This is a guest blog written by Sandy Cullen, a career and communications coach
If, for whatever reason, you’re looking for a new role, or are simply keen to change direction, then you should start to think of it as a marketing exercise. But here you are the product; the (potential) employer is the customer.If, for whatever reason, you’re looking for a new role, or are simply keen to change direction, then you should start to think of it as a marketing exercise. But here you are the product; the (potential) employer is the customer.
You need to sell yourself to them by pointing out that you offer, in fact, a ‘product’ that they both need and will benefit from; something that could improve their day and that they might actually like to ‘buy’. But first you have to know and understand your customer - by carrying out some focused market research.
So many people miss this element altogether. They’ll proudly present a CV that includes everything they’ve done, combining it with a letter that is so self-centred, neither it nor the CV is going to interest the reader! And not surprising either. It’s like trying to sell the idea of a highly sophisticated computer system to someone who’s clueless about computers, and has no need for one anyway. Probably no sale there...
Those who understand the art of selling will tell you that in order to succeed you must first sell yourself. People buy from people. If you fail to impress or engage with them at the beginning, then no matter how good the product, they’ll probably not buy it from you.
And people employ people. So it’s vital to engage with that person straight away so that a) they warm to you as an individual and b) they can see immediately how, in fact, you could be useful to them; or possibly to somebody they know...
Asking someone for their advice is often a good opening gambit, as people tend to react positively. However, simply telling them how wonderful you are and saying that you’re “..looking around..” or “..open to opportunities...” will cause mild panic and will not work in your favour; unless you’re extremely lucky.
The main objective of the CV or cover letter is, therefore, to get you in front of a key individual. So rather than have them dismiss it immediately as a waste of their time and, essentially, irrelevant, you want them to think: “Mm, now this is interesting...” If you use only one version of your CV (and many people do), you’re missing the opportunity to edit and ‘focus’ it such that only the key skills and experience which will interest them remain. The CV is, after all, a brochure. And like any sales brochure, it must be aimed at the right audience so that it grabs the reader’s attention straight away; if not – you’ve lost them.
When writing a letter or email you should first refer not to yourself, but to them: identify their situation, their opportunities or challenges. You can then point out where your experience could be useful, and even beneficial to them. Simply providing a list of your personal skills and achievements and the fact that you’re available is unlikely to work. Why would it?
Marketing yourself to the people who matter means you must first put yourself in their shoes. What do they want? What do they really need? What problems are they facing? What makes them get out of bed in the morning? If your own research gives you the answers, and what you have to offer will be of benefit to them, then they should at least agree to meet with you. The rest should follow…
If you think it might benefit you, I would be happy to arrange an exploratory meeting (Edinburgh or Glasgow) either to assess your options or to offer immediate advice. Call me on 07711-948273 or email firstname.lastname@example.org