean” instead of competing in a crowded “red ocean.” It provides businesses with tools for unlocking new demand and making the competition irrelevant.  If Kim and Mauborgne developed this concept for business strategy, we can apply it for a personal strategy as another angle on the “BE” strategy for boutique employability. So,


  • If you follow a conventional approach for personal strategy, you follow the traditional competition-based strategies (red ocean strategies) that accept an industry’s boundaries as given based on the belief of environmental determinism. To sustain yourself in the marketplace, you are trying to assess what others offer and be better as it was described in the “differentiation strategy”, or you lower the price for your service. Similar to the argument above, space is limited within the defined boundaries, so you trying to redistribute or hold the job instead of creating a unique value.
  • The BE personal strategy is close to Blue Ocean one. It is based on the view that job boundaries are not given and can be reconstructed by the actions and beliefs of people who reject the environmental determinism and prefer the reconstructionist view instead. Instead of trying to be better (say, having a higher level of diplomas) or charge less for the job, they are thriving for uniqueness, through combining skills and experience from different industries in the strive for value innovation – that is, the creation of innovative value to unlock new demand.


It starts with the “Inner” Elucidated CORE


This is all about distinctive competencies and how to make them match the market opportunities. How many of us found ourselves frustrated that we hard time to fit the “box” of a given job, we are tired of competing with those who are younger or older, or different gender, or speak better — even if they are so linear and one-dimensional. How many of us knew that the complexity of a profile we have because of our multidimensional interests and experience is a highly valuable capital, but we didn’t have a strategy to make it work?

It would be obvious that any personal strategy must bring together your own “inner” qualities and the market “outer” demand, and find their match. The question is where to start in this process.

  • If you are interested in conventional employability, you start with the “outer” environment: You first look at what jobs are in most demand and what qualifications are most desired, and then set the goals for personal development. So, you take the outer market as given and try to adjust to it with getting qualifications that the market asks for.


  • For the BE — Boutique and/or Built-in Employability, you start with the focus on your “inner” self. You first elucidate your professional core, which brings together your “built-in” previously accumulated experiences and qualifications (if you are an accomplished professional) or combines your “all over the place” qualities (if you start your career). Your Elucidated CORE AS A PRO defines your unique combination of capabilities and qualifications and treats it as a starting point. Then, you scan the “outer” environment for jobs that might fit you or set the goals to craft the space at the market that would fit your core.



Ownership: Them or Me?


Finally, BE is not for everybody. My book  “Crafting Your Edge For Today’s Job Market” starts with the measures of professional and psychological readiness that you and I need to have in order to pursue Boutique Employability.

  • On professional readiness, we have to have a number of qualifications in order to craft our own edge. The “BE” personal strategy asks for more sophisticated “inner” material than the “follow the flow” one. That is why I usually work with master students or accomplished professionals, while Millennials, recently graduated from undergraduate programs are also often strong enough because many of them have job experience and a number of diplomas. The BE personal strategies would be too early or even irrelevant for people who never tried more than one activity and don’t have much to offer. However, it is all fixable.


  • Psychological readiness is trickier with a proactive stand in edge crafting as a major indicator.  In a nutshell, you ask yourself, who decides in what kind of space in the market you get? If you believe that this is “them” (employers, market demand, competition, or simply people’s opinion on what you should do) who define your space, you are not yet ready for the BE employability. If it would be you who challenge a status quo of the rules of the game on how jobs are defined, welcome to the club. Your journey will be more difficult, but more exciting. It would be YOU who hire your employer.  


Back to the Map of my Blog


On the map of my blog, this post belongs to the intersection of the “BE” column & the”WHAT IT MEANS” raw. It explains the meaning of the Boutique Employability vs. Built-in Employability vs. General Employability as a part of the BE-EDGE method.


No doubts then why the “BE” personal strategy fits best multidimensional accomplished professionals who want to change the game and live in full as they a lot to contribute and they know how to take ownership for own decision. Veterans are the best example of that. It also fits Millennials who are naturally multidimensional and inward-oriented.



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