When most of us think of marketing, it’s usually associated with a product or service or with driving a company’s brand message to the right audience.
Effective marketing defines the distinctive features and benefits of products or services, but marketing is also relevant to your job search and career advancement.
I’ve often found that my marketing candidates overlook basic marketing fundamentals when applying those principles to themselves in the job market. I think of the adage, “The shoemaker’s children have no shoes.”
Those who are successful at building their career, whether they are looking for a new job or a promotion, understand how to use marketing to their personal advantage. The first step is to promote yourself as you would a product or, as many career advisors like to say, a “brand.”
As with any good marketing campaign, you must highlight your wins, benefits and distinctive skills—such as driving sales through digital marketing campaigns, turning around declining businesses, creating a product that was well received, and managing winning teams. As in any well-run business, you need a plan.
If you go about a career change without a plan, you may not be optimizing your search. Ask yourself these questions in relation to your career path:
- Where have I been, where am I now, and where do I want to be in the future?
- How do I get to where I want to go?
- How do I convert my plan into action steps?
- How do I correct my course if I am not finding success?
It’s important to unearth and grasp the trends in your particular field and to gather detailed information about the companies you would like to work for. Market research is essential.
Not only will this information help you in writing your cover letter, but it is crucial when you are invited to an interview. Today’s information world makes doing your homework easy, interesting and fun, so you have no excuse for being unprepared.
Beyond using websites, LinkedIn and job boards, you should look into informational interviewing.
Reach out to your network or get introduced to key professionals in your area of expertise, your field of experience or a field you want to gain experience in. Most people enjoy sharing their knowledge with others. It’s their way of giving back, and they’ll find it flattering that you perceive them as an expert.
Career marketing mix
In the interest of marketing yourself, remember the basics, including you the (product), your resume, social media profiles (promotion), your background (positions), and salary or title increase (price). Just like your marketing plans at work, which are geared to achieve certain goals, your career marketing mix gives you the tools to achieve career search success.
You are the product
As mentioned above, you are the product. You should examine what physiognomies, features and skills make you unique. Most of you already know to include work experience, leadership experience, professional memberships and, of course, your education and training.
However, we often don’t include our professional achievements or our unique selling proposition. What one thing makes you stand out? What are your accomplishments (not duties or job titles)? How special are you, and what will make you stand out to potential employers?
No matter how appealing you are, employers may not recognize your value unless you have properly positioned yourself. Positioning is how you want people to perceive you and what you bring to the table. As you position yourself in the market, think about the following:
- List the achievements that give you a competitive advantage. Do these wins appeal to these specific potential employers?
- Selecting the right achievements for your audience is important, because different employers seek different strengths and skills.
- Are you effectively communicating and delivering your position to the market? Bulleting is the best way to communicate with those seeking your bottom-line achievements.
The strength of your promotion tools may be the most vital piece of your career’s marketing mix. Promotion—as it relates to job-searching—includes cover letters, resumes, phone calls and interviews. Include anything you can use to get a job interview and, ultimately, a job offer.
No matter how well you are positioned and how strong your unique selling proposition is, if you cannot properly communicate these benefits to employers, you will not get the job.
Just as distribution is often underestimated in a company’s marketing strategy, distribution is often overlooked in the job search. Your distribution channel is your network. It’s not what you know; it’s whom you know.
In career search terms, your delivery channel includes all the methods you are using to broadcast your promotional tools in your pursuit of a new job. Don’t forget these useful tools:
- Cold calling
- Job postings
- University career centers/alumni offices
- Headhunters/recruiters/executive search firms
When you think of your network, reach out to former co-workers, colleagues, bosses, professional gathering attendees, fellow college alumni and recruiters. Don’t check off a list of people you don’t know.
When you do speak with someone—whether it’s at the beach, a college reunion or your son’s birthday party—let people know that you’re looking for your next career move. You never know who might be able to help.
Salary and title
There is a budget for marketing and advertising. The same is true for you—the product.
What compensation are you seeking and expecting from a potential employer? There are industry standards, as well as geographic considerations.
Usually the first thing a potential employer will ask is: “How much are you looking for in a salary?” Answer: “I’m looking for your best offer.” When pressed for more information, simply state what your salary requirements are: “Here is my salary expectation.”
Be special, and be yourself
What’s most important is to be yourself. If they don’t hire you, then you were not a cultural fit. Don’t despair. You want to work in an environment that appreciates you.
I always counsel candidates to show up to the interview as the same person who shows up on the first day on the job. So if you have 10 earrings in each ear, and that’s your style, please, by all means, wear all 20 to the interview.