Sometimes, one social media post can teach you an important lesson. Yes, for all the time wasted on Twitter (or X, or whatever it is today), on Instagram, on Snapchat, on TikTok, or for us “of a certain age,” who are on Facebook, every once and a while, you can still land upon a real nugget of wisdom in the sea of dreck - and yes, sometimes even hate and porn - that is waaaaaaay too much of social media today! And, of course, for us “business”-types, LinkedIn is supposed to be the platform for “bidness” to be done and for jobs - and employees - to be found. And yet, it too has turned into all too often being a site where you are spammed with business and investment opportunities, and yes, some folks are even “looking for love” on LinkedIn.
Career coaching and life advice is a good - a very, very good business - today! Yeah sure, there are all the many, many wannabe career coaches, life gurus, and others who think that they can build a following - and hence a living - today based on the algorithms of the various platforms, maybe with the aid - sometimes a lot of aid - “juicing” their cause with promotions, ads, and “random” endorsements from other influencers. The goal for most of these folks who style themselves as career and business influencers is to build their following and their influence - and hence their earning abilities. Sadly enough, the answer to almost all of your questions in life is money. And so the primary goal of waaaaaaay too many of these folks who spout their career “wisdom” and tout their products - courses, books, videos, etc. - with big influence, big numbers of followers, and often, big prices, is simply to enrich themselves, rather than providing meaningful, impactful career help to others. Altruism it is not. Capitalism it is!
However, you can still find wisdom - truly good advice that will help you - really help you - in the way you think about yourself and your career - out there from people who are just simply sharing what they know for the sake of sharing what they know. They aren’t “on” social media for the money, for the followers, for the glory, for the networking, etc. They don’t seek to be career and/or life coaches. They are not and don’t want to be influencers. They’re just there, randomly - not strategically - sharing their wisdom, likely born of difficult, even painful, personal experiences. They do it simply because they can - and with the motivation being that they want to help others. And yes, some folks share their wisdom, not for the big bucks, but even in 2023, 2024, 2025..., for free! Sure, you might have to look through a lot - a lot - of hay (more and more "hay" each and every day seemingly) to find such a figurative needle in the haystack that is social media today. And yet, they are still there! And this article is proof of that fact!
The Water Bottle Analogy
So, let me praise the random “Kendra Nelson” who is out there - somewhere! Her post originated on Twitter back in June, but as of the present day (late November 2023), her profile could not be found on the platform (either of her own volition, being one of the many who have left - or are contemplating leaving - the now controversial social media network, or yes, it might have been Elon Musk’s doing!). And yet, the simple wisdom that Ms. Nelson imparted on the planet in her post made on June 14, 2023 should indeed be noted and long-remembered. It could - and perhaps should - be something that you carry around on a card in your wallet or have “done up” in calligraphy for your office wall! She basically, in a nutshell, advised everyone on the importance of knowing one’s value! In this short post, she laid out the case for making sure - damn sure - that you are indeed getting - and yes, demanding - what you deserve!
What did Ms. Nelson have to say that I found so profound that it spurred me to share it with you in this forum so that you can appreciate her wisdom and yes, apply her free advice to your own life and career? Well, without further ado, here is her post - a very simple analogy comparing your value to that of - checks notes - a water bottle!
Yes, as a management consultant and professor, I’ve read, studied, and talked a whole lot about careers and one’s personal worth over the course of my own teaching and consulting. And yet, I can think of no better analogy that can provide anyone - a student, a client, a friend, or even my own two sons - with a simple, yet elegant way of looking at, knowing - and appreciating - one’s true value.
