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Common Questions and Answers
The job market today is highly competitive. If you are to stand out from all the other applicants, you must find a way to differentiate yourself from the competition.
Establishing a unique personal brand can give you the leg up you need in the job market.
The 24Ps of self-marketing can help put you on the right track to building an unforgettable personal brand.
Employers today are looking for employees that possess good people skills, are good communicators, highly skilled, knowledgeable, team-oriented, problem solvers, and can produce results faster with peak efficiency and minimum to no supervision. To sum up, employers are looking for leaders. In today’s job market, we can no longer neglect our personal brands as if they don’t exist. In reality, everyone already has a brand –a perception that you have embedded in the minds of every person whom you have ever come in contact. As soon as you walk into a room, your brand is being put on full display. When you meet someone new, they automatically begin to form an opinion about you. You’re transmitting your brand even if you don’t realize it. Building your personal brand is important no matter what industry you’re in and can be the difference between whether you secure that next dream job opportunity or not. Your personal brand should communicate to future employers what makes you unique and special, that is, what differentiates you from the rest of the competition in the marketplace. The truth of the matter is that there are countless people with the same skills that you have or better all competing for the same job. You have to make yourself stand out in the crowd.
Many times when people talk about self-marketing, McCarthy’s (1964) 4Ps of marketing or the marketing mix will often come up. When we think of the marketing mix, we tend to generally associate it with the marketing of a product or service. The components of the marketing mix have been applied to the marketing of self and used to explain personal branding. Thus, there’s no better place to start than with the marketing mix when discussing how to build your personal brand. Here, I build upon McCarthy’s (1964) marketing mix and explain that there are essentially 24Ps of self-marketing which include the original or traditional 4Ps of the marketing mix (i.e., product, price, place, promotion) and twenty additional Ps that I feel have relevance to self-marketing.
Figure 1. The 24 Ps of Self-Marketing
1. P is for Product
The first P of self-marketing is also the first P of the marketing mix which is the product. The product here, of course, is you. Simply put, it’s the knowledge, expertise, and advanced skills (e.g., leadership, managerial, interpersonal, technological, analytical, and etc.) that you have acquired that make you stand out from the competition. The knowledge and skills could be obtained from spending many years in the classroom and earning advanced degrees and certifications or it could be from working in the field and on the job training or a combination of both. To make a strong product, you should always be working on ways that you can better yourself and strengthen those areas where you are weakest. For example, if your profession requires that you have strong presentation skills or work closely with people and clients, you should be working on ways that you can build your interpersonal and presentation skills. The point is to make your product, that package that is you, such a find and great deal that it can’t easily be replicated. Remember, employers don’t just want to know about the skills that you possess or how educated you are. They’re more interested in your accomplishments, which should be highlighted on your resume. They want to know what it is that you can do for them to make their company more successful, that is, how can you help them make and save money.
2. P is for Plan
You must have a plan in place when self-marketing. You cannot just go out on a whelm. Planning includes generating a list of potential employers, researching jobs, picking out professional attire for job interviews, making copies of your resumes, attending job fairs, and etc. Just like much research and planning goes into the launch of a new product so must you plan for your big reveal in the job market.
3. P is for Positioning
Just like a product must be positioned well in the market in order to be successful so must you. First, you must determine what skills are desired in your market. Next, you must determine whether you possess the needed skills and education demanded. Positioning in self-marketing involves distinguishing yourself from the competition. It is critical that you know where you fit in the market. This requires knowing your strengths and weaknesses. Self-assessments and evaluations are pivotal.
4. P is for Proposition
Ask yourself, what is your value proposition (VP) –how will you create value for your future employer and co-workers? How will you help your employer solve a problem? Are the skills that you now possess in high demand in the market? If not, what can you do to offer a better product, that is, what can you do to make yourself appear more competitive, in your market? Certifications and additional training may help to increase your value proposition and differentiate you from the competition.
