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Career Management: Showing Your Worth


commercial worth

Knowing what you are worth is crucial for effective career management

In his book Ten Commandments for Business Failure, Donald R Keough, a former Coca Cola executive recounts a conversation between Robert Woodruff, the man who built the global Coca Cola brand, and the company’s lawyer. Woodruff asked the lawyer to explain what his job was. Without any hesitation the lawyer replied “Mr Woodruff, I sell Coca Cola.” Mr Keough was obviously someone who took his personal career management seriously.

There was once a time when candidates for a job were assessed simply on whether they were the right person for the job, whether they would fit well into the team and whether they were suited to the company’s culture. Those are of course the immediate and most obvious criteria which company needs to look at. But the economic squeeze has forced companies to look beyond the obvious. The imperative for financial growth, for economic survival has never been greater. Doing the job well is  no longer enough. The question every company now wants to know is, ‘What else do you bring? What can you add to our bottom line? It’s no longer just, ‘Are you the right person to be the Coca Coca lawyer?’ It’s, ‘Will you sell Coca Cola?’

This means that before you apply for a job, and certainly before you go to interview, you need to be very clear about how you will contribute, over and above the job itself, to the company’s profits, and to think about how you will demonstrate this in your job application.

Obviously if you are going for a sales role then you just need to prove your sales skills, which you will need to do anyway to get the job. But if you are going for, let’s say, an admin role, in which you don’t expect to have any customer contact, then your ability to contribute to the bottom line may be less obvious. Nevertheless, the company will still prefer a candidate who shows that they can make a commercial difference to one who is just going to do the job well.

Even working in a back office role you can be an ambassador for the company. You may never meet a customer, but wherever you go and whatever you do, you work for the company and on some level you represent them. Just the way you talk about your employer amongst your friends can have an impact on the company’s image. And positive things that you say on social media or in work-related environments can resonate widely.

The skills that you will emphasise, and the specific things you will do to help the company gain commercial advantage will depend on the sort of job you are applying for. At very least you should demonstrate an understanding of, and a enthusiasm for what the company does. You should talk about your networks, the sort of people you come into contact with, your excitement at being able to represent the company in the circles in which you move. Beyond that you should demonstrate a willingness to learn, to spot and pick up the tasks that nobody else is doing, to treat the job as if it is an important part of your life, and not just something you do during working hours.

So when you apply, be sure to mention achievements which demonstrate what you can do for the company. These might be around relationship building but could just as easily, depending on the job you are applying for, concern cost management, process improvement or even motivating your colleagues. These achievements don’t have to come from your working life, they could be things you did socially, at school or amongst your family. What you are really trying to do is to show what sort of person you are, and why you will be a financial asset to the employer.

It’s probably easier to mention these achievements in your covering letter as you can tailor them, and their financial implications, specifically to the company’s need, which you will have discovered through your research. But if you really want to appear professional it’s always a good idea (although a lot more work) to write a fresh, closely targeted and well honed CV for each job application.

Good employees have always had the company’s interests at heart and seen themselves as ambassadors. They have always looked for ways to add value. The difference now is that these spotting these qualities in candidates is becoming increasingly important to companies. It’s no longer enough just to be a good team player. You now need to show the employer how giving you the job will make a difference far beyond that normally expected. You need to show them your commercial worth.