Arjan Eenkema van Dijk, MBA, is a certified Executive Coach, speaker and facilitator and an expert in leadership development, personal branding, communication, career transition, and positive intelligence. As Founder and President of InspireShift, LLC., Arjan works both nationally and internationally with executives, leaders, business owners and individuals to define and attain their leadership and career objectives. Arjan is a member of the iRelaunch coaching team.
Today’s job market is competitive, fast-paced and constantly changing. Job seekers need to stand out to be noticed. As an executive and career coach and former marketing executive, I know all too well that having the right skills and experience isn’t necessarily enough to acquire that coveted position. Often, it is not the best qualified person who walks away with the offer, but rather the person who markets him or herself best. As a matter of fact, it typically takes completely different skills to land a job than what is required to actually do the job you’re applying for. That may feel unfair, but the good news is, you can learn how to market yourself, and this article will give you the foundation to do exactly that.
Looking for a job is a marketing proposition; you need to convince the hiring manager you are the best candidate for the position. The most effective marketers know their target audience well. They have great knowledge of the product they are offering, and understand how their product benefits the potential buyer. In a job search, YOU are the product. And, you are the seller. You play a dual role. I hear you; that is exactly the situation you are dreading! Even the best sales people have a hard time selling themselves. Therefore, a good methodology is crucial. As a Relauncher, understanding the needs of your target audience, the employer, is critical to your marketing strategy. These needs are typically clearly outlined in the job description. You also want to have clarity about yourself to communicate the match between your skills, experience and personality and the company’s need.
Know Your Target Audience
Knowing your target audience starts with market research; understanding the players in the field, and how they differ from each other. Online research is a good start, and the next step is speaking to people already working in the field. These conversations, also known as informational interviews, are the first stage of networking. The information you gather will help you focus on the companies you are most interested in. You want to be able to fully articulate why you are drawn to these specific companies, which is often based on shared values or common goals. For example, a company may emphasize continuous learning, and you are looking for growth and intellectual stimulation. In addition to knowing the company really well, you also want to internalize the job description, as this communicates the company’s need. I recommend to explore the job description line by line and match each requirement with a proof, a story so to speak, illustrating how you can satisfy a specific prerequisite. The sum of this exercise shows why you are perfectly positioned for the job. If you feel you don’t have the exact experience the company is looking for, be creative. Look at your background through a different lens, as you may have transferable skills you can apply. A company is not only looking to hire someone who can do the job, they want a person who can play in the sandbox with them. Therefore, matching the company culture with your values emphasizes why you are a “good” fit.
Know Your Value Proposition
How can you stand out from your competition? You want to gain clarity about yourself, your values, interests, skills, experience, accomplishments and personality to determine how this combination of factors makes you uniquely qualified for the prospective position. This is your value proposition. To lead an authentic job search, you want to connect who you are with what you do; not only will you be better able to land a position, but also you will feel more engaged and happier later on in the job. As a Relauncher, you want to be aware of your transferable skills, often acquired during volunteer or leadership positions in a career break. Organization, writing, project management, communication, or leadership skills are all highly valued by hiring managers. In my work with Relaunchers, I often see that their more mature outlook can bring a level of wisdom and stability to companies. Relaunchers create diversity within a company, and research shows that a diverse employee force leads to better results. Lastly, a Relauncher often re-enters the workforce with a renewed enthusiasm for work, making you an even more attractive candidate. I typically recommend Relaunchers brush up on their technology skills, as a lack of technology is often seen as a weakness for this group. The iRelaunch excel classes are one of the many options for bridging this knowledge gap.
Your Marketing Materials
Once you have gained great insight in your ideal position and have reflected on your unique value proposition, it is time to develop your marketing materials. Your resume and LinkedIn profiles are key elements of your personal branding strategy and should clearly represent who you are. They are not just a historical compilation of experiences, but rather persuasive marketing tools connecting with the objectives you set for your career path. When you develop these materials, keep your audience – and your goal -- in mind. Although a resume can reach two pages in length, you must discern your myriad of work and leadership experiences as well as your personality into one clear vision. The recipient should be able to easily assess who you are and how your background and expertise matches the company and position you’re applying for. Each marketing tool you develop builds off of and supports the others; your LinkedIn profile, your resume, your cover letter, your online presence and your elevator pitch together bring out your personal brand.
Now that you have your marketing materials together, there are no more excuses - it is time for networking! This is another typical area for procrastination, as it is much easier to hide behind a computer than to go out there and feel vulnerable. I suggest you look at networking as “connecting with others” and see a job search as “a period of exploration.” Connecting with the people in your field of interest will be stimulating, and even fun. Your field of interest likely attracts people who have much in common with you, and therefore you are in for some interesting conversations. Connecting can be as simple as picking up the phone or sending an email that says: “Would you be willing to spend some time with me to tell me a bit more about the latest trends in the industry?” I am a big believer in informational interviews as this lowers the barrier for people to connect with you, and is in line with a time-honored piece of job-search wisdom: “When you ask for a job, you get advice. When you ask for advice, people will offer you a job.” If only it were that easy! But all kidding aside, informational interviews are the way to go in your job search!
The interview is where the rubber meets the road. This is the opportunity to present your case. Truly connecting with your interviewer is key. The best sales people are those who listen well. Contrary to common belief, interviewers are actually less interested in knowing your entire background and more interested in learning what it is you can do for them. The interview is a dialogue; the better you understand the employer’s needs, the better you can communicate how you are the person who can meet their needs. Story-telling, clarity and communication skills are crucial and preparation is key. The more you have done your homework on the company, the interviewer and the position, and why you are the right candidate, the more you have prepared thoughtful answers, the better you will be able to ace this last hurdle in the recruitment process.
The prospect of landing your ideal job in today’s market might feel daunting, particularly for Relaunchers. However, mastering the art of marketing yourself will help you significantly. Understanding your target audience and your value proposition, creating your marketing materials, and networking in your field are critical steps that will increase your confidence, clarify your strengths and focus your search – ultimately leading to a successful interview and a new job.