5. P is Performance
Your resume or curriculum vitae (CV) is instrumental in helping you relay to future employers your value proposition. Resumes should include more than just a job description or a list of functions that you have performed on a job. As previously mentioned, it should highlight your accomplishments. As a rule, use action verbs when describing your accomplishments on your resume. Think outcome and results driven when constructing your resume. Be sure to include measurable results. For example, instead of listing implemented a marketing strategy as a job function, try instead implemented a marketing strategy that resulted in 20% increase in new client sales. The outcome will be remarkable.
6. P is for Promise
Your resume is communicating a promise to employers. You are promising that you can do the job efficiently. You are promising quality and that you can do the job required of you. Be committed and stand by your word.
7. P is for Principle
Be honest with your description of your abilities, skills, and other competencies that you possess. Also be honest about whether or not you will be able to meet the requirements of the job. If a job requires that you work weekends or on holidays be honest about whether or not you will be able to meet the requirement/ obligations. Don’t waste your or your future employer’s time by exaggerating your capabilities. Too many times, applicants halfheartedly commit to time promises and then fail to meet those agreed upon days and times due to religious reasons, family commitments, or other commitments. If you can’t do something be honest about it.
Also, make sure that the principles that you hold dear are also the same principles that your employer values. It is essential that you share the principles of the company. How can you truly become a valuable member of a team if you don’t believe in what your company stands for?
8. P is for Price
Price is one of the original 4Ps of McCarthy’s (1964) marketing mix. What are you worth, really? You should be asking yourself this very question. Put a value on your time, your expertise, knowledge, and know how. Your price includes much more than just the salary you are paid. Other items to consider are the benefits and perks offered by the job. These benefits may include health insurance, dental, vision, life insurance, child care, retirement, paid time off, sick leave, and even fitness– benefits not typically required but given because employers may feel it’s their social responsibility. Other benefits to consider are other forms of compensation such as whether your job offers a commission for sales on top of regular pay or other perks such as expense reimbursement, bonuses, and continuing education reimbursement. Don’t sell yourself short. Know your worth.
9. P is for Place
Place is yet another oldie but goodie in McCarthy’s (1964) marketing mix. When I say place what I’m really thinking about/ referring to is accessibility. How can you make yourself accessible in the market? Memberships in professional societies, associations, or organizations centered around your area of interests, your industry or profession are great ways to network and form connections. These professional societies throughout the year will have conferences, summits, workshops, and other events that will allow you to connect with like-minded individuals. These networking opportunities can be important for your job search and is a great way to get yourself on the market. You may even have a chance to get your resume or curriculum vitae in the hand of a potential employer or two.
10. P is for Promotion
Resume and CVs. Resumes are used by employers to screen potential candidates to determine whether they are a good fit for a company or organization. Your resume may be the single most important promotional tool that you’ll use to market yourself to potential employers. Your resume introduces you to your employer. Make sure it communicates to employers the message you intend to send.
Professional Associations. You have to get out there and sell, sell, sell. It is perfectly acceptable to bring business cards and your resume with you to academic and professional conferences and seminars. In fact, I suggest you bring more than one copy. As aforementioned, you never know who you may form a connection with while attending one of these events. You never know when an opportunity may present itself. Word to the wise, remember not to be too overly aggressive when handing out your business card or resume or you may come across as seeming too overly eager or desperate.
