Alice (not her real name) came in perplexed. “I’m a social policy researcher at the university. The group I’ve been affiliated with has lost its funding. I need to figure out how to market myself in a way that appeals to new funders.”
“Great! Let’s talk about what you’ve done.”
“Basically I organized webinars and conferences that brought nationally recognized experts together and defined best practices for practitioners addressing child welfare programs.”
“Well, for the most part. Our funder would identify issues and challenges that practitioners in the field were experiencing. It was my job to organize and convene the practitioners and experts to define ways that would mitigate the challenges.”
“And did they?”
“Oh yes; after each webinar or conference the participants noted that they found the event ‘very useful.'”
“Great! So what was your impact? What value did you bring to the effort?”
“Umm, I organized the webinar?”
“No Alice, you did more than that. You organized the event; you identified the subject matter experts and convened them at the scheduled time. But you also framed the issue in such a way that actionable results occurred. People went away from these sessions that you convened with strategies and actions that would make their work more effective.”
“Oh, yeah, I guess I did. I just never thought about it that way.”
“Of course not. Most really experienced people who are good at what they do, work intuitively. They don’t have to think about it. They see the challenges and work to resolve them naturally. Their challenge, and your’s, is to articulate what they do, how they do it, and the impact of their actions. Those impacts, the outcomes of the webinars and conferences you organized, are the real value you provided.”
“So, how do I do that, figure out the impact, my value?”
“One way is to think about what the problem was that precipitated the webinar or conference. Why did the funder need practitioners and experts to convene around those particular issues? Then look at what happened after the conference; what was better as a result of the work you did in bringing these people together? That difference is what you want to focus on. That difference is what made you a valuable asset not only to the funder, but to practitioners and the experts.”
Alice left with a new way of thinking about the value she brings to projects and to potential employers: She convenes experts and users to develop innovative strategies that resolve critical challenges. She has a unique impact on her field. She provides a valuable service.
Over to you. Can you define the impact — the value — you bring to either your current, or a prospective, employer? Can you articulate what makes you unique?
This post originally appeared in the Portland Press Herald on December 4, 2014.