Job seeking . . . We have all been there. We all have resumes to communicate our professional background and job experience. But few of us can really articulate what is special about ourselves.
Most of us do not have a personal value proposition.
Job seekers know that a resume is the entry ticket to getting the desired job. So we have spent a lot of time and effort—and, unfortunately sometimes, money—on a resume that speaks to the best of our past professional lives.
Resumes do effectively communicate the when’s and where’s of our job experiences, competencies, accomplishments, skills and education. But are resume bullet points really enough to communicate to a prospective employer the specific characteristics of what you will bring to the job?
What Resumes Do Not Do
Resumes do not convey “who” you are. It’s true that my resume accurately refers to me as a marketing executive, and it truthfully illustrates my healthcare and financial services background and job experiences with multiple compelling statements. But my resume simply does not reveal who I am, and what personal traits I bring to a job.
A key rule of selling is that people buy from people they like. And I believe that employers hire people whom they want to work with. So I believe that it is important to communicate beyond what the resume format allows you to express . . . to go deeper about who you are and your special talents to ensure that a hiring manager knows you are the right, best person to add to the team.
A personal value proposition will answer these often un-asked questions: Who are you? What are you about? What specific set of characteristics will you bring to the job?
How to Develop a Personal Value Proposition
Several years ago I had refreshed my resume for the umpteenth time, and still was not satisfied with it. Something was missing. Suddenly I realized that while my job experience and accomplishments were included, my best qualities weren’t conveyed in the resume at all. So I created an adjunct document, what I called an “overview” then, to express who I was and what I was about.
My overview described, among other things, my ability to get to the finish line, even on projects that had been previously abandoned by others. It conveyed that I could balance concept and detail . . . I could manage without authority . . . My personal hallmarks are integrity, excellence and humor. This overview became the basis for my personal value proposition. I use it to this day.
How do you reveal your personal value proposition?
Start by thinking about what you are really good at. You know what you do well—every time, at every job. Read your past performance reviews; they will get you thinking in the right direction by telling you the traits you have been recognized for over the years.
Next, call your references. Ask them what they know to be your best characteristics.
Then ask yourself the following questions. Be sure to include other questions that may drive to the desirable qualities in your particular field, or for a specific desired position.
- • Am I a leader? A known, respected leader? A trusted leader? A leader valued by my employer and by my team?
- • Am I a good communicator? Spoken? Written? Can I distill complex issues?
- • Am I a relationship builder? Do I cultivate relationships up, down and across an organization?
- • Am I strategic? Can I connect the dots?
- • Am I tactical? Do I finish my projects?
- • Do I convert a concept into reality?
- • Am I attentive to detail?
- • Can I handle competing priorities?
- • Can I hone in on the wants and needs of external customers?
- • Which is my natural focus: benefits or features?
- • Am I always interested in learning?
- • Am I always optimistic?
The answers to these and the other questions that you ask yourself will tell you the qualities that you have that probably aren’t explicitly stated on your resume—but are the very qualities you should be sure to make known about yourself.
Be honest with your answers. No one is good at everything. Remember, you are going for specifics.
Form your personal value proposition by creating two or three short sentences that describe your traits. For example, one of these sentences could be, “Every one of my performance reviews over the past few years mentions my ability to work as a member of a team. Or, “At all of my previous employers, I have been able to balance concept and detail, and successfully complete every assigned project.” Or, “I have always been my manager’s go-to person for developing the right process for a complicated project.”
How and When to Communicate My Personal Value Proposition
Once I had my overview, with my personal value proposition, I always included it with the obligatory copy of my resume. And during an interview I found a way to include its content in my answers.
You may not want to prepare a shareable written document of your personal value proposition. That’s fine—you know what is appropriate for your situation. You do want to be prepared to speak to your value traits in interviews, though, so that they are included for prospective employers to consider.
Know that how you use your personal value proposition won’t be the same for every interview. You should feel free to amend your statements, and re-prioritize them for maximum impact in a particular conversation.
When I switched industries from financial services to healthcare, entering a vertical where I had no experience, I made sure to talk about the fact that I was an unremitting learner . . . I read everything . . . I tried to understand the whole picture. And I mentioned that I had the ability (and fortitude!) to finish every project assigned to me. Because these qualities, always the student and always the finisher, are vitally important to both industries, I was able to bridge lack of experience with personal traits I brought to every job.
Just Do It!
As women we should not be afraid or even hesitant to look inside ourselves and define what we individually do well. Your personal value proposition will tell prospective employers what they can count on from you. They are interested in knowing where you excel. And you need to be fully aware of what you are really good at so you can seek the right job.
Work on defining the characteristics that comprise your personal value proposition. It will help create a productive match for the hiring company and you.
cmc Cotman Marketing Communications