It seems that almost everyone I encounter is in midst of a career change of some sort. Good people of all ages and experiences are interested in doing something new, something different or aspiring to something at a high level.
Part of the process of moving up or moving on involves a hefty amount of self-marketing, and it’s at this point where we attempt to share who we are and what we bring to the table that we often fall short.
Whether it’s our on-line profiles or the summary section on our resumes too often, we resort to weasel word and jargon filled sentences that self-describe us as some kind of superficial super-beings with command over everything in the management and leadership universe.
Experienced, innovative and visionary leader with a track record promoting high performance teams and operational excellence. I inspire my teams to solve challenging problems in creative ways. Strategic thinker and a keen judge of talent…
While this is an amalgam of a few that I’ve encountered, you get the idea. Jargon and weasel words used as self-descriptors destroy rather than build credibility. They mean and say nothing about who you are, why you do what you do and what someone might expect if they engage you to help them solve their business problems.
6 Ideas to Help You Define Your Professional Value Proposition:
1. Start at the Movies. Watch Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk: “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” and spend some time thinking through how his Golden Circle model can be used to describe who you are, why you do what you do and what you do for your employers and team members. His examples for TIVO and Apple are particularly instructive. Try and build your own message using his flow and save the output for later steps in this process.
2. Dig In and Investigate. Ask prior co-workers, team members, bosses and customers what it was they valued about you and about what you did for and with them. Focus on identifying situations that were complex and/or important to the business. Encourage them to share what they saw as your contributions and your impact on the team, the environment and the output. The goal is to see your value-add through their eyes. (While it’s not always possible for practical reasons, it is nice if you can do this with some current co-workers as well.)
3. Data Mine. Prior performance reviews, 360-degree feedback, letters of reference or LinkedIn recommendations are all good sources of input to support the development of your professional value proposition. Comb through the content and look for statements and examples of how a prior boss viewed your contributions.
4. Roll Up Your Research into 3 or 4 Key Themes. Don’t worry about getting the words right at this point. Sift through the input and feedback and create 3 or 4 summary statements that seem to best reflect how others view your contributions and your participation. If you consistently led a sales team that exceeded quotas or a manufacturing group that hit and beat all targets for quality and performance, you need to extract what it was about your participation that helped the teams realize those achievements. The achievements themselves are proof points or evidence…you are looking for the causal factors or themes.
5. Use the key themes from #4 to complete your Golden Circle exercise. Try Simon’s logic flow…from the “Why” to the “What.” Develop some samples for review by others. Instead of striving for perfection in the wording, strive to get ideas down for others to look at and comment upon, support or challenge.
6. Enlist Some Feedback Buddies. You need a few key individuals who aren’t afraid to tell you that you’re having a bad hair day or that your words and themes don’t make sense. Most people craft their summary statements in isolation and don’t bother to alpha or beta test them. In this case, your feedback buddies are your alpha testers and you want them to comment on clarity, relevance, uniqueness, perceived value, accuracy and supportability.
The Bottom-Line for Now:
I’ll be back with more on this important topic, however for now, recognize that creating the effective professional value proposition is hard work. Remember the quote: “Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” It’s doubly difficult when we are attempting to write about ourselves.
If you’re interested in creating a meaningful and memorable impression, you must be able to articulate your professional value proposition in conversation, in writing and on your public profiles. Since so few people do this well, your odds of standing apart from the crowd go up tremendously with a bit of good foundation work.
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An ideal book for anyone starting out in leadership: Practical Lessons in Leadership by Art Petty and Rich Petro.