As discussed in my previous post, your personal value proposition (PVP) is why an employer should hire you or promote you over someone else. It's the foundation of your career strategy.
A product's value proposition only works if it's true, if the business has the organizational competencies needed to deliver the value proposition. Likewise, a PVP only works if it's true — if you have the strengths required. So the first step in developing a winning value proposition is self-appraisal to assess your strengths.
Is it possible to come up with new insights about strengths? Here's someone who did just that.
Pallab (name has been changed) was a marketing Vice President at a Fortune 100 company that acquired his company two years earlier. Before the acquisition, Pallab was one of the top ten people in an 8,000-person organization. In the new organization, he was one of the top 300 in a company with 100,000 people. He had less autonomy and was uncertain about his future. He wasn't happy.
He needed a new career strategy. Not sure what to target or how best to present himself, he focused on identifying strengths and building a powerful PVP on those strengths.
Pallab first thought he'd emphasize his experience with marketing and growth, especially in emerging markets. But it wasn't convincing. It wasn't clear what made him good at that. It sounded like what others might say. What made him special?
After a couple of frustrating months at this, Pallab looked in an unconventional direction. Searching through his personal work history, he discovered empathy. His talent at understanding others was where he landed when he asked himself where his biggest successes had come from. Empathy had helped him imagine new products, create business relationships, and build productive teams. It was important, and few others in his field could match it.
Pallab began an aggressive job search. He mentioned empathy on his resume and how that led to accomplishments in his work. He led with empathy in discussions with prospective employers. He showed empathy in the way he conducted his side of the interviews — good listening skills and the ability to understand what others were saying. Empathy affected the way he presented himself and how he described his past accomplishments.
Pallab found an exciting new position. The CEO who hired him "realized he needed someone with empathy to fit his work style." He'd founded the company and steered its substantial growth. He had very clear views on most issues. Most of his direct reports were reluctant to question his ideas, but he knew he needed to be challenged in the right way. Pallab made him comfortable they could establish a productive working relationship.
Certainly, there were other reasons — Pallab's overseas experience, marketing know-how, and thorough preparation before each meeting — but empathy is what made him stand out. If he hadn't recognized that about himself and emphasized it, the CEO might not have realized that's what he needed and that Pallab was the man to provide it.
When you start thinking about your PVP, follow Pallab's example. Don't ignore conventional characteristics and strengths, but emphasize what makes you distinctive and how that leads to your success at work. Take these five steps:
- List your strengths. The concrete skills and knowledge you've acquired through work experience and education may come to mind first. The softer intrinsic strengths may be less obvious but more fundamental. Look back to your earlier jobs and to your time at school. What did you enjoy most? What were you best at? Your current job may hold clues. Pay attention. Look for surprises.
- Ask others for input. Ask current or former colleagues for honest feedback without pulling punches. They may mention strengths you don't recognize, raise questions about the strengths you do mention, or ask questions that lead you to imagine new strengths. Get the ball rolling by asking questions like these: What am I best at? What strengths might I build on? What are my weaknesses? What jobs should I avoid? What jobs should I target?
- Revisit past feedback. Reread your old performance appraisals or recall coaching from supervisors, even if it's about a different kind of position.
- "Hire" yourself. Think about hiring yourself for your current job, as if you didn't already have it. Ask yourself why you would — or would not — be hired for this job.
- Revisit your strength list. Return to your first list of strengths, and modify it to reflect what else you've learned. Categorize and rank that list. Be specific. Generic strengths are easy to state. They're seldom helpful. Specific strengths are credible. They will naturally target you to some opportunities.
A successful career strategy stands on the shoulders of a strong PVP. The PVP stands on distinctive strengths. How do you think about your strengths? What role does that thinking play in your career strategy?