You are a product (like it or not)
We might not like to admit it, but we're all products and we're all "for sale". Employers buy us for our unique skills, our ability to contribute to their bottom line and the "flavour" we add to the team. It doesn't matter if you are a long-term employee or currently looking for a new job, as a product you have to stand out from all the other similar products. You need to understand your value and constantly refresh what you offer to maintain your shelf-life.
I came across this article about the 10 Qualities of Successful Products and I believe we can apply many of these to ourselves. Taking these 10 qualities, let's see how we can use them to see how we can be better products:
1 - Does it have unique features?
Think about the products that you try for the first time or keep going back to. What is it about them that you love? If we take an honest look at our own capabilities, what are our strengths? Don't rest on your laurels either, think how you can continually improve what you offer.
2 - Does it have mass appeal?
As an employee, a team member and a representative of the company, do you have qualities that appeal to many people? It's not enough for your boss to like you while everyone else doesn't. When you take time to think about all your "customers" or "users" then you can think how best to be the person they need you to be.
3 - Does it solve a problem?
Every role exists to solve a problem. Quite often that problem changes over time. Does the product of your work provide the right solution? Do you need to fine tune your way of working to solve it even more effectively? If you are job hunting, the better you understand what your potential employer needs to solve the better you can sell yourself.
4 - Is there a powerful offer?
What's your unique selling point? Can you sum up what you do in one sentence and is that going to convince the person in front of you? Brands spend millions telling their audience what's special about their product. Can you communicate your uniqueness effectively? If BMW is the Ultimate Driving Machine then what are you?
5 - Can you easily explain how it works?
The clearer you are about what you deliver as a product the easier it is to tell others what benefit you bring. You could almost say this is your mission as a product/employee. Imagine telling your grandmother what you do. The simpler you can explain your abilities the easier it will be to tell a future employer, a client, a colleague and so on.
6 - Is there a magical transformation or demo?
Many successful products have a before and after demonstration to convince customers to give it a try. A washing power takes a messy shirt and makes it look new again. Toothpaste turns your teeth white so you'll smile more confidently. What's your before and after? Can you think of examples of problems you've solved in your job?
7 - Is it multifunctional?
Some products do one thing and do it brilliantly. But if a product can solve multiple problems it's harder for a competitor to compete. So what functions can you perform? The more capabilities you bring to your role the more valuable you'll appear.
8 - Is it credible; are there testimonials?
Who will attest to your unique abilities? Think about how you present yourself to the world. I'm talking about things like LinkedIn where other people can attest to your brilliance with glowing words of praise.
9 - Are there proven results?
It's useful to keep a record of your successes. You'll need it when you want a pay rise, a promotion or want to get that amazing new job. Not all results can be published on social platforms such as LinkedIn so be careful how you use these results. Future employers might be impressed by success stories but may worry about your ability to keep some information confidential.
10 - Can you answer the questions a viewer is thinking?
Someone looking at a TV ad for a product or visiting a website might have some doubts about its capabilities. Brands work hard to anticipate any questions that could arise in a customer's mind about a product. Same with your own "product offering", try to imagine what questions there might be about your abilities, experience, knowledge etc. The better you are at articulating your capabilities the easier it will be to sell yourself.
A lot of these success factors are covered in The UX of ME and will help you define yourself as a product worth buying. If you feel that this is all a bit calculated I completely agree. I spent many years just going with the flow and not being very strategic about my career. It was only when I saw others succeeding faster that I recognised the need to see myself more objectively. This won't take away from the other aspects of your personality, the part that makes you more than just a product. We need both elements to enjoy a career that's fulfilling but going places too.