Being Different in Business Life

Articles, Management - Dr. İzel Levi Coşkun - September 4, 2015

After the age of 20, one starts to feel the weight of the burden of business and life. Young people begin to get anxious.

What will I do now?
I managed to get into college but what will happen once I graduate?
Will I be able to get a job with this resume of mine?
Would by internship period be enough?
Even if I find a job I am not sure that I will be satisfied with it.
Will I have sufficient salary to live on? Will it be sufficient to make me independent?
Will my job me suitable for me? Will I be successful?
How long can a stay there? Will I rise quickly?

Hundreds of these questions, combined with vagueness cause anxiety and uneasiness. When, on top of this, we see newspaper news about the crisis and hear about companies dismissing employees, combined with not receiving any replies to resumes sent with great expectations and companies who say “sadly we will not even be having any interns this year” we get even more anxious and lose all hope for the future.

Is the picture this bad then?

I would first like to discuss a business issue. You have probably heard of it before: differentiation strategy. As its name suggests, the differentiation strategy is based on the idea of obtaining competitive advantage through emphasizing different properties of a good or service. I do not want to complicate the matter using too many definitions so I will give you a link where you can see Smirnoff’s “wolf among sheep” commercial to remember what the differentiation strategy is:

According to Michael Porter, the differentiation strategy provides sustainable competitive advantage and is aimed at the broad market that involves the creation of a product or services that is perceived throughout its industry as unique. (See

Using the differentiation strategy is not as easy as it seems because the first thing to do is to identify the element(s) that will differentiate you from other competitors and this will take a long time.

What makes us different as a company?
What is/are the characteristic(s) that make us different from other competitors?
How can we transform this/these characteristics into a sustainable competitive advantage?

Finding the answers to these questions may be considered the first and sound steps to success. After identifying what these are, what we will get for the good or service will be higher at the rate of the added value created and the sustainable competitive advantage will make it harder to pass market penetration barriers.

The very same differentiation strategy is applicable to individuals too but unfortunately there is a challenge that both companies and individuals have to face. This challenge is caused by the difficulty of finding the answers to the questions on the characteristics that create a difference and the tendency of both individuals and companies to assimilate to the already existing instead of becoming different.

Companies imitate the leader company of the market and individuals imitate idols who fit their success criteria. The underlying simple logic is “so and so did that and was successful which means if I do the same thing I will be successful too.”

Sadly, the number of imitators of the leader company of the market and the idols are certainly far more than “1”. This is why what you have to do is to decide whether you want to be among the crowd that follows a leader or an idol or be unique and matchless using the differentiation strategy.

But how can such differentiation strategy be used at the individual level? The answer is very obvious… By avoiding doing what everybody else does and by being extraordinary… This means being “yourself” only… Being yourself already makes you a “different” individual with many of your characteristics. But are you aware of your characteristics that make you different from others? Do you want to use these in business life? Do you have the courage to be yourself even if people around you think you are odd?

“Nothing is permanent but change” (*)

Be sure nothing is “correct” in business life…. A decision that seems to be correct today may seem totally incorrect years later when it is evaluated in consideration of its opportunity cost. Is not everything that we thought to be correct 10 years ago changing? Is not it the same for the food we eat, medication we take and the air we breathe? Or from the perspective of economic theories, if everything we had read and known was correct would the crisis we have been through reach this level? Who can guarantee that those who think some of the decisions made by FED Chairman Ben Bernanke are wrong will be right in their judgments 10 years later.

Unfortunately, we are always obliged to live by the “rights” created by others in business world. Until of course an entrepreneur comes along to create their own “right” and make it accepted by everybody else… You can do that too. All you have to do is to get rid of the bombardment of information you are exposed to and filter the data that will be suitable for you, both internally and externally.

“Internal” here refers to our countless thoughts, wishes and desires, motives and emotions… We need to put these in an order of priority and determined which one of these we will emphasize to the extent that we know ourselves.

“External” here refers to the befuddling information pollution we are exposed to by the internet (including e-mails) televisions, books, newspapers, magazines and people around us. Is not reading or knowing these the solution? Certainly not… But selecting, filtering, reasoning, interpreting, discussing its reality and making associations are what we have to do.

Although I am so much older than 22 I still consider myself young and believe that we need to start by trying to get to know ourselves. This should definitely be the first step. Discovering what we do not want to do when trying to do this in business world sometimes gets us closer to what we want to do. Working at a random job rather than trying to get a job that you insist to believe is suitable for you may equip you with considerable experience.

Trying to do something that we are not necessarily sure that we want to do may give us more motivation to do what we actually want to do. Spending some time at a workplace where you do not want to be may drive you to creating your own initiative project. All of a sudden you could find yourself to be the entrepreneur who created his own “right” and is being followed by others. Sounds good, WHY NOT?

(*) Karl Heinrich Marx (Heraclitus)


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