Say you are up for a promotion or trying to land that new job. During your meeting with your boss or prospective employer you are asked a very pointed question: “What value can (do) you bring to this organization?” How would you respond?
Such a question can be disconcerting if you have never actually thought about it before. But all of us, no matter where we are in our careers, should be thinking about how to answer an inquiry like this.
In an age where companies are continuing to cut costs and are looking for more efficient ways to run their operations, knowing the value that each employee brings to the organization is just smart business.
The more prosperous days we experienced in the 1990s are gone. An accounting or finance department that once readily hired new staff, now must carefully examine head count in order to run the most efficient operations possible. And rightly so. After all, the focus is where it should be in an economy that is as uncertain as a weekly weather forecast — the “bottom line”.
Accounting and finance professionals can understand and appreciate this kind of thought process, probably more than most of us. But when the focus shifts from tangible assets to “human” capital, the determination is not always so cut and dry.
Let's face it, we all like to believe that we are important to the company that employs us. But, how many of us have ever had to measure our usefulness? Well, if there ever was a time for you as a professional to demonstrate your worth, it is now. So let's talk about how you could go about doing this.
The Importance of Record Retention
We all understand the importance of keeping good records, right? After all, you file away important documents every day and may not think twice about it. For instance, you keep your income tax information year after year, just in case the IRS decides to perform an audit.
You probably also know where to find the appraisal for your home or information about the line of equity you just received to consolidate your bills. You know where this important information is because you keep it safely tucked away for future reference.
Well, your career records are just as important and should be treated with equal care. A small percentage of us are quite meticulous and can easily provide quantitative accomplishments spanning our entire career. However, the large majority of us put little emphasis on tracking our success and few can show tangible evidence of past achievements. Unfortunately, this lack of recordkeeping can affect whether you get a promotion or land that desired job. So what records do you need to keep?
Most of you probably keep some form of resume on file, just in case you are in the job market again, or see an opportunity to advance your career. But in today's cost-conscious environment, a resume is not enough. What employers want to see goes beyond your skill sets and your formal education. They want to know that you have something more to offer, something that is going to provide a return on their investment. One way you can help demonstrate your value is by developing a career portfolio.
All too often professionals arrive at an interview or review meeting with nothing in hand. This can really limit your ability to fully communicate your value to the manager or potential employer. Always be prepared with a portfolio that not only demonstrates your prior accomplishments, but also highlights those areas specific to the position you seek.
Developing and Maintaining Your Career Portfolio
Brenda George, a recruiter in the Acsys Tampa office, recommends the following as excellent inclusions for your collection:
– Quantitative Contributions: Contributions to the organization that can effectively be quantified are impressive to most employers, especially for positions directly involved in the company's everyday financial operations.
As an accounting and finance professional, you should find it relatively easy to compute your quantitative contributions. For instance, perhaps you were part of the accounting team that helped identify and cut general and administrative costs by 40%. Or, maybe you are a treasurer, and can calculate how much you helped the company invest over a certain period of time. These types of achievements are highly commendable and will set you apart from others who are vying for the same position.
– Accolades and Awards: Accolades received from your day-to-day contacts say a lot about the type of person you are and the quality of work you perform. So, be sure to keep copies of them for your portfolio. They can be in the form of complimentary e-mails, letters, or cards you receive from clients, co-workers, or management.
Other important documents include awards or certificates of appreciation. No matter how trivial they may seem to you at the time, they go a long way in demonstrating your work ethic and how well you are perceived by others. They can also serve as reminders to you of how much your hard work is appreciated, which comes in handy when you are having a bad day.
– Community and Professional Involvement: Many employers and recruiters appreciate professionals who take part in volunteer organizations or professional associations. If you feel it adds value to your position in any way, it certainly is not a disadvantage to share the information with prospective employers.
One way to keep track of your involvement is to regularly record community and professional activities in your day planner or electronic organizer. Then, you can always go back and make a cumulative list of your involvements. You just might be surprised at the impact it will have.
– Team Projects or Contributions: It might sound trite, but it is true — being a true team player will keep you thriving in a company and show the organization your real value. Business is continually changing, and accounting and finance professionals are becoming more and more involved in overall company operations. This often means being part of, or even leading a multi-department team or task force.
When you do lead a team or are involved with group projects, be sure to record your efforts and your success. All companies want team players, and having tangible testimony to show that you work well in groups will go a long way.
– Goals and Objectives: Keeping track of your goals and your success in fulfilling them make great additions to your portfolio. Everyone at one time or another has set a goal for something. But how many of us are good at managing them to ensure we are successfully reaching them? If you do not go back and re-visit your objectives often, your chances of accomplishing everything in your plan are slim.
Monthly or quarterly status checks are ideal, however, few people are that studious and most are too stretched for time. At a minimum, however, you should monitor your goals at least twice per year. To help you remember, try doing it during daylight savings time in the spring and fall. This will help you ensure that you have started your year off right, and that you have ample time for adjustments before the year is over.
There are certainly more things you could do to demonstrate your value to a current or potential employer, but hopefully those listed above will get you headed in the right direction. No one can promise you job security. But, if you can show your real value to a company, your chances of obtaining and/or retaining your desired position are much better.