The Internet and Social Media. The Internet is a wonderful vehicle to market yourself to potential employers, especially social media. Blogs, and social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook, for example, can help you promote yourself and your skills and accomplishments in the market but a few words to the wise about using social media. Content is essential. Make sure posts are written well and free of grammatical errors. If the type of job that you are interested in require that you write well, which is virtually every job today, double check your spelling or use spellcheck and proofread for word choice usage and other language problems before you post. Employers that may see your posts will not want to hire someone that makes extensive grammatical errors when writing. Remember, you’re trying to prove to future employers that you’ll be a valuable asset to the company. Also avoid using abbreviations that are not well known and yes, even acronyms in your posts. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone today knows what LOL stands for and that BBL is the acronym for “be back later” and YW for “you are welcome.” Colloquialisms and slang, equally, should never be used in your posts at all. While these expressions or phrases may be considered the norm for talking with family and friends and may even be considered the societal norm, future employers might not appreciate your use of such informal speech. Remember employers are looking for future employees that are professional, articulate, possess strong communication and writing skills. The use of slang and acronyms will not help your case that you possess advanced writing skills with a potential future employer. Finally, be careful what you include on your social media sites. Only include positive posts with positive messages and images. Messages that are always negative may paint a picture of you as a pessimist. Employers might jump to the conclusion that you are not a team player. Employers seek employees that have an optimistic viewpoint and upbeat personalities. Let’s be honest, would you really want to work with someone that is negative all the time? Also, be wary of posts that make you sound or look unprofessional. Be careful of the types of photos you put on display in social media. Photos were you are dressed unprofessionally (e.g. scantily clad) or guzzling down beer at a beer drinking contest are not appropriate. They can have a negative impact on your chances of getting a job, especially if a future employer sees them.
11. P is for Participation
Although product, price, place, and promotion are important aspects of self-marketing, participation may be considered equally as important. Get involved. Seminars, conferences, physical workshops, and professional memberships in career or your profession related organizations are not only great ways to network and form connections but excellent opportunities for you to show off your skills and expertise to future employers. Don’t let these opportunities pass you by. Lead workshops, give presentations, and volunteer. The more you’re involved, the more likely you are to form professional connections and that gets you a step closer to landing that dream job. Also, by leading workshops, it shows future employers that you have drive and are a leader and depending on the subject matter of the workshop or presentation, it validates your claim that you are an expert in your field or have obtained advanced knowledge. Also, by leading workshops and giving presentations you can further develop your public speaking skills and interpersonal skills which makes you that more valuable to your future employer.
12. P is for Presentation
I know we’ve all heard the idiom, “you can’t judge a book by its cover.” Although this saying is true, that’s not always the case. That’s exactly what future employers and everyone you’ll ever first encounter will do, whether they are aware of it or not. How you present yourself to others is important. Have you ever heard the saying, dress for the position that you want not the position that you have? What this means is that you should always be looking towards the future. Dress for where you want to be–the future position you see yourself. In other words, always dress for success, especially when the occasion calls for it and when there’s a good chance that you’ll encounter people that may be essential to your career goals.
The old adage, “you never get a second chance to make another good first impression” is also correct. First impressions are lasting and they are everything. The first impression creates a lasting memory of you to others, whether positive or negative, it depends totally on you. Remember, you could have this wonderful package all tied up with a beautiful silk bow but if you don’t communicate well your value proposition, exude confidence, and be articulate, then there’s a good chance that your chances of landing that dream job and any future prospects will be significantly minimized.
13. P is for Professionalism
The next P in the 24Ps of self-marketing stands for professionalism. Professionalism is much more than how you dress. That’s why professionalism was given its own P. You might be thinking, professionalism, well that’s a given. But, how many horror stories have we heard of top executives that have conducted themselves in anything but a professional manner. You often hear of office horror stories where an employee or even a manager or supervisor may have had too much to drink at a holiday party that didn’t end well. You should always conduct yourself professionally. Professionalism means that you are responsible, respectful, that you show integrity, and hold yourself accountable. Professionalism also means that you are courteous, approachable, trustworthy, and dependable. When you are professional, others take notice and in the job market that makes you valuable.
14. P is for Proactive
Show initiative. You just don’t wait for good things to happen. You create opportunities. Take the proactive approach. Open doors, don’t wait for someone else to open a door for you.
