Discovering Your USP
Published: 06 Sep 2010 By Carol Mclachlan for CareersinAudit.com
Discovering your Unique Selling Proposition - How to Build Your Brand as an Auditor
Look around you. What do you see? Your Dell PC, your Nokia phone, your iPod, your Starbucks coffee, Google – and that’s just what’s on your desk. Brands, brands, more brands. Work, rest or play, brands are ubiquitous: Nike, BMW, Microsoft, Armani, Visa, the BBC, Marks & Spencer, Coca Cola, BP, PwC, Guinness. Need I go on?
What do they each have in common? A promise. Consistency. You know what you’re getting. Each brand has your trust. You understand its value, the return it will give you, for your time, for your money. . .
Imagine if you could apply that branding philosophy to your career?
If You Can’t Beat ‘em, Join ‘em
The world of work has changed, is changing – thanks to revolutionised technology and communications, globalisation, 24/7 lifestyles. 'Jobs for life' are gone, as is the traditional career ladder. Business thinker Tom Peters¹ describes today’s world of work as ‘a checkerboard, or even a maze’. Career moves, he says, can be sideways or diagonal, as well as upwards and downwards.
Moreover, resourcing expert Des McCabe’s new book ‘Jigsawise’² predicts careers will in future be built up from individual ‘workpieces’. Jigsaworking is dynamic. It calls for leadership and personal responsibility. It requires us to appreciate and capitalise on our strengths and our personal assets. It puts us firmly at the steering wheel, charged with proactively driving forward our own careers.
And, In crowded marketplaces, the ability to recognise, articulate and leverage our own unique talents not only puts us in the strongest bargaining position but ensures we will be fit enough to survive.
The Brand Called You
In the 21st century world of market place brands, you need to stand out, differentiate, be a brand. As Tom Peters puts it we are all CEOs of our own companies: ‘Me plc’. And you should start to think of your career – past, present, future - as a portfolio of ‘workpieces’ showcasing your skills, expertise, capabilities.
You need to become a professional marketer and discover your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). What makes you unique? What makes you better than other candidates applying for a similar position? What can you offer that no other applicant can? What is the one reason the employer should want to hire you above all other candidates? Determining your USP means finding your added value.
Put yourself in the employer’s shoes. Decision-makers are thinking WIIFM – ‘What’s in it for me?’ And once you’ve identified your best features, you need to turn them into benefits for your customer. You need to articulate – concisely - why you could help your future employer. Quality under pressure? Problem solving? Consistently coming in under budget? All and any of these features need to be flagged up as benefits for the consumer – your customer – with their own time, money, quality measures.
How to Mine the Data
- Write your own Mission Statement as CEO of Me plc. How do you define success? What turns you on? Review it regularly. Get passionate about it.
- List your strengths and natural abilities. What qualities and characteristics distinguish you from your contemporaries? Go back through your career and also think about current practical tasks and projects. What are you most proud of?
- Ask friends, colleagues and family for feedback. What do they perceive to be your greatest strengths? What do they like most about you? What do they value most about you? What three words sum up your positives? If they needed help, what would they ask you to help with? And, crucially, ask them for supporting examples -essential for your CV.
- Reflect on the feedback. Any there any surprises? How do you feel about it? Do you feel confident about these abilities? How can you become more confident? How will you use this information going forward? How are you going to maximise your strengths?
Take Your Brand to Market
You’ve done the hard bit and gathered the data for your personal marketing brochure. Now you need to condense it into your ‘elevator pitch’. It is possible to make a lasting impression in the time it takes to go up in a lift, (thirty to ninety seconds) and the so-called elevator pitch is now used everywhere - in informal business encounters, at networking events, in small talk at the airport, on training courses.
Here’s an informal example:
‘Friends and colleagues use me as a trouble-shooter. I’m known for my sense of humour and for getting along with everyone.’
Concise, compelling and persuasive, your minute-long sound-bite can communicate your USP and the WIIFM appropriate to your audience.
Here’s a template to get you started in a more formal situation:
‘I‘m an experienced auditor, professionally qualified with....... Having trained with......, I now work in ....... I’m an expert in...... And many of my projects have involved...... My role has been to help...... And my particular expertise is in......Previous employers have valued my......’
Remember, the secret of creating a great brand is consistency. Everything matters: what you do, and what you don’t do, how you present yourself 24/7, your style and approach and what you deliver – inside and outside of the workplace. Do your facebook wall rantings add value to this?
And forget your CV because you now have a marketing brochure for Me plc. OUT go the linear lists of jobs and responsibilities. IN come your transferable skills, your successes - all supported by case studies with hard measures - and of course IN comes your USP as a personal statement.
My Story – It Really Works!
In 2005 I was ‘Jenny from the block’ - another Big 4 trained auditor with not a lot to differentiate me. But now, in 2010, as theaccountantscoach, I am a brand. Those five years have seen me invest blood, sweat and tears into making my mark. Visibility, consistency and a reputation for quality, reliability and success are key ingredients. Now, as a brand to be trusted, I no longer have relentlessly to pursue potential clients. Clients now seek me out. And my brand provides me with a viable commercial business model.
Would you like that for your career?
¹ Tom Peters, American writer, speaker and influential business thinker – www.tompeters.com
² ‘Jigsawise – Solving the Job Puzzle: how to find the work you’ve always dreamed of in a shifting jobs market’ by Des McCabe.