“Organizations hire because they have a problem; not because they have a vacancy.”
Recently, a colleague, career counselor Barbara Babkirk, posted an article on LinkedIn about her client — a 62-year old with a PhD in microbiology. He had retired, sailed his boat to the midcoast of Maine, renovated a cabin, bought a dog, became bored, and looked for meaningful work in his community.
He approached the local hospital and was frustrated and disappointed when he was assigned to the flower shop. Needless to say, that assignment didn’t relieve his boredom and he quit after one day. (I’ve posted a link to her article at the end of this post.)
Barbara was kind enough to flag me to comment on her piece. In my zeal, I exceeded the space LinkedIn allotted for comments. Barbara suggested a separate post. I entitled it “A Contrarian View to Navigating ‘What’s Next”’ in Retirement” (I’ve also posted the link below).
A key takeaway from Barbara’s article, and my response, is that if you’re seeking work you need to know your value and align it with an organization’s need. This applies to ALL workers, not just retirees looking to re-enter the workforce.
Know Your Value
Value trumps responsibility and tenure (years of experience) when talking about your career. Value is about knowing and articulating your unique talent; that which you do better than anyone else.
A helpful tool in framing your value is the CliftonStrengths assessment, a 30-minute, online assessment that provides you with your top five strengths. I often use this to help clients craft their Leadership Narrative — their value proposition.
We use their results to develop success stories from their career that demonstrate their value. These are then integrated into their resume and LinkedIn profile.
Value Must Align With Need
But (a wise person said “truth follows the ‘but’”), knowing your value isn’t enough.
Barbara’s retired microbiologist probably knew his value. He’d had a distinguished research career, a number of patents, and degrees from and appointments to elite universities. What’s not to like?
What he failed to realize was that his terrific credentials and his value needed to be matched to the hospital’s need.
“Organizations hire because they have a problem; not because they have a vacancy.” I don’t know who initially said this, but it’s true. Vacancies save organizations money — for a while anyway. What they really need is someone to come in and fix the problem they’re faced with.
It’s imperative that you understand the critical problems of the person who might hire you. Then match your value — your talent — to their need.
Here are some questions to ask — either in the interview or beforehand — that can help you get a handle on their challenges:
- What are your biggest challenges over the next five years?
- To get there, what needs to occur by the end of this year? How do you see that happening?
- What happens if you don’t meet those challenges?
- What are the resource gaps that could prevent you from meeting the challenges? (Resources are typically time, money, and people.)
These questions are intended to raise negatives — problems — in the mind of the decision-maker. As they talk about the challenges ahead, you can explain how you’ve solved similar ones in the past. Thus, aligning your value to their need.
My sense is if Barbara’s retired client had taken time to engage a decision-maker at the hospital, he wouldn’t have been assigned to the flower shop and his experience would have been a lot different.
Here’s the link to Barbara’s LinkedIn post: “Did You Retire Early and Now Wonder ‘What’s Next?’”
And here’s the link to my response: “A Contrarian View to Navigating “What’s Next” in Retirement.”
A version of this post was sent earlier this year to my email newsletter subscribers. If you’d like to get my best work first, subscribe to the newsletter. I NEVER share your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time if it’s not a good fit.
If you’re struggling with how to achieve your career goals let’s chat about how I can help. You can use this link to my calendar to schedule the best time to talk.
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