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What Is Your Value Proposition?

“Emphasize what you bring to the table for employers.” It is job search advice you have heard repeatedly. But here is the thing: Identifying your own skills and special qualities is not always that easy.

Sure, your previous jobs and passions can help point you in the right direction. However, when it comes to homing in on those things that will make a hiring manager lift your resume into the air Lion King-style and proclaim, “This candidate. This is the one,” to the entire office? Well, that is not all that simple.

Therefore, it is important to figure out your personal value proposition—or, to put it another way, what specific value you bring for potential employers. Your personal value proposition should be at the heart of your career strategy. A good personal value proposition sets you apart from the competition and underscores your worth to a company.

What is a value proposition?

A value proposition is simply a promise of value to be delivered.

Value propositions are commonly used by businesses to summarize why a consumer should buy a product or use a service. The idea is to convince a potential customer that their product or service will add more value or better solve a problem than other similar offerings will.

The best value propositions are memorable and instantly understandable:

  • Start selling today (Square)
  • Worry less, live more (LegalShield)
  • A great shave for a few bucks a month (Dollar Shave Club)
  • Bring everything you need without checking a bag (Tortuga backpacks)

A small business owner looking for a credit card processor has thousands of options. Square understands that the small business owner is not really looking for a credit card processor, they just want to make sales.

With just three words, Square’s value proposition says a lot. Not only can you start making sales on your website, setting up Square is so easy, you can start making sales on your website today.

That is incredibly valuable to the customers Square is targeting — small business owners.

Craft your personal value proposition

The first step to defining your personal value proposition is to identify your strengths and accomplishments. This sounds obvious, but do not skip this step. When you force yourself to jot down all the things you know how to do (and like doing), you will see themes start to emerge.

From there, ask yourself why an employer would care about these strengths. Again, do not assume that an employer can make the connection between your skills and their needs. Make it so obvious they cannot miss it.

Lastly, take a stab at writing out your personal value proposition in sentence form. Use your own voice and aim for brevity. A good rule of thumb: You should be comfortable using it in casual conversation.

Three additional rules to keep in mind as you craft your personal value proposition:

1. Clarity trumps creativity

Being clever is great, but more than anything it just needs to be clear.

A real LinkedIn headline I saw recently read “Professional disruptor, master storyteller, and conductor of chaos.” Am I hiring a comic book villain here or what? To be clever, the misguided author just left me confused.

Any employer should be able to hear your value proposition and immediately understand it. This does not mean it will resonate with everyone — perhaps the value you bring is not solving a problem they have — but they should be able to quickly grasp what you are offering.

2. Avoid outlandish claims

In the same way that clickbait articles confuse people, so too will a hyperbolic personal value proposition.

“I’m the top social media expert in the galaxy” or “Hire me if you want to see 100x growth within 6 months” have the opposite of their intended effect. Rather than think you are bringing real value; employers will think you are just making stuff up.

No matter what you claim, be prepared to prove it. The personal value proposition is your foot in the door, but once in, you must back it up with evidence of your accomplishments.

3. Adjust for the opportunity

You cannot be all things to all people, but you do need to make subtle changes to your personal value proposition depending on your target.

Take your best guess at what pain a potential employer might be facing and craft your value proposition to solve that pain. And be careful to not get carried away with desperation to land a new job and craft a value proposition that you cannot (or do not want to) fulfill.

Figuring out your own value proposition can be tough. However, taking the time to work your way through these three steps will help you to focus on the things that make you a solid candidate for that specific open role. It will likely involve some scribbling and scratching out, but the most important thing to remember is not to get discouraged.

Do not sell yourself short. You never know what quality or qualification will be the thing that makes the difference and gives you an edge. Even small things—traits and skills that you take for granted—can be just what a company is looking for.

Adapted from a 2019 article on medium.com