Think about it. What is your true value? No, not the hardware store! We are talking about what you are worth - really worth - at any given moment. The water bottle analogy is a perfect one for showing how based on where one is and what one is doing, and indeed, given the entire context of one’s circumstances, all of us, like that humble bottle of H2O, have different values based on the context of the situation at that time and in that place. Sure, a bottle of water can be fifty cents or less, or it can be many, many dollars. And depending on how “pure,” how “natural,” how “vitamin (and/or nutrient) enhanced,” or even how “smart” that water bottle is - or at least is labeled as being, that 16 or 20-ounce bottle can command a premium, even a “super-premium” price! And in my mind, we are not talking about simply your worth in a financial sense, but even more importantly, what you deserve as a professional (i.e. how you deserve to be treated and interacted with).
I can safely say from looking back at my own experiences, there have certainly been times when I have sold myself - whether for teaching, consulting, writing/editing, and even expert witness work - as the equivalent of a premium water bottle at the airport. I can also safely say that there have been other times when I have sold myself short - waaaaaaaay short - and not asked for the level of compensation that I should have for an assignment, a project, a contract, or a “one-off” gig, commensurate with what yes, I really deserve, given my knowledge, skills, abilities, and yes, proven track record!
You know what’s coming next, right? In the former instance, where I marketed myself and priced my services like the “Smart Water” bottle at the airport, I tended to develop great, even long-term working relationships with my clients/students, as I felt like I was being fairly rewarded for the work that I was doing - and for the expertise behind it. Further, beyond the money, I always in such instances was treated with not simply respect - that should always have to be earned, no matter the credentials behind your name. Rather, I was treated as a trusted partner, someone who brought value to the relationship and was treated as such, and who looked upon those that I worked with and for more positively and enthusiastically in return.
On the flip side, when I sold myself short, like the dollar bottle of water at the Dollar General or even the 25-cent bottle of Sam’s Choice water from the vending machine at the entrance to your local Walmart, I paid the price for doing so - always! Maybe it was a matter of some resentment that I was not getting “fair value” for what I was worth. Maybe it was because a project mushroomed - almost atomically - into something far bigger than expected and I came to realize that I was working for the not-so-big bucks! Maybe it was because in not pricing my services “right” - for the client, for the time, for the situation, etc., I was entering into the client relationship not as an expert with some “street cred” or even as a trusted partner, but as simply a contractor who should simply “do the job.”
Trust me, I am one who does not have an ego. I do not “put on airs,” like many, many of my colleagues, both in the academic world and contemporaries in the consulting field. But when I have “sold myself short,” and I have maybe not felt that my worth was nothing, but certainly felt that it was less than it should be, the situation inevitably devolved into something that was less than optimal. It was where I wanted to - at least subconsciously -perform at somewhat less than my best - either inwardly and/or outwardly - and certainly, where my client held no expectation for me to perform at my fullest potential. Rather, he or she just wanted me to “do my job” - or at least, that’s the impression that I got from him/her - and likely, in turn, did not do my “absolute best” or “go the extra mile.”
So, what’s the moral of this story? It’s simple: Remember Kendra’s post and act accordingly. In your career, in your relationships, and in your life, you should always expect - and need - to be valued. You do need to “know your value” not as a cliché, a catchphrase, or a slogan, but in your own reality! You need to respect yourself - and your with - before you can expect anyone else to do the same. Does that mean that you might miss out on opportunities? The short answer is yes, perhaps. However, in the end, you - and your personal brand - and your psyche - will fare far, far better if you know - and stick to - your value, in all but the most exceptional cases (say volunteering your services for a charitable cause). Otherwise, you - and those whom you work with and for - will have to deal with the consequences of you being in suboptimal situations and often, dealing with the resentment - and problems - that spring from feeling constantly underestimated and undervalued in what you can - and should - be doing!
In short, demand your price like the airport water bottle! You just might be surprised that you just may be worth every penny of it!
About David C. Wyld
David C. Wyld is a Professor of Strategic Management at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana. He is a management consultant, researcher/writer, publisher, executive educator, and experienced expert witness. You can view all of his work at https://authory.com/DavidWyld. You can subscribe to his Medium article feed at: https://davidwyld.medium.com/subscribe.
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