This week I was in the audience at a Pennsylvania Career Development Association (PACDA) Zoom panel on job search strategy. One of the speakers, Curtis Jenkins, a project management consultant and “Visionaire,” pointed out something we’ve believed for a long time—job search is a sales and marketing process. Job seekers have to market their services to their customers—their prospective employers.
That means we have to look at the job search challenge from the marketing and sales person’s point of view. This may sound frightening to job seekers that feel they have never had to sell anything. In fact, most of us use sales and marketing techniques to persuade others at our jobs every day.
Let’s look at basic sales ideas. Then we’ll show you how they relate to what all of us do.
The four concepts marketers talk about are:
- Position, and
Curtis’s presentation translated each marketing concept to the job seeker’s perspective. We’ll add our own observations to the information below, too.
The service you offer a prospective employer is your product. So, in marketing terms, for example, I help clients who are accountants market and sell their accounting services when I collaborate with them on resumes. This is a novel idea for those of us that have been salaried employees for much of our careers.
Marketing our service is not an analogy. This is what we are doing when we create and implement a job search strategy. Our resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile and related job search documents are “sales brochures” for our product.
The price of our product is the salary employers pay us. Some of us are accustomed to being offered a salary, rather than thinking in terms of quoting a price we are charging for our product. Nonetheless, we are naming our price when employers ask us what salary we are seeking.
Think about what happens when you buy certain products online. Web sites may not show you their pricing plans until you have gone through much of the purchase process, such as creating an account on their site, and providing a variety of other information. Then, the site displays a page with pricing plans, and have presumably fallen in love with the product.
Many career coaches recommend delaying salary negotiation as long as possible. Let the prospective employer decide their company must have your service, and then name your price.
Of course, most of us have been asked our salary requirements early in the screening process. Administrative staff have screened me with this question when they have called to make an appointment, and have refused to set the appointment without a response.
Quoting a salary range is analogous, in my view, to what happens when you call a restaurant and ask for their prices. They will normally respond with a range of prices such as $14.95 to #39.95.
We taught clients at an employment program where I coached that the initial call is “just a conversation.” You are not negotiating salary. Our response can change when the prospective employer makes an offer.
Marketers talk about putting the product in a place where consumers will see it most easily. For example, candy will be found on a low shelf at the store where children will spot their favorites.
Similarly, according to Curtis and other coaches, job seekers that put themselves in positions where prospective employers can see them will get results. Volunteer to do relevant work with a professional association or non-profit organization so you interact with people in your field. Attend professional events. Personally, I’ve found opportunities twice as a result of volunteer work, and once at a professional luncheon. (My two other long-term jobs resulted from referrals through my network.)
Much of what we do in conventional job search falls into the promotion category. We create advertisements in the form of promotional LinkedIn pages, including testimonials, for ourselves. Our resumes serve as brochures, and our cover letters are promotional sales letters.
Intuitively, we know that we do not buy big ticket items or services based solely on the ad or brochure, so why should a prospective employer buy our product based solely on our advertising? We have to define our product—job target–, and position ourselves where prospective “customers” will see us.
“But I’ve never sold anything before.”
A big challenge, I pointed out to Curtis, is that most of us are not trained or experienced sales people. Those of us that have worked in large, bureaucratic, organizations—Fortune 500 corporations, large non-profits, and public agencies—were never asked to sell anything. Either others sell our service for us, or, as happens in the public sector, consumers could be mandated to use the service.
Curtis pointed out that we all sell. For example, we pitch projects to our bosses and quote prices for the projects in the form of a budget. We write promotional materials in the form of project proposals. Often, we jockey for positions in the organization where we will be noticed and given opportunities for interesting assignments. So, selling may not be as alien to us as we think it is.
Market your product. You will sell it!