In business, a value proposition describes the quantifiable benefits that individuals or organizations promise to deliver. In the job search process our students need to be able to effectively articulate what value they are proposing they will deliver on the job. This is their personal value proposition.
Be it through a resume, cover letter or interview, an effective value proposition should persuasively define skills, knowledge, attributes, achievements and personal characteristics in ways that distinguish an individual positively from others.
When a business is developing their value proposition, they are instructed to “Know your customer”, “Know your product/service” and “Know your competition”. This is no different for the job seeker. The student needs to have a solid understanding of the customer - the employer, asking What do they do? What do they need? What do they value? This then needs to be connected with what the job seeker has to offer; the service they can provide, and constructed in a way that makes them stand apart from the other candidates.
There are several ways to get students used to articulating their value proposition before job applications start. The first is the Elevator Pitch. This is the value proposition in its purest form: clear, concise and focused. In one minute students need to be able to clearly articulate the very best of themselves, answering the questions, ‘what makes me who I am?’, and ‘What are my defining characteristics and achievements?’ In getting students to confidently deliver their pitch you are also preparing them for the classic interview question, ‘Tell me about yourself’, very often a missed opportunity for the candidate nail the interview early. The second is the Profile, which is a written statement, about 250 words long, containing similar content to the elevator pitch, but presented in the third person. The profile can be found in resume books, and student web pages and year books.
Example Profile: Jane Doe (MBA Candidate 2011)
Entrepreneurial flair, a thirst for knowledge and the commitment to complete four marathons combine to make Jane Doe an exciting prospect.
Jane has a keen interest in the finance industry and is completing level one of the CFA designation. During her time at Dalhousie University, she has been committed to a variety of organizations including the Finance Club, Women in Capital Markets and the MBA Student Society.
Previous experiences as a small business owner, project coordinator and teaching assistant have added to Jane’s capacity to achieve results under pressure while remaining client focused. The recent sale of her home decorating business has given her the financial freedom to pursue her academic goal of obtaining a Masters of Business Administration.
Having been described as sociable and outgoing, but also analytical and logical with a strong aptitude for conceptual problem-solving, Jane is interested in a career opportunity that would combine these skills. Wealth management and investment banking have attracted her as possibilities.
It is also important to remind students that once they have a job, they need to demonstrate their value proposition at work. What they contribute to the job must have more value than the employer’s investment in them; otherwise the employer gets a negative return on their investment, resulting in a mediocre reference, a missed opportunity for a future job opportunity with the employer, or worse still, a failed work term.
Getting students to focus on the identification and articulation of their value proposition early in their co-op preparation can pay dividends throughout their co-operative education journey. When they are getting caught up in the weeds of a job application or fretting over an upcoming interview, try bringing their focus back to this. Remind them to focus on knowing their customer, knowing their service and knowing their competition.
Article by: Anna Cranston, Director, Management Career Services, Dalhousie University