Career development through self-marketing
When it comes to preparing a job application or presenting themselves in the best possible light at interview, marketers sometimes forget about the real advantages they possess. My experience is that it’s a tough marketplace out there and candidates need to draw on everything they have in their professional armoury.
The one undeniable advantage marketers have is that they know about the point of differentiation. They know about branding and they know how to package up a product or service. When it comes to marketing their own brand, however, they often let themselves down. It’s the classic case of the plumber with the leaky taps at home.
If you’re about to take the job plunge, the first rule is to step back and assess how proficient you are at marketing the product that is ‘you’. Ask yourself these key questions:
- If you’re asked what makes you special, do you have a simple but memorable response? Are you able to articulate exactly what it is that is your personal point of difference – a point of difference to which any employer would respond with interest?
- Do you see your CV as a sales tool for the product that is ‘you’? I often come across communicators and marketers with ineffective résumés and CVs. Ask yourself what does this potential employer want to know about me? What is the most effective way for me to present this? How do I demonstrate my claims?
- How effectively are you networking to find the job that is right for you? Are you active in your job search? Registering with agencies? Speaking to former colleagues and hiring managers and selling yourself to their network of contacts?
- Are you putting the time and effort that is required to be successful in your job search? You wouldn’t kick off a marketing campaign without some strategic thinking, so you should always dedicate the appropriate resources to your job search too – that’s if you’re serious and not just having a bad day in the office.
Developing the ‘you’ brand
Developing a brand for yourself works, especially if you are looking to change industries. Be clear about how you can add more value to an employer than candidates currently working in that industry. FMCG and financial services both have high barriers to entry, so for these industries you need to think about the value proposition you offer.
What kind of values do you stand for? How are these demonstrated in your approach to your work? How are these aligned with the values of the organisation?
Put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager. What makes your application of interest? Which skills and experience are most relevant? The best way to find out is through a recruiter who will know the HR/marketing/communications manager. This is where a good recruiter shows their worth – those with a good client relationship will know a client’s skill gaps and business issues and how you as a candidate can fill those.
Turning your CV into an effective marketing tool
Your CV has to stand out from the rest, but for all the right reasons. Upon graduating I sent out my CV with a wrapper from a tin of beans and a mustard jar with a cover letter stating I was full of beans and keen as mustard. Yes, I know this is a cheesy example, but it made my application stand out from the crowd.
As a marketing and communications professional, your application should have an element of creativity that expresses your difference from other candidates. It can be as basic as effective layout that is clear and concise.
Always remember your audience – recruiters see a lot of CVs every day so use bullet points, not text-heavy paragraphs. Your responsibilities and achievements in each position should be clear, with correct time-frames that make chronological sense. A covering letter with a brief overview of what you are looking for is also invaluable.
I recently received a great application from a junior marketing coordinator who attached examples of what the job ad required. It demonstrated she had interpreted the ad and matched her ability, skills and experience to the role, proving herself through examples and showcasing her ability to write.
Remember to get a second opinion about your résumé before sending it out. We receive far too many CVs from senior communications professionals with spelling and grammatical mistakes. These are people who would never send something to print without having it critiqued and proofed.
With the trend for marketers to be more accountable at the boardroom level, it is important to ensure your résumé clearly shows marketing metrics around return on investment. Be prepared for your referees to validate these figures.
Another trend is for organisations to request verified copies of qualifications, so it is important to be accurate when listing qualifications and have certified copies available.
As a recruiter, my bottom line is this: if I have five CVs on my desk my first call will be to the more prepared applicant, the one who has outlined their skills and experience effectively. If your CV doesn’t stand out, you’re unlikely to make it past even the first stage of the recruitment process.
Finding the hidden job market
While it’s difficult to put a figure on the percentage of jobs not advertised, the ‘hidden job market’ is a growing and important source for job seekers to tap into. Whether or not a recruitment agency advertises a job depends on the quality of its database – if it has enough quality candidates on its books, there is no need to advertise. Similarly, companies are less likely to advertise positions if they use employee referral schemes to find talented professionals who fit their culture.
The best way to access this hidden market is to register with agencies. Based on their relationship with the client and understanding of the candidate, a good recruiter can sell you: I recently placed several marketers in contract positions by knowing exactly where my client was in their marketing cycle.
Candidates should develop two or three key relationships with recruiters. Find a recruiter who understands your past experience, what you are looking for and how you want to move forward. With a recruiter, you can develop a value proposition in terms of tapping into the hidden job market, especially if there are particular organisations you want to target.
With recruiters under pressure to become more savvy in finding good candidates, online networking through sites such as LinkedIn and LinkMe can be useful. Candidates must keep their information up-to-date in order for online networking to be useful – out of date information is very frustrating!
Don’t forget that traditional networking is still a great way to access the hidden job market. Friends, colleagues and networking events can all be useful in your search.
Do you need the elevator pitch?
When it comes to marketing yourself, some experts advise developing a 30-second verbal pitch you can deliver at networking events to sell yourself. I think this is taking a major gamble as it assumes a level of trust that may not exist – you could even burn bridges with your current organisation.
A more effective method is to map your network and then determine who within this network you can trust. Learn what is happening in their business and relate your skills to that. A standard pitch can be unfocused and not adequately customised to a particular need. Your pitch should include an explanation of what you are looking for, a credible and positive reason for leaving your current position and a succinct but powerful statement of what you can offer a potential employer.
Selling ‘you’ at the interview
There are three elements to most successful interviews: preparation, showcasing and selling.
- Preparation is the key that unlocks success. Be well briefed on the organisation, the people interviewing, personalities, backgrounds and expectations. Read their annual reports, newsletters and policies online. Do a web search to discover any issues that may have put the company in the public spotlight.
- Depending on the position, it can be helpful to bring a portfolio of work that showcases your experience. Brand managers should show before-and-after client profiles to demonstrate how they revitalised brands – this adds to the ‘wow’ factor. A portfolio can be useful if you are not a great verbal communicator.
- Be aware of your achievements and link your skills and experience back to the role and how it will benefit the organisation. Unlike salespeople, marketers usually undersell themselves.
Closing the deal
When it comes to negotiating your salary package, you must have a clear and realistic understanding of your market worth and your minimum expectations.
What are your essentials? What are your nice-to-haves? Do your homework around salary ranges and packages. An agency can be extremely useful as it negotiates on your behalf, enabling you to focus on the job and the organisation’s culture. Look at what a role can offer in terms of training, development and location.
Be consistent in your package expectations. For example, if you need flexitime, make sure this is known from the outset. If you want a car space, don’t apply for jobs without one. If your expectations change, be upfront – clients and recruiters become frustrated when the salary figure you have stated at the outset jumps up at offer stage.
If you hit a wall with your job hunting, go back to Marketing 101. Think of ‘you’ as a product to be sold and then ensure you develop strong supporting collateral. If you focus on your point of difference you’ll be sure to land that dream job. Good luck.