The market for your talent today is an imbalanced one with far more talent than there are opportunities. In other words, employers are the buyers and it is definitely a buyers’ market. Given that, how should you think about and develop your career growth strategies?
Simple. You need to understand the business of you.
You need to be able to articulate your value and persuade buyers that the product you are selling—you—is better than others available to them. And the marketing and selling of yourself does not stop when you secure a position. The business of you continues as you grow and seek advancement opportunities—and it plays a significant role if you strive to ascend to leadership positions.
Shift from Career Development to Business Development
Shifting from career development to business development begins with shifting your mindset from seeing yourself as the center of your career strategy to seeing yourself through the value you offer to your organization. This shift is the change from seeing yourself as a consumer of opportunity (which means you evaluate the opportunities as a buyer) to seeing yourself as a product to be selected for an opportunity (which means you understand and present your value to attract the opportunity.) This shift is a radical one for many of us, but you can begin the process by putting together a business plan for the product you are selling.
Every Lawyer Needs a Business Plan
These business plan components are a great place to start:
- Brief mission statement. Include a brief overview of who you are, what success means to you, what opportunities you are seeking, and the competitive value you bring to these opportunities. Although the Mission Statement should be at the beginning of your plan, it may be helpful to write this section after you have completed the other sections.
- Description of the market and consumer needs (the opportunities). Unlike the traditional career development strategy where you start with your goals and skills, a business plan for your career begins with a clear articulation of the marketplace into which you are seeking to enter and/or grow. What are the current trends, issues, concerns and conversations in this market—and what are the needs of consumers seeking talent in this market? What is the value these consumers are seeking and why are they seeking this value?
- Description of the product (you) and value proposition of the product (you). This is a detailed description of who you are as a product and the value you bring to buyers of talent in the marketplace. Bring in some of the key strengths from your resume, but reframe your strengths as value to the buyers. Instead of listing “analytical skill” as a strength on your resume, for example, describe your ability to analyze information and solve problems in a way that is valuable to an organization seeking to hire, develop or promote someone like you.
- Competitor analysis. A clear analysis of your competitors is key to understanding and selling your value to potential consumers. Be candid with yourself in articulating who your competitors are and why you would be a better choice. The better you get at objectively articulating your value in the context of a competitive analysis, the better you can sell yourself for the opportunity you want.
- Marketing strategy. Now that you know the market, your value to potential buyers in the market and your relative position in relation to your competitors, how will you actually market yourself? In a buyers’ market, you have to go to where the buyers are. You have to develop relationships with the buyers and use all the marketing and public relations tools at your disposal to ensure the buyers know who you are, the opportunities you are seeking and the benefit to them of giving you their attention.
- Business execution strategy. Once you’ve crafted your strategy, how will you ensure you execute it effectively? Do you need an advisory board comprised of people who know the market and the buyers who will help you finesse your plan and execute it well? Do you need to engage an executive coach or secure the time of a trusted mentor to hold you accountable?
These basic components are the ones I recommend for anyone’s plan, whether you are seeking your first professional position or angling for senior leadership. You may also want to include other components such as financial forecasts and product improvement strategies to tailor it for your circumstances.
Creating a business plan for your career may feel uncomfortable at first, but it will allow you to see yourself the way the market sees you. The perspective is critical if you want to ensure that you are indeed in line for the opportunities you seek.
Dr. Arin N. Reeves is President of Nextions, a consulting and coaching firm focused on a new way of seeing and doing leadership and inclusion, and author of the groundbreaking bestseller The Next IQ. Born in India and raised in India, Libya and Tanzania, Arin studied business at DePaul University, attended law school at University of Southern California and received her Ph.D. in Sociology from Northwestern University. She practiced law for several years and served as an Adjunct Professor at Northwestern University. Follow Arin @arinreeves.