Copyright: Ditty_about_summer

Your career, your value

Do you know your value? Do you know what special talents you have, what kinds of problems you solve, what expertise you bring to an organisation? Most people, even scientists, just don’t know this about themselves. We may think we know, but ask someone to encapsulate their true value within a 30 second self-commercial, and their mind melts to mush.

Knowing your value is an important aspect of determining what career path is right for you and how to navigate that path. And if you can clearly articulate what value you bring to an organisation, you immediately have the competitive edge. Think about this – for every job out there, be it in science or in hospitality, hiring decisions are made based on candidate’s ability to explain how they will advance the organisation through the types of problems they solve and the specific value they bring. Since most people don’t know how to explain what their value is, particularly for career planning and job search process, if you can, you win. It really is that simple.

The key to scientific career success

But it isn’t easy. We weren’t taught this skill while we were analysing amoebae or propelling particles. And in many circles, we were encouraged to keep our accomplishments to ourselves. But if you are to advance in science, you must be able to communicate how you will advance science. Your value, and your ability to elucidate it, is your key to the kingdom of scientific career success.

So how do you figure out what your value is? Start by examining the different jobs and volunteer positions you have had, in research, teaching, service, and elsewhere. Recall the different scientific and business skills you learned and mastered, and think about what problems you were faced with, what solutions you came up with, and what the results were of your solutions. Write this out in a table format, so you can visualise your achievements. Soon you will be able to see in front of you a pattern of talents you have developed to solve certain types of problems in novel ways. This is your value.

Communicating your value takes practice. Once you have figured out what kinds of skills you have utilised to solve problems along with your solutions and results, write out a few sentences that explain these facts. Soon you will be editing them down, and before you know it, you will have a 30 second statement that summarises who you are as a professional and the value you provide.

Brand yourself

Your value, and even more specifically, your promise of value, has a name – it’s called a brand. We’ve heard that term before. Coca-Cola is a brand. Nike is a brand. Manchester United is a brand. I had heard of “brands” all of my life, but I never was really able to define what a brand is, nor did I realise that “brands” and “branding” had anything to do with me and my career. But when I heard a conference lecturer define a brand as a promise of value, time stopped for me. I could instantly see that I had a brand, and that if I could impart that brand to people around me, including hiring managers and decision-makers for fellowships and awards, I could triumph.

And so can you. This column is about you triumphing in your career. This column is about helping you identify, clarify, and promote your value in the most appropriate ways to ensure that exciting, fabulous career opportunities are available, offered, and open to you. This column is about giving you the tools, tactics and strategies to prepare for, find, and land the job and career you desire, and advance as a professional scientist or engineer. And above all, this column is about helping you realise your passion for and enjoy your career in science and engineering. That is my promise to you.

Career Column launch

So I am very excited to launch this Careers Column. Please don’t hesitate to email me questions related to careers, networking, mentoring, negotiation, interviewing, and everything else in between. Future columns will address issues about the two-body problem and how to escape (with dignity and class) a toxic boss/supervisor. All science career-related questions are encouraged and I welcome the discussion. You can email your questions and suggestions for future column subjects and I will keep the question-writer anonymous. I look forward to working with you – Here’s to your career Triumph in 2012 and beyond!

Featured image credit: Ditty about summer via Shutterstock

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Alaina Levine

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