Practical Career Advice for Marketers
Takeaway notes from Aquent webinar.
By Aliza Bornstein, copywriter, Melissa Data
Building a successful career is not just about the
companies you work for or the projects you work on.
To succeed in the new world of work, you must
create, promote, and manage your personal brand.
Tracy Sinclair, practice leader for Aquent’s
Marketing Practices, says it’s a really tough
candidate market right now—there are literally 250
candidates for every one job.
Right now, unfortunately, if you’re in the market
for a new position, it’s not about what you want to
do, but rather what you have done. One of the most
important things about what you “have done” is how
you position it. Because if you don’t position it
successfully, it won’t matter what experience you
have that’s relevant to the particular position that
You need to understand how to position and brand
yourself, because it could be the difference in
whether or not you get the interview, let alone the
job. The key is to stand out in a sea of candidates
and a sea of sameness.
From a marketing standpoint, positioning is “the
process by which marketers try to create an image or
identity in the minds of their target market for its
product, brand, or organization. It is the ‘relative
competitive comparison’ their product occupies in a
given market, as perceived by the target market.”
So it’s all about perception and how you compare to
the competition out there. You want to articulate
what you can do for a company in terms of what it
means for them.
• It’s really important to have a concise, easily
communicated personal mission statement and
career/goal objective (verbal and written).
So once you’ve mastered the position, how do you go
about the nuts and bolts of reaching out to people
and networking? Julie Hiipakka, training manager for
Aquent, tells you how to make your dreams a reality.
• Demonstrate dedication to your desired field
through work experience, pro bono work,
volunteering, and networking.
• Understand market dynamics and position yourself
in a way that makes you a uniquely attractive
You want to be able to articulate what you can do
for a company in terms of what it means for them.
You want your story to resonate with who you’re
interviewing with so they understand what your
contributions would be. You should be able to convey
your mission statement in the time it would take on
a short elevator ride. Personalize your mission
statement depending on who you’re talking to and
what you would be accomplishing for that job.
You can use your mission statement for a number of
opportunities: In an elevator ride with other
people; in your cover letter (accompanied by your
resume); when you meet people at networking events;
and when you meet people at social events. It’s
about being able to concisely use that positioning
statement and using it everywhere.
When you’re dealing with a corporate recruiter, a
head hunter, an agency recruiter, or a hiring
manager, your email is reviewed and
rejected/accepted in a matter of 15 seconds. If
you’re lucky, you get 15 additional seconds. Now,
with the benefit of social media, the person who is
looking at your information may look you up on
LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. If they like what they see
(in your email; resume; Google; or social networking
site), you may make it to the next round (email
reply; phone call; interview; etc.).
The reality of the situation when working with
recruiters (inside or outside) is that HR and
corporate recruiters sometimes screen people out
more than they screen people in. They are paid to
find people for the openings they currently have,
and look at whether or not you match those specific
openings. However, the good ones out there are
looking at you with a more open mindset. They’re
This is why the positioning statement is so
important and why you want to incorporate it into
all of the things mentioned above—so that in those
15-30 seconds you have, the person reading your
statement is going to see something that’s relevant
to them. Your goal is to keep their eyes on
information. How do you do that? It requires
The truth is, all of this is a lot of work. Many
people focus on customizing each resume to each
individual job. This takes a lot of time. Aquent
suggests focusing as much as you can on telling your
story live, to as many people as you can. That’s
what Aquent does on behalf of their talent, and
that’s what they want you to do.
There are several easy steps to network. The first
is to find 10 people who do what you want to do, and
are in the specific industry or market vertical
space you want to be in. They are the people who are
in the jobs that you want. They can be past
collegues, friends of friends, a recruiter or head
hunter, etc. So find those 10 people and work your
network if you don’t have those 10 people.
The second step is to reach out to them, and there
are two options for that:
Option 1: If you’re a little bashful you can start
by emailing them. First, use the name of the person
that referred this person to you. Second, be
specific about what experience they have that you
would be interested in learning more about. Third,
indicate that you’re going to call them on a
specific date to follow up the email. What you’re
not going to include is your resume, because you’re not asking them for a job—at least not yet. If you
really want to take it a step further, tell them the
exact day and time you will be calling, and ask for
another day and time if the first one doesn’t work
Option 2: For those a little braver or this is
someone you already know, skip the email and just
pick up the phone. Reveal who recommended this
person to you and why. Then offer to take them out
to breakfast; your treat! By doing this, it shows
that you value their time.
If they don’t have time for breakfast or coffee, ask
if they wouldn’t mind sparing a few minutes for you
on the phone to ask a few questions about their
experiences in their job.
If they proceed to further brush you off, accept it,
but ask them if they know of anyone with similar
experiences as themselves that you would be able to
If they are able to talk with you (either at a later
time in person, or over the phone at the time of
your call) you need to have some questions ready to
ask them. The important thing about this
conversation is the amount of time you spend
listening (a lot!) compared to the time you spend
talking (a little). You want to listen. Listening is
how you learn, and you’re there to learn from them.
The questions you want to ask are pretty simple
ones: What’s a typical day like for you? What are
the key trends that you’re seeing in this industry?
How does this industry compare to others that you’ve
worked in? What are some of the things in the last
year that have helped you to be successful? What do
you do to stay on top of trends?
The closing questions that you want to wrap up with:
Is anyone you know looking for someone like me? Who
else should I learn from? May I use your name when
contacting this person? Make it subtle. You
shouldn’t be asking “Do you have a job for me?”
The beauty of this technique is that you’re not
explicitly asking for a job, but the outcome of this
is that you end up with a referral, lead, or
sometimes the person actually does end up having an
opportunity for you down the road.
The things that support your brand are also how you
act and behave, and those things can make a
These are a list of things that are key if you’re
unemployed right now:
1. Make it easy for people to help you.
Ask if you need to resend your resume. Ask what you
need to do to make it easier for them to refer you
to someone else. Be creative! You could write an
email introduction that they could forward on.
2. Listen more than you speak.
The way to make a great impression is to demonstrate
outstanding listening skills. Good listeners learn a
3. Be on time (5 to 10 minutes).
Arriving 5 to 10 minutes early gives you a chance to
make a great first impression, check out the office,
and read through product materials not available on
the company Web site.
4. Continue networking even if you get your dream
As soon as you stop networking you’re not managing
your personal brand.
---Source: Aquent webinar on Nov. 19,
2009 (http://aquent.us/.org). Tracy Sinclair is the
marketing practice leader for Aquent. Julie Hiipakka
is the training manager for Aquent.
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