[Written by Impti du Toit – Cape Argus Workplace.]
In insecure economic times when employers are more likely to cut expenses and jobs, workers need to think about how to create more security for themselves. One way of strengthening your position in the world of work is to market yourself better to both current and potential employees, says job-hunt coach and CV writer Gerard Le Roux of the Job-Search Clinic.
“Your career is similar to a business in that it will be in trouble if there is no demand for the services you offer, no-one knows about your services, or you are not clearly communicating the benefits you offer to your ‘buyers’, who are your current or potential employers,” he says. “While most of us would not buy an expensive, complex product when we are not sure of what it does, whether it will be of benefit to us or whether it has ever been of benefit to others, we often expect employers to ‘buy’ us on that flimsy a basis.”
Le Roux says it is critical to know what clear benefits you provide to your employer. He suggests that you sit down with pen and paper and do some brainstorming on the topic of ‘you’. “Define who you are, what you do, and what value you provide in a work context,” he advises. “Ask yourself questions such as how you make the company better, how you help to bring in revenue, save money or retain clients, and what problems you solve.
“You then need to communicate those benefits to your employer. If he understands clearly what a great job you do, he won’t be wondering why the company needs to keep you around when it comes to making decisions about cutting staff.”
Another good reason for making a written list defining your value to employers is that you will feel that you make a difference, and as a result will act with more confidence and authority.
Le Roux’s second suggestion is that you try to raise the bar in terms of your work performance at your current job. “Sometimes this is tough to do, so it may help to do some brainstorming in this respect as well, or even to get input from your boss and colleagues on how you can improve. Consider how you can be more productive, and what areas of the business or your department require attention and whether you can help to address this in some way.”
Start measuring your performance, he advises. “If you are in sales you can easily track how many calls you make and gauge your performance from the sales figures. But if you are a personal assistant, for example, this will be more difficult. Time yourself on tasks, set goals, plan your work better, and monitor your performance. You need to be able to prove to your employer that you’re doing a great job or that your performance has improved, so build up a ‘body of evidence’ comprising statistics, testimonials and performance appraisals.”
There’s no time like the present to start demonstrating that you are “brilliant at what you do”. This will not only make you more valuable in the eyes of your current employee, but will also pay dividends if you should decide to seek employment elsewhere. “If you leave your current job, you will need good references. If you have been slacking off, your boss may be less than enthusiastic about your performance when asked to provide a reference,” he says. “Also, you want to be looking for a job from a position of strength: to be seen as a contributor in tough times; and someone who is willing to put something extra into the job and the organisation.”
Another important aspect is to build bridges with others. “Getting another job is really about connecting with people,” he says. “People can connect us to others and to opportunities, and people make the hiring decisions. Build a network of people with similar career or professional interests to you. Technology can assist in this respect, with sites like LinkedIn providing a powerful means of extending your social network.”
Don’t wait until you need a favour before trying to ‘resurrect’ a past association with someone – that is what gives networking a bad name, he says. “Instead, think about what you can do to help others. Show personal interest: people love those who are focused ‘outward’. Sometimes keeping in touch is just about getting together for coffee, asking how things are and actually listening. At other times, you might, for example, provide an interesting article on a subject of special interest to that person.”
Lastly, ensure that in the job-search context you are delivering your marketing message clearly to employers. “Your marketing message should say: ‘Here’s what I can do for you’ and ‘Here’s why you should believe me,’ he says. “It is about offering to provide a benefit and establishing credibility by providing proof of the positions you’ve held with previous employers, of what you’ve achieved, and of the education and training that have enabled you to do it.”
Cast a critical eye over your CV to ensure that it delivering that message clearly, even if an employer should give it only scant attention, he says. “If you are confused as to exactly where to put the message, start with an ‘Executive Summary’ in which you clearly say who you are, what benefit you provide and why you’re a strong, credible candidate.”
The job market is tough, but knowing who you are, being brilliant at what you do, connecting with other people and sending a clear personal marketing message to employers can turn the situation around, he says.