Out-of-Work Marketers: Treat Your Job Search Like a Marketing Campaign
Many marketers reading this article are likely already unemployed, or in danger of being unemployed and on the path of a job search.
That’s the bad news.
But here’s the good news: Even though we’re not HR experts, marketers are better equipped to get that next job than people in many other professions – not to mention freelance, starting your own endeavors, etc. – because we have that fundamental skillset that is so critical for all this: Communication.
We’re seeking something of value – a job – and we need to communicate something of value in return – our ability to produce. It’s a classic example of a value exchange.
As with any value exchange, our communication and messaging skills can help the person on the other end of the transaction perceive value.
Yet, I’ve interviewed dozens – if not hundreds – of marketers and content folks, and I’ve been surprised at how rarely they apply those marketing skills to their job search. But I can empathize. I’m an introvert. It’s hard for me to sell myself. Oh, how I have longed for an agent (or even better a hype man) in an interview. But difficult or not, that is the task at hand.
Because you might be unemployed, but you still have a product to sell. You can see that product in the mirror every day. Here are eight tips for treating your job search like a kick-butt marketing campaign to help you land a great job (and hopefully have some fun while doing it).
Tip No. 1: Create a Personal Value Proposition
This is one of the best and worst interview questions I’ve gotten in my career: “Why should I hire you instead of anyone else I interviewed?”
At the time I thought it was the worst question. I was thinking, “How should I know? I don’t know who else you interviewed. Did you interview Lee Clow? Alex Bogusky? You should probably hire them instead of me.”
But it was a great question because she verbalized what everyone else interviewing me was really thinking (if only we could always get the buyer to verbalize their internal monologue, marketing would be so much easier).
What she was essentially asking me is this: What is your value proposition in the marketplace? I’ve got other options, why choose you?
The first step in your marketing should be creating a clear and forceful value proposition. And the first step in your job search should be creating a personal value proposition.
While losing your job can be difficult, it does give you the opportunity to pause for a minute and really understand what value you provide in the world and where you want to provide that value.
For example, an important element in a value proposition workshop for a brand or product is identifying the ideal customer. A product can’t win in the marketplace by trying to be everything to everyone. Who is the ideal customer for this product?
In your case, the ideal customer is the company, industry, or people you want to work with and for. Perhaps you decide you want to move to a new industry or different type of job, but don’t have a strong personal value prop there yet. That is an opportunity to identify your gaps and determine how to strengthen those areas.
If seeking a job in a new industry, build a new network. It is hard to do that in person these days, but social media may be more effective now than ever. “Busy leaders in a company that normally might only sporadically indulge in social media, now have the time,” Joe Mullings told me in the article The Hidden Upside of the COVID-19 Crisis for Brands and Marketers: 10 opportunities.
Tip No. 2: Ensure You Have a Unique Brand Name
I did not enjoy having the name Daniel Burstein when I was growing up. Oh why couldn’t I be John Smith or Fred Jones some common name that everyone easily understand.
And then came search engines and social media.
Now I’m thankful for the name Daniel Burstein.
If you have pretty common name, add something to it so you can be found easily online. I can’t tell you how many times I read a great article or quote from someone that I want to share on social media and @ mention, but did not know which Mary Williams was the right one.
Remember, you are the product. And you are the brand. If you were engaged in a branding project, you would create a unique name. It’s why there are Altrias and Accentures and so many companies ending with the -ly prefix. These are made up words, but they are unique.
I’m not suggesting you change your name to Fredly or a word with a bunch of vowels that sounds smooth. But there’s a reason why marketing strategist David Meerman Scott doesn’t call himself David Scott.
Even for me, with a fairly unique name, I choose to go by Daniel Burstein. Why? Because there is an author named Dan Burstein, and a Broadway start named Danny Burstein. So I go by Daniel to have a unique brand name.
Tip No. 3: Research Your Ideal Customer
Who are the influencers (your future peers) and decision makers (your future boss) you will come across as you pursue this type of job?
LinkedIn, Twitter, Google News, and even simple web searches give you the ability to better understand your ideal customers. Do you know anyone – either personally or professionally – that has one of these roles? Hop on the phone and ask if you can pick their brain (or perhaps at some point in the future, go out and have a cup of coffee with them).
