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April 10, 2013

Value Proposition Networking

If you are in marketing as a profession you hear the phrase “value proposition” bandied about the office and as it relates to the customer experience. Today no matter what we do professionally we are all, in a sense, in sales and we need to bring a customer experience to others who are “experiencing us” professionally. When it comes to moving your career forward the phrase value proposition comes up a lot and many questions abound from employers about your value proposition if you are working full-time or are in a career transition. A 30+ years human resources executive, Mike DeCocco, found himself unemployed for the first time since he was 15 years old. “Now the job immediately became ‘I need to sell myself’ for the first time,” says DeCocco. “So my value proposition came simply after examining my own skill set which was ‘making order out of chaos’ and people got that from me.”

In an executive roundtable discussion at Triangle Executive Careers Group, I led a discussion with Mike DeCocco and other executives on issues related to developing and refining your value proposition in the marketplace to advance your career or to energize a stalled job search.

Many of the participants provided critical insight, observations and advice from their own real-world experiences about what works and what doesn’t as you try to distinguish yourself and your value to employers. According to Wiki, a value proposition can be defined as a promise of value to be delivered and a belief from the customer that value will be experienced.

Here are six networking related ideas and insights from our groups discussion and conversation:

Prepare! Networking Can Be An Interview. Among my clients I have asked them to network but prepare for any “unofficial” networking interview to potentially be a “real interview.” It doesn’t mean you need to show up in a suit to every coffee shop conversation or pay for someone’ expensive lunch but it does mean that if you set up a networking meeting try to be prepared. At minimum, look the person up on LinkedIn, find out some bio on them and try to get a sense about what is important to them personally and professionally. Know about the company or organization they work for and if they ask be able to answer some critical interview type questions. DeCocco suggests “doing a little preparation” can make all the difference. Dana Gower pointed out that bringing in an article and having something of value to “share” with them based upon what you learned about them before the meeting “is just fundamentally sound.”

Energize Your Existing Network. If you have an existing network how can we persuade them to create a strategic alliance and a close conversation that could reveal value for both parties? In my career coaching practice I have seen people work away from those that they know and now energize people who do know them to help. Develop and send a new resume with an encouraging note to existing contacts about what you are looking for and target companies. Ask people who know you how you can help them help you. Don’t take for granted anyone you think you know. Energize existing relationships so that your close friends, family and network doesn’t just say they will endorse you they enthusiastically endorse you. In DeCocco’s case the contact that ultimately hired him came from a relationships renewed after 15 years.

Relationships + Experience = Value. Even if your background does not add up, tit for tat, to every element of every job description you may be applying for Mike Stevens suggests that “your background is your journey” in this work life. In the course of Stevens diverse, successful career journey through entrepreneurship, government assignments and account management roles a potential employer or networking contact may not be able to “add up” your value so you need to clearly state how the transferable skills matter. Business equals relationships. Stevens adds: “My journey has given me a host of experiences, the greatest being the ability to form relationships.” Relationships create value.

Look for Partnerships Not A Transaction. To become the recruited, you can mourn the losses or close calls in getting hired but ask people who interview you why the other person was a better fit. This gives you feedback you can use and improve your brand and your networking. A tireless networker who has reinvented and reinvigorated his career is Tom Rossetti. As a multi-faceted human resources leader, Rossetti understands benefits, employee relations, training and working with all levels of staff. “Without excellent communication skills and a customer focused attitude,” Rossetti states, “you just cannot succeed long-term in corporate America.” I used those skills in every opportunity I have ever had. Today I look at networking as I do human resources. If we can get together let’s find a way to partner on ways we can move each other forward in my value proposition.”

Let Passion Power Your Value. As an executive, Jim Chambers leads with passion. As the leader of the North Carolina Executive Roundtable, an executive networking and consulting entity Jim has always been passionate about turning around processes, people and organizations. With a background working in small and medium enterprises his value has been as he says it “in the ability to quickly recognize the gap between corporate vision and actual performance goals.” To take on difficult turnaround operations, change them and improve them takes a lot of energy. How does he do it and how does he lead others in the same? Chambers recommends networking with a passionate plan to create value. “Developing a plan with measurable steps so you can set goals and begin closing the path to your new opportunities. People need to hear your passion for doing this and they will passionately help you as you network.”

Bring Your Gifts. Advanced degrees matter. Top level certifications can make a difference to people. Titles can impress many people. How you help organizations make money and reduce costs can be impressive? But at the end of the day many people will care more that you remembered their name, that you took the time to follow up and that you listened. Take John Rabon for example. He possess advanced degrees in law and public administration as well as clear gifts in research, communications, legal and government relations that could be a clear boon for any non-profit and government organization. But he wants people to remember more that he can put his smarts to work in a caring way. Rabon states: “I want to make the community a better place by crafting and implementing public policy that has a positive impact on customers and stakeholders.” So in networking don’t trade status for a caring, considerate and sincere communication of your bigger purpose.

So let people hear about your work life mission and let them know what matters to you. It seems like a risk in networking but handled right, it will matter to those you may need in your life and career. Don’t turn down a simple cup of coffee meeting. Don’t think small meetings and interactions, with proper follow up, cannot become big, career and positive life impacting moves. They matter, You matter.

One Response to “Value Proposition Networking”

  1. April 12, 2013 at 2:33 pm, Matt Rossetti said:

    Great article and a great discussion. I was there in person and learned a lot from the executives who shared their experiences and techniques in networking.

    I am self-employed and just starting my own videography business and am constantly trying to sell myself to others. I certainly not the “salesman” type but it is important to know how you can bring value to someone’s business and more important how you can get that across to them during a meeting. The tips shared in this article are excellent ways to do just that. Thanks John and Mike for sharing.

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