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I was painting myself into a career corner, effectively cutting myself off from possible career paths I should have been exploring more fully.

In the context of job hunting, it is very good advice to not sell yourself short. Job hunting is indeed a sales campaign. You need to know the features and benefits of the product you are selling, namely You. You need to be able to communicate your strengths to others, and relate your capabilities to the needs of hiring managers you will meet.

Yet, how many job hunters know anything at all about sales & marketing? Unless you came from that field, the answer probably is “Not so much.”

There is a marketing guru here in the New York area whose funny tagline is “Your marketing sucks.” I’m sure he’s right.

I had a cup of coffee with a friend, talking about today’s job search and more specifically our respective marketing efforts. I am not a marketing guy. He is. His comment was that success is 90% marketing. When I asked him to break it down for me, here is what he offered:

Marketing is getting noticed by the people who can hire you.

Marketing is demonstrating to them that you are the answer to the problems they need solved.

Marketing is making it very clear that you are the right person for the assignment.

When I asked if he could be more specific, he said he is writing a book and did not want to give away his formula. But he did add this:

You have to shift your thinking. Essentially, you must create your own marketplace by approaching employers that you have identified as your targets and offering specific solutions to their problems.

So how do you get started on this? Another friend of mine said to me, “Terry, I am of the old school that says the best marketing is a damn good product or service.” He reminded me of a classic model that pinpoints the four steps in any marketing effort:

1) Identify a list of the potential customers with a high likelihood of need for your product or service.

2) Develop a relationship with someone in each company. (Using your network, as well as LinkedIn, can help here.)

3) Show them what you can do, even if it is done for free at first. Deliver with excellence.

4) Sell them on hiring you as the solution to their problems.

Four steps seems easy, right. It isn’t. Especially if marketing is not your area of expertise. Some experts say that marketing to one client can take years of effort to win a sale. If you are a job hunter in this economy, you don’t have years. You need work now. So the question becomes, How can you take these concepts of marketing and accelerate the process?

In 1997, the management guru Tom Peters wrote a classic article for Fast Company about marketing entitled “The Brand Called You.” Many of his ideas are just as relevant today as ever. For example:

“The good news — and it is largely good news — is that everyone has a chance to stand out. Everyone has a chance to learn, improve, and build up their skills. Everyone has a chance to be a brand worthy of remark.”

“Starting today, you are a brand. What is it that (your) product or service does that makes it different? Give yourself the traditional 15-words-or-less contest challenge. Take the time to write down your answer. And then take the time to read it. Several times.”

“Start by identifying the qualities or characteristics that make you distinctive from your competitors — or your colleagues. What have you done lately — this week — to make yourself stand out? What would your colleagues or your customers say is your greatest and clearest strength? Your most noteworthy (as in, worthy of note) personal trait?”

Though these words still ring true today, let’s update his article a bit. Each of the following four strategies is an essential element in your marketing plan.

Your Team – Who is on your team? What? You don’t have a team? In today’s economic climate, you cannot go it alone as a job hunter. You must form your own support team. A team (even a team of two) can give you input, as well as to hold your feet to the fire and impel you forward.

Your Expertise – Everyone is an expert at something. How about you? This is no time for modesty. Pinpoint your expertise and bring it forward. Do not put your light under a bushel basket. Look for ways to put your expertise on display so that you raise your visibility and get noticed.

Your Vision – What work do you want to do next? Where do you want to do it? Do you want to go back inside corporate and work for a boss? Or do you want to work for yourself? Don’t sell yourself short or paint yourself into a narrow corner. Think big.

Your Solution – Employers are looking for problem solvers. Are you the solution? Tom Peters says that everyone has a brand. What is yours? Your brand is the promise of the value that you will deliver to the customer. Think of it as the application of your expertise to the problems the customer needs to solve.

Finally be a smart job hunter by following these guidelines.

S = Sales: Why would an employer hire you? Because you are sold…on You! You told the best story. The story of Who You Are. And what you can bring to the employer’s organization. Your Story is your Brand. Telling your Story is the way you sell the prospect.

M = Market: How do you find potential employers? Like a Big Game Hunter tracks and snares his prey. With clear intent and unrelenting pursuit. You know what you want. You know your market. Because you know your Product. And the product is You. Remember: when you are in transition, you are in Sales & Marketing.

A = Achievement: How do you rise above the rest of the job hunters out there? As Tom Peters says in his article, “What have (You) accomplished that (you) can unabashedly brag about? If you’re going to be a brand, you’ve got to become relentlessly focused on what you do that adds value, that you’re proud of, and most important, that you can shamelessly take credit for.”

R = Research: How do you wow the employer? By demonstrating how much you know about him or her. You did your research, using your network, LinkedIn, and other resources on the internet. You prepared a list of questions to ask. You know so much about the employer that you may actually stun the interviewer.

T = Tools: The well-equipped job hunter always carries their most trusty tools, especially business cards, a pen, a fully charged cell phone, and a box of “Thank You” note cards. But the Swiss Army Knife of all job search tools is one’s network, the people you know, the people you can count on, the people who are looking out for you.

“Don’t sell yourself short.” That was one of my mother’s sayings. Along with my personal favorite: “Life is what you make it.”

by Terrence H. Seamon

Click here to view Terrence H. Seamon’s profile

Guiding executives, teams and professionals through challenging transitions to change | Success Coach & Speaker | Leadership & organization…

About the author: I’m Terrence “Terry” Seamon. Having been “in transition” five times over the course of my career, I’ve learned some things about sales and marketing. I work with career transitioners to help them to pinpoint their value proposition and galvanize into action. Additionally, I design and deliver leadership development programs for corporate clients on topics such as leadership, team effectiveness, creativity, time management, stress management, and managing change.