Career Services: Successful job search like selling laundry detergent

Aurora University Career ServicesTide is the best-selling laundry soap, but what is behind Tide’s success? Memorable advertising campaigns that focus on the product’s key feature, the ability to clean better than any other detergent. With slogans, including “If it’s got to be clean, it’s got to be Tide” and “Dirt can’t hide from intensified Tide,” people remember them when they are in their local grocer’s detergent aisle.

You may be asking, what does selling laundry detergent have to do with job searching? To complete a successful job search, your responsibility is to create and launch a memorable ad campaign – and the product you’re promoting is you.  However, promoting yourself may not be as easy as it sounds. It can be difficult to determine what you do better than your “competitors” because you are too close to the product you are selling. Here are two strategies you can use to help you get some perspective.

First, create a list of your top 20 accomplishments, including examples of professional, collegiate and personal experiences of which you are most proud.  Here are some questions to get you thinking about your top 20 accomplishments:

  • What are specific examples of endeavors of which you are most proud?
  • What tangible evidence do you have of accomplishments – publications you’ve produced, products you have demonstrated, software applications you have written?
  • Have you received any complimentary memos or letters from employers of customers?
  • How did you contribute to an organization?
  • Have you earned any awards or special recognition?

These stories will serve many functions in your search. You can use some of these stories as answers to interview questions, while other stories may fit better as bullet points on your resume or be best incorporated into a cover letter or thank you note. Once you have created this list, go back and review it looking for themes among your stories. These themes are the characteristics and skills that come naturally to you. This is your brand – your key features that you have over your competitors.

The second strategy to get some perspective about your brand is to ask those you trust and respect.  Find ten people who will give you honest feedback – professors, supervisors, friends, relatives. Send each an email that goes something like this:

As you know, I will soon begin my job search. One step in preparing my resume is to determine and articulate my strengths. I greatly value your opinion and trust that you will give me honest feedback. I would like for you to respond to the following questions: What do I have to offer that makes me unique? How would you describe my professional passion and distinctiveness? What do you think my strengths are? Your answers to these questions will help me clearly define my image and professional brand that I want to convey on my resume.  Thank you for your time and advice.

As with your top 20 accomplishment list, look for themes among the responses as this will help you further determine your brand to promote.

Once you’ve identified your themes, you will turn these features into a memorable or “sticky” phrase.  Or, condense these features into three concise words that encapsulate your distinguishing features.  These words or slogan should lead off your resume.  Build your brand by developing a similar format and look among all of your promotional materials – resume, cover letter, thank you note. Further enhance your brand and consider developing a personal logo.

Developing a professional brand helps us stand out from the crowd.  A strong, memorable brand can help you increase your perceived value as a candidate. Remember, job searching is like selling laundry soap.  Know, with certainty, what your key features are that make you stand out from your competition. Build a “sticky” or memorable campaign promoting your features.

Judie Caribeaux is the Director of Career Services at Aurora University. For more information, email her at career@aurora.edu.