Monday, January 30, 2012

Reprioritizing Cost vs. Worth

When you go shopping you are in a constant battle between what something costs (the amount of money that you will have to give to purchase the item) and what something is worth (the value that you place upon the item).

Let's consider an easy example: aluminum foil. To one person, the regular store brand will sufficiently meet her aluminum foil needs. The name brand-and the higher price-isn't worth it. But another person will pay the higher price for the name brand because of the increased value-worth-that he perceives. Perhaps he considers the quality better or places a lot of faith in the company that produced it.

Neither view is wrong...but how you view cost and worth can have an impact on your career.

Let's take one aspect of how this plays out in your career: dress and grooming. When I worked in a career services department I had a student frantically contact me because he had a job interview that day and wanted some advice. I agreed to meet with him, and when I entered our conference room for our appointment I was struck by how unappealing his appearance was: ill-fitting, mismatched clothes and wild, uncombed hair. When I (gently) brought the matter of his appearance up to him, his immediate response was that he couldn't afford to buy better clothes or get a haircut at the time. Mind you, this is the same student who I often saw purchasing soda out of school vending machines, where the markup is typically much more than buying it at the store.

Do you see how cost and worth are at play here? A soda-in fact, frequent sodas during the week-had a higher worth to this student than buying clothes and getting a haircut that would display him as someone who takes his professional life seriously.

But here's the catch: we are all this student. In our professional lives there are lines that we don't cross because we don't see the value proposition. We balk at paying a professional to write our resume for us or for to hire a career coach to help us pursue our career dreams because, in our minds, we can do it ourselves. It's just not worth it. But what is the cost of being another week out of work? Or spending another day in a miserable, soul-sucking job?

If you are feeling stuck or trapped in your current situation, examine your cost vs. worth viewpoint. Use the questions below as guides:

What is my career worth to me, and how is where my money goes reflective of that?

How does my perception of cost vs. worth play out in career roadblocks I encounter?

What am I willing to sacrifice/not sacrifice monetarily for career satisfaction?

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