June 21, 2018

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Career Advice

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Truth or Flair?

Being the unwitting subject of a layoff is sometimes inevitable. Companies restructure, the economy fluctuates, stuff happens. Your job is to remember that any job search - in good times and bad - represents an opportunity to make career choices that are a better match for you.

While you may have the urge to hibernate, hoping that a recruiter calls with the perfect offer, the reality is in today's job market, the phone just isn't ringing much. If you want (or need!) a new job, you are going to have to be the one that goes out and get it.

Here is your chance to take control and market your professional capabilities just like you market a new product or service. The idea of career marketing certainly isn't new. But successful career marketing really is an art. Just like in product marketing, the key to success is beginning the process with absolute honesty about your strengths and weaknesses. Sure, if you're talented, you can write your resume with flair, cleverness and aplomb, but if you want your next job to last, you need to do an honest assessment and presentation of your capabilities.

In tough economic times, you may be extremely tempted to fudge your credentials in hopes of landing a job, any job, even one you are not qualified for. Realize that it really doesn't make sense to just embellish your resume, hoping that you'll learn on the job. Selling yourself is like selling soap. The truth prevails, especially in tough times. If the soap doesn't clean, eventually people will quit buying. If you're not really good at project management, eventually you'll be out of work or stripped of your responsibility. If you haven't been honest with yourself and your future employer, in six or 12 months, you both may be a little perplexed as to why your relationship isn't flourishing.

Careful historic analysis, professional introspection and truthful career marketing is what sells and propels a solid career. The first step to successful career marketing isn't really new. Take a close look at your present job and quickly jot down your capabilities on a note pad. But now comes the tough steps. Pull out your old resume, cover letter, application, and even a copy of your performance review. These documents can be a strategic outline for developing a new resume and refining or overhauling your career direction. How does your past view of yourself compare to the reality of your most recent job? Were you really able to deliver on all your promises? Successful career marketers know that past performances often will dictate their future production.

Now it is time to look with a little more detail at the true value you've brought to your organization. What kind of return did your company reap by investing in you? Do a little research on your work performance. Look at how personal and political factors affected your ability to be a motivated company contributor. But just as importantly, look beyond those personal and political factors to uncover the facts about what you've contributed to an organization.

Some of the numbers that describe you are pretty straightforward. How much did you contribute to increased sales, cost cutting, or increased productivity? How much does your product or service contribute to the company's market share or bottom line? How have these numbers changed since you've come on board? Companies are increasingly placing a dollar value on the contributions individuals make to the organization.

Employees can also estimate how much they contribute to revenue and how much it costs an organization to employ them. For example, if a sales person sells 10 orders in a year at $100,000 per order, they are generating $1,000,000 in annual revenue for their organization. Now factor a $300,000 cost (including base, bonus, & benefits) per year. From this, you can deduce this person provides $700,000 (1,000,000 - $300,000) in value to the company.

This doesn't equate to the exact value of an employee, but it provides some perspective. Next, employees can try to tie their own success and their division's success to the success of the company. Obviously it's easier to determine the value an employee provides when their job is linked to the revenue stream. The point is to provide some perspective as to how you fit into the broader corporate picture.

As you pull together the numbers, you can more honestly evaluate whether you were a significant contributor in your last position or just hanging on. As you look at your most recent job - or even your three most recent jobs - you may be hit by a revelation. Perhaps you weren't a significant contributor to your last organization. Maybe you need more training, or maybe you need to look for a different kind of position. Maybe you should be programming instead of managing projects.

This exercise will become increasingly important as the human resources world becomes more automated, enabling companies to track how effectively they hire, develop, manage, and retain employees. Excite@Home's Director of HR, Mary Ruiz, predicts that soon electronic resource management systems will enable an organization to track which recruiters brought in the organization's most successful employees. If the employers are tracking your performance, you should too.

Job searching and landing the perfect job is not a simple task. Performance and career management is not taught in grammar school. So dare to honestly take a look at your past performances and see what changes you could make to help you weather future pink slip storms.

-Cynthia E. Nevels, PHR (Professional Human Resource Certification)
Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Integrality Global Solutions, a Dallas-based technology consulting firm. Contact by e-mail at
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