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Stop Working So Hard. Differentiate Yourself Instead. Know your value and optimize every action you take towards showcasing that value.

By Tim Madden

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You've probably heard the phrase "work smart not hard" so many times that seeing it written down almost sends you off into a slumber. Yet working hard may not get you noticed the way differentiating yourself does. When it comes to business leadership, some people believe that it all comes down to productivity and efficiency. And while these things certainly play a role, there's also something to be said for the power of knowing your value and optimizing every action you take towards showcasing that value.

So, how can you differentiate yourself from everyone else?

It's okay if you can't answer that question right now. Here are a few ways to identify your "selling points" and leverage them effectively.

Find your selling point

Some people don't like it when workers are treated as commodities by companies, but in this case, it makes for a great metaphor. When a startup founder launches their business, one of their key considerations is the unique selling point of their product or service — the thing that makes it different from the competition.

Likewise, if you want to differentiate yourself and tap into your true worth, you need to know your "selling point."

What can you do better than everyone else at your workplace, or even among your friends and family? Examples include:

  • People skills
  • Knowledge of software
  • Logic
  • Experience working for respected companies

Your selling point doesn't necessarily have to be something that's directly related to your work. Being funny might not make you a better leader, but it could certainly make it easier for you to network. Being a math whizz doesn't have an obvious link to a job as a human resources director, but maybe it could help you add a component of data analysis to what you do.

You can get creative, but just make sure that your selling point isn't that you're cheaper than everyone else.

Be aware of your limitations

Hopefully, you've now identified a few things you're good at. But there's no need to allow your ego to go unchecked — your next step is finding what you're not so great at.

We all have flaws, but smart people spot them early on and know how to work within them or around them. If you know you come across better in person than over the phone, try to meet people in person wherever possible. If you struggle with a particular software, look for ways you could achieve tasks that typically require it in other ways.

Still, don't let your weak points hold you back. If you can emphasize your strengths and what you're good at, you might be surprised at what people and companies are willing to overlook. Just think of a time when someone got hired based on pure charisma despite their lack of skills and experience — it really is possible to compensate for your failings in some areas by excelling in others.

Related: 3 Ways to Differentiate Your Business in a Competitive Market

Use this knowledge to make a good impression

Your awareness of your selling points and limitations should all come together to help you make the best possible impression. Ultimately, this is what's going to help you get ahead.

How can you use your selling points to make people feel good? This might sound somewhat manipulative, so look at it another way: You're weighing up what you're best at so you can serve others effectively.

Whether you have a meeting, interview or networking event coming up, think about how you can shift the scenario to reflect your strengths. Can you find a way to showcase your impressive technical skills or bring up a hidden talent where they wouldn't usually be mentioned? Or perhaps you can prove that you're a committed person simply by offering to do the jobs that nobody else wants to do consistently?

However, it can be a delicate balance. The best interactions with others tend to involve an element of spontaneity, so planning everything out to a tee and following a script won't necessarily help your cause. But you can certainly have a few tools up your sleeve ready for an upcoming interaction, and pull them out as needed.

Related: 5 Ways to Differentiate Your Products and Services in an Oversaturated Market

Create your own mold

Maybe you're more nerdy and shy than a typical sales leader — so what? Your aim is to create your own mold, not to fit someone else's. Being atypical means you probably have strengths that nobody else has, which is the perfect way to differentiate yourself.

Plus, if you play your cards right, you can use whatever makes you different to crack a few jokes based on how you know others perceive you for the first time, which can make a striking impression that cements you in others' memories.

Ready to stop working yourself to death yet?

I get it — once you've grown accustomed to the "hustler" attitude, shifting away from that can be challenging. No matter how difficult it is to work hard, there's something satisfying and reassuring about it. Well, it's time to let go of that belief for good — life is a game of strategy, and nobody ever won chess with brute force.

Besides, if everyone learned to double-down on what they're truly good at and used it to offer maximum value, we'd probably be living in a much more efficient and happy world. Why not lead by example?

Related: Here's How You Differentiate Yourself in a Crowded Market

Tim Madden

CEO of Executive Career Upgrades

Tim Madden is a veteran headhunter that has led teams that have placed over 6,000 professionals. He has worked at the largest recruitment firm in the world, responsible for over 50 million dollars of placements of executives. He's a nationally recognized recruiter and has served in the US Army.

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