By Larry Linne, co-founder of Sitkins and co-author of Brand Aid: Take Control of Your Reputation – Before Everyone Else Does
Have you ever witnessed this situation? Perhaps even lived it? . . .
My niece came to me a year ago after graduating from college and asked me for help in finding a job. She wanted to get into sales or marketing. After three months spent sending resumes, filling out online resumes, and cold calling businesses, she had some interviews with terrible opportunities and no real career options. She was frustrated to realize how difficult it was to get someone to invest in her.
We went to dinner to discuss her next moves.
As I listened, I heard her say everything I would have expected a job seeker to say. She sounded just like anyone else looking for a job. I thought, “This is going to be a challenge for her to differentiate. The job market is tough today and why would anyone hire her?”
I also reflected on some of the seasoned sales people I know. They didn’t sound any different. We have been conditioned to say the same things to prospective employers.
Here is how I guided my niece through a successful job search:
I assigned her a project to create a marketing plan and sell a product. This gave her a chance to document her skills in action. Her plan needed to include the following:
- Define your product’s brand. What do you want the world to think when they hear your brand name? What does it promise? How is it different and valuable? How is it better than the competition? Why will a buyer decide she must have it?
- Create a proactive brand presence. Define the web and social media presence, visual appearance, and positive messaging. Describe these elements so they are clear to a buyer.
- Create a reactive brand presence. Where do people go to find products like this? What do they find when they get there – positive and negative? How will you get your brand there and how will it compare?
- Develop a marketing plan. Who is the competition? What is the buyers’ profile? What do they need and want? How will you describe your product to fill their need? What marketing strategies will you use?
- Develop a monitoring and accountability plan. How will you know which marketing strategies are working? How will you track progress toward goals?
When my niece finished hearing about this assignment, she was SOOO excited. She said she couldn’t wait to show me her skills. Then she asked, “Can I choose my product?”.
I told her “NO”. I informed her that the product was HER!
She leaned back and it hit her immediately. She is a brand just like the brands she wants to go market and sell. She could see herself in a whole different light. It was empowering to her and exciting, but a bit scary.
She immediately went to work and realized it was harder than it sounded. Viewing yourself as a brand is challenging.
How do you measure up when you reflect on your own personal brand?
Create Your Personal Brand
The reality in today’s world of personal branding is that we ALL have a brand. People in our culture research individuals before meeting them. They will investigate people before they are willing to trust them or spend time with them.
Our brand precedes our personal meetings. It creates our first impression. What will people think of you before they meet you? How will you be perceived from your LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, or Google search results?
My message is not as simple as fixing the social media in your life. You must be proactive in managing your brand, just like you would manage the brand of your most important product.
If someone asked you to take on the marketing and sales of the highest profit product in the business, would you just go look at and clean up the social media pages on it?
A better approach would be to follow these steps:
Define the brand. This is the start of brand management. You must decide what you want the world to think of you. A couple of great questions that will help you determine your brand:
What traits must I have to be considered capable in the career I am choosing? i.e. Smart, Loyal, hard working, etc.
What traits make me more valuable and differentiated but aren’t necessary to get the job? i.e. Thought leader, creative, innovative, analytical, etc.
Make sure all of your online profiles match with this brand.
I work with a lot of insurance agents in my business. They want to be different, unique, thought leaders, creative, and innovative. They say all these great words and build a brand that could actually differentiate them. But their LinkedIn page looks like a job resume for a traditional insurance agent – no differentiation, just a bunch of insurance experience and designations. The summary statement tells how they save people money on their insurance (commodity). The references are only from internal employees and family. That is worse than no references at all.
Design your online profiles to represent the brand you wish to convey. It will make a huge difference.
Build a marketing plan of how you would sell “you” to prospective companies. This could include letters, cold calls, presentations of your capabilities, referrals, social media communications, and much more. Get creative. How do you sell YOU?
My niece stopped applying to all of the online jobs that had been taking up her time, and instead, she created a target list of top companies that did what she wanted to do. She called these companies and asked for the decision maker. She informed them of who she was and why they needed to meet her and give her an opportunity. She made phone calls and sent customized letters to prospective companies.
Interestingly enough, the first company she went to ended up hiring her. After two weeks she ended up with multiple opportunities and liked her choices.
Multiple good job options is the dream for any job seeker. If you want a top job in the sales and marketing industry, you demonstrate your skills by how you market yourself. Treat yourself as a successful brand.
Larry G. Linne is one of the business world’s most innovative thinkers. Larry’s powerful thinking strategies combined with his broad and varied experiences has led to a successful, far-reaching career. From pro football player to industry leading sales manager to published author, his ideas have been implemented in businesses of all classifications, including small business and Fortune 100 companies.