On March 20th, students from the PR program at the university of McGill were invited to attend a Career Workshop organized by the McGill Public Relations Student & Alumni Network. During the workshop, PR professionals shared tips about finding a work in the industry.
While the workshop was designed for PR professionals, advices found in this post can be applied to other industries. No matter what field you target, landing the job of your dream is about executing a marketing plan. It is the branding of yourself. There, I said it. You are, we are, a brand. Companies are clients and you are the product they need to keep flourishing.
Below, you will find a summary of tips shared by the first speaker during the workshop, Marie-Josée Cardin. Mrs Cardin is a Recruiting Consultant for Lock Search Group. All the ideas and tips come from her but I must admit that I added my own twist to it! You can spot my inputs next to the .
1st step, be confident that companies need YOU.
Be confident, they need you
Think of yourself as a solution for an employer. Generally, employers look for new hires through their contacts or internally. When a company advertises a position, you can conclude that they have a problem that they couldn’t solve internally. When a company goes the extra mile by paying a hiring firm to recruit a candidate, it shows that they have a BIG problem.
By applying, YOU are selling the solution. You are marketing yourself.
Marketing is the process by which companies determine what products or services may be of interest to customers. In our context, marketing is the process by which job seekers determine what skills and experiences may be of interest to employers.
Marketing Plan for job seekers
The draft of marketing plan for job seekers should be made of four columns:
– 1st column: The kind of skills the company is requesting.
You have probably read the tasks description, but do you really really know what the company is looking for? Do your homework! Most companies list the skills and tasks that are required in order to do the job. However, corporations don’t always tell recruiters what particular missions should be fulfilled to fix internal flaws.
Job descriptions are very generic. You can only personalize your approach by being familiar with the company itself. You should try to know as much as possible about the company in order to know what are their weaknesses. What are the areas in which they need your expertise?
Annual reports are a mine of information but you should also read articles on the industry in which the company operates.
– 2nd column: The experience needed.
You are young, still going to school or you just graduated from college and you think the only experience you have is doing your homework. In your cover letter, you want to highlight the fact that even though you have no experience, you are smart enough to hold the position. WRONG!
Companies sometimes need young people with poor experience because they have a virgin field that can be easily cultivated.
If you have little, to no experience in the position you are applying for, do NOT mention it. Focus on your skills, what you can do to help the company solve its problem. Expand on experiences you have in other related activities (work, volunteering…) and how it can be transferred to the position you are applying for.
It could also be that you are older and you fear that a younger candidate will steal the limelight. Sometimes a CV can reveal your age and you don’t necessarily want the company to think that you have too much experience to bring a fresh breeze to their business.
In this case, remember that a CV should list your most recent experience. No need to dig back in 1987 when you started your career. You may feel that your earlier experiences are relevant to the job of your interest. But be careful with the dates.
– 3rd column: recap what you have in terms of the skills required.This part involves a good strategy. A mistake often made by job applicants is to put the focus on the previous company they have worked for as if they were waving a trophy. You should be talking about yourself, not about your previous employer. Insisting on the company or industry for which you worked before can cost you your interview. How so?
Remember that you don’t know the person in front of you (the recruiter). He or she may have hired people in the past that have worked for your ex-employer and maybe she doesn’t think too highly of that company. By reinforcing your passage at this particular company, you can be reawakening negative feelings the recruiter has towards the company.
You will probably argue that all positions and company names are listed on your CV. And you just made a point. However, the way you are selling your skills can make you shine regardless of the reputation of your ex-employer.
– 4th column: Find your first, second and third achievements in your life. The skills you have acquired in previous jobs or different industries can be transferable to the position/field you are applying for.
Be careful with these friendly interviewers
A job interview is a bit like an interview with journalists. The more you talk, the more you’re in trouble. Of course, if you look shy, aloof or talk very little, you may project the image of an unconfident person. Nonetheless, you should be very careful when a recruiter gets too friendly and tries to put you at ease. They know know that you have prepared for the interview and rehearsed your speech so they want you to let your guards down for a minute and see behind the « professional » mask.
When do you know that you are taking too much or too little? This is where the marketing plan becomes practical. As long as you stay within the four columns, you know that you have covered the core of the message. Note that your core message is already a selection and not the integrality of the many skills you possess. This brings us to our next point.
Close the deal and the catalogue
You are salesperson and your product is represented by your skills. A salesperson will also try to find out as much as they can about a potential buyer before choosing a product that can meet your need. Salesperson focus on the strengths of their products and they minimizes its weaknesses. After everything is said and done, salesperson need to close the deal. You can use all kind of artifacts before and during the interview but at the end, you need to close the deal.
Because it’s a sale, you should leave your « catalog » at home. We mentioned previously that staying within the four columns will help you stay focus. While closing the deal, make sure that you have covered key messages. Going over all the skills you possess is like opening a catalog and asking the recruiter to choose from it. Sales persons don’t risk confusing their potential buyer by listing all the products on their catalog. They study the personality of their clients in order to find the products that are more likely to meet their needs. At the end of the interview, don’t leave the interviewer wondering where are your real strengths.
Close the deal, close the catalog!