pushpullThis is a classic communication problem: how do you communicate your value in a business setting?

Yes, I understand that we all have value just by virtue of being human. Nevertheless, here is a hard truth that some of my students have trouble getting their heads around: The only reason an organization – any kind of organization – will hire you  is because you will help them solve their business problems. (That is a direct quote from a good article on this concept from The Savvy Intern.)

I actually had a student say, “They shouldn’t do it like that. People should give you a job just because you need money to live.” She might as well have said, “Gravity shouldn’t be allowed to hold you down.”

There is nothing servile about this. It’s a win-win situation, cliche though it is. The employer wants your talent/ability/work more than he wants his money, and you want the money more than you want to use your time for something else. If either of you doesn’t perceive greater value to yourself from the trade, then you will not make the trade.

The key is to communicate your value, and you don’t do that by saying, “I’m valuable.” It begins with action – with actually being valuable. If you successfully communicate a lie, it won’t stand scrutiny for long. But unless you communicate the truth, no one will know you can solve their problems, or that your value is greater than your cost.

A good parallel is dating and marriage. To effectively communicate your business value, seduction works better than aggression, which will make you seem desperate. For instance, a testimonial in the form of a recommendation letter or an introduction works better than “hire me! I’m the greatest!”

To put it in bumper sticker form: pull rather than push. As many have said, it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you and what you can do.

How have you found this to be true? Have you discovered an effective way to communicate your value?

Photo by Flickr user Robert S. Donovan.

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