Marketing yourself…

May 25, 2008

This blog entry is here to remind everybody that marketing isn’t just for marketing professionals. Like negotiating, it’s something that everyone does in their life and what it takes to be successful at it pretty much comes down to creativity, preparation and practice. However, I think it’s easy to forget how the basics of marketing apply to real life situations. Since several of us are out looking for jobs (full-time or internships), I thought I would comment on how marketing yourself for a new job fits into the 3C’s & 4P’s framework and, over the next few weeks I’ll go into more detail in each category and how you can develop a strategy to make yourself stand apart from the competition.

Capabilities: Obviously this is what you are good at. But, in 30 seconds can you rattle off 3 different skills that are unique, phenomenal or difficult to obtain? What are your competitive advantages, your non-commodity skills? I suggest sitting down and coming up with your general value proposition to a potential employer with real examples of your accomplishments, recent creative moments, etc. Then, when you have a specific interview, tailor your value proposition into a small, concise set of realistic examples that fits with what you think that company is looking for. You may even be so bold as to fashion a positioning statement (after you finish your analysis), as to why you should be the best person for the job. This can be kept to yourself to boost your self confidence during an interview or stated out loud depending upon the type of interviewing environment you are in (i.e. highly competitive position, a group interview, or they flat out ask you, etc.).

Customer: Know your customer! First you need to figure out who that is at each stage of the game. Who are you sending that cover letter to? Is it someone who is just going to skim your resume? If so, make sure that you have a short summary and use some bullet points. For the “sensing” readers (MBTI), they will appreciate more detail. So I use a mix of both formats. Is it submitted online so that some computer is just going to scan your resume first to see if the key words are there (i.e. use their language whenever possible to help with this)?

Get it to a real person, whenever possible and tailor your cover letter to them. Remember that other people will be applying to the same job, so yours needs to stand out. I like leading them down the “trusted advisor” path and giving them a little nibble of something that you’ve been thinking about in relation to their company so that they find you 1) interesting and 2) thoughtful.

If you are interviewing, with whom will you be talking? Is it to the HR brickwall that’s then going to ask you a lot of boring, standard interview questions because they are cold calling a lot of other candidates and they are also bored out of their minds? Is it the hiring manager who is calling you for an informal phone interview? The HR rep would probably appreciate some humor in your well-prepared answers (this has worked remarkably well for me in the past). But, I think it would be too risky to joke around with the hiring manager… so have DIFFERENT examples. This is also helpful when interviewing with multiple people so that you don’t tell the same story again and again (just in case they compare notes).

Competition: How many other MBA students/graduates are looking for jobs? The markets are down so there is bound to be a lot more competition for jobs than normal. Be prepared for this and stand out by being well prepared, prompt and considerate.

Have you seen a job description? No one ever fits a job description perfectly so in a cover letter or in preparing for an interview it’s important to address both the skills that you have that they want and to come up with some creative explanation about why what you lack shouldn’t be an issue (assuming that it’s not something absolutely key to be able to perform the job) or that you have some additional skills that aren’t required. You need to have a list of liabilities that you can draw upon too. You will be compared to the competition so choose wisely. I like talking about how a liability is a flip-side of one of my strengths (like how ‘not being able to say no’ is a result of being overly loyal) or that it’s something that you have been working on and have an example of how you have been doing that (like “I used to be deathly afraid of public speaking, so I joined Toastmaster’s 2 years ago and have worked through my stage fright. I still get butterflies sometimes, but I think so do most people”, etc…

The 4P’s will be addressed in more detail next time as this blog is already getting really long, but here are a few ideas:

Product: your cover letter, your resume and YOU.

Price: Always state that it’s open for negotiation. I usually say that we can discuss numbers once we know that the fit is right for everybody. But, DO your homework. www.vault.com has been a great resource for me. I easily found industry salary comps and actual intern salaries at a different division of the company for which I did my summer internship. I got a 30% increase in salary by simply pointing out that they had me on the R&D pay scale and not on the MBA intern pay scale (I can go into more specifics about this, but salary negotiations are a bit off subject)… You can also ask around. This works too. Maybe the career office on campus could help?

Place: How are you marketing yourself? Are you going online? Looking for jobs via recruiters? Via personal connections? I suggest trying as many methods as possible, but I have ALWAYS had the best luck with the “personal connections”. It gets you past the HR blackbox and helps prevent your resume from being lost in the ether of a database.

Promotion: In marketing yourself, be prepared to talk yourself up. This can be difficult for some of us, so prepare something (i.e. your list of capabilities)! Ask around if people know of openings, etc. And, one really bold, and somewhat successful tactic, is to send your cover letter/resume to someone for whom you would like to work. Even if they don’t have a position, this leaves a lasting memory (who doesn’t like sincere flattery?) which could lead to a job later or in them forwarding your information to someone who does have an opening.

Final bits of advice: Of course this is much easier said than done.

  • So give yourself plenty of preparation and practice!
  • You need to be able to communicate your value proposition quickly and effectively (in 1 minute or less).
  • Knowing a lot about a company always makes you look interested.
  • Asking good questions also does the same. So PREPARE a list of company specific questions for both HR screeners and for hiring managers.

Best of luck to those job seekers out there! I’ll be in touch soon.

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One Response to “Marketing yourself…”

  1. Jasmine Says:

    Good post. Another good site for salary data and company insight is http://www.glassdoor.com. Salary wise, tt gives you access to what individuals are making in a company (base + bonuses) so you can see the range for a given position. In addition, contributors also rate companies on a range of workplace culture factors, including work-life balance, fairness and respect, employee morale, and senior leadership.

    It’s new so there still isn’t tonnes of content (although the tech companies have more info), but you have to post a review and salary report to get access, so I suspect it will grow quickly. Check it out.


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