Thursday, June 4, 2009

Pay it Forward

We need to stop living in the present and look to the future. Too often we are so wrapped up in the day-to-day stress of our operational job responsibilities that we forget to look forward. We need to think of ourselves as movie script writers and create our next scene. Start thinking today about what you want to write for your next resume entry. Do it before you get bored with your current job and want to start looking. Do it while you’re still satisfied and engaged. Start paying it forward now.

You have responsibilities which you will, of course, excel at executing. That’s your day job. Your extra credit night job is to start creating now the achievements you want to put in your next resume entry. What do you want to be able to tell your next potential employer (i.e., client) that you achieved? You want to list two or three key achievements that had a positive and measurable impact on the company. These achievements are going to be about how you personally implemented initiatives that improved the company’s bottom line either by reducing costs, improving processes, introducing efficiencies, improving sales, improving revenue, etc. For example, if you’re a software developer you might want to say that you took the initiative and created and chaired a task group that recommended and implemented a streamlined code review process that reduced the overall review process from three days to one day resulting in $x of savings.

Remember, you have to think like an entrepreneurial CEO, not a worker. Take the time to look around and really understand your department and the company. Talk to people inside and outside your department. Do research on your industry and competitors. Read press and third party reports on your company and industry. Pay special attention to best practices in your industry. Use your social and business networking sites like LinkedIn to talk with colleagues and other people in your industry. The more you understand about your company and your industry the more ideas you will generate about how you can make improvements.

Keep a list of ideas you have about improvements you can make. Rough out details on those ideas that look promising. Include the level of difficulty and pay out. Focus on those ideas that have the most payout/benefit with the least complexity of changes and disruption of current procedures.

Zero in on one idea and map out specific improvements. Visualize the end result by writing your resume entry describing what you did, how you achieved it and the positive impact it had. Now, make it happen. Develop your pitch. Pull together a small group of supporters and advocates to flesh out specifics and build support. Think about quantitative metrics that you can use to measure the success. Tie it to industry best practices. Make the pitch to management. Implement the process and, most importantly, measure the progress against your success metrics. Now you’ve created a powerful achievement that you can write about on your resume and talk about in your next interview (i.e., sales presentation).

This will take extra time outside your day job but the benefits will far outweigh the cost in additional time. You’ll find that your job is more interesting and the reward of having a direct, measurable impact on your company is invaluable. And, you’ll be improving your brand and increasing your value in the job market.

This discussion is presented in collaboration with Rob Main, co-founder of
Apojigo ( Apojigo is your own personalized Web space for presenting your professional Profile and Portfolio.

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