Do You Carry a Portfolio
Of Your Work?
What can a BVFLS professional do to stand out amongst his or her peers? In this article, Rod Burkert shares his thoughts.
How do BVFLS professionals like us to demonstrate our analytical skill? How do we exhibit our problem-solving acumen? How do we showcase our report writing talent? I have an ideaâ€¦turns out it is somewhat controversialâ€¦but read on and let me know what you think.
All creativesâ€”artists, writers, musicians, photographers, graphic designers, website developers, etc.â€”carry a portfolio of their work they can show to a prospective employer or client and say, â€śSee, Iâ€™ve done this. This is what Iâ€™m capable of.â€ť
We haveâ€¦resumes, which only tell a prospective employer or client the things we want to show (or claim). Sure, prospective employers and clients can check references, but there is only so much that will be said. And besides, are we going to list a reference who has something bad to say about us?
Creatives look to be hired by an employer or client who will compensate them fairly for their demonstrated abilities, as evidenced by their portfolio of work. Why should it be any different for BVers? It shouldn’t be, at least in my opinion.
So why don’t we carry portfolios of the work we’ve done? For example, sanitized reports that can establish the aforementioned skill, acumen, and talent.
I ran into one reason for not carrying a portfolio of your work. And that, strangely, turns out to be professional ethics. Ethics that allow us to submit sanitized reports to earn a credential or obtain CPE but not, God forbid, so we can market ourselves to prospective employers or clients. Really?
I say this based on the anecdotal evidence of phone and e-mail conversations I had with one recruiter and one BV organizationâ€™s ethics committee member (both of whom shall remain anonymous) when I was doing my homework for this article.
Here is a summary of the pushback I received and my reaction to it.
Who owns the report? Well if weâ€™re self-employed, we do! But if we work for a firm, itâ€™s a more interesting scenario. Did part of our employment agreement include ownership of work product? Or if the report was prepared for ABC Industries, and they paid for it, do they own it?
A current employer might not appreciate us accumulating reports. First, Iâ€™m not advocating a flash drive holding every report weâ€™ve prepared. I am talking about a few reports in the practice area or industry niche we want to validate our expertise in. Second, while a current employer might not like it, I imagine it feels differently to a prospective employer when a job candidate shows up with writing samples and analytical schedules.
How does a prospective employer or client know it is the candidateâ€™s work product? They donâ€™t. But itâ€™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).
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 candidates submitting sanitized reports used in the ASA/NACVA credentialing process? Or for the few BV firms that do include sanitized reports on their websites for marketing purposes?
Canâ€™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 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 donâ€™t need a fictitious report to do that.
In summary, hereâ€™s my argument:
- Arenâ€™t we creatives? Isnâ€™t Damodaran correct when he calls our profession a craft? If so, where is our portfolio of work to support that pretense? Because it is not our resume.
- The report absolutely has to be one we wrote. And it must be sanitized to remove any indication for whom it was prepared forâ€”just like what we might submit to ASA or NACVA.
- Prospective employers may not read the sample, just be ecstatic that a job candidate had enough confidence in her talents to bring one. Prospective clients arenâ€™t likely to care because they just want proof we can do the work efficiently and effectively for them.
- What choice do employers/employees have if they want some degree of confidence that a candidate can do the work? And a portfolio is still only one aspect of the candidate being evaluated.
- We all need to be more practiced in getting our name out there and being top of mind to potential clients. And if you were a prospect, wouldnâ€™t you want to see a sample of the report that will be used to solve the problem you have?
As a coach, people ask me how they can build expertise in a practice area or industry niche. This way is pretty easy, since youâ€™ve already done the work. So grab that flash drive and sanitize that report!
Rod Burkert, CPA, ABV, CVA, works with BVFLS practitioners and firms that have hit a time or income ceiling and want to grow faster and smarter. If you are feeling frustrated by those limitations, e-mail Mr. Burkert at firstname.lastname@example.org.