Be resourceful: easily quantify your impact

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The person hiring you next will want to know what difference you’ve made in the past. The past is not always a guide to the future, but most employers and clients see it as an indicator.

They want it in clear concise measurable, and ideally easily verifiable terms. This is true for traditional permanent staffers and freelancers on the move alike – not to mention those who are willing to give their skills away pro bono: the recipient should still look for proof to ensure a good match.

It is how I’ve hired (and been hired) since the nineties and the good practice guidance out there reinforces the importance of this point, whether you read the classic What Colour is Your Parachute, this handy Interview Guide from Berkeley (PDF) or the direct advice from companies like Google.

Show the employer that you are a good fit with detailed examples of times when you successfully used the skills they seek. The Berkeley Job & Internship Guide

Many people struggle with this and come up short. You don’t want to know how many people with otherwise good CVs have made a wasted journey to an interview where they then failed to use data to set out the measurable difference they made. It is a lot of people.

Basically, a good interview answer is in its concise essence structured like this:

Faced with challenge X I did Y which resulted in Z. Whatever you’re starting these days it will most likely have a digital footprint – and this makes for easy illustrations – both qualitative and quantitative. Because a good Z is made up of both.

The good news that it is easier than ever to get a grip on this – that elusive, credible Z, which is based on a clearly documented X and Y.
I recommend you get a grip on it sooner rather than later. Whether you’ve just started a new role, or merely thinking about one – or perhaps simply thinking ahead to your next performance review – here are easy-peasy things you can do right now.

Step I – Qualitative
X – mapping out ‘faced with the challenge of’. Map out the stakeholders affected by the issue you have identified. Define a short set of questions and then interview each one of them. Document your findings in a brief report (one page might very well do).

Here are some suggested headers for such a paper:

  • 1. Opportunity – what do we want to change
  • 2. Stakeholders / Audience – who needs to be involved / who are we influencing
  • 3. Goals / Objectives – what are we trying to do?
  • 4. Solution – how will we do it?
  • 5. Evaluation – how will we know it was a success?

You’d be surprised how few people do this and how much more authoritative your follow-on work will be as you’ll be able to quote stakeholders rather than just your own opinion. Already doing this but want to take it to the next level?

This effort would be a credible grounding for your Y – what you did next to achieve Z.

Step II – Quantitative

Big Data is all the rage and with that, people have started expecting a lot more insight based on numbers. This is great. You cannot rely on this alone though – so make sure you’ve completed step one above first.

Once you know what counts in other people’s eyes, gather baseline data so you can measure the effect your hard work is going to have. There are many sources for this, internal and external. As an example, let’s say you are trying to drive uptake of something – these days that will most likely have a web element to it. Even if you can’t get the keys to the potential rabbit warren that is Google Analytics (or whatever equivalent your organisation uses) or a cool tool like ChartBeat, there are open tools you can readily tap into:

  • nibbler.silktide.com – quick free diagnostic on your domain.
  • alexa.com – this Amazon-run service can give you basic data on popularity of a site, including some demographics
  • moz.com – if the above isn’t enough – go enterprise and run a report using this very powerful tool. As they say: Rankings. Links. Social.
    Brand. Content. Traffic. All in one place.

These can of course also help you benchmark against any peers you want to measure against – including potential competitors that your stakeholder group might have identified.

Incidentally, following this approach will also make you ready for submitting your work for an award such as for example IABC Gold Quill.
Looks great on any CV.
Good luck.

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