Career Self-Marketing

As we look to get ahead in our career, we must now learn to treat ourselves as a product that is desired by companies. We must pitch and sell our knowledge, skills and abilities. To build a good strategy for this, we need only to follow a few rules. Let’s take a look at 4 key principles for marketing ourselves.

Recently, I was approached by an eager unemployed job searcher who had a question about his job search. He had failed to get any responses from over 100 attempts at the resume game. You know, you see a job listing and send your resume to the contact listed. I asked him if he had followed up with each submission. He replied that he couldn’t because he didn’t have a specific contact for each listing.

The problem appeared that such activities are part of a reactive plan, as opposed to an active plan. You see, sending a resume to HR or some recruiter doesn’t necessarily force a sense of responsibility. These groups get resumes all the times. It’s part of their job. What’s makes them feel the need to respond to your resume? This is what I call a reactive plan. By sending resumes this way, your success depends solely upon someone reacting to such a request.

In an active plan, you market yourself to those who can make a decision on your employment in a way that moves them to action. To do this, you need a little marketing strategy. Here are a few tips to help build the self-marketing plan.

1. Target The Right Market. Despite what most people think, sending resumes isn’t a quantity game. Emailing resumes to one million people who don’t have a need for your skills doesn’t improve your chances of getting a job very much. After all, you wouldn’t try to sell hamburger to a vegetarian, would you? If they don’t have a need for it, don’t pitch it.

So who do you sell your resume to? Hiring managers or those who can influence them. You must target the right people. Finding out who the right people are fairly is easy in today’s technological society. You simply network. Social networking is a great way to find out who is actually hiring. Quick tip: Create a list of companies you want to work for, use social networking sites to create a list of contacts inside these companies, ask these contacts who is hiring and how to reach them. Then send your info.

2. Position Yourself. Before you contact each person on your list, make sure you position yourself for success. That is, position yourself as the solution to their problem. If they have a need for a problem solver, often referred to as “Functional Positioning,” your credentials should illustrate your skills for solving problems.

The key to getting yourself positioned correctly is to ensure you know what position you should be in. The networking that gets you the contact list can also be the network that can teach you about the job and what is needed. Once you know that, ensure there is a perfect alignment between the company’s needs and your resume. If you don’t solve their needs, you probably won’t get a response.

3. Differentiate Yourself. Ok, you got a contact list of the right people and you feel you solve the problem. This should be enough, right? Hardly. There’s a lot of competition for jobs today. You can expect there will be several people who can solve their needs. Your beat the competition by identifying your strengths and product mix.

Your strengths should be easy to highlight and you should have numerous examples to share. This is what you are good at. The product mix may take a little more work. Your mix will include the skills you have that are above and beyond what is needed by the hiring manager. These skills are the extras that entice the hiring manager to buy into you. Again, you can find out what might entice them from your network.

4. Use distribution channels. If you’ve searched for a job for a long time, you know that it isn’t always possible to connect with the right people in the right place at the right time. If you do find the right person, you also can’t risk contacting the right person over and over in hopes of convincing them you are the right solution. Distribution channels are methods of the reaching your potential customer. In this case, it’s the hiring manager. I’ve suggested that you network and contact them directly. This is a direct marketing channel. You don’t go through others. You go directly to the source.

While this is a good method, it isn’t always the best. Many jobs are filled today through the recommendation of other employees (i.e. indirect marketing channel). You can use this method by connecting with people inside the target company and getting them to recommend you. They can forward your resume or direct the hiring manager to your social networking site to gather more information on you.

Other channels can include referrals from the target company’s clients, customers, contractors and vendors. These people are important because they have some influence over the manager’s decision making. They may also hold their trust and respect, which are key factor for influencing behavior.

Building a career today is a lot tougher than decades ago. The methods for gaining momentum are different as well. However, the best approach to success starts with a good plan. You have to build your product (i.e. your skills, knowledge and abilities), define your target market, position yourself, be a little different and reach your customer from many channels. If everybody is saying your good, then you must be. Success isn’t too hard. It just takes an active approach.


Todd Rhoad, MSEE, MBA, is Director at BT Consulting, a career consulting firm in Altanta, and can be reached at He is also the author of the book, Blitz The Ladder.

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