15. P is for Patience
Exhibit self-control. It can be a waiting game hearing back from potential employers. Don’t constantly call or e-mail future employers about updates regarding your application status or if you have already had an interview with the employer, an update on where you stand among the other applicants or where you are in the hiring process. It can be annoying. It’s perfectly okay to follow up with a potential employer by sending a thank you e-mail or note after you have had an interview but leave it at that. You are not going to get anywhere fast by bombarding or constantly flooding potential employers inboxes with messages or constantly making phone calls. Remember earlier when I warned you about being too aggressive when handing out business cards. I even went as far as to call the act, dare I say it again, an act of desperation. Well, you’re about to hear it again. Doing so can be seen or may be construed as an act of desperation on your part. There’s a difference between being assertive and pushy. Be patient. Patience, however, doesn’t mean that you wait around and twiddle your thumbs. You should always be thinking ahead –about your next move –about the next job opportunity. Continue your job search. Continue attending workshops and conferences that will enhance your knowledge and skills. Continue going on job interviews. Keep pressing forward while you wait.
16. P is for Prospecting
In prospecting, sales personnel look for new customers to offer their products or services to. In personal branding, if the fish aren’t taking the bait, so to speak, then it may be time for you to try some new waters. Try venturing into rougher waters or rather narrow your focus. Try smaller companies in order to get your foot in the door. They may not be the Fortune 500 company you always dreamed of working for but you can gain some valuable experience by working for these smaller companies. If you’re a recent Ph.D. graduate, for example, and wish to work in the education field, try some of the smaller less well-known colleges, trade schools or community colleges where you can gain teaching experience. The key is to not give up. There’s nothing wrong with starting small and then working your way up. Remember, it’s competitive out there. Not only are you contending with new undergraduate and graduate students but highly skilled and educated global candidates as well as seasoned candidates, some with 10, 20, or more years of experience. There’s a very real possibility that you may not land the job you want at first but in time your dream will become a reality.
17. P is for Persistence
Stay persistent. Brand awareness is important. You need to keep pitching your marketing message. The more you put your message out in the job market, the more likely it will be received.
18. P is for Positivity
Having a positive attitude and outlook is not only psychologically healthy but healthy for you physically. Not only will you look and feel your best but you’ll be able to handle let down with more ease. Also, people are likely to notice your sunny disposition, which can be beneficial to your future career outlook.
19. P is for Personable
Recruiters or hiring managers are more likely to favor applicants that they find to be approachable and personable. Having an agreeable or pleasing personality can really help you to stand out among the other candidates and can help you to create that favorable first impression.
20. P is for Passionate
Make sure that you are passionate about the career that you have chosen for yourself. You can’t sell your brand to a future employer if you don’t really believe in the product you’re selling yourself.
21. P is for Potential
Know your potential and make sure that you relay it in your marketing message to future employers.
22. P is for Planting
You have to plant your marketing message in the minds of future employers. This involves much more than just submitting your resume for consideration or filling out a job application. Make sure that future employers know that you are available. Post your resume or curriculum vitae (CV) online. The more exposure, the better. Also once you finally do get an interview follow up with a thank you letter that makes sure that the employer remembers you. You can touch briefly on some of the topics you discussed or reaffirm how you can be of value to the company. The idea here is to plant your message so that you won’t get drowned out by all the other applicants.
23. P is for Psychology
Psychology is the study of people, their behavior, and actions. At the core of every marketing decision is people. So, it should be no surprise that psychology would make it as a P of self-marketing. Develop a deeper understanding of what future employers want and what it is that will make them make a hire decision in your favor.
24. P is for Perseverance
The final P in the 24Ps of self-marketing stands for perseverance. Press forward no matter what. Be determined and don’t lose sight of your goal. There will undoubtedly be ups and downs as you market your personal brand. Stay on course and you will achieve success.
When you view yourself as a product in high demand, it’s easy to determine what it is that you need in order to sell yourself, figuratively speaking. By thinking of yourself as a product, you’ll be able to create your personal brand. And like any product you should always be looking for ways to add value to the customer, which in this case, is your future employer. Remembering the 24Ps of self-marketing will help put you on the right track to building your personal brand.
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