Keeping your job when others around you are being laid off isn’t easy.
A 30-year Gallup survey, “Investing in Strengths,” of more than two million workers revealed that employees who refined their talents stood a better chance of being promoted than employees who turned weaknesses into strengths.
More specifically, rather than boning up on several skills, job hunters who demonstrate proficiency in one or two areas – areas that also happen to be critical to organizational success – are in the best shape.
Start by thinking of yourself as a business and your employer as an investor, advises Vaughan Evans, economist, business strategist and author of Backing U! A Business-Oriented Guide to Backing Your Passion and Achieving Career Success.
If your boss were to assess your prospects for future success, what would be your defining strengths, the ones worthy of financial backing? These are the ones that ought to be targeted for development, Evans asserts.
The author has developed the following six tips for fine-tuning them:
Step 1: Identify top strengths. These are the half dozen qualities and skills for which you’ve become known – the capabilities for which you receive compliments from co-workers and praise from managers. Be specific, says Evans. “Likeable” or “popular” is not as meaningful as “able to mediate between factions and win supporters.”
Step 2: Rank strengths. Put these strengths in order of strongest to weakest by rating them on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is top of your game, and 5 is strong, but still developing. Don’t worry if you give the same ranking to more than one of your traits and talents. However, try to differentiate between stronger and weaker as much as possible.
Step 3: Rank strengths crucial to the job. What are the five or six strengths most valued and play the largest role in the success of your business? Don’t worry about key capabilities for now. Instead, just take an objective look at your company and list the traits or capabilities most valuable to your position. In a public relations job, for example, communication and writing skills might trump IT expertise, even though both are important. Rank these required strengths in order of greatest importance to the company.
Step 4: Compare the two lists. Look at your strong points and compare them with the traits most necessary to your business. Which top-ranked strengths on your personal list intersect with top-ranked strengths in the company’s list of required traits? Use your judgment to pull out the most promising top two.
Step 5: Fine-tune top two strengths. For the moment, forget your weaknesses. Instead, invest energy in becoming a superstar in top two strengths – ones that are also critical to the success of employer. Take classes, read books, go to conferences, do web research, join associations, ask for testimonials, get a mentor– do whatever is necessary to become an unparalleled leader at your organization in these two skills.
Step 6: Leverage strengths. Evans suggests keeping an accomplishment log to track how improvements made a noticeable difference in your performance. This is valuable information for performance reviews.
All of Evans’ tips are part of what he calls a “Stand Out” strategy. “It’s about making what you offer distinctive and different from others,” he says.
While Evans’ advice is sound, it’s been said before many different ways by career consultants and authors.
An all-purpose game plan or formula for landing jobs doesn’t exist – and never will. The essence of job-hunting is first, and most importantly, understanding the marketplace in terms of supply and demand. If the demand for a particular skill – experienced programmers, for example – exceeds the supply of available, immediately employable programmers, capturing a good job with an excellent salary is easier and faster.
And the second commandment of smart job-hunting is master selling and marketing your value to potential employers. It’s knowing how to justify your compensation package by proving to a hiring manager that your particular skill can yield profits. If most job-hunters used these commonsense commandments, they’d be in the envious position of fielding two or three job offers. No matter how impressive your credentials, the unsaid, unwritten question every employer – corporation, non-profit organization or government agency – wants answered is “What can you do for me?”
The answer to that power-packed question is going way beyond justifying your salary, but proving that you can add thousands – better yet millions – of dollars to the yearly organizational coffers.