Looking for a Job? First, Define Your Value

John Scott
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Job hunting is rarely easy, even in excellent economic conditions. When times are tough, the competition becomes even tougher. By defining your value, both in terms of skills and salary, you can conduct a more effective and efficient job search.

In a tough job market, defining your value is crucial. When you're up against tens or hundreds of other candidates, you must decide how to stand out from the crowd. To use a marketing term, you need to find your unique selling point. What makes you different from other applicants? How does your experience and education combine to make you the best possible candidate for the job?

The process of defining your value can be challenging. You may not even be aware of the things that make you an excellent employee. Write down the first answers that come to your mind. Then, take it a step further. Think back to your past projects and jobs. What have clients and co-workers thanked you for? When a person takes time out of their day to offer specific thanks, it often means that you did something out of the ordinary. Patterns often point to your unique strengths. If people constantly thank you for explaining complex technical concepts in plain language, for example, you might market yourself as an agile and adaptive communicator.

Current and past colleagues are also an excellent resource when you are defining your value. If you still have good relationships with your past boss or co-workers, send an email to them asking their opinion of your best professional attributes. Chances are, they have noticed things that you do naturally, without thinking. When a past colleague remembers something about you, it can be a powerful selling point during the job search.

In the professional world, defining your value also translates to a dollar amount. Before you start the job hunt in earnest, decide how much you are willing to accept. Set your bottom line. What is the absolute lowest salary you can accept without underselling yourself or sacrificing your way of life? What is your idea of a reasonable salary given your industry, education and expertise? If you are struggling to come up with a number, Monster recommends that you check sample job postings, talk to employment recruiters and contact professional organizations in your industry to get an idea of a standard salary. What is your dream salary? These numbers can help you weed out jobs that pay too little, so you do not waste time applying. They can also make it easier to fill in the dreaded salary requirement section of a job application.

By defining your value before you start the search and application process, you automatically start on the right foot. When you can let potential employers know what you are worth, both in terms of money and what you bring to the company, you come off as a confident, capable candidate.

(Photo courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

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