Every month, I facilitate a “power networking” group for executives going through career transition services. Not surprisingly, these executives are faced with an intense and highly competitive marketplace that includes larger pools of competing candidates, sparse opportunities and a talent buyer’s market. Time after time, I have noticed that these leaders poorly communicate what they want or need.
The most important thing any candidate, especially a leader, can do to help themselves in the job-search process is take the time to really understand what makes them unique. Often, job candidates don’t have a good grasp on the “Why should we hire you over someone else?” question.
HR leaders love to say that what makes them unique is that they like to be out among the workers. So? How does that help a company? IT leaders love to say that they understand Technology AND Business. I have yet to meet a CIO who doesn’t say that. If everyone is saying that, you are not unique. So how do you figure out what makes you different?
One of the quickest ways to identify who you are as a leader is to think about 3-5 stories in which you were successful in past positions. Lay them out (on paper) and identify clearly the Challenge you were faced with, the Action that you took and the Result. We refer to this as the CAR exercise. Frankly, this is a vital step that will help you throughout the job search process. If you clearly understand the value that you can bring to a prospective employer, you will be able to network better, brand yourself better, interview better and assess your own needs better.
Once you do have a handle on what you bring to the table, whittle that down to two or three sentences. A great structure for what you should say is to identify your desired role and then to state the pains you can solve for that employer. It is vital that you be clear and succinct when you are communicating your value statement. I am a firm believer that your 30-second commercial is too long. Know yourself well and state it clearly. A great acronym that we use is the WAIT principle. Why Am I Talking?
Another great exercise is to draw a timeline and list out the jobs that you have held. Above the timeline, note what you liked about that role. Below the timeline, note what you disliked about that role. This will help you get a handle on the type of roles you are willing to undertake as well as those you are not.
Leaders must be clear on their unique leadership contributions and the types of organizations that respond to it. It’s human nature for any job seeker to take their best strengths for granted and overlook successes. Career transition requires taking responsibility for re-messaging core skills to connect to the bona fide and compelling value being offered to the buying audience.
Do you have a clear grasp on your value proposition? If not, what is stopping you? I would love to hear your thoughts.