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What do you do? How do you answer this question? Most people I talk to respond by giving their title. When giving an elevator pitch, most people name tasks that they perform on the job, often giving a laundry list. When I ask an IT manager what they do, they might talk about implementing and or maintaining systems for a company. They may talk about particular architectures or programs that they have expertise in, but all this does is brand people as a commodity. It does nothing to demonstrate their value. What is the value of implementing a new system? What does that system do for the company? How are employees able to improve performance with the new system? Does the system actually achieve the goals that were envisioned? Was the system implemented on time and under budget? What were the skills (hard and soft) that you used to achieve your results? What were the actions that you took leading to the results? These are the types of questions that need to be answered so that you can articulate your value. Any work an employee does needs to do one of three things for the company. It needs to help the company generate revenue, help the company save costs, or help the company mitigate risks. If your work is not doing any of these, there is no reason for a company to pay your salary. By understanding the value your work or projects bring to a company, you have an ability to start articulating what value you can bring to a prospective employer. You are no longer a commodity, but you are a value added solution.

In my previous post, I wrote about 10 steps professionals in transition can take to rise up to their purpose. I received several comments that with a few modifications, this is also appropriate for professionals who are not in transition, so I decided to write a new post from this focus. Has the rat race got you going through the motions? What can you do to break free? How can you make 2012 the year that you play your career Above The Rim. As my good friend and mentor John Hall says, considering all the restructuring, downsizing, right sizing, mergers and acquisitions, and just “plain ol cost cutting”, job security in the corporate environment is a thing of the past. It is therefore incumbent on each person to strategically and purposefully take the steps to generate their own job security and maximize their career opportunities. Professionals must understand the value they bring to an organization, and create their personal brand based on their value proposition. Your personal brand is nothing more than your reputation as a professional and a subject matter expert. Typically, within our career, we naturally create this reputation or a personal brand identity with our colleagues, as well as a few vendors or customers we may deal with. However the reach of this brand identity is extremely limited. What can you do to take your career Above The Rim?

  1. Build a board of Advisors. Most successful executives have a handful of mentors or advisors. Each has different experiences and strengths that you can lean on. These advisors can be professors, colleagues, leaders in an industry, members of your church, and yes, your career coach. Discuss your career and dreams with your advisors. Seek their advice.
  2. Write a long-term career plan – Determine where you want to be in the next 3, 5 and 10 years. Do a S.W.O.T analysis to help you determine the best path for you to take. Determine any education, degrees, certifications or training you need to achieve your desired promotions. Consider the cost and time needed. Budget it and schedule it. Review it every year.
  3. Write a short term career plan. Assess what you want to accomplish in the next 30, 60 and 90 days. Get feedback from your supervisors, colleagues and mentors to determine what will help you maximize your contribution to your company or organization. Review it every month.
  4. Understand the why of what you do, and learn how to articulate it – this really differentiates you.
  5. Create Case Studies of your accomplishments. Assess your projects and tasks you are working on, and understand what is the impact on the bottom line of a company. Keep in mind, in order to be of value to a company, your work has to help the company generate more revenue, cut more costs or mitigate more risk than the cost of employing you. Utilize your case studies in your performance reviews.
  6. Network inside your company. Have lunch with colleagues outside your department. Learn what you can do to positively impact others both inside and outside your department. Cultivate advocates throughout the company. Keep your ears open to learn of new projects, or new opportunities that can be promotional steps for you.

  7. Network outside your company. Join professional or industry associations and actively participate on projects, committees or board positions. This allows your reputation as a professional to spread beyond the colleagues you work with. When networking, remember it is not about you. Become a connector and pay it forward.
  8. Read professional publications and keep your knowledge up to date. Know industry current practices, trends, leaders and what is on the horizon.
  9. Pass on information you read and learn in a comprehensive campaign leveraging social media including blogs, LinkedIn, twitter and face book. A well developed social media campaign will positively impact your current company or organization, and spread your reputation as a subject matter expert.
  10. Pay it forward. Understand that the more you help others and facilitate opportunities for other, the more opportunities will be facilitated and created for you.

Like I said in my previous post, following the steps above is not easy. This is both good news and bad news. It is bad news, because it takes a lot of hard work and dedication. It is good news, because not many people are willing to go the extra mile and take their career Above The Rim. May 2012 be a year filled with blessings, one in which you leverage your skills, experience and passions to fulfill your purpose.

We are living in the most challenging times we have faced in generations. Are you in transition now? Do you feel like you are riding a Tokyo rush hour subway? Are you feeling squeezed by the enormity of the job search, crushed in the crowd competing for too few jobs? The good news is we are now starting a new year. We have a chance to start with a clean slate. I would like to talk about a few things that can help us all to soar free from being a commodity, and fulfill the purpose for which we are created.

We are all created with specific skills and talents. We are all given passions and dreams. We are all given experiences to sharpen our skills and shape our dreams and passions. Here are some ways to focus your job search so that you can soar to your purpose.

  1. Dedicate full time hours to your job search.
  2. Assess your skills, experiences and passions, and what you have accomplished with them
  3. Understand the value of what you do, and learn how to articulate it – this helps differentiate you
  4. Understand the why of what you do, and learn how to articulate it – this really differentiates you
  5. Assess what industries you should focus on, and determine a list of target companies
  6. Research the industries and companies in depth, identifying common problems, issues and headaches within the industries and companies. If you do not spend at least 40 hours researching a company, you are not going deep enough.
  7. Brand yourself as the solution to the problems and headaches of your target companies.
  8. Spread your reputation as a professional solution by actively participating on committees and projects with professional organizations.
  9. Create a purposeful social media campaign to spread your reputation as a professional solution
  10. Have informational meetings with industry leaders and decision makers to spread your reputation as a professional solution.

Following the steps above is not easy. This is both good news and bad news. It is bad news, because it takes a lot of hard work and dedication. It is good news, because not many people are willing to go the extra mile and take their career Above The Rim. May 2012 be a year filled with blessings, one in which you leverage your skills, experience and passions to fulfill your purpose.

I would like to take this time to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and holiday season.