I worked recently with a very accomplished Division 1 athlete on building a resume. She was really befuddled because she didn’t know how being an athlete was going to have any value to an employer whatsoever.
Another student organized a fundraiser for disadvantaged teens. One student had run, and profited from, an eBay store for nearly 10 years. All unsure of what they had to offer.
Do you ever doubt what value you could possibly offer an employer?
Many college students and new grads are challenged by the idea of presenting a “value proposition” to employers. You may be among them.
If so, I want to show you some techniques to get past the “I don’t have a lot of work experience” comment, and focus on where you DO have experience that translates into something valuable to the employer.
First, let’s start with why this can be such a hard concept for grads. Here’s three reasons I see pretty consistently:
1. You equate “value” with “job,” and you tend to minimize experience that didn’t come with a paycheck.
2. You don’t have a fundamental level of self-awareness that it takes to identify your personal qualities and translate them into “value.”
3. In school, you don’t really get a lot of practice in promoting your value. Your job in school is to learn about stuff, and then demonstrate that you’ve learned it. These are very different attributes from the self-promotion and marketing business you are now going into.
The good news is learning to present and market yourself is a skill. And, you can learn it.
The skill you must learn is how to take your life experiences, whatever they may be, and learn to translate them.
Many will say, “hey, I’m just a student employee, that’s not real work experience.” Or, “I was a student athlete, that’s not like a real job.” Or, “I ran an eBay store, but it’s not like I worked for anyone.” These statements all discount valuable transferable skills you may actually possess!
Here are some steps you can take to get to the root of what YOU have to offer.
Create Your Own Value Inventory
Get out a sheet of paper and create two columns.
1. Look at everything you’ve done and list it out on the left hand side of your column.
This could include:
Volunteer work, student job, mowing lawns, baby sitting, eBay store, scouting, athlete, fraternity/sorority leader, club participation, part time or summer jobs, academic projects, group projects, internships, working in a family business for which you did/did not get paid, starting something, writing, social media. Basically anything.
Too often I see students think in very tactical terms, just in terms of the task they have completed. So now take it up to the 500 foot level, and see how that task translates into skills and competencies.
2. On the right hand side of the column, list out what work you needed to accomplish.
What did you do to complete your tasks in these experiences you have had? List these on the right hand side of the page. For example:
- Showed up on time each day
- Took care of another person
- Dealt with money
- Dealt with customers
- Kept financial records
- Dealt with angry customers
- Led meetings
- Needed to be responsive to customers
- Started something to help others
- Played on athletic team
3. Now, attach some kind of skill, quality or competency to what you did.
- Showed up on time (initiative, responsibility, self-managing)
- Took care of another person (responsibility, decision making, judgment, trustworthy)
- Dealt with money (trustworthy, financial acumen, responsible, judgment)
- Dealt with customers (customer oriented, judgment, representing the brand/company professionally)
- Kept financial records (financial acumen, accounting skills, trustworthy, judgment)
- Dealt with angry customers (customer oriented, service oriented, problem solver, representing the brand/company professionally)
- Led meetings (organization skills, leadership, meeting facilitation, self-confidence, influencing others)
- Needed to be responsive to customers, e.g. eBay store (service-oriented, self-motivated, initiative, entrepreneurial)
- Started something to help others (organization, leadership, coordinating and executing to a plan, influencing others, time management, proactive)
- Played on athletic team (team player, set and achieve goals as individual and team, disciplined, self-managing, team before self, time-management, commitment)
Now these are just first blush examples, but as you look through your own experience you will surely find many ways to identify the evidence that you will bring value to an employer.
Now, as you are researching jobs and internships, notice what employers are looking for. Then, see how you can fashion benefit statements based on what you have to offer.
Here’s why it’s really important to understand how you add value:
The ONLY reason an organization – any kind of organization – will hire you is because you will help them solve their business problems. When you can articulate your ability to add value to help them solve those problems, as it aligns with the talent they are looking for, you stand a better chance of being picked as the perfect candidate!
Now, create your own Value Inventory and then leave a comment below and let me know what you discovered!
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Degrees of Transition!
About the Author: Lea McLeod helps recent grads and mid-careerists navigate the job search. And once you have a job, she’ll coach you to the brilliant performance of which you are capable! Her “Developing Patterns of Success” Workshop has been deployed to help thousands of college hires worldwide do just that. She blogs at degreesoftransition.com. Follow her on Facebook, and Twitter, too.