Late last month, I was honored to present to two classes at Lehman College as a guest speaker on career development.
There was considerable diversity among the student body in all senses of the word, including their professional goals. Some wanted to go the entrepreneurship route, while others were focused on tax, audit, financial advising and other “traditional” paths. In each case, we focused on their value proposition and how they could articulate to a target audience what they brought to the table.
We had some surprisingly in-depth discussions, and many of the students articulated a subtle and sophisticated understanding of themselves, their goals and the world at large. And, of course, we stretched them a bit further during the course of the presentation.
For example, one entrepreneurial student said his value stemmed in part from getting someone the “best deal.” We discussed the downsides of competing on price, because someone can always undercut you, so you will be sacrificing profit margins in order to win customers. We also explored how to extend the concept of service and relationship-building to make sure the “best deal” is more comprehensive than low-cost merchandise.
Another entrepreneurial student proposed creating and offering a specialty hair product for a niche market, and we explored what relationships she might need and want to build with scientists, investors, patent attorneys, social media influencers and others to bring her product idea to fruition and distribute and market it to her target audience.
We also discussed how presenting yourself in a job interview requires the same set of skills: understanding your value to the hiring company or client (i.e., what are the needs for that job or consulting engagement?) and how to best articulate your value (ability to meet those needs and exceed expectations) to your target audience. These concepts echo points I have raised in my books, Master the Interview and Know Yourself, Grow Your Career and are the key means to breaking down a daunting job search or other career decision-making process into manageable steps.
Each time I speak to a group of students, I am reminded that questions arising at the beginning of one’s career often continue to arise over the years. Many of the concerns these students had – such as confidence-building and personal branding as well as how to seek out, choosing among and making a positive impression on potential mentors and hiring managers – are similar those I hear from my executive clients.
As I imagine some of the readers of this post will be Lehman College and other students, I wanted to close with an article I read recently in the Harvard Business Review that is particularly apropos to job candidates at the beginning of their careers, entitled “Why Hiring is a Lot Like Picking Stocks.” (The specific classes were corporate finance and investment analysis courses, so the analogy is even more relevant to this particular group of students.)
I love that this article puts the hiring process in the same light as investment decisions, translating concepts such as due diligence, valuation, growth potential and other terms. As career coaches, we consistently try to help job candidates see beyond themselves to the goals of the team that will be hiring them. This article goes a long way toward making that clear in terms of the return on investment companies expect from job candidates, the risk-reward ratio that they consider when looking for new (or even experienced) talent and the delicate calculus that goes into talent retention.
And, by the way, if you are reading this and looking for a new source of recruits or investment opportunities, consider giving Professor Gary Jacobi a call. He just may have some suitable candidates for you!
Anne Marie Segal is an executive coach, resume writer and author of two well-received books on interviewing and career development. She served as a corporate attorney for 15 years before launching her coaching practice, including roles at White & Case LLP and a hedge and private equity fund manager. Anne Marie is based in Stamford, CT and serves an international clientele. Her online learning platform is accessible here.
Image above: Adobe Images.