The most important thing to understand in job searching: value

Reddit submission here.

Today I’d like to talk about what I think is the most important thing to understand in job searching: value.

I hope this could be helpful to some of you who are currently struggling to land your dream job, or finding a job at all.

I personally learned this the hard way so I like to share some of my learnings.

In order to understand value on a deeper level, you need to understand that everyone can create value.

Everyone is valuable

This may seem a cliché to a lot of you, but everyone is valuable.

Obviously, everyone could create something, and that's why people even have jobs to begin with, duh.

But a lot of times, when people are in the job application process, or during an interview, they completely forget that they could add a lot of value to the company they're trying to get into.

A lot of people would lack the confidence to believe that simply because they are beginners.

I’m here to tell (and hopefully show) you everyone is valuable to someone.

You have to remember that you’re here to bring value to a company; you're NOT begging for a job or anyone’s sympathy. You are here to create value, solve a problem, generate new ideas and help grow the business.

My point is, employees are paid for a reason:

if the employee adds value to the company, the company gives the employee values in return (e.g. money/salary).

There’s no need to feel insecure or insignificant about yourself when dealing with larger entities of people, be it the BigN, or your dream company.

Now, this is not to say that having value to add guarantees you a job at your dream company because another thing you need to understand is fit.

I don’t want to go on a huge tangent and talk about fit, but the basic understanding should be that sometimes the values you bring to the table may not be what the company is looking for at the time.

It’s just luck sometimes: this particular department in this company is looking for a particular skillset for this particular project at this particular time.

So don’t be too hard on yourself when you get rejected.

And definitely don’t shy away from following up a couple of months after rejection.

Most of the time though, you can still get your dream job if you understood how to align values.

Value alignment.

For the majority of my career, I had been a freelancer.

In the beginning, I was just being, you know, a typical freelancer.

I was doing web development and design and a little bit of Internet Marketing, but it was mostly spec work.

People would come to me and give me detailed requirements, both technical and design.

And they would ask me to code it out, be it a website or a web app, or a mobile app.

I was doing what a good developers/designers would: follow industry standards and best practices.

I cared about things like code maintainability, separate of concerns, responsive design, etc. And on the design front, I was keen on simple and minimalistic designs that create great contrast and hierarchy.

I was also advocating all of those things to my clients to educate them about the technical side of things.

Believe it or not, I was actually very proud of myself for being a freelancer who doesn't just do the work, take money and be gone, but instead be the one to help clients understand what goes into the work.

It all worked out fine until one day, one of my clients said to me

Dude, I appreciate you telling me all about the technical stuff. It sounds cool, though it sometimes sounds foreign to me. But honestly, I don't give a shit.
I care about getting more customers and having steady cashflow much more than responsive design or whatever.
And now, I just want a goddamned website.

And he was right.

In that moment, I felt both embarrassed and relieved because I finally figured out what I was missing:

I was too caught up in what I valued and completely neglected my clients’ values.

It’s true that I could just bring up some UX research on how the boring “technical stuff” can help drive revenue, I chose to be humble and embrace the mindset change.

Information about responsive design or functional programming or whatever may be interesting to the clients, but most of the time, they would much rather talk in terms of customer acquisition and revenue.

So from then on, I’ve learned the importance of value alignment.

I learned to think in my clients’ shoes and figure out how to use my skill set, based on what I value, to help my clients achieve their goals.

Of course, I didn’t stop trying to create beautiful designs and maintainable code.

But once I was able to align our values, I ended up creating more value for my clients and increase my own self-worth in the process.

A healthy side effect of this is I also started getting better clients and charged more.

Applying this to job searching or interviewing, I was able to align what I had to offer with what the company needed based on my research.

I was more valuable when I focused on how I could add value to the company and help them achieve goals than when I was only thinking about my own values.

At this point, you might be wondering:

What happens if I don’t any unique set of skills to differentiate myself from others?

As I mentioned before, everyone can create value, even beginners (especially beginners sometimes).

Being able to align values will make you more valuable and stand out amongst crowd given that:

  1. You understand the big picture: values and alignment;
  2. You can adapt/align your skill set to the company’s need specifically: good fit.

By understanding value and communicating how your values align, you can more or less make it a no-brainer decision to hire you!

Making it a no-brainer

Building on top of that, you can dramatically improve your portfolio or resume if you could clearly convey the values you provide and how they align with the company’s value to stand out even before interviews.

After all, the interviewer’s job is to fish out what value you bring to the table and whether or not it can help the company achieve goals.

This could take in the forms of a case study or a hand-picked mini-portfolio made specifically for the company you are applying for.

What this does is it takes out a lot of the doubts that the interviewer may have about you and drastically speed up the hiring process because all the answers are presented to them without them needing to think.

Annnd that’s it for now. I do hope this information is valuable to you all and help make your job searching journey easier!

In the future I may write about how to apply this mindset to practical actions in order to stand out and increase your perceived value. So stay tuned and subscribed to the newsletter 😉.

If there's anything else you would like me to cover regarding job searching, interviewing, portfolio building, or anything else in life, just hit me up!

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