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Market Your Value May 27, 2009

Posted by Jason in Insider's View Relapses.

Many firms have cut deeply in response to shrinking revenues, including making the hard choice to let staff go. It is always difficult to know that leaders have made the right decisions, even when faced with an absolute necessity. Under these conditions however, those remaining have opportunities to slow down and observe how other aspects of the business operate. It is a good time to highlight an important attitude that may have escaped those who spend their time “in the trenches” on design.

I was reminded—and encouraged—about the future through a phone call from a recent graduate looking for a job. While I have heard many variations of this cold call, this one stood out as particularly interesting. It quickly became clear that the caller would not necessarily be a good fit, his expertise and experience notwithstanding. However, he was already aware of this. Rather than say thanks and move on, he specifically asked if I had any recommendations about how he could better market his qualifications to other firms that would be a better match.

I found this very insightful. Here was an individual who had a few years of experience and then returned to school for a degree. So, he may be a bit more savvy than a true, “green” graduate, but it nevertheless exemplified an important aspect of today’s job market—one that is pertinent not just to individuals but to entire businesses. The caller was not simply asking if I knew of a better fit (looking for a referral), he wanted to know how to market his skills to them, looking for ways to present himself to a potential employer in a way that reflected the employer’s own perspective. In essence, he was asking, “How can I show that my expertise can help the employer reach his goals?”

How many business leaders have this attitude toward their own clients? Are we redoubling our efforts to ask for referrals—often a tough enough task for engineers—without demonstrating how our services can be a real benefit? Is the new crop of engineering graduates more aware of its importance than their bosses? Regardless of the size of the firm, if your clients perceive your services as simply a means to an end, there is no limit to the cost cutting required to keep your customers happy. The alternative is to quantify your firm’s value to the client and the project, illustrating that you are not just providing a product, but acting as a partner to realize the project vision, with a proportional value of compensation. I expressed this idea to my caller, and advised that he should look beyond the technical skills of his degree and imagine how he will be perceived by an employer—someone who will be looking very hard at the costs of hiring and training, regardless of his skills.

It appears that younger professionals, perhaps aware of the need to market and even brand themselves apart from their employers, are more accepting of this approach to overall client retention and willing to take the initiative to develop it. Of course, older employers bristle at the idea that individual employees may have a brand separate from the firm’s. This is an important point, but is another topic entirely. Rather than remain closed to this concept, however, these employers may want to find a way to incorporate it into the firm’s strategy. It may require an adjustment to policy and procedure, but this entrepreneurial spirit may very well present new ways to do business.

–from Indider’s View, May 2009



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