How to Market Yourself in a Job Search
Here’s a harsh reality: For any job posted, many, many candidates will apply. Some of these candidates will be less qualified than you are, but others will be just as qualified, or even more so. Faced with this volume of competition, it’s essential that you sell yourself. That means making it clear why you are the best candidate available. Selling yourself can feel uncomfortable, but it’s truly essential. If you don’t point out your best qualities as a candidate, who will?
To get past any feelings of shyness, modesty, or discomfort, think like a marketer. Develop a marketing and sales campaign for your job search exactly as if it was one of the many toothpaste options in the drugstore aisle. Doing this will help you assess your strengths, strengthen your performance throughout the application process, and develop a strong brand that will make you stand out from the sea of applicants.
Strategies to Market Yourself and Get a Job
Follow these strategies used by marketers to see how to sell yourself as a candidate, and increase your chances of getting hired.
Identify Your Strengths
Think of this step as defining the product — in this case, that’s you!
When do you shine in the workplace? Consider the tasks that you perform well and try to recall on-the-job compliments. Look over your resume and list your strengths, skills, and accomplishments. Also, think about why you’ve pursued your career: Why does it interest you? Try to put into words what excites you about your career along with the work-related responsibilities you enjoy the most.
Use Anecdotes and Examples
On your resume, it’s smart to identify your skills, either in a bulleted list in your skills section or in the write-ups for each job you’ve held.
When you write your cover letter and answer interview questions, however, go beyond a list of skills — share examples and tell stories that demonstrate your abilities. For interviewers, this creates a more persuasive, engaging experience. (Think about how commercials make a case for products — a pasta sauce ad doesn’t feature a person talking to the camera about its attributes, but rather, a family enjoying dinner together.)
So, instead of saying, “I have strong communication skills,” you can say, “In my last position as head of marketing, there was a real breakdown in communications between the marketing department and sales. I met with key leaders on both teams, and after getting feedback, instituted an annual survey in the sales department.
It helped marketing know precisely what sales required. Next, the marketing department began to distribute a monthly newsletter highlighting new assets, and also highlighting sales deals. Since instituting these practices, sales have climbed, and the turnover in the sales department has decreased."
Not sure how to frame examples of skills as stories? Try using the STAR method (that stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result) to develop a narrative.
Develop Your Brand
Don’t fear: Creating your professional brand doesn’t have to involve slick advertisements or daily, witty posts on social media. Here are a few simple steps to take to establish your brand:
- Write a branding statement: Write a one- to two-sentence summation of your career goals and strengths. Your branding statement might be “A detail-oriented lawyer looking to join a law firm on the partnership track.” Or, it could be “An experienced editor looking to transition into a full-time writing role.” You can use this statement in the LinkedIn summary section, on your resume and when you interact with people and want to share your job search info.
- Create an online presence that supports your brand: Your job search goals and career choice can help determine the best online outlet. If you are in a field where you create something — articles, artwork, website designs, etc. — create an online portfolio to promote samples of your work. In many fields, it can be helpful to have a presence on social media sites, such as Twitter or LinkedIn, or to develop a personal newsletter. How to choose a good professional photo, and how social media can help your career.) Or, you may just want to have a website with your resume and experience clearly written.
- Documents, business cards, and other marketing materials: Think of your resume and cover letter (as well as an optional job search business card) as a suite of marketing materials all aimed at selling you. That means it’s a good thing for them to look consistent — use the same font on all documents, as well as the same header and style on each. These documents are like the ads in online and print media; make sure they look sharp and easy to read.
Dress the Part
Your talents are more important than your appearance, but it is a reality that the way you dress and carry yourself does play a part in your job search success. (To think again like a marketer, package design matters — often, the biggest difference between two shampoo bottles is price or packaging, and not the actual formulation of the shampoo.) Make sure to wear appropriate outfits.
Develop an Elevator Pitch
Your elevator pitch is a short — under one minute — speech about your background and experience, and what type of job you seek. You can use your elevator speech during networking events, social occasions, and career fairs. Essentially, any time there’s an opportunity to introduce yourself to a potential job search contact, you can go through this pre-prepared spiel.
Fish Where the Fish Are
Once you have all of this in place — your professional brand, your outfit, a good sense of strengths and talents, etc. — you’re nearly ready for launch. But don’t just apply to jobs and attend networking events indiscriminately. Instead, target your efforts and use your time wisely. A marketer would identify the right potential purchasing audience for its product; you should do something similar.
Consider creating a targeted list of companies where you want to apply for jobs. Join only relevant professional groups and attend in-person networking events in your industry. At these events, use the elevator pitch you developed, bring along a copy of your resume, and follow up afterward over email or LinkedIn.