People will judge you based on your appearance and presentation. Every single day for the rest of your life. You can take that information and ignore it, or you can use it to your benefit.
While product marketing is usually intentional, the way you market yourself is probably unintentional. That’s because you are not thinking about it as marketing. Marketing is simply finding out what it is that people want, and then communicating to them that you have it.
In Seth Godin and Jay Levinson’s book, Get What You Deserve, they explain that Guerrilla Marketing is marketing that is focused on individuals instead of products. The key lesson is that you are in control of the messages you communicate, and you can use that to your advantage. This is highly relevant in the world of job searching. Job seekers send hiring managers many messages with their appearance, their words, and their behavior.
In order to be successful in your career and in life, you must intentionally and consistently position yourself to be seen as someone who deserves success. Your positioning is what people think of when they think of you. Do they think of an energetic, intelligent, and ambitious young professional, or a sweet, helpful, shy type, who is hard to get to know? You have to choose and cultivate your positioning, or your positioning will be chosen for you. This seems like common sense, but many people are not aware that this principal applies to every aspect of their life.
For example, I do a good job at marketing myself as an honest, secure, intelligent young woman. As a result, I have been successful in my career. My dating life isn’t so successful. I don’t pay much attention to how I am perceived when I am not in work-mode. I often dress in somewhat sloppy clothes with my hair in messy bun and music blasting in my headphones. Yet, I wonder why I rarely get asked out on a date. Now, the answer is obvious: I’m not marketing myself as a fun, sexy, and friendly potential mate. The message I unintentionally send is: I don’t care about how I look, I’m kind of a slob, and I am definitely not interested in meeting someone new or chatting up a stranger in the coffee line. Who would want to approach a girl like that?
If you are on the job hunt, you need to position yourself as the perfect candidate for the job. To do this, you have to understand your customer – in this case it’s the hiring manager. Find out what your customer wants – use the job description, online research, networking, and informational interviews to gather as much information as possible about your customer’s problems, challenges, and needs. Next, prepare a strategy for how you are going to market yourself and communicate that you are the solution they have been looking for and that you can meet their needs. Then blow them away in the interview with your understanding of the company and industry, your enthusiasm, and your all around crisp and confident appearance.
If you don’t get the job, it’s critical that you take steps to understand why. Did you understand exactly what the hiring manager wanted? Did you communicate that you had exactly what they were looking for? Did you actively listen to what they said throughout the interview? Once you understand what went wrong, you can tweak your approach until you get it right.
You are ultimately in control. If you are struggling to find a job, don’t waste time with excuses. Figure out what’s wrong with the messages you are sending, accept that you control those messages, and then re-position yourself the way you want to be seen.