One of the basic tenets of any successful negotiation is to know your worth. Having a sound understanding of what you bring to the table and how important or valuable it is to the other party gives you an important edge, especially when you’re trying to advance your career.
But, sometimes, it can be tough to get a realistic view of where our value actually lies, says Cheryl Hunter, a performance coach and founder of The Hunter Group. Hunter believes this is an area that too few people take seriously, to their own detriment.
"What I like to charge people with is that it’s your responsibility to have a strong sense of worth. It’s your responsibility for those that will follow in your footsteps," Hunter says.
So, it’s important to infuse a little results-based swagger into your being. But how do you know what to measure—and whether you’ve got it right? These steps can help.
You’ve probably had a long history of people telling you exactly what you do well, Hunter says. Performance reviews, 360 evaluations, and other assessment tools your employers have used can give insight into some of those strengths. Where have you consistently gotten high marks and where do you have a track record of accomplishments?
Executive recruiter Dave Carvajal, founder of Dave Partners, says having strengths is one thing, but interpreting them into the value you deliver requires additional thought. Think of how those strengths and abilities matter to the decision-maker with whom you’re negotiating and create a scorecard of the key areas of value the job or negotiation requires.
For example, it’s great that you’re a terrific team builder, but what might really matter to the person hiring for the job you want is that you can assemble groups of people and help them find ways to collaborate efficiently and finish projects within the allotted time. Spell out what you believe are the most important credentials, skills, or other attributes necessary to win over the decision-maker and put forth your best foot in each area.
Carvajal suggests tapping the people who you’d ask for references or to be mentors to get a beat on your true value. These are people who think enough of you to go to bat for you, he says. Find out what it is about you that makes them willing to do so. What, exactly, would they say about you if asked for a recommendation? They may reveal strengths or attributes you never considered before.
"These are people who, for whatever reason, already have a vested interest in you. Get them on board to help you in your negotiation or job search early in the game," he says.
When people talk about your work, listen for phrases like, "you always" or "you’re known for." As you review your work history, look for achievements that you’ve racked up again and again. Do your campaigns always win awards? Are you the office peacemaker? Do coworkers come to you for breakthrough ideas? Our strongest attributes tend to make repeat appearances, Hunter says.
We’re all acquainted with that inner critic. But Hunter says it’s quieter when we’re focused on things at which we’re very adept. When you’re thinking about a task and that incessant chatter lets up a bit, that’s a clue that you’re focused on one of your stronger skills. Similarly, Carvajal says thinking about the job tasks or aspects you truly enjoy can also help you see the areas in which you’re strongest and bring more value.
"We tend to be happier when we’re doing something we’re good at and where we’re successful. When you’re happy, it’s a good sign you’ve found some of where you bring value," he says.