In order to bridge the gap between an employer’s needs and your own, try putting yourself in their shoes, and you’ll get a huge perspective shift. I recently sat in on a group discussion about the needs of a small advertising agency regarding client relationships and talent acquisition for the firm, and found the concerns surprisingly similar.
The employer’s reality
Like most job seekers, the challenge of any small business owner is to juggle the requirements of the here and now, the next three months and the next three years simultaneously. To that end the most immediate need is always to get as much bang for the buck as possible when making plans and forecasting. For example, the typical length of projects is three to four months which keeps the workflow progressing a quarter at a time. Whenever a client is acquired there is uncompensated time spent project costing, estimating, making proposals and discovering the client’s needs. Along the way the agency spends time educating clients and learning how sophisticated they are in understanding business requirements. In this scenario a crucial role is the business developer; someone who is very market savvy, who can triage opportunities as they present themselves and win new business in a low cost way.
After the client relationship has been established, how can the firm stay engaged? Can the firm be a hero for their client in down times? Can the firm remain valuable in a non-pesky way? These are questions every marketer and business developer must ask themselves to ensure long-term success.
Small vs. big
When seeking employment at a small business, it is also important to recognize the difference in scale between a small company, less than 20 employees, and a large, global player such as the Software Giant in Redmond. The addition of just one full-time employee is massively consequential to a small company. It could mean a 10% increase in staff, whereas one more employee in a firm with tens of thousands is not as intensely felt. That is why small firms must count on multi-talented people to perform well in many roles.
Employee: Point of entry
Like a small business, you need to be fully prepared to present yourself and your accomplishments in a portfolio. Approach everything you do as if you are engaged in a perpetual selling job. You must be able to describe your achievements and make a case for yourself. Your methodology is straightforward: Condense and compel.
You can shed a favorable light on yourself in other, less obvious ways as well. Are you a student of culture? Do you stay current not only within your field, but with influences on the economy and society at large?
On another level, can your future employer imagine you in front of a client? Do you inspire confidence when having to speak persuasively? By asking yourself the same questions that the employer will be asking you’ll be tapping into a well of intangible benefits that complement your primary skills.
Your value multiplies when you can show acumen in areas of sourcing and negotiation. Can you find resources at the right price? This brings up another perennial quandary for small business owners: What do you keep in-house and what will you outsource?
If your efforts at selling your expertise are successful, are you also a successful time-juggler? Many smaller scale companies want to have resources they can call upon at a moment’s notice. Can you be that resource for them if you remain freelance? If it is true that one third of the U.S. workforce will be working on a freelance basis in the near future, does this advantage appeal to you? If so, you’ll need to have a sense of your time agility and limitations.
The scope of these priorities within the small business community presents a huge network of roles in which to find common ground. Aligning yourself with the employer’s point of view may just give you the edge in how you approach your next opportunity.