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Maximizing your Market Value

Updated: Sep 25, 2019

In September 2019, Michelle Kuo and I had the privilege of speaking with attendees of the Google Dev Group at MasterControl about Maximizing your Market Value, this article summarizes the major points of our presentation/workshop.

All of us trade our skills (our problem solving abilities) and our experience in the market place and are compensate for it. As employees, contractors, or entrepreneurs, sometimes we are compensated well, in other cases we are not. As a recruiting partner that's worked with thousands of candidates, we discussed three distinct levers anyone can pull to maximize their value in the market place.

1) Manage your Career

2) Negotiate

3) Make Meaningful Career Moves

1) Manage your Career

This lever is about taking charge of your career. Your job is NOT your career. In addition to your professional jobs, your career also comprises your education (formal and informal), your diverse life experiences, your extracurricular projects, your volunteer work, your family, your side gigs, your start-ups. All of this comes together to give you a perspective and nuance to become more effective at problem solving. After all, we are compensated in the market place to solve problems.

Your [current] job is but a puzzle piece in larger mosaic that is your career. YOU are responsible for taking charge of managing your career, designing a vision for your career. How do you do this? One thing we recommend is writing your resume for the future, not just the past. Think of this as a vision for your career, a Career Roadmap if you will. This roadmap will get you through the difficult times, it will give you the confidence to weather the storms or to seek another port.

In any given job, you are likely able to rely on your manager(s) to define your job success, however you cannot rely on your manager(s) to define career success. Rather, enlist the help of Mentors and Sponsors as you craft and execute on your Career Roadmap. What is the difference between a Mentor and a Sponsor?

Think of a Mentor as a coach or a trusted advisor. An effective Mentor can help you identify your strengths, areas to improve; they can provide you with different perspectives and help you ask thought-provoking questions. You can have multiple Mentors each with different backgrounds or areas of domain experience and you can approach them with specific problems and they can help you think through them. They can be within your current company or outside.

A Sponsor on the other hand is quite different. You can think of your Sponsors as a champion, someone that breaks down barriers and helps you achieve your career goals (i.e. executing on your Career Roadmap). Sponsors can be internal to your current company or external. They can be someone that helps you get visibility within your organization that ultimately leads you to that next cutting-edge project and ultimately to a promotion and so forth. How do you find Mentors and Sponsors? Consider current or former bosses, professors, or even peers; people you respect and trust is a great starting point.

Another factor to Maximizing your Market Value is pursuing Special Projects either outside of your current job/company or within. Special Projects are projects accomplish two things, 1) they give you an opportunity to grow by expanding your knowledge/skill/experience/exposure, 2) they offer you visibility. For example, Special Projects immediately set you apart (at least optically on your resume) from a recruiter's perspective, BUT much more importantly Special Projects create the opportunity for you to develop new perspectives while contributing in a way that is outside of the day-to-day scope of your job.

2) Negotiate

The second lever we've identified in candidates that maximize their market value effectively is negotiating. Below are the top three mistakes we've seen with candidates considering an offer (but also applicable to employees negotiating a raise).

Not Asking

In her book Women Don't Ask, Linda Babcock sites that on average people that negotiate their offer increase their salary by more than 7%. Now if you're early in your career and create a habit of asking, even if only asking when making a job change, think of the compounding effect over your 20, 30, 40 year career. You don't need to have a fancy way with words or even be very articulate for that matter to negotiate effectively. Simply put the effective candidates ASK.

Do not assume that whatever "budget" has been mentioned by the recruiter or hiring manager is etched in stone. Furthermore, know what is important to you beyond a base salary and leave room for negotiation. For example, concessions could include a signing bonus, an annual bonus, paid cell phone, work from home, and equity.

Not Being Informed

It's important to know that negotiations do not begin when you receive an offer, in fact it doesn't even begin when you first start talking to the recruiter or hiring manager (though that is a critical time in the negotiation). Negotiations start NOW by being informed. Take inventory of your skills, experience, and the problems you've solved. Keep your finger on the pulse of what the market place pays for that experience. You can do this through primary data, i.e. interviewing and getting offer, as well as through secondary data, talking with colleagues, mentors; researching online resources like or (though we have found the comp bands tend to skew a bit lower compared to our first-hand experience with tech/startup companies here in Utah).

If you are informed, then you know what the market value for your skills are, only then you can be confident for what you're asking for in a negotiation. It also gives you the confidence to be transparent in negotiations with your hiring manager or recruiter, and in being transparent you're more likely to find a partner in your hiring manager/recruiter in coming up with possible solutions, i.e. an offer that meets your needs and is realistic for the company, and executing on them. This sound familiar? Turn your recruiter and hiring manager into your Sponsors!

Not Having Options

When you are happily employed and are considering an offer, you have options. When you have multiple job offers, you have options.

When you know what's important to you and are flexible and creative in working with prospective employers on an offer package, you have options.

Options gives you leverage in any negotiation. Create options for yourself and don't be afraid to say no.

Pro-tip: it's bad form to play offers against each other and most recruiters/companies simply don't play that "game", some may even rescind an offer. Rather, be transparent and forthright in your level of interest in the companies you're talking with and what is really meaningful for you in terms of an offer, don't give your word/commitment out lightly, and follow through on your word.

3) Make Meaningful Career Moves

A Meaningful Career move is one that moves you closer to your longer term career objectives (as you've defined in your exercise of writing your resume for the future). Candidates that make Meaningful Career moves think about pursuing their opportunity vs. running from a sub-par situation and place more weight in longer-term factors than short-term factors.

Determining whether a career move is meaningful or not is only a question you can determine; it's not black and white. Doing the work and creating a vision for your career will go a long way in helping you to determine and make Meaningful Career Moves.

In Closing

There are many levers you can pull to make sure you're maximizing your market value. These happen to be the levers that have consistently yielded the best results for candidates we've worked with.

All of us trade our skills (our problem solving abilities) and our experience in the market place and are compensated for it. As employees, contractors, or entrepreneurs, sometimes we are compensated well, in other cases we are not. As a recruiting partner that's worked with thousands of candidates, we discussed three distinct levers anyone can pull to maximize their value in the market place.

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