Sunday, April 11, 2010

Re-calibrating Value in the New Normal

I wrote about the “New Normal,” and how it applies to career management, a few weeks ago. Basically, the new normal is a whole new way of doing business – both in terms of how organizations operate and in the talent they recruit. In this new normal, businesses will rely on people who can contribute to the bottom line – who can bring real value to the organization. Moreover, to recruit such talent, they will rely on referrals from people they trust. Thus for the job seeker, demonstrating one’s value and nurturing one’s network are paramount to success in the new normal.

Demonstrating value is about telling your story of how you have influenced outcomes. Relying on number of years’ experience, listing responsibilities of past positions, doesn’t convey value. Not in the new normal. You have to articulate how that experience and how those responsibilities contributed to the organization’s goals; to its bottom line. You have to tell a story that demonstrates value: You've done it before, you can do it again.

So how do you re-calibrate years of experience and increasing levels of responsibility to value? You begin by focusing on accomplishments rather than responsibilities and you fashion stories that reflect these accomplishments; and you do it concisely. There are a number of acronyms to frame your stories: CARs, SARs, STARs and SOARs. Each focuses on a problem, situation or opportunity that required action; the action taken to address them, and the results or outcomes of those actions and their impacts on the organization. Look back at your recent assignments and your achievements. Fit them into the model – context, action, results – and determine your value.

A number of my clients protest that they can’t determine the value of their actions. Results don’t have to be measured quantitatively in terms of dollars earned or saved or time saved. Results can be qualitative as well. Perhaps you initiated a new strategy that changed the direction of a program in trouble or turned around a disgruntled customer. Maybe you trained staff in the outsourced assembly or manufacture of a product. Or you might have convinced a group of decision makers to go in a different direction, which made the organization more relevant in its market.

One way to determine your value on a project is to take yourself out of the equation. What would have happened if you weren’t there? Kind of like Jimmy Stewart’s character in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” If you hadn’t been involved in the project, would the outcome been the same? If not, that’s your value. You were able to influence the outcome for the better – for the team, for the organization.

Many clients, especially men, note that they can’t take credit for outcomes as they were part of a successful team. Actually, they can, and so much the better as most work in today’s organizations occurs in teams. If you were part of a four person team that developed a new, successful approach to a tough problem, it doesn’t mean you take 25 percent of the credit. Each member of the team can take 100 percent of the credit. What you can’t do is take 100 percent credit and portray the successful result as individual effort.

Once you have determined your value, tell your story. Tell it in an interview in response to the questions “tell me about yourself” and “what are your strengths.” Tell it to your friends and colleagues in your network. Don’t be obtuse about it. Don’t pitch everyone you run across about the great things you’ve achieved in your career when you meet them. Find out what their challenges are. Remind them, gently, how you've been successful with similar challenges in the past. Let them know what you can to for them.

In today’s highly competitive environment, where more candidates are competing for limited positions, conveying one’s value is critical to success. In the new normal, where organizations seek talent that will contribute to its bottom line, conveying value is vital. It differentiates you from everyone else, from the competition.

Have you re-calibrated your value for the new normal? Can you tell stories of the value you bring to an organization?

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