Careers clinic: marketing your personal product

Lights Camera Action! Yes, here comes yet another movie star, Brad and Angelina, Madonna, Tom Cruise, Nichole Kidman. Each and every one an attractively...

Lights Camera Action! Yes, here comes yet another movie star, Brad and Angelina, Madonna, Tom Cruise, Nichole Kidman. Each and every one an attractively packaged 'product' designed to appeal to the widest possible audience, writes Jeremy I'Anson director of Career Advantage.

My apologies for the dramatic opening paragraph, but there is a serious point to be made here. As we all know, people can be packaged and branded just like cans of Coca-Cola. This concept becomes important at a time when you may need to "sell" yourself and look for a new job.

This is particularly true now as we have a very competitive job market. Yes, there are still plenty of good jobs out there but there are also many more people chasing them. So the message is clear, you need to sell yourself and make sure that your 'personal product' stands out from the crowd.

If you carry out a review of your own product (that's you) then you may conclude that it is perfectly positioned to take the market by storm, in that case you can stop reading here. But more often than not a close inspection reveals that your particular "personal product" could do with some serious development.

It's a golden rule of marketing that you don't start developing your product until you are clear on exactly what it is that the market requires. Sometimes that's not an easy task, but in this case there should be plenty of data available to you in the form of a job advertisement or detailed job description. Your search/recruitment consultant (if you have one) will also be another source of information on precisely what it is that the "market" (your future employer) requires.

Be careful! What appears in a job advertisement or job specification may be very different from what is actually required. If an organisation is in difficulties, is about to lose a major client, or has fallen behind on a major project, they are not about to advertise the fact in their job specification. That is where the market research comes in.

You really need to know everything there is to know about your target market if you wish to become the market leader and sell your product ahead of the competition. But so many people just don't take the trouble to do their market research. Search consultants and recruitment managers routinely discard up to 70% of the CVs they receive at first sift because candidates don't bother to tailor their application and simply send off the same old CV and cover letter to every job application.

So a very important part of your marketing package is to produce a CV that, while succinct and readable, is designed to address each and every one of the employer's requirements. Avoid a long list of duties and responsibilities and focus instead on your unique selling points and in particular on your career achievements that closely match the requirements of the employer.

If your research indicates a need to turn around distressed projects, restructure organisations, improve customer satisfaction or increase sales, then these are the aspects of your experience that must be highlighted. You need to show quantifiable strengths and successes in each role that closely match the needs of the employer.

That kind of CV takes considerable time and effort to produce and usually needs to be written from scratch; a rehash of your old CV just won't do. Many senior managers don't have the time to do this and decide that it may prove to be a sound investment to pay a professional to do it for them. The upside is that a well written and targeted CV and application letter will massively increase your chances of getting shortlisted for interview.

Whether you decide to get your CV written professionally or do it yourself, simply updating your old CV just isn't an option in the current recruitment market.

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