I get faced with questions about why marketing is a relevant concept in career managment. Shouldn’t the resume and the interview be about facts? A display of credentials?
In an ideal world, we might only have to display our credentials and magically have a job matched for us, as the best candidate. There would be no need to market yourself if there were no competition for jobs. Nor would there be any need to market yourself if you didn’t care which job you were hired for. Reality is different.
Let’s have a look at why you see me focusing on the marketing aspect of career management.
When looking for a new position, your goal is to identify the best match jobs and organizations and then do the best job you can to portray yourself accurately as a fit for that job.
Making Sense of Your Background
The traditional, more bureaucratic method of resume writing and interviewing was to focus on job responsibilities. This is relevant of course, but it says little about your performance, what you have actually accomplished, your relative skill levels, strengths, and ability to take on a different or more senior role.
In order to establish these important pieces of information, you need to make sense of your professional background. This requires that you to step out of a bureaucratic mind-set and think in different terms about your performance. In some cases, this performance is obvious and quantifiable. The marketing comes in understanding and articulating the less tangible accomplishments. Leadership. Influence. Change. These are just a few of the areas where you may have performed. By framing these, you add a whole new dimension to your offering.
Making Sense of Your Strengths
We are each unique individuals and we bring some of that uniqueness to our work. In your job, you likely excel at some aspects of your work, are competent in others, and either have no interest in, or perform poorly in others. What are you good at? What do you want to do? Unless you want to take an accidental approach to managing your career, you need to communicate these strengths, and ideally frame them as benefits to the hiring organization. This accomplishes three things:
- First, simply by having an understanding of yourself, and then communicating your competencies, you will present yourself as a more credible candidate.
- Second, you increase the likelihood that the hiring decision makers will recognize a fit, if there is one. Also, you have a better chance of weeding out those jobs and organizations that aren’t a fit.
- Third, if you can frame what you offer in terms of how you can help the hiring organization, then you have just differentiated yourself from the vast majority of candidates.
Sounds like marketing to me.
As a reader of this column, you may have discovered that I put a great deal of focus on fit. Fit is subtle, complex and of the utmost importance. Fit with your boss. Fit with the team. Fit with the values of the organization. Fit with the style of work. Fit with the job content. Fit with the company’s stage and size. Fit with the industry. Any ONE of these out of alignment could cause a derailment of your performance, your engagement in your work, and in the worst case, your career. What does this have to do with marketing?
We humans are incredibly complex beings. How can a hiring executive or recruiter establish this fit if you don’t provide the necessary information? Part of marketing is bringing the best solution to a customer’s needs. If you are that best solution, then you have to first understand what you are offering and then communicate it effectively and persuasively.
True, the market is hot right now and you might find yourself in a candidate’s market. If this is the case, marketing yourself might be less important. In general, however, we all need to distinguish ourselves from the other fine folks vying for the same jobs. In times of job scarcity, this becomes critical. And, the more focused and deliberate you want to be about your career development, the more you will have to compete with other focused, deliberate candidates.
Selectivity & Timing
Marketing is partially about what to communicate, what not to communicate, and when. You need to be selective about what kind of information to share, how to share it and when.
Marketing is a relevant and important mind-set that you should employ in your job search and managing your career. Notice that nowhere in this article did I recommend straying from the truth, or focusing on the “sizzle vs. the steak.” Authentic marketing, and career management, starts with a solid base. That base is you and what you offer the hiring market.