The Career Contrarian: Don’t Talk About Your Transferrable Skills…Talk About Your Value Instead

Try not to become a person of success, but rather try to become a person of value.” ~ Albert Einstein 

I must be getting crotchety. I’ve been seeing a number of career development folks — coaches, counselors, advisors — posting articles and blogs about the best ways to search for a new job. 

I read these and shake my head. As well-intentioned as these “best practices” pieces are, the advice they provide doesn’t make candidates stand out, they just become part of the crowd, where everyone is following “best practices.” This has led to my contrarian approach to career development and job searching. 

First, a disclaimer: You can ask 10 different people for career and job search advice, and often get 12 different responses. The fact is, there is no one best way to follow — no best practice. The best practice is the one that works for you.

People Hire Because They Have A Problem

People who matter — decision-makers (hiring managers, bosses, customers, clients) — hire because they have a problem they need resolved; not because they have a vacancy or extra dollars in the budget. Vacancies save money — in the short term.

The job search process is VERY competitive.  It’s imperative that candidates demonstrate how they can solve the decision-maker’s problem. So it’s important to know what that problem is and how it affects the decision-maker. 

We tend to sell ourselves as solutions to a decision-maker’s external problems (“My team needs to grow revenues by 25% this year”). Decision-makers buy (hire) solutions to their internal problems — what frustrates them most (“Do I have the right team in place to meet this goal?”)  Their desire to resolve a frustration is a greater motivator than their desire to solve an external problem.

So understand the decision-maker’s internal problem. That’s their motivator. That’s where you provide value over your competition. 

Value Trumps Skills

If you’re addressing the decision-maker’s external problem (grow revenue by 25%), you’re going to speak about your past successes in sales and marketing, opening new markets, etc. The fact is, so will every other candidate the decision-maker interviews. Their decision becomes one of choosing among similarly successful folks, so it might go to the least expensive candidate.

If you address their internal problem, you’ll speak to building successful, high-performing teams, mentoring and coaching young sales professionals and growing them into high performers. These are activities of value.

You’ll need to engage the decision-maker around three critical questions:

  1. What does the decision-maker REALLY want? Sure, they want to meet the revenue targets, but they really wonder if their team is up to the challenge.
  2. What stands in the way of the decision-maker getting what they really want? Do they have the right people on the team? Is their team positioned appropriately — are the right team members aligned with the right prospects? Are there people on the team that may drag down performance?
  3. What will the decision-maker’s life be like when their team is successful? What if they’re not successful? What direct benefits to the decision-maker will result by meeting or exceeding the revenue targets? What will be the ramifications of missing those targets?

Engaging the decision-maker on these questions and their responses demonstrates the value you can bring to their team. You’re thinking beyond the external issue of increased revenues. All the other candidates will be speaking to their strengths, their skills. They won’t bring the conversation to the decision-maker’s internal issues. 

Separate yourself from the crowd, from the competition by focusing on your value.

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