Making Your Value Visible: Professor Gutlove Shares Tips on Negotiating Career Success

September 14, 2016

Paula Gutlove

SOM Professor Paula Gutlove showed the more than 200 MBA students how to shine light on their career successes at the The New England Regional Net Impact Career Summit.

This article first appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Management Magazine. Written by Paula Gutlove and Lipi Mohanty.

One of the key ingredients of a fulfilling and rewarding management career is doing work you believe in. Equally important is a work environment in which your value, skills, and talents are appreciated. Some of you in the management professions seek those ingredients while also pursuing another goal—making a significant, positive, net impact on society and the environment. That commitment not only adds to the value that you offer in the workplace, but also positions you for greater career satisfaction. Achieving career success while making a positive net impact, requires that you know what your value is, and how to make it visible.

As you move through your career and seek new opportunities you will encounter situations where you will be asked demonstrate your capabilities and commitments. Part of negotiating for your career success—e.g., in job interviews and in promotion discussions—is making sure your impact is clearly apparent to those with whom you negotiate. How, then, do you make your value visible? Making your value visible is not a one-time action, but a deliberate and ongoing process requiring self-reflection, research, preparation, and practice. Applying these techniques can go a long way towards helping you reach your career goals. 

Determine What You Want

A crucial part of the process of negotiating career success is to first understand what you want and why you want it. There are two fundamental reasons for this. First, if you are not sure where you want to go, you will probably end up somewhere else. Second, when you are unclear about your goals, you invariably give control to others. Assessing your interests, skills, and values will keep you from drifting away. Ask yourself: Where do I want to be in two years or five years, and why is it important to me? Your goals don’t have to be rigid— they may evolve as you move through your career—but what matters is that you know your priorities. 

Do Your Research

Once you have determined what you want, the next step is to figure out how to get it. Start by researching the career and/or job you are interested in. Study the cultural environmentMaking Your Value Visible and the interactions and behaviors of people engaged in the work. Talk to your colleagues, leverage your personal and professional network, and do research about the company. It’s essential to recognize that understanding these elements provides direction to help you blend in as well as appropriately stand out as a candidate or colleague. 

Also, an important way to help articulate your value is to learn and speak the language of your field of interest with those in the industry. Understand your passions as “value added” and frame them in the terminology of your chosen field. For instance, if you are doing work on community development and environ- mental stewardship, then use words like “sustainable social change” and “sustainable environment.” This practice will help demonstrate your experience, bridge gaps in communication, build connections, and aboveall, position your value in a way that matters. 

Assess Your Value

Being able to describe what you know and what you are good at requires careful assessment of the value you bring to the table. Get feedback from your colleagues, friends, and supervisor about what you do well and your areas for improvement. Embrace your strengths and focus on ways to address your vulnerabilities. Identify the unique combination of skills and interests that you want to leverage. You might be surprised to learn how much you have to offer.

Another part of assessing your value includes un- covering the various sources of power you can bring to the negotiation table. It is often our perception of being powerless that undermines our efforts to reach our goals, so it is important to recognize that every in- dividual has numerous sources of negotiation power. The two most common are informational power and personal power.

  • Informational power derives from the nego- tiator’s ability to assemble, organize, and present data to support her position, arguments, and desired outcomes. Doing your research and understanding your value helps position you to exercise this source of power.
  • Personal power refers to how powerful you feel, and how confidently you present yourself. “Power priming” and “power posing” are two ways to raise one’s feelings of personal power. Power priming refers to self-reflection on past successes immediately prior to a negotiation. Power posing means standing firmly in a posture of self-assurance—this is a way to help decrease stress and increase confidence in negotiating. 
If you tend to feel insecure or nervous walking into a negotiation, practicing these two techniques can help you feel and become more confident. With practice, this insecurity will fade and you will be entering negotiations with more assurance. A positive attitude has been shown to contribute to successful outcomes. Amy Cuddy, the author of Presence, a book about power and posture, advises: “fake it till you make it, till you become it.” 

Having a ready cache of your accomplishments organized and available will help you promote yourself. Create a portfolio of contributions and achievements related to the work you do and impact you are making. Every time you receive an appreciation email, thank-you note, endorsement, or support, make sure you save it in your “kudos” folder. Also, record any awards that you receive, whether large or small, and continue adding them to your portfolio. In the end it will accumulate into visible proof of your value.

Create Your START Story

An important way to make your value visible is by developing START stories. START stories are a tool to communicate how your past actions illustrate the value you offer now and in the future. START stands for Situation, Trouble, Action, Result, Transferable skills. Essentially, your START stories briefly describe a situation or circumstance, the trouble (problem) to be solved, the actions that you took, the results achieved, and the skills that are transferable to other situations. If you can weave this information into a concise, understandable, and relevant story, then you will be able to make a positive, lasting impression.

You should develop multiple START stories to highlight the range of skills you have and the variety of values you can offer. Your START stories should be powerful and memorable. One way to do this is to quantify the results of your actions. For example: “The first year we reached 75 people with this important message, and by the second year 500 people, and 5,000 people in the third year.” Finally, close your story with a message about the important positive net impact of your actions, demonstrating how your skills can be transferred to relevant scenarios in the future. 

Make Your Value Visible

Your START stories give you a way to make your value visible by telling your story in a memorable way. Once you have a collection of START stories, you can use them to develop your elevator pitch. The elevator pitch is one of the most important tools for networking, through which you can both make your value visible and gather useful information. An elevator pitch should cover the following:

  1. Your name
  2. What you are passionate about
  3. What you’ve been doing and the net impact value you offer
  4. What you want to do next and why 
  5. If applicable, what would you like from the person you’re pitching 
Both START stories and elevator pitches are useful for selling your ideas, for networking to make an impression, in job interviews, or while pitching for a promotion. Target your stories to the person you are addressing in a way that is important to them.Today, businesses large and small are seeking ways to be better corporate citizens and are looking for people with a sustainability mindset to help them achieve their goals. In this environment, the ability to make your value visible is more crucial than ever. Your success will be dependent on your ability to communicate your net impact value, so prepare thoroughly, plan carefully, and practice well to promote yourself effectively. Find your authentic voice to tell your story in a compelling way that makes your great value visible. Career success will be your reward. 

Click Here to Read the Full Article in the Spring 2016 Issue of Management Magazine.