I remember sitting across the table from Jonathan Rhoads (Lowry Rhoads Associates) on my previous podcast during a time where the skilled unemployed labor market was at an all time high, and the demand for jobs was an all time low. Jonathan, who is a Partner at an Executive Search firm was inundated with inbound calls with people trying to find work, to asking for career advice, to people curious what in the hell they should do now. He mentioned that he was on his phone all day in a time where he couldn't place work (lack of jobs), so only thing he could offer is what he would want to hear as a headhunter as well as a hiring manager to stand out.
For the most part when he would ask someone what they were good at, what kind of role they were looking for, and/or what do they want to do, it was usually the same kind of answer: They would repeat their resume. The problem with this is a resume is only good as pointing out what positions they were previously, not who they currently are. In the example of a salesperson, they would always answer "sales", "I want to stay in sales", "I want to stay in sales in xyz for this service I've been selling my whole career." But this answer doesn't tell the person you are talking to on the other side of the phone, screen, or table what you actually are good at/want to do. It's a broad statement that is vague and only describes the role you were in. The thing is: Jonathan knew what role you were in, so does everyone else who has glanced at your resume or your LinkedIn profile. It's easy to figure out, but what it isn't answering is what value do you bring?
Jonathan said it best: in a sea of as-qualified and more qualified candidates gunning for that position you need to stand out, and describing your value is a way of standing out. He was tired of people regurgitating their resume, as that is you on paper-not you in real life. As mentioned above, chances are he's seen your resume or your LinkedIn profile, so he has an understanding of what you do and what you've accomplished. But to grab someone's attention who's talked to 25+ other people that day he advised you need to be discussing your value in standing out: what are you good at, what problems does the company currently have that you can assist in resolving that problem, what can you bring to the table that is different than someone else, in short: why should they pick you for the job?
To answer this, it might be easier to shift focus from what do you bring to a company (as that's an outward focus), to what is your personal value (not personal values, there is a difference)? When I shifted the question to more of an internal and self-reflection tone it helped me define and decide not only what I want to do, but more importantly: who I am as an employee.
When I thought about what value do I bring, I began to reflect on my career. Yes, I was/am in "sales", but for anyone that knows me, knows I rarely am "selling" every interaction with a customer. So if I was to just define me by the roll I was placed in, or strived for I would be leaving out some of the real individual traits, personal flair, and value I provide to customers. Besides earning a living and providing for my family, why do I enjoy sales/business development, why do I enjoy interacting with people, what about my day to day routine do I look forward to every day, and why would this make me employable or stand out to potential employers?
This is when you need to think about your previous roles in an objective and subjective standpoint. You know through your success you can perform a task and you probably are damn good at it, otherwise you would have never been hired in your previous company. But you also need to be subjective in determining your value as you need to reflect on what you can bring to the table. If you are good at (and enjoy) connecting people and making good personal relationships, then that is something you need to boast about. If you have the ability to get to a solution to a problem in new and innovative ways, then being a problem solver/obstacle overcomer is on your list. If you understand the companies current issues and you navigated through them or have connections to resolve the issues/area for opportunity then you have succeeded in uncertain times and benefited the company on a macro level. Think of projects, achievements, lessons learned, and daily interactions and categorize them into groups, then begin to define what they are.
Understanding your personal value independently of being a valuable employee is important (and different). To do this you must first take a pause and begin reflecting, even sitting with people that have worked with you in the past, and asking "what makes me valuable? What does value mean to me/you?" These type of personal interviews might bring something new to your mind in the way you think of yourself, make you see yourself in a different and positive light (often when you are at a low point), plus it gives you an opportunity to dive into your previous roles (your successes and failures) and speak to them in a calculated and personal way. Yes you were in sales for 10 years, but why and how did you manage to stay in sales for 10 years?
Once you understand your personal value, you can then begin to communicate this to people. It may feel uncomfortable at first, as you may not feel comfortable in tooting your own horn, but if you don't brag on yourself, nobody else will.
Everyone has value they can bring to their friends, family, and company. Take note of what it is, learn how to communicate it in a humble and confident manner, and utilize it as a springboard in conversations when determining your next role.
We can all bring value to a new role, how will you speak to your value to set yourself apart?
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