In today's competitive job-hunting environment, it is crucial to know how to distinguish yourself from other fresh graduates in the market. While a good resumé, effective interview skills and internships are efficient steps towards landing that dream job, they are also commonplace for the average job seeker.

To achieve ultimate career success and set themselves apart, job seekers should plan their career route and begin the process of competitive differentiation even before graduation.

One highly valuable competitive differentiation approach is through participation in business competitions. Companies typically organise business competitions as a way to increase name awareness and as a creative recruitment method to spot bright candidates.

For instance, L’Oréal organises its annual L’Oréal Brandstorm business competition, challenging tertiary students from all over to world to take on the role of an international brand manager by working on one of L’Oréal’s 24 international beauty and cosmetic brands.

Other than the chance to win prizes such as a trip worth €10,000 (S$16,000) to a holiday destination of their choice, participants gain invaluable experience and insights into professional standards required in the working world.

Here are the reasons why and how job seekers can bank on such competitions to pave the way towards attaining that dream job:

* Real-life experience. As interns, many undergraduates often find themselves limited to menial, administrative tasks in organisations. During business competitions, however, key companies understand that investments in real-life scenarios must be made so candidates’ capabilities can shine.

At Brandstorm, participants are placed in an authentic business simulation environment, where they are given the opportunity to work with an international advertising agency and given full autonomy to transform marketing concepts into full product development and launch. This gives them invaluable involvement and knowledge which they would otherwise be unable to experience in the classroom or at internships.

* Learning directly from industry professionals. Many competitions provide workshops and guides to help and advise students. For example, participants of Brandstorm are mentored by L’Oréal Singapore’s senior management team throughout the process, and interact with key management figures in the industry. Hence, they not only gain hard industry knowledge from insiders, but also establish close networks and relationships with recruiters and management.

* Have the undivided attention of recruiters. During interview sessions, recruiters meet many applicants and judge them based on verbal assessment. Competitions, on the other hand, present close interaction opportunities to impress hiring personnel through real-life application of skills, knowledge and experience up close, offering a fast track into securing a job. L’Oréal hired three new management trainees from the competition last year.

* Get a chance to evaluate a company. When interacting with management and staff, participants can have insights into the company culture and meet employees who could be future colleagues. Experiencing a typical work day in the organisation will enable the participants to determine if this is the right workplace for them.

* Multinational, intercultural experience. International competitions provide a platform for finalists to experience a level of exposure that is not accessible at the local level. Winning teams travel abroad to compete with winning teams from other countries, so gaining ample intercultural prospects.

Enhanced employability

Whether you win or lose, the workshops, coaching and judging feedback sessions you undergo in preparation for the competition undeniably provide you with the experience and rigour your peers may lack.

Developing pitches for business competitions allows you to better understand the workings of business operations, thus enhancing your career development while honing soft skills such as business etiquette and poise.

Business competitions undoubtedly offer great opportunities to advance your your career prospects.