The United States economy is sending a series of conflicting messages in this current financial quarter. The Labor Department reported that the number of jobless claims fell to 370,000 in the third week of May, while the prospect of sustained austerity continues to threaten sustainable growth. So, although the unemployment rate in April dropped once more to just 8.1%, the implementation of potential spending cuts at the end of 2012 could see this figure soar next year. With this in mind, it is an ideal time to appraise your career aspirations, and determine your exact value to a specific market or industry.

SEE: What's Your Employee Value?

Create a Personal Brand
In order to understand your worth and value as an employee, it is important to first define yourself and the skills that set you apart from other candidates for employment. This requires you to create a personal brand, which can bridge the gap between what you have to offer and what employers in your chosen market place are looking for. Personal branding is effectively a method through which you can identify, present and market your most unique attributes, while offering a genuine solution to recruiters in the process. While identifying what defines your unique brand is a deeply personal experience, technological evolution has created an established platform from which it can be marketed. The development of social media resources has certainly made this process easier. Sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook can showcase your personal brand to a huge market of potential employers. Given the rise of e-recruitment and increasing functionality of mobile technology, this is the ideal way to market yourself and maximize your value in the work place.

Research Your Market and Industry
While creating a personal brand allows you to define your marketable skills and value as an employee, your subsequent salary expectations must be tempered by the nature of your chosen industry. A fluctuating global economy, innovation and changeable consumer demand all dictate whether or not a particular market sector is prosperous, and this has a direct influence on your chances of achieving your career goals. For example, while advanced industries such as biotechnology are continuing to thrive in 2012, others such newspaper publishing and analogue photofinishing are declining rapidly.

With this in mind, it is crucial that you evaluate your realistic earning potential so that you are in a position to negotiate successfully whether you are applying for work or looking to improve your existing salary. If you have qualifications that are primarily associated with a struggling industry, then it may also be worth highlighting any skills that can be transferred to a more affluent market sector. These include research and analytical skills, which have value and merit within a range of different industries.

Improve Your Value
Transferable skills give you the flexibility to achieve a salary that is in line with the value that you offer as an employee. Another way to boost the value of your personal brand is to continually add to your skill set by gaining relevant qualifications that match emerging trends within a given industry. After all, a qualification or learned skill must be in demand if it is to have any bearing on your overall salary or industry standing. Those with existing skills in the construction industry provide a case in point, as they are forced to engage in continual professional development in order to remain in employment and maximize their earning potential. This is largely due to the fact that technological advancement is extremely prominent within the industry, and this demands that employees remain refreshed on brand new processes and innovative working methods if they are to achieve their potential.

The Bottom Line
The process of defining your personal brand and self-worth is a genuinely productive one, as it can help you to determine your exact value to an employer or industry. This is changeable just like market variables such as economic growth and consumer demand. The difference is that you can retain complete control over your personal brand, and develop it to drive your career and earning capacity to brand new heights.

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