It’s not news to anyone that today’s job market is a tough one, but this challenging business environment is also a great opportunity for motivated employees to shine while everyone else wastes time complaining.

One of my readers recently asked:

Will you address the young professionals who have been burned in the system? Benefits are being cut, as are jobs, and the outlook for people who have been working for less than 15 years doesn’t seem bright. Many people under age 35 have already had 7 to10 different positions with corporations where they have given their all, just to have their positions outsourced or their voices go unheard.

This question highlights a conundrum I’ve been pondering lately: In a business climate where companies are scaling back on employee retention and loyalty efforts (my bread and butter), how do I get my clients to care about what I have to offer?

In all fairness, some companies do see the huge return on investment when they demonstrate a commitment to employees, especially during tough times. Others need more convincing. So, instead of throwing in the towel or scaling back, like many of my competitors, I’m seizing this opportunity to push myself harder, to learn more and to clarify my messaging so that I provide more value. Rather than saying, “Listen to my great ideas, which will help you retain and motivate your workforce,” I’m listening to my clients. In doing so, I’m discovering their major challenges and struggles and asking myself, “How can I help solve those particular problems?”

So, to those who share my reader’s concerns above, I suggest looking at this uncertain and tumultuous job market as an opportunity to sharpen your skills, strengthen your network and look for ways to communicate your value. If you want to stand out, skip the pity party (they’re never much fun anyway) and listen. Then, look for ways to strengthen the bottom line. When you want to get your voice heard, it’s best to think, “What’s in it for me?” but only share what’s in it for them.

Fortune recently listed the top traits that recruiters from its “Best Places to Work” look for in potential employees or new leaders. The top two: a positive attitude and the ability to solve problems. Those who succeed know the overarching vision of their organizations and can clearly see how they contribute value. They do their research, stay on top of what’s happening and consistently look for ways to help, even if what’s required isn’t fun or isn’t in their job descriptions.

To discover/strengthen your value, get some clarity on the following questions:

What’s my organization’s vision?

  1. How does my organization make money? How do I help them make money? How can I help them make more money?
  2. What skills/experiences do I want to gain over the next year? How will those skills add to my organization’s bottom line?

Get the answers to these questions and you will be more present in your work, do a better job and reap tremendous rewards. When you approach your job frustrations in this light, you’ll be putting yourself into a whole new category – that of the self-led, self-motivated professionals who know their value and know how to communicate it.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I don’t always remember the value I bring. Sometimes I need a reminder or two (or four). When this happens, I do two things. First, I open my “testimonials” file for encouragement and re-read my vision statement for inspiration. Then, I remind myself that my success is not all about me getting what I want; it’s about providing value to my clients and to the world. And that’s motivating!

Rock on!

Misti Burmeister, best-selling author of From Boomers to Bloggers: Success Strategies Across Generations

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