Create a rudimentary customer persona. I’m not saying you need to go all out like you would for a major marketing campaign, but at least have a basic understanding of them. The key to marketing is understanding the other person – not just writing to a general person, but really getting a sense of what drives them and matters to them.
Conduct more specific research before an actual interview, as well. If you want to go deep, dive into a company’s earnings reports, reporting from financial analysts, or industry and general news. But at the very least, go to the website. While I’ll admit the MECLABS Institute website isn’t as clear as a website for an electric utility or a carmaker, in some job interviews I could tell the candidate hadn’t even visited the website before the interview. “I’ve always wanted to work in the medical industry …”
Also see what you can do to research the people who will interview you. Don’t be creepy and stalk people, but see what you can learn. For one job I pursued earlier in my career, I could see on LinkedIn that the people interviewing me had changed job titles a few times at that company, encouraging me that this was a place I could grow my career and not be stuck in one position.
Tip No. 4: Express Your Value Proposition
Now that you’ve identified your value prop, chosen your unique brand, and understand your ideal customer – express your value proposition.
Just because everyone else puts “Marketing Rockstar” on their LinkedIn profile, doesn’t mean you have to.
What about you? How would you express your value?
Even your resume is a marketing document. How does it express your unique value proposition? Don’t just grab an online template. Your resume shouldn’t be the same as an IT manager or supply chain logistics analyst. Make it your own (but keep in mind Tip #6).
Tip No. 5: Map Out the Funnel
Getting a job is not an impulse buy. You must understand the job search and the journey it can be.
What conclusions do you need HR screeners, future peers, and the ultimate hiring manager to conclude each step along the way? Map out a prospect conclusion funnel and make sure you help those key people reach those conclusions.
Tip No. 6: Applicant Tracking Systems Are Like SEO
Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) can seem scary. Do they reject your resume before an actual human even puts eyes on it?
I’m not an HR expert, but to me, applicant tracking systems aren’t entirely foreign. They remind me of SEO.
You have to optimize for an algorithm. And one of the ways to do that is with the right keyword placement and making sure your text is readable by a machine (mostly a concern for art directors or graphic designers who might choose to make a creative resume that is image based).
Also, you might want to modify that resume based on the job description – just like you would create targeted landing pages for an inbound SEO campaign.
Tip No. 7: Show, Don’t Tell
This famous writer’s maxim is very applicable to a job search and the subsequent interviews.
I conducted so many interviews where people told me, “I’m very reliable. I always hit deadlines. I’m a team player. Etc. Etc.”
I mean, maybe they are, right? But would they really sit there in the interview and tell me, “I’m not very reliable. I rarely hit deadlines. I don’t like other people.”?
As in marketing, specificity converts in a job interview.
So, give specific examples of how you were reliable, hit deadlines, were a team player.
Also, as in marketing, don’t hype. No one always hits deadlines. At least, not if they have any significant volume of work. Instead share an example of how you hit deadlines, and then give an example of how you handled a situation where you couldn’t hit a deadline.
Stuff will go wrong in any job. No one’s perfect. Better to admit your flaws and explain how you worked to overcome them or lessons you took from those situations to improve.
Tip No. 8: Serve, Don’t Sell
This last tip is more about a state of mind. You might not have this hangup, but like I said, I’m an introvert. Despite using the word “sell” so many times at the beginning of this article, I don’t like selling myself. And so I struggled at first.
And then I came to a realization.
The same realization I came to about marketing. This is far more fun for me if I go into it trying to serve the person on the other end of the transaction (it’s why I love content marketing so much).
Help hiring managers and others your job search process make the best decision about you. This may mean there are some companies that shouldn’t hire you, and you should help them discover that.
Because at the end of the day, your KPI should not be getting hired. It should be having a successful engagement with the company where you provide value and derive income and some modicum of pleasure from the job.
Finding that good job may be more difficult than ever these days. But by using your marketing skills and treating yourself like the product, you will have a leg up in the marketplace.
Daniel Burstein is the Senior Director, Content and Marketing at MECLABS Institute. Daniel oversees all content and marketing coming from the MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa brands while helping to shape the marketing direction for MECLABS — digging for actionable discoveries while serving as an advocate for the audience.