What Is Your Competitive Advantage?

January 13, 2016

You should be thinking about your competitive advantage. What do you do that you can do better than anyone else?

Let’s start by taking a step back.

By Example

You’re hiring for an entry level information security position. If they took a class on security at school, they are probably qualified for the job.

Five candidates show up for the interview and they all have the same background — one class in college. How do you decide which per to pick for the job?

You start to look at the non-essentials. Which one has a better communications style? Which one looks to show long term progress? You can probably come up with 26 other things you’d look for.

The point is: something needs to differentiate you from the pack. What is it that you do better than anyone else?


My competitive differentiator is communication. (You probably could have guessed it.)

If I can boast for a second — I’m really good at communicating complex security concepts to people who don’t understand them. It comes in particuarly useful when talking to executives, boards of directors, and business people.

When I wrote the introduction to my Linkedin profile, after I give a quick background, I talk about how I help CIOs and CFOs understand and react to information security issues. Truthfully, I could probably do a better job of talking about my communications skills.

More importantly, whenever I’m talking to someone about my skillset I make sure I talk about my communications abilities. I feel that it’s my competitive advantage.

It’s also a great filter. I love speaking, teaching, writing and helping people make the complex easy to understand. If that isn’t helpful you to, then I’m probably not the right person.


What is your competitve advantage?

It’s an interesting exercise for you to complete. First, is what you are really good at also something that you want to do? Is what you are really good at also in your career progression?

I got lucky. I didn’t figure out that communication was my competitive advantage until someone told me about ten years ago. I just enjoyed doing it so I took advantage of every opportunity I had.

It’s not unusual for me to see someone in an intrusion detection role who is a phenominal forensics technician. When they show up at my door, they’re usually talking about their prior job, **not **their competitive advantage.

The point of determining your competitive advantage is to make sure every day you’re using it to benefit your career. That could be in a job interview, job role, meetings, etc. If you are really good at something, use it!

Tips for Finding Your Competitive Advantage

Here is a quick list of thoughts to help you find your competitive advantage:

  • “information security” cannot be your competitive advantage
  • try to get as specific as possible while still benefiting more than one company
  • validate that other people think you’re really good at it too
  • look at your Linkedin Profile and resume and see if it’s in there (lots of people unconiously highlight it)
  • you enjoy doing it