If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I take a big interest in small business & entrepreneurship as well. I thrive on understanding what breeds the entrepreneurial bug in people, what pushes them to make the transition from employee to entrepreneur and how the actions we take early on set some people up for success, and other for, well, not the success. It’s so heavily about brands – creating a brand with buzz, that’s visually appealing, speaks to its audience’s challenges, needs, wants and interests, and as such delivers a specific value that allows it to carve its place into the marketplace. And when done right, all of that is worth moola!
Do you know what else I dig? Career management is very similar to building and running a business. It sounds informal as heck, but you really are a brand, in the sense that you have unique value to offer, and the trick is in how you position and communicate that value to get the right people to pay for it. If you want to propel your career, you know well enough that you need certain things to help you move along, like a solid resume/cover letter/digital presence (I call it a Brand Portfolio), excellent interviewing skills, the ability to recognize obvious and not-so-obvious networking opportunities, a fab portfolio if you’re a creative, etc. And the meat that makes up all those tools is your brand – who you are, what you do, what you have to offer, what it’s worth, and how you say it.
Let’s attack that for a second and look at how we position and market ourselves within the career-scape, and apply some of those basic business brand principles to it.
Who Are You?
There are a million other voices of career management out there, so why are you reading MY newsletter? Because I’ve established who I am to you, and whatever I said hit a relevant note and generated your interest. The answer I’m looking for from you is more along the lines of who you are on a professional scale, and what that means for me as your potential employer. “I’m Dana Leavy-Detrick, a professional resume writer & career consultant who approaches career management with an entrepreneurial mindset.” Hmm, that’s interesting, tell me more.
What Do You Do?
You’d be surprised how many clients totally dismiss this question when I’m consulting with them on the phone, and I ask them about their “day to day skills and strengths” that they bring to the table. Everyone jumps to the deep stuff – “I’m dependable, resourceful, creative – I know how to get things done under tight deadlines and for virtually no budget.” But they don’t tell me what they’re good at doing day to day! Do you work closely with clients, building and nurturing those relationships, delivering stellar sales presentations, knocking the socks off the creative director with your ability to take a concept out of your head and put it onto paper as a mockup? Communicate clearly what you do, not just what I should be impressed with, because that’s the first sign that I’m looking for that you can actually do the job.
What Do You Have to Offer?
Now here’s where we get creative on that last bit and take it to the next level. You’ve established that you’re a strong sales person, or art director, and you can do the everyday stuff, and do it well. Now, what makes you unique versus your colleagues and competition who maybe have similar backgrounds, job titles or responsibilities? And the more you can relate this to the job or company at hand, the better. You might even think about culture fit as well – what really makes you an extraordinary fit for the company itself? Perhaps you’re not afraid to jump in and put your ideas on the line, and you’ve demonstrated that when your superior left suddenly, and you jumped in without being asked and showed initiative. Or even though your sales territory is limited to X, you have a book full of contacts in another city and some great ideas on how you could help the company expand its market if you were to be brought on board and given the opportunity.
What Is it Worth?
The same way you would charge a premium for your products and service as a business based on a number of important variables (overhead, production/manufacturing, labor, etc.), you are charging for your services as a professional in your field. What is the service you’re providing worth? And whether you gather this number from your own earning track record, knowledge of what your colleagues are making, competitive salary data, you have to know what you’re worth and have the confidence to say it. In my experience, most companies have a range for positions, a high and low end, and they expect people to vary. And also in my experience, even if they have a set figure, there’s often “wiggle room” for the right person, so don’t worry about over-quoting. At the worst, they’ll just try to talk you down.
How You Say It
The copy you write around your products and services is nearly as important as the product itself, in business. If you have a great product, but your sales page sucks, nobody is going to buy from you, because they don’t feel confident in the potential return on the investment they’re making. The same goes for your career. Be clear in your selling message to potential employers – tell them openly, honestly, confidently and clearly, what you do, what’s unique about what you have to offer, why is it of value to them specifically (why should they invest), and how much should they invest in you?
Your job search is your personal advertising campaign, and in the words of Fred Astaire, “Do it big, do it right, and do it in style.” At the very least, do it right. Thinking like a business can help you better understand how to build, market and strengthen your own brand. And strong, interesting, desirable brands…sell!