Being Laid Off Part V: Valuing Your Assets

When businesses run into challenges, they take a hard look at their assets: They update their inventory. They look for things they could sell and consider how to extract maximum value from (capitalize) what they own, control, or influence.

When I was laid off, I also took inventory, looking for unused items I could sell on eBay or craigslist and even items like digitizing equipment I could sell services around. Sometimes, this involves fairly minor investments that “goose” value before you sell, like painting your house, detailing your car, or buying some cartridges for that old video game system. However, it may be even more important to take inventory of your skills, expertise, and experience and discover ways to capitalize on those assets. Job search books, readily available at your local library, guide you in creating such an inventory.

Meanwhile, several experts on job hunting recommended that I develop an “elevator speech,” “personal value proposition,” or “30-second commercial”.

I agree with all of this, but there are some problems with it. It is quite self-centered. The skills inventory may be fine for figuring out what you love to do—what you do naturally, whether you get paid or not. The elevator speech may be fine for expressing what you do extremely well. And focusing on yourself certainly reduces the anxiety of being buffeted by circumstances beyond your control. But these exercises are not very good at figuring out how to pay the bills. If you do a good job at the skills inventory, you may end up with an overwhelming  number of capabilities that are useful to some one, somewhere. Are you going to develop an elevator speech for each one?

I decided to put my own twist on this problem. My goal is to employ my assets in the creation of maximum value. Thinking purely financially, value and price are the same (or highly correlated). So “maximum value” is defined by the economic law of supply and demand: the fewer of something there are, and the more of something people want, the more valuable that thing is. If I assign a supply and demand level to each of my assets, then I can rank them by value, and develop an elevator speech for the most valuable one (or few).

First, you make a table that looks like this. In the asset column, you fill in your skills, abilities, and experiences. Don’t worry too much about what you write. Just brainstorm. Here’s a small example:

Asset Supply Demand
Portfolio management    
Market testing    
Prototyping    
Managed an organization of five managers and 21 software engineers    
Fluency in two languages    
Object-oriented design and development    

You get the idea. Next, you assign a supply score and a demand score to each asset. One way to do this is by asking yourself a question like, “Out of 100 people, how many might possess this asset?” for a supply score. For a demand score, ask yourself, “Out of 100 people, how many might want this asset?” However, this can be quite difficult. You may end up with duplicates that prevent you from finding the most valuable asset.

All you really need to do is rank them.  Give the rarest assets a small supply score, and the most highly-desired assets a large demand score. When considering supply, it is important to consider only how rare or common the assets are. When considering demand, it is important to consider only how badly people need or want the asset. Also, don’t try to guess demand, and don’t presume to know “what people really need”. Focus on what they are asking for.

Asset Supply Demand
Portfolio management 1 2
Market testing 4 3
Prototyping 3 6
Managed an organization of five managers and 21 software engineers 2 5
Fluency in two languages 5 1
Object-oriented design and development 6 4

Now sort your assets by increasing supply score:

Asset Supply Demand
Portfolio management 1 2
Managed an organization of five managers and 21 software engineers 2 5
Prototyping 3 6
Market testing 4 3
Fluency in two languages 5 1
Object-oriented design and development 6 4

Now comes the interesting part. It is possible to eliminate many assets from consideration. Go down the sorted list of assets. For each one, if there is another asset with the same or lower supply and the same or higher demand, then you eliminate the one under consideration:

Asset Supply Demand
Portfolio management 1 2
Managed an organization of five managers and 21 software engineers 2 5
Prototyping 3 6
Market testing 4 3
Fluency in two languages 5 1
Object-oriented design and development 6 4

As you go down the list, you’ll eliminate more and more, and you’ll end up with quite a small number of assets remaining. I recommend creating an “elevator speech” for each. You may then want to come up with some qualifying questions that determine whether your listener has a demand for one of your assets. You then give the most appropriate elevator speech to that person.

But what about doing what I love?

This method is strictly rational and takes the emotion out of selling your skills and expertise. I don’t recommend that you ignore your love of something—just be realistic about the financial aspects of pursuing it. One way to accommodate your love of doing something is simply to append “Love of” in front of your beloved skills and expertise. This might raise the demand and lower the supply, making the asset more valuable. However, it is entirely possible that lots of people love doing what you love, and no one else much cares. If so, then love is not going to pay the bills.

What if the method made me eliminate something I know is valuable?

Consider carefully that this asset may simply not be as valuable as you thought, especially compared to the others in your inventory. It is also possible that you stated it in a way that mistakenly raised the supply score and lowered the demand score.  If you make your statement more specific, it is likely that supply will be lowered, and demand might be raised.

What if my most valuable assets aren’t that valuable?

If this is the case, you may want to consider the value of combinations of assets. You may also want to invest in other assets (e.g. education) that will dramatically raise the value of what you currently possess.

Tags: Business

Updated at: 22 January 2009 7:01 AM

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