Stop Commoditizing Yourself

Commodities “make the world go ‘round”.

We are able to enjoy the unprecedented conveniences of the 21st century largely because basic products are produced and sold extremely efficiently at scale.

The definition of a commodity is “a raw material or primary agricultural product that can be bought and sold, such as copper or coffee.”

A commodity is standardized so it creates a language that everyone in the business can understand. Imagine if a buyer needed to personally inspect every kernel of corn before buying. Impossible. Instead #2 Yellow Corn, which is traded on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and elsewhere, is the same if it is grown in New York, California or anywhere in between.

What does all this have to do with your career?

The downside to commodities is that, by definition, there is little to no differentiation.

In a career context, this may not be a big deal for those that are content with minimum wage, but i’m guessing that if you’re reading this post, you are ambitious. You want more.

Achieving your goals of a rewarding and fulfilling career REQUIRES that you differentiate yourself. Are you?

For a lot of my career, I did a poor job of differentiating myself. In fact, I commoditized myself.

Why?

Fear.

I went to the college everyone told me was the best.

I majored in the field everyone told me was “most in demand”.

I took the career path everyone told me was the most lucrative.

I tried to turn myself into a “hot commodity”.

But I missed the point.

Instead of being the best commodity out there. I should have been looking for ways to not be a commodity at all. I should have been finding my unique voice and my unique place in this industry.

That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have gone to UC Davis. In fact, I’m very glad I did. I don’t regret any of my career decisions. I do however wonder if I might have been more successful and fulfilled if I had differentiated myself better.

I often speak with others who are afraid to step outside of being a commodity. They worry what will happen if they take a risk of standing out and it backfires.

Here’s my advice:

Stay on your current path but use your off time to differentiate yourself.

Go to the best school. Take the best job. Be a hot commodity.

But at the end of the day, find you. Find what makes you unique. Find ways to stop commoditizing yourself.

This is easier said than done, and it’s going to mean something different for everyone.

Perhaps that might mean reading the Classics, writing a blog, playing a sport, organizing social events, traveling internationally, or starting a side business.

Find you. You’ll be glad you did.

Then one day you might even realize, I don’t need to commoditize myself any more. I can do this thing that makes me unique and actually make a living at it.

I’m not saying that’s always the goal, but it’s not a bad thing to think about.

What unique gifts can YOU offer?  

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Tim Hammerich
tim@aggrad.com
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