By Chaewon Jung.
April 28, 2021
Throughout my business undergraduate program at Northeastern University, a concept that was often mentioned was that of competitive advantage — specifically its importance in business success . Competitive advantage, as defined by the Corporate Finance Institute, is an attribute or trait that allows a company to distinguish itself from and outperform its competitors. Especially in the marketing program, it was emphasized in every course that a company needs a strong competitive advantage in order to gain market share and prove itself successful.
However, until my Strategy capstone course taught by Dr. Julia Ivy my last semester, I had never considered the need for an individual, let alone myself, to possess a competitive advantage. Granted, I had spent the last five years working to accredit and distinguish myself from my peers through different activities, opportunities, and work experiences; but it had never dawned on me that I had been searching for my own competitive advantage.
An Edge-Crafter — And What That Really Means
So, an Edge-Crafter. Utilizing your strengths, experiences, and unique characteristics – your competitive advantage — to build and set yourself apart. Sounds easy enough. And in some ways, it is. But when your interests or passions — such as my personal desire to make an impact on people’s wellbeing — doesn’t seem to align with your plans for your career, the concept of crafting yourself becomes a more daunting one.
In my third year of college, I added Supply Chain Management as my second concentration. I wasn’t really sure why I had or what I wanted to do with it, so I often feared it would not be a fruitful endeavor. I knew that I was interested in the topics taught in class and it excited me to work in an industry that was growing in size and prominence, but I didn’t know how it connected to my personal interests or goals as an individual. I knew I liked people. I liked studying why we do things, how I can improve or help others, etc. I knew how I could apply this to a marketing role, but what about supply chain?
You Embody Your Own Job Description
However, as I continued to learn more about the world of business, I soon learned that in any role, there is an opportunity to tie in who you are. While a certain job description may not require the specific interests or passions you have, ultimately, you become the description. As you fill the role, you are bringing your whole self with it — including your past experiences, personality, hobbies, etc. As a supply chain manager, I may not exactly be saving lives. However, more importantly than the what of my job, it is in the who and why that I am able to incorporate my goals and interests into the role. This is ultimately what sets me apart from others. I hope to one day manage the supply chain of a healthcare organization, giving me the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of patients by ensuring that proper supply is met.
While I may not be the doctor doing the actual saving, I am able to utilize my interests and knowledge in the supply chain realm and apply those to a passion that I have for healthcare. And while it may sound trite, it’s ultimately my purpose that will drive me to success and distinguish me from others working towards the same position.
Simon Sinek, an inspirational speaker and author, talks about the concept of the Golden Circle, urging people to start with the why of every decision they make. In this Ted Talk, Sinek goes on to explain how the most impactful leaders our country has ever seen, whether it be the executives of Apple or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., all started with their purpose. And this, as opposed to the what, was ultimately what set them apart. Applying this same concept to our own personal Edge-Crafting journeys, in the end, it is our why that will serve as our competitive advantage. And this why, is much more than just the work experiences we’ve had or the GPA we managed to graduate college with. Our whys are our childhoods, our past decisions, our relationships, our values, our dreams. Our whys are formed by a culmination of everything that makes us, us. So above all, if I could leave you with one piece of advice, it would be to stop thinking about what you should do, but start thinking about why you want it. And once you have your purpose, it will open doors for you to spotlight all the things that make you a unique candidate in anything you choose to pursue moving forward.
And Just Remember, Nothing is Permanent
Another key takeaway that I learned throughout my undergraduate career is recognizing that nothing is permanent. The decisions that I make, the leaps of faith I take — most aren’t for forever. We may not find our perfect fit in the first co-op or full-time job we take. Maybe not even the second. It’s okay not to know. But through the different experiences and perspectives, we gain throughout these different encounters, we’re further strengthening our competitive advantage.
No one takes the same path as you. Even those walking alongside you on graduation day, with the same degree in hand: no two are the same. With the unique attributes we each possess, we all have the opportunity to leverage ourselves. And that is just the beginning.
About the Author
Chaewon Jung will be graduating from Northeastern University in Spring 2021, with a degree in Business Administration and concentrations in Marketing and Supply Chain Management. She will be working full-time as an Associate Marketing Manager at Wise Systems, Inc. where she completed her third co-op. With long-term goals of one day working in the healthcare industry, Chaewon is excited to take her first steps into the professional world.