Know Your Worth
Successful professionals know what they want and how to get it
by Rosemarie Christopher
Internet chatter, discussions among HR professionals, career development magazines and results from employer surveys all boil down to the same thing: The United States doesn’t lack jobs. Rather, it lacks employees who are the right fit for available jobs.
Vacant desks mean employers are asking current employees to pick up the slack. The focus on getting the job done with less is causing some employers to lose sight of something important—the learning and growth needs of their workforce. Employers are failing to identify and nurture high-potential talent. Employees might feel like organizations are stepping over dollars to pick up pennies.
If you find yourself at a dead end, remember that the only person that can change your course is you. But before you make a move, spend some time reflecting to help you see how valuable you are, figure out what you value in your professional life and plan how you can get where you want to be.
Know your organization
First, learn about your current organization’s history and structure and determine if its modern-day embodiment fosters the development opportunities you are looking for. Some organizational cultures are heavily rooted in the past. Is your organization a relic from the Industrial Age with a hierarchical command and control structure that clashes with your out-of-the-box ways? Does your organization’s size create bureaucracy and a silo culture that may frown on your desire to acquire new skills and diversify your experience?
Younger organizations tend to provide less structured environments and more opportunities for individual authority, autonomy and contribution, leading to higher levels of job satisfaction and fulfillment for some workers. There is a tradeoff, however. Startups are higher-risk endeavors because there is less job security—in their first year, 25% of startups fail. By the fifth year, that failure rate is 55%.1 Further, because startups are entrepreneurial in nature, they demand employees who will be tirelessly committed and boast strong time and people management skills.
After 25 years in HR recruiting, I’ve developed insight into success. What is it about the 5% of technical and scientific candidates that differentiates them from the other 95%? First and foremost is a heightened sense of self and consciousness of purpose. There is no ambiguity. Every decision, discussion or interaction comes from a space of enlightened self-interest.
To get in touch with your wants and needs, ask yourself these questions: Is there room to grow in your current role and organization? Are you fully using your strengths and experience most days? Have you made your mark as an individual contributor, and are you ready to take on a managerial role and be responsible for others? Does your job align with your preferred working style?
Today, the occupational landscape is diverse and limitless; careers exist today that didn’t 10 years ago. For every command and control, brick and mortar workplace there’s a virtual, self-directed team that’s powered by W-2 contract employees and 1099 consultants. Everyone should know what they want and find—or create—a compatible role.
Know how you’re perceived
Your reputation is your best asset. Find colleagues and mentors who have observed your behavior and performance, who have an interest in your success and who can speak openly and honestly. After you’ve received this feedback, take time to reflect and evaluate what you’ve heard. The benefit of receiving feedback is a better understanding of strengths and weaknesses.
Growing a reputation of trust and passion for personal and professional excellence is a worthy investment. Not all high-value employees have titles of authority, but they all proactively seek ways to exert positive influence in whatever situation they face. For example, instead of exasperating a team conflict, they listen to their team members, find the special gift each colleague brings to the table and leverage individual strengths to get results. Their presence helps unite, motivate and energize teams to achieve department and organizational objectives.
High-value workers are viewed as assets and are placed on employers’ short lists for promotions. If and when a division or the entire organization is merged, acquired or reorganized, the boss does everything in his or her power to reposition the employee. If the boss receives a new and challenging career-building opportunity elsewhere, sometimes he or she will try to take high-value employees with them.
Everyone deserves a job that matches their skills, interests and goals. Change is difficult, but the only person that can change your current situation is you.
- Ilya Pozin, "How to Avoid Being a Startup Failure," Forbes, Nov. 28, 2012, http://ow.ly/pC9IH.
Rosemarie Christopher is president and CEO of MEIRxRS, a search firm for scientific and technical professionals in pharmaceutical, medical device, biologics, diagnostics and biotech companies in Glendale, CA. She has a master’s degree in communication management from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Christopher is an ASQ member and the chair of the ASQ Food, Drug and Cosmetic Division.