A lot of folks say that the way to ensure success when looking for a new position is to make it your full-time job. However, there’s more to it than that. Whether you are currently working or are unemployed, the key to landing that next great opportunity is marketability. There are a few strategies that everyone can utilize to increase their marketability and remain competitive in the job market regardless of whether they are recent graduates, experienced professionals, or individuals seeking to change careers.
- Identify Your Goals and Professional Objective: Before even beginning to look for open positions or attempting to market yourself, you must determine what you are working and marketing yourself for. Job seekers that can clearly relay their individual objectives are often more attractive to potential employers. It’s most beneficial to utilize the SMART method when creating goals. In other words, make sure that it is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Once you have defined what you’re striving for you can go about formulating a plan to reach that goal.
- Research Your Competition and the Employment Climate: After determining your objective, there is further preparation to be done before you can begin to establish a marketing strategy. You will need to take stock of the employment landscape. This includes investigating the types of positions that are open in your particular area, which employers are hiring, what skills are in demand, and how much new hires are being compensated. In addition to keeping up to date on your industry, you need to know how you match up against the competition. One way of doing this is by following some of your target companies on Twitter and checking in to see what types of professionals they are hiring in your field. Another way to evaluate how you hold up in the job market is to conduct an honest strengths and weaknesses analysis on yourself. Identify what you do well and your strongest areas of expertise as well as what you need to improve. Follow that by noting trends that may affect you and your career. Is there a key software program that you’re not familiar with? Is your field in danger of becoming obsolete? Is there a company or individual that is truly innovative and making significant strides in your industry? Answering these questions will help you pinpoint your weaknesses and the companies you should target in your search.
- Determine Your Target Markets and Develop a Marketing Strategy: Once you have identified your ultimate goal, surveyed the employment landscape, and determined how you stack up against the competition you can begin to construct your own job search marketing strategy. The first step is to define your target markets/companies by asking yourself who needs the skills you have to offer and where your capabilities are most in demand. This will give your strategy the direction it needs and will be critical to your success. Creating an effective plan to market yourself will require specific actions which may include volunteering for cross-functional teams and/or companywide task forces to receive exposure to other areas of your field/industry, sharing ideas with other professionals in your field and soliciting their advice to broaden your own knowledge base, taking on leadership roles in professional organizations, attending conferences and continuing education seminars/workshops (more on this in a moment), authoring materials for company or professional publications, and creating/facilitating presentations on industry topics. All of these activities will not only help to increase your capabilities and expertise but will also expose you to new colleagues and experiences that will boost your marketability.
- Learn New Skills: Adding to your professional toolbox and expanding upon your existing expertise is key to ensuring that you remain marketable and competitive in your chosen field or industry. Although it will most likely require some out of pocket expense, it’s important to keep in mind that any money spent on professional development is an investment in your future, especially if you are in a field that is constantly evolving or if your competition is primarily younger workers who are undoubtedly up to date on emerging trends and new technologies. Keep apprised of seminars and workshops being offered by professional organizations you belong to, review training programs offered by your local community college, and be on the lookout for any Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) that may be relevant to your field. The great thing about MOOCs is that they are often free and can be completed on your schedule depending upon how they are structured.
- Create an Online Presence and Network with Fellow Professionals: Networking plays a vital role in today’s job search and it doesn’t just happen in person. Social media sites have become an essential resource for job seekers and most recruiters visit sites like LinkedIn to source passive candidates for open positions. It is imperative that you review your online presence and make sure that the information available to the public is a proper reflection of your professional personality and your career highlights are easily accessible. As important as social media and online networking has become there is still a place for face-to-face interaction, so keep in touch with your colleagues, friends, and previous business partners, join professional organizations, and attend industry conferences to meet new people and get your name out there.
Most people are uncomfortable with the thought of marketing themselves, but there is more to it than thinking of yourself as a product, commodity, or service. As a professional in the modern employment market, it’s important to utilize all the resources at your disposal. By defining your ultimate goals, taking stock of what you have to offer and what the competition is up to, identifying your target markets, learning new skills, and networking both on and off line, you can be confident that your job search will be a success and you will find the opportunity that is right for you.
Career Vision / Ball Foundation— 8 Steps to Marketing Yourself in Today’s Economy
Liz Ryan— 6 Ways to Stay Relevant in the Current Job Market
Miriam Salpeter— The Nuances of Job-Seeking While You’re Employed