I hope last week’s conversation about self-employment being a privilege for the talented made you take pause. It was meant to. I got some comments that said valuable skills weren’t the only criteria for going solo. I get that … but I did say it was the only criteria I was focusing on for that post.
On to this week. Several other comments about last week’s email asked: How do we demonstrate our skills? How do we showcase our talents? I have an idea … it’s a bit controversial (surprise!) … but read on and let me know what you think.
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Creative types – artists, writers, musicians, photographers, graphic designers, website developers, etc. – all carry a portfolio of their work they can show to a prospective client and say, “See, I’ve done this. This is what I’m capable of.”
BVers have resumes, which only tell prospective employers (or clients) the things we want to show (or claim). Sure, employers and prospects can check references, but there is only so much that can be said … officially at least. And besides, are we going to list a reference who has bad things to say about us?
Creatives look to be employed by someone who will compensate them fairly for their demonstrated abilities, as evidenced by their portfolios. Why should it be any different for BVers looking to be hired by valuation firms or hoping to be engaged by prospects? It shouldn’t, at least in my opinion.
So why don’t we carry portfolios of the work we’ve done? Like sanitized reports that show the level of analysis we were responsible for, not to mention writing style and writing capability.
I’ll tell you why. Because we’ve got professional ethics. (As if creative don’t?) Ethics that allow us to submit sanitized reports to earn a credential or obtain CPE, but not so we can market ourselves to change employers or land new clients. Really?
I thought this would be an easy-to-write newsletter about a topic we all could appreciate and no one would object to. It was not to be.
I say this based on the anecdotal evidence of email conversations I had with one recruiter and one BV organization’s ethics committee member, both of whom want to remain anonymous.
Here is a summary of the pushback I received and my reaction to it.
Who owns the report? Well if we’re self-employed, we do! If we work for a firm, it’s a more interesting scenario. Did part of our employment agreement include ownership of work product? Also, if the report was prepared for ABC Industries, and they paid for it, do they own it? By the way, the work product does not have to be only a report – it could be a contemporaneous log of reports we’ve prepared, or our excess earnings method model, an-IRS Job-Aid-compliant DLOM determination, or a specific damage calculation.
A current employer might not appreciate us accumulating reports. First, I’m not advocating a flash drive holding every report you’ve prepared. I am talking about no more than 2 or 3 reports in the practice or industry area you want to demonstrate expertise in. Second, while a current employee might not like it, I imagine they feel different when a prospective employee shows up with a writing sample that can help separate the wheat from the chaff.
How does a prospective employee (or client for that matter) know it’s the work prepared by the candidate? They don’t. But it’s only one evaluation criteria. Just like job interviews, which research shows have no predictive value about how candidates will actually perform on the job. (One could say that job interviews are like TSA screenings – it’s a ritual we go through to make us feel better, but it doesn’t materially improve our safety.)
Can you ever completely sanitize a report, as there is no guarantee you will remove all of the confidential information? Gosh, I hope so. How else are we submitting sanitized reports used in the ASA credentialing process? Or what about the NACVA recertification points we can earn from submitting a sanitized report … that they might turn around and use in their Case Analysis programs. What about BVFLS firms that include sanitized reports on their websites for marketing purposes?
Can’t you just create an entirely fictitious report from scratch and not base it on any actual report you have done or any client you have advised? I suppose we could … but who has the time to do that? And what if people think they recognize the client company we made up? And how useful is it, as an illustration of ability, if the report is entirely fictional? Perhaps as a writing sample, but we don’t need a whole freaking fictitious report to provide that.
In summary, here’s my argument for carrying a portfolio of your work:
#1 – When creatives look for new work, they bring a portfolio. Are we creative? Isn’t Damodaran correct when he calls our profession a craft? If so, where is our portfolio? Because it’s NOT our resume.
#2 – The report absolutely has to be one we wrote. And it must be sanitized to remove any indication of whom it was prepared for.
#3 – A current employer may be unhappy if it finds out sample reports are being accumulated. A prospective employer may not even read the sample, just be ecstatic that a job candidate had enough confidence in her talents to bring one. A prospective client isn’t likely to care because they just want proof we have done similar work and can do it efficiently and effectively.
#4 – But what choice does either side really have if they want to have a high degree of confidence that the candidate can do the work? And a portfolio is still only one aspect of a candidate being evaluated.
#5 – We all need to be more practiced in getting our name out there and being top of mind – having a portfolio is one way to do that.
What do you think? What do you do?
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