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Career Moves: Know Your Value
Posted By: Eddie Francis on August 23, 2015

As a job recruiter, I have noticed that people who make great career moves do so as a result of understanding their value both literally and figuratively. Having grown up like many African Americans--in the 'hood--I've learned that conversations about career advancement normally aren't designed to help us identify value. We are normally told by people, even our family members, that we are lucky to have jobs, let alone degrees.

For example, I am proud of my career but I think I would be much more advanced if I had spent time focused on building my value as a professional and paying attention to my work environment early in the game. I spent 19 years with a major company getting paid an insulting salary yet I was one of the few college graduates on staff, I worked tirelessly, and I got results. I was even an interim department head at 23 years old. These folks could have treated me much better but I have to take the "L" on this. My failure to understand my worth contributed to my failure to insist on better treatment and seek out better opportunities. I was blinded by the "I'm just lucky to be here" attitude.

So, now is the time for you to take inventory of your combination of skills, experience and talent. Here are the steps you can take to build and articulate the value you bring to the table on each job:

Use your resume as an assessment tool. Your resume is the foundation of building a strong personal brand. This is where you document your experience, skills and talents (and do yourself a favor--brag). Create a "master" resume to serve as a guide to develop resumes for each of your disciplines if you have a diverse skill set. For example, I have a mass communication resume and a job recruitment resume, each two pages. My master resume--from where I pull information for each break-out resume--is six pages of the following:

  • A profile of my overall career experience,
  • A comprehensive list of my skills,
  • Every job in my careers and accomplishments on those jobs,
  • A complete list of my awards and honors, and
  • Other miscellaneous items such as speaking presentations, media appearances, blogs, volunteer efforts, organizational involvement, etc.

If you are a college student, your master resume should track the skills you are building inside and outside of the classroom including campus leadership opportunities, work study and even part-time jobs. Ultimately, we should look at our resumes and either feel good about what we have accomplished or understand what we have to do in order to boost our value.

In order to articulate your value, you must have a tight resume.

Know what the market bears. Do research on what others in your field are making at your position. Web sites such as Salary.com, PayScale.com, Glassdoor, CareerBuilder, and Monster have salary calculators you can use to get a rough idea of the value of your position.

Network! Communicate with other people in your field to find out how they position themselves to advance. Consider joining a professional association to understand the best way to enhance your value. You may even consider talking to a past employer to have honest conversations about what you could have done to increase your value on the job.

Determine what kind of compensation package you want. This is where a lot of us slip up. We get consumed with take home pay, not even thinking about how valuable our time and energy are to an employer's success or what it means to care for us and our families. Consider the following:

  • Medical benefits - Does the employer have a package that will be friendly to your piggy bank if you need medical, dental, or visual care?
  • Savings and/or retirement - Does the employer have a plan to help you stack your dollars?
  • Stock options - Larger companies tend to have these options as pathways to invest while building financial security.
  • Paid time off - Will you be compensated for vacation, holidays or sick time? Keep in mind that time off greatly impacts employees' mental and emotional health especially in very demanding fields.
  • Tuition reimbursement or professional development - Does the employer have programs to cover credentials you may need to advance in your field (thus increasing your value)?
  • Car/travel allowance - There are fields in which employees are expected to do a lot of driving or travel. In sales, for example, you could wind up paying a ridiculous amount for oil changes, tune-ups, tire changes, etc. and not get a cent of assistance from the employer for your troubles.
  • Work/life balance programs - Does the employer go the extra mile to institute programs to help employees with personal as well as professional development? An employee who values his or her well being tends to be a productive employee.

Do homework on the employer. A lot of us are so happy to work for certain companies or organizations, that we run head-first into the job. Then we find ourselves in a royal mess and have to plan an exit strategy sooner than expected. This is another area where you can network with colleagues and even past employers to collect some intel. Look up information such as the employer's profit and loss statements to see what you're getting yourself into. Also, get feedback from current and past employees. Web sites such as Glassdoor and Indeed allow employees to write reviews. This will help you figure out the best way to be productive based on the environment you would be entering.

People who know their value bring value but building that value takes work. Just know that if you are not aware of your value, no one else will be.


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