Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Devaluing your skills and experience . . . STOP THAT!

A while ago, I was working for a company that was in its infancy in using social media and developing their website to become an interactive marketing presence.  I was working in an administrative capacity then,  assisting the executives of the company.  They had little idea that I had some experience with social media, promotions and website design -- but I didn't make very much of it. It was a job and the pay was okay for what I was doing.

They seemed happy with what I could do but, they had no real idea that I had the ability to design websites from scratch using HTML.  They had no idea that I had years of online marketing experience.  They had no perceivable idea that I contributed to several blogs regularly.  They even had less of an idea that I continued to consult clients in building their social media presence.

One day a group of us at this company were having a meeting to discuss the social media efforts and the website of said company, when the Manager of Digital Communications, a person making about $15K above my salary, admitted that her knowledge of simple HTML coding was lacking -- among other rudimentary website design & coding practices -- in this case, she admitted she didn't know how to use tags and anchor codes.

What?!  I couldn't believe it.

As the meeting progressed, it became evident that  I clearly knew more then this person about digital communications, thirty minutes later I realized that I knew more about social media and website set-up than the majority of the people in the room!  And they all were making way more money then me! How did this happen?

Why had this happened?

Later, I had to admit to myself that this happened because I didn't let people know what I could do. I didn't market myself or my skills effectively, and/or let them know my rate of service.  The Manager of Digital Communications, however, did communicate all these skills to the right people and was therefore able to negotiate a better salary and a much more  prestigious job title.

Simply put, she valued her time, experience and expertise and knew how to put a lucrative price tag on it.  And I did not, therefore I lost out.  And for many of us, this scenario plays itself out over and over again.

So many of us feel like our employers do not appreciate our work.  We are struggling to pay bills and we are not earning what were are worth.  We must change this.  And to effectively change this, we  must first change our mind-set and our attitudes.

Each and every one of us have viable skills, experiences, and/or knowledge that can take us to the next step.  Dog-gone-it, each and every one of us has what it takes to get us to our very dreams. So why aren't we making the money we need to live, or to start our businesses, or to get out of debt?  Because we don't properly value what we know, what we've experienced, what we can do for others.

It's Time to Change Our "Value Attitude"

Seriously people, let's do a little exercise that can show you something powerful.  I want you to take an entire day and write down all the things that you do well.  No matter how silly it seems, just write down everything you know how to do.

Here is an example of a list of things I can do well

  • Diaper a squirming, wet baby in 10 seconds flat
  • Make homemade chocolate chip cookies
  • Create and grow twitter accounts to over 10,000 followers
  • Create a website from scratch (coding with HTML)
  • Executive administrative duties supporting senior executives
  • Write and self-publish a book
  • Tile an entire bathroom
  • Deep clean an entire refrigerator and make it look new again
  • Sell and promote items on E-Bay 

Now take your list and begin looking for positions that ask for the skills associated with each of the things on your list.  For instance, what does a Twitter Account Manager make?  How much does an administrative assistant with 10 years of experience get in salary on average? How much does a tile job cost for the average-size bathroom?

Some things on your list are so big and complex that you have to cut it into smaller pieces to get a fair idea of the value.  For instance writing and self-publishing a book could be cut down into: Researching, Writing, Editing, Designing, Marketing & Promotion, Selling, etc.

Are you impressed yet with all the things you know and can do well?  Are you also amazed at how much people are getting in salary for skills, experience and knowledge that you have?  Good.  You are learning your value and you are changing your "value attitude" to reflect a more realistic appreciation for skills and experience.

You Are the Expert, Act Like It!

It's important that you know the value of your efforts, your work, your expertise.  See, that last word?  It means that you are the expert.  Yes, you are the expert on the topic of you and what you can do.

Too many times we wait for others to tell us our own value.  We need to change that.  We are the expert.  Therefore, we need to thoroughly research the market value of our skills.  We should know the value we bring to a team or project or company.  And most of all, we should be the expert/professional that convincingly outlines the cost to rent out our expertise/skill.

Let me say that again only a little louder: YOU ARE THE EXPERT And this is the attitude you should have when you apply for a job, or bid on a contract, or court a client.  Part of your job, as an expert, is to tell  the employer or the client what it will cost to get the valuable skills and experience they need -- the same valuable skills and experience you possess.

First Rule of "Value Attitude" Club . . . Don't Work For Free!

Never, provide free work thinking that the employer/client will be so impressed with your work that they will offer you a permanent job with loads of money. This almost never happens.  There are always exceptions, but these exceptions rarely involve YOU.

If you must provide work without monetary compensation, then you should get paid in another fashion, for example:
  • You can work for testimonials -- make sure the name of your client/company name is prominent in the industry;
  • Trade for needed services/expertise -- website hosting services, advertising, cleaning services
  • Trade for rent
  • Trade for equipment
  • Work for anything of equal value to the charge for your service/expertise
Make sure what you trade is an advantage for you and will gain you more business, a higher salary or recognition.  Working for free is NOT marketing yourself.  Working for free is just that --working for no advantage.

Be Willing to be the Cool Guy

Cool guys never look back at explosions.  Be willing to let the opportunity or deal blow up behind you and don't look back.  In other words, if people are not willing to pay a fair market rate - which you have now totally researched - then be willing to walk away and pursue other opportunities.  NOTE TO SELF: Always have other opportunities in the works -- it's just good business.

If the idea of walking away from an offer -- no matter how poor the offer -- gives you the shakes, create a script for yourself like:

"You know, my normal price for projects like these is $5,000.  Take it or leave it.  To tell you the truth, I have other projects on my plate and if you are not interested or my price is above your budget, I totally understand and it's cool.  That's just what I charge for this type of work, and I don't go lower."
The same can go for salary negotiation:

"You know, I'm looking for a salary range around $75,000.  Take it or leave it.  To tell you the truth, I have other opportunities and if you are not interested or this above your budget, I totally understand and it's cool.  I've researched this thoroughly though and $75,000 is fair market value for the skill and experience I'd bring to this department (or company). I'm sorry but I can't go lower."

Now, repeat this script three times a day for the next 30 days, until you can recite your script in your sleep. Get comfortable with the statement, put it to music if you have to.  It will be what you will tell people and you will not deviate from it.  It isn't a pie in the sky number, it is something you have fully researched and as an expert, you know your value.

If You Are Frightened By The Word "No"

If you are in fear of rejection, then you have yet to read my blog post: Rejection is Your Friend.
Read it now.  And then, get used to rejection.  If you must, anesthetize yourself from the pain of the word "No" by having a friend tell you "No" a million times, to get you used to hearing the word. 

Remember, my sad story above.  I learned the hard way that it's the truth when people say, "Those who ask .  . . receive!"

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