The Product is YOU
By Jay Leonardi
Posted on May 5, 2018 at 1:00 PM
Getting the career you’ve always wanted is about selling a very important product—the product of YOU!
The good news is that you have had a lifetime to make that product ready to sell and, of course, there is no one in the world better able to sell this product.
Let’s face it, the process of getting a high-paying career position is much like any other type of sales. You have a product (that’s you), and the product has some features (education, skills, competencies) that you can bring as value-added items to your potential employer.
Many people think that selling yourself to an employer is all about the job interview. If you can just say everything perfectly, get your handshake right, and dazzle them with your personality, you’ve got the job. All of that is true, but even the best salesperson needs a quality product to sell.
Here’s the stark reality: you will spend years—decades in fact—creating the product of you. All of that effort and preparation will come to fruition in a one hour interview that could change your entire life.
When you approach an employer about a career, you are like a shiny new car and they can’t wait to see what’s under the hood. From an employer’s perspective, you are nothing more than a product that they may want to buy.
Far too often, people make the mistake of forgetting that they aren’t going to school, they are building a product. They see classes as boring assignments that must be endured, not as opportunities to build another skill they could someday sell to an employer.
People often complain that the world isn’t fair. That’s true enough; however, the world may not be fair, but it is predictable. In this world of ours, you can certainly predict that the best jobs and the most money will go to the people with the most intelligence, knowledge, skills and marketable behaviors. Now, it’s true that you can’t do much about intelligence, but all of the other factors are within your control
This brings us back to the product that is you. As a product, you must have both features and benefits that an employer would want. Your features are the tangible skills and knowledge that you can bring to an employer. Examples could include engineering skills, writing skills, analysis, customer service, or computer programming
Your skills must provide some benefit to your employer, such as making money, saving money, increased sales, development of new products, or company growth. If you have not developed any high-level skills that provide a direct benefit to your employer, you will most likely remain unemployed or perform minimum wage work.
In addition to the specific skills that you bring to your employer, you must also develop the proper attitudes and behaviors that support the culture that your employer has developed over time. These behaviors form the basis of how you act on-the-job.
A simple equation for employability looks like this:
Skills + Knowledge + Attitudes + Behaviors = Employability
In the above equation, each element must be highly desired by the employer. For example, you may possess the skill of writing computer code, deep knowledge of the foundations of programming, a positive attitude based on helping your employer to grow, and the positive behaviors of accountability, conscientiousness, and reliability. Such an equation of employability would be highly valuable to many employers.
Skills and Knowledge
It’s important to understand that certain categories of knowledge are more highly valued by our society. Take a moment to review the table above and consider the financial value of each. Are you able to quickly rank each item based on its potential value? You might list Medicine, Management, Computers, and Engineering among the highly-compensated skills, while Art, Maintenance, Mechanical, Education and Writing might fall somewhat lower.
Key learning point: It’s far easier to pursue a highly-compensated field of study from the beginning then to convert a poorly-compensated field into higher pay later in your career.
Attitudes and Behaviors:
While it’s true that skills and knowledge form the core of the product that is you, the attitudes and behaviors you demonstrate on-the-job are essential to your long-term growth and success within the organization. Attitudes and behaviors can be perceived as both positive and negative by your employer or potential employer. One of the goals of an interview is to look beyond the list of skills that the person has acquired to gauge the behaviors and attitudes that a person may exhibit on-the-job.
Good interviewers know that it is a person’s behaviors and attitudes that guide the application of acquired skills in the workplace. Many high-skilled and knowledgeable employees have been terminated over the years due to behavioral failures and attitudinal inadequacies.
The following table provides a list of personal behaviors often seen as positive by potential employers:
In comparison, the following table provides a list of behaviors often seen as negative by potential employers:
Finally, as your career matures, you face the prospect of leadership roles. This is the point in your career where skills and knowledge may become secondary to your ability to direct people and influence their behaviors toward the achievement of a desirable goal.
The following table provides an assessment of your positive and negative leadership behaviors. If you evaluated yourself against each factor, where would you show strengths, and where would you identify opportunities for improvement?
The Product is YOU!
Remember that to a prospective employer, you are simply a product that they are seeking to purchase. It’s not about what you have done, it’s about what you can do for them.
You must package yourself as a highly-desirable collection of skill and knowledge wrapped in a positive assortment of behaviors and attitudes that provide value to your employer. In that way, on the day of your interview, you will feel the confidence that comes with selling a very special product—the Product of YOU!
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