Many of us have experienced the sensation of applying for an underwhelming position, only to convince ourselves of the role’s merit after going through the interview process.
While this “see the light” moment may come as a result of learning more about the role and the teams we’d potentially work with, our newfound enthusiasm is a by-product of selling ourselves for the role.
In the same way that pretending to be happy when you’re not can lift your spirits, presenting yourself as enthusiastic for a job you previously didn’t care about can have a similar effect.
Later, when looking down the barrel of an offer, it becomes increasingly difficult to turn the opportunity down, especially when no other prospects are on the horizon.
But there’s good argument for turning down a new job: the role doesn’t meet your internal value, either in title, responsibility or compensation. Learn how to value yourself — and how to sell that value to hiring managers — and you’ll be able to leave the false enthusiasm, and frustrating positions, behind.
Defining your value
One of the mistakes job hunters make is assuming their value in the job market is externally defined — that the company will look at your resume and decide how to translate your skills and past experiences into a role that befits you.
The problem with making that assumption is you place the task of determining your value in the hands of others and lose control over how your skills and experiences are translated into titles and compensation.
Let’s say you’re applying for a job you’re hoping will give you upward mobility because you believe you’re director-level material. For the potential employer to see you in the same light, demonstrate how your accumulated knowledge, experience and skills reflect your internal value.
Your value shouldn’t be defined by the buyer of your services; instead, it should be validated by the buyer. Your goal should be to present yourself as an undervalued asset that’ll flourish upon taking the next step.
Playing it smart
Does this mean you should never accept a position that’s a lower level or pay grade than what you think you deserve? Absolutely not. The way you present yourself to the job market is through the narratives you can tell about who you are and what you’ve accomplished.
If you’re moving from a well-paid job with a good title to a lower-paid job with more responsibilities, the stories you’ll be able to tell about your impact will be greater.
If the role offers a larger opportunity for growth, your perceived setback may only be temporary. Many of my former Google colleagues left the company for early stage startup ventures prior to reaching senior-level positions.
Though many accepted lower pay, over two years, many former mid-level managers changed their LinkedIn profiles to include titles such as Director and VP.
As these companies grow, the role my former colleagues play in that growth is substantial and tangible. When they look for their next job, they have great stories to tell about their impact and abilities.
The value of anything is what the market is willing to pay. As the seller of your services, you owe it to yourself to find the right buyer who will meet you at your estimated worth. (Click here to Tweet this thought.)
We all know someone who left one company for another only to receive a substantial promotion in the process. But rather than see that move as the result of luck, we should consider how the individual presented herself as qualified for the newfound responsibilities.
Determining your own value can be hard, and there’s great opportunity to sabotage yourself through over- or under-confidence.
Ask the experts
Ensure you’re valuing yourself correctly by seeking out hiring managers, recruiters and HR business partners who will provide you with an honest assessment of how to present yourself to the market.
Discussions of career progression should always be a part of any negotiation upon taking a new job. If your new company or manager isn’t interested in discussing where they might take you if you’re successful in your role, that may be a red flag.
Success, as Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, is fond of saying, isn’t a straight line but a jungle gym. Choosing the next move shouldn’t just involve looking at the next rung, but at how to optimize your time and energy as you attempt to get to the other side.
Matthew Carpenter-Arévalo works for Twitter. You can follow him at @EcuaMatt.