“You will never marketing anything more important than yourself.” My university professor paused for effect as he scanned the small group of us who were working on our master’s degree in marketing.
His comments caught me off guard. Quite frankly, I thought I already knew marketing, yet I’d never considered applying marketing principles to myself as if I were a product. My professor’s wisdom echoed in my mind, and through the years I grew to appreciate his sage advice even more.
Fifteen years later I stood before my own class of university students. With graduation approaching, these young people would soon be marketing themselves in a competitive job market, so I talked with them about applying marketing principles to their own job searches. I designed a tool for them to use in conducting a marketing audit on themselves. (This was a take-home assignment to be completed over spring break—the spiteful revenge of an instructor who noted that too many students skipped class on mardi gras to attend a sorority party.)
Later, when I lost my job as a marketing professional, I reached into my marketing toolbox, found that homework assignment and used it to develop a personal marketing plan for my own job search.
There are five sequential steps in the marketing process. (These are neatly organized in the textbook I taught from—Marketing Workbook for Nonprofit Organizations.) I adapted those steps to my situation and then built a career marketing plan using this process:
1. Set measurable goals. I wrote specific goals for my job search. These described the type of job I wanted, the date I hoped to begin and the salary I would require.
2. Position yourself. My next step was to identify specific attributes that described the essence of who I was professionally. These were things that would be of value to a potential employer that most other job candidates would be unable to say about themselves. I also conducted a competitor analysis so I’d know how to best differentiate myself.
3. Conduct a marketing audit. This focused on the “6 Ps of Marketing.” (Okay, I know most marketing classes teach the “4 Ps” but I liked two additional ones that were included in the textbook I used.) The marketing mix for my job search was built around the following 6 Ps:
Product. Here I defined what I would offer in the “exchange process” with a potential employer. I identified the results I could produce, the solutions I could provide and the impact I could have.
Publics. This focused on who I would target in my job search. I categorized the list by industry and then listed specific companies to target. I also developed a list of individuals with whom I would communicate.
Price. Without selling myself short, I focused on the salary I would require, the benefits I would need and other items I wanted such as learning opportunities and involvement in professional organizations.
Place. Here I defined the geographic location of the office, including the commute time and the safety of the surrounding area. I also looked at out-of-town travel and the ability to work remotely.
Production. I looked at how I wanted my career to fit with the other facets of my life. I carefully considered the pace of prospective companies, the stress level that would come with the job, the volume of work required and the balance with other facets of my life.
Promotion. I assessed my communication skills, the available technology and the tools needed for me to a) create awareness, b) maintain visibility and c) ultimately “close the sale” on my job search.
4. Develop the actual marketing plan. Only after completing the foregoing work was I ready to put together the entire plan for my job search. Once I knew where I was going, how I was differentiated and how I would market myself, I was prepared to move to the final step—communication.
5. Conduct a promotion campaign. As the final step, I expanded my networking activities, sent out a few resumes and applied for a handful of specially-targeted jobs. Promotion of myself began with strategy and ended with tactics. Those who begin a job search by sending out lots of resumes or applying indiscriminately for open positions do not understand marketing.
I used a mix of marketing tools, including e-mail, postal mail, phone calls and in-person meetings. Supporting the promotional campaign were collateral materials such as the resume, cover letter, networking e-mails, business cards and a portfolio of work I had done.
Years ago my marketing professor was right—you will never market anything more important than yourself. I found that my career took on a whole new meaning as I marketed myself professionally.
I’d love to hear from others who have successfully marketed or branded themselves.