It's Really Simple; Be Valuable and You Will Be Valued

Despite the crazy title of this post, it is not about personal brand. That’s a conversation that is happening elsewhere in the blogosphere and, though I’ve talked about it on this blog, it is not relevant to this post.

What is relevant is value. Actual value versus “perceived” value.

Late last night, around 2am, I was plugging away on a client project. Blinded by blurry eyes caused by hours of intense concentration, and creeping exhaustion, I switched over to check on an email that had just rolled in. It was from an editor at a well known financial publication. He was working on a story that asked the question, “What would I do if I lost my job today?” and he was soliciting feedback on a portion of the article dedicated to Twitter.

The portion of the article I read was very good, except that it missed something. It missed, what I call, the “secret sauce”. It described how Twitter worked, how to get followers and made the connection between number of followers and the ability to get a job.

My response to him was that he needed to include the secret sauce in the ingredients. Clearly, the secret sauce wouldn’t be secret if I told the world, so instead, I’ll share it with you as long as you only tell someone else if you find value in it. ;-)

The secret sauce is this: Be valuable.

Recently, as the economy has soured even more, and layoffs continue to happen around us, many people who have benefited from great jobs have found themselves looking for work. Folks who have cultivated massive numbers of followers on Twitter are on the street looking for work and finding it hard to drum up anything. They’ve discovered that despite their social media popularity, they are not necessarily valuable to employers.

Employers are looking for the people that stand up above the crowd. They stick out, not obnoxiously so, but in a smart and efficient way. They are not looking for marketers or personal brand evangelists. They are not looking for celebrities. Indeed, these people might cost them too much anyway.

They are looking for the people who don’t just talk about Health 2.0, for instance, but who clearly demonstrate through their own conversations, writings and actions, that they are valuable!

Marks of value are demonstrated when someone shares their knowledge with someone else who is asking questions. Value can be shown in the ongoing conversation around a topic (It is obvious when someone is simply repeating talking points, and when they know their field). Value is on display in quiet genius, not simply frequency (or loudness) of messages. Someone is clearly valuable when the content they are discussing, respectfully (as a key identifier), is put into action through their careers, thought leadership and social interaction.

Clearly, value is not simply being a subject matter expert, but it is also in the conversational and socially interactive approach that the person assumes. Identifying a valuable person is much easier when they are in their own element and not looking for work or otherwise performing. How they behave among their peers and the respect and authority bestowed on him by his peers is a clear indicator of value, not in a celebrity way, but in an influencer kind of way.

The principles behind the secret sauce on Twitter are the same principles that apply in real life. When former HP CEO Carly Fiorina was forced to resign, the HP Board didn’t put out a job requisition for a new CEO. They identified Mark Hurd, the then CEO of NCR who demonstrated amazing ability in turning NCR around, as the guy they wanted to run Hewlett Packard. It wasn’t because Mark had the right salary requirements, or was out there cultivating his brand on NCRs dollar. In fact, it was exactly the opposite. He was demonstrating his value to NCR so HP went after him.

Value is one of those things that is subjective and hard to achieve. But understanding of the community, the social aspects of people and cultivating a subject matter expertise does begin a person down the road to being valuable. Certainly, there is more that can be said, but probably enough to chew on for now. :)

10 Replies to “It's Really Simple; Be Valuable and You Will Be Valued”

  1. Excellent article, I agree with you 100% and anyone that reads this article should also benefit from it. It gives great insight, who ever think popularity, stepping on the backs of others will get you to where you want to be, think again and re-read this article.


  2. I also agree with you on this. Take the web as an example there are a lot of these make money online bloggers these days who just rabble on about their few dollars they made on AdSense and what not. They are not valued as they are not valuable. I am just starting out for myself and I am kind of using the principle you are talking about here rather than just doing what everyone else in the niche is doing.

  3. Well put. Value is much more than just “going through the motions” of building social capital online. If you already are valuable, though, it doesn’t hurt to put yourself out there and have a little visibility online and off with, as you say, a “socially interactive approach.”

  4. My wife was hired and trained by a retail pharmacy to work in their pharmacy. Suddenly, due to budget restraints, whe was not getting any hours! So she took it upons herself to take care of the problem and started going to the other pharmacies within an hour’s drive of home (same chain) and introduced herself to the pharmacists and explained her dilemma, and asked them to give her hours if they needed a “floater” to fill in for their techs when they were short handed. Now she has a pretty full schedule, going from store to store. How about that!

  5. Great thoughts!!
    So does it mean that to be successful , spend more time on improving the stuff you create rather than increasing the number of your followers on social networking sites?
    Does it mean that you spend time enhancing your skill set rather than rather than wasting it on social networks?

  6. Awesome post Aaron! Our generation lives in the most amazing world. We are technologically advanced, connecting continents through web and cheap air travel, and mass communications that allow us to INFLUENCE enormous amounts of people. How does one become an influencer? I think you answer it here:
    “Identifying a valuable person is much easier when they are in their own element and not looking for work or otherwise performing. ”
    If each of us, took our best qualities and work, bestowed our best efforts to become INNOVATIVE with new ideas and processes, we could become great influencers to those around us. Think of the amazing influence Edison, Ford, or Bell had on our society? If we turned from being just “users” to being “innovators”, could you imagine what would be achieved? Innovation = influence.

  7. This was a great article. Just like you said, there has to be a ‘secret sauce’ that gives you or your product value in this ever changing world. Loved it!!!

  8. Aaron,

    Bravo on a valuable post I’m going to pay forward right now. It hits home for me as a fairly new Twitter user: I have suddenly tons of followers seemingly out of nowhere and some of them have amassed 10s of thousands of followers themselves. As a professional copywriter I’m asking myself, “Is it about how many people flock to the village as sightseers, or about how many stay and actually connect?” You are who surround yourself with in some cases and if you stuff your “following”….list without any level of judiciousness how the heck are you supposed to see the trees for the forest, the valuable connections and information nuggets that are there, but buried under invaluable connections?
    Maybe setting specific social goals and parameters….? I don’t know for sure just yet.
    Timely….again, thanks.

  9. Hi Aaron,
    Great article on improving our value! In my new blog, I was struggling to find my voice: Do I write another article on headline writing or write my beliefs and experiences. I thought I need to share my experiences – shatter some myths in the advertising agencies and professionals I happened to meet here in this part of the world.
    I felt advertising scanario has been made out as some artistry or a legacy which is for a few cult like attitudes which is inherently so insecure of new wave of thoughts. Most of the creativity myths are almost made realities here, which I wanted to prove are mere opinions which had no base.
    I thank you for this wonderful article; I want you to guide the generations about finding value in them.
    Great post!

  10. Great article! I have noticed that my potential customers ask questions because they want to find out if I truly know my field or if I am just trying to sell a service and then offer inferior solutions. People with the potential to hire you have common sense, even if they don’t know your field. Become valuable by learning more about your niche than your competition. I love the quote

    Quote Left Whatever your life’s work is, do it well. A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better.Quote Right
    King Jr. Martin Luther

Comments are closed.