by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
Marketing is the lifeblood that runs through the veins of all successful organizations. Without marketing, no matter how good the product or service, the organization will fail. It's marketing that defines the distinctive features and benefits of the product or service, it's marketing that sets the price, it's marketing that communicates those features and benefits to the appropriate audience, and it's marketing that delivers the goods to the consumer.
How does this little marketing lesson apply to you? In today's job-hunting environment, the most successful job-seekers are those who understand the value of marketing and apply to themselves those principles that companies have used for years to successfully sell their products. And that's what this article is all about -- helping you better understand how you can use and apply key marketing principles and concepts to better position yourself on the job market, whether you are looking for a new job with a new company or a promotion within your current company.
Before we begin, let's get one misconception out of the way. Marketing is not sales. Sales is but one small part of marketing, and while selling yourself on the job market is certainly an important tool of job-hunting, this article will expose you to the much broader aspects of marketing that will help you better understand yourself as a product (or brand as Tom Peters says) and how you can use many other marketing tools beyond sales to get the job you really want and deserve.
To better understand how these marketing terms apply to job-hunting it helps to first understand the terminology.
Strategic Marketing Career Planning for Job-Seekers
As with any business, a job-seeker without a plan will simply not optimize his/her job search. Job-seekers should consider answering these questions in relation to their job history and career:
- Where have I been, where am I now, and where will my career be if I do nothing?
- Where do I want to go with my career?
- How do I get to where I want to go?
- How do I convert my plan into action steps?
- How do I make changes to my plan if I am not getting success?
Career Market Research for Job-Seekers
It's important to uncover and comprehend the trends in your career field as well as gather detailed information about the companies you would like to work for -- and using market research is essential to your success.
To uncover trends in your career field, you should review items such as the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook, which not only reviews the key characteristics of hundreds of careers, but also discusses the future potential for job-seekers. Another research tool is informational interviewing, in which you interview a key professional in your career field to pick his/her brain about future potential.
Another research tool is informational interviewing, in which you interview a key professional in your career field to pick his/her brain about future potential.
It's absolutely essential to your job-hunting success to know how to research potential employers. Not only will this information help you in writing your cover letter (and perhaps tailoring your resume), but it is mandatory for when you get invited for a job interview.
Job-Seeker Marketing Mix
The rest of this article focuses on the 4 P's of marketing, also called the marketing mix. The 4 P's include product, promotion, place, and price. The marketing mix elements are the controllable factors that are used to achieve the organization's objectives -- or as it relates to job-seekers, the controllable factors that are used to achieve your job search success.
As mentioned above, you are the product. You need to examine what characteristics, features, and skills make you unique -- and thus stand out among competing job searchers -- in the eyes of employers. These features can include work experience, leadership experience, professional memberships, and, of course, your education and training. We use an advertising term here called the Unique Selling Proposition (USP): What is the one thing that makes you different than any other job-seeker applying for the same job? What are your accomplishments (not duties or job titles)? How attractive of a product are you? What will make you more attractive to employers? Can you say your USP in 15 words or fewer?
But no matter how attractive a product you are, employers may not recognize and value you unless you have properly positioned yourself on the job market. Positioning, which involves developing a perception in the eyes of employers, is a three-step process.
- Identifying a set of possible competitive advantages upon which to build a position. What are your competitive advantages for potential employers?
- Selecting the right competitive advantages -- different employers seek different strengths and skills.
- Effectively communicating and delivering the chosen position to the market. How can you develop a successful communications message? See promotion tools below.
Finally, there is the issue of packaging. In terms of job-hunting, packaging refers to how you present yourself and your credentials.
In some ways, the strength of your promotion tools may be the most vital piece of your career marketing mix. Promotion -- as it relates to job-searching -- includes cover letters, resumes, phone calls, and interviews. Promotion tools include anything that you can use to get a job interview and ultimately get a job offer. How much time have you spent polishing these promotion tools? Do you have a solid resume? A dynamic cover letter? How are your interviewing skills? Do you have what it takes to sell yourself to the employer?
No matter how well you are positioned and how strong your USP, if you cannot properly communicate these benefits to employers, you will not get the job.
Just as distribution is often the underutilized gem of a company's marketing strategy, so too is distribution often overlooked in the job search. Your distribution channel -- just as in marketing -- consists of a "set of individuals" who will help you distribute your product (you) to the consumer (the employer). In career counseling terms, your distribution channel includes all the methods you are using to disseminate your promotional tools in your quest for a new job.
Distribution channels include:
- Job Postings/Recruitment Advertising
- Cold Calling
- Job-hunting on the Web
- University Career Centers/Alumni Offices
- Headhunters/Recruiters/Executive Search Firms/Employment Agencies
Which is the most important distribution channel? Most career experts agree that networking is crucial to a successful job search. Networking means developing a broad list of contacts -- people you've met through various social and business functions -- and using them to your advantage when you look for a job.
Which is the most important distribution channel? Most career experts agree that networking is crucial to a successful job search.
People and places where you can network: current and former coworkers, colleagues, professional meetings, placement offices, alumni, recruiters, and almost any gathering of people. (We know of someone who received a job interview through networking at a wedding reception.) How strong is your network? How can you make it stronger?
This final piece of the marketing mix is price. From a marketing perspective, it's the determination of the perceived value of items in an exchange. For job-hunters, price refers to all aspects of the compensation you can expect from potential employers, as well as the strategies you need to follow to get the price you want -- and that the employer feels you deserve.
Many job-seekers focus only on salary, but compensation also includes:
- Medical insurance
- Dental insurance
- Optical/eye care insurance
- Raises, Bonuses, Overtime Pay
- Life insurance
- Accidental death insurance
- Disability insurance
- Vacation Days
- Paid Holidays
- Sick/personal days
- 401(k) plans
- Pension plans
- Profit sharing
- Stock Options/ESOPs
- Tuition reimbursement
- Health clubs
- Dependent care
- Employee Assistance Program
- Parking, commuting, expense reimbursement
Finally, job-seekers need to know the key strategies and tactics of salary negotiation -- knowing when to talk about salary, how much to ask for, and how to get what you want.
And now for the most important marketing tools: your resume and cover letter. Check out our tips to master these critical documents.