With increased competition in the workforce, it is essential that you put in the extra effort to push your career forward. But what does extra effort mean? Does it mean you have to work after hours and on weekends? Does it mean you have to volunteer yourself for tasks outside your scope of responsibility? Does it mean you have suck up to your boss, even when he or she is wrong?
Sure. All of the above may contribute to your future success and growth. However, those actions are performed within the vacuum of your current company. As marketers, we are trained to promote and position a company's product or service to a targeted external audience. If a company's marketing strategy revolved solely around internal communication and ignored the prospects of identifying clients... well, the company would not be around for too long.
Similarly, as an ambitious marketing professional, to maximize your value you need to promote and position yourself as an expert to the outside world.
Based on my own experience of going from a dead-end job to marketing manager at one of the largest professional services firms in the world, I have identified five essential tips and strategies that have helped me launch my career.
1. Master one skill
It is good to be a jack of all trades, especially early in your career. However, it is better to know something really well so that your coworkers rely on you for a solution.
Marketing can be broken down to 11 sub-areas: digital, event management, customer relationship management, branding, graphic design, business development, communication, market research, advertising, content, and analytics. (Each of those areas can be broken down further). An integrated marketing approach incorporates all of those areas, but which one should you choose to master?
Selecting your area of expertise can be challenging in the beginning. Get to know each area by doing research and follow the leads of other professionals. Once you select your path, you need to own it.
2. Emulate successful marketers
Use LinkedIn and Twitter to identify marketers with titles that you would like to have one day. Study their paths and experiences to familiarize yourself with their career arcs, education, and skill sets. Doing so will give you direction on your next steps to becoming an expert. You can also connect with them and try to build a professional relationship that may one day lead to a working opportunity.
3. Build and promote your personal brand
People love a good story, and we all have one. Build a personal brand that will convey your knowledge and desire to learn. The easiest way to promote your personal brand to a hiring manager is through a personal website and social media.
Launching a personal website is simple, and it can be a great medium to tell your story to a future employer. Also, a hiring manager will Google you before an interview, so it would be prudent to ensure that your carefully crafted website and social media pages appear at the top of search results.
4. Look the part
The first impression, whether it's good or bad, will be a lasting one. Fortunately, you have complete control over how you come across to a potential employer.
Your uniqueness is the foundation of your personal brand, and it will differentiate you from other candidates. However, the hiring manager has an image of what the ideal candidate looks like and acts like, and you need to fit that mold.
Before you embark on a job hunt to advance your career, make sure to improve yourself both physically and mentally by working out consistently, getting on a sufficient sleep schedule, upgrading your wardrobe, managing your stress, and (most important) gaining the confidence to convince an employer that you can handle any task that comes your way.
5. Treat the interview like a discussion
A bad interview is one where you simply answer questions. A good interview is like a discussion between two people; during it, you discuss your story, elaborate on your prior accomplishments, and share your value proposition as an employee.
Don't get intimated during an interview. Prepare for it by researching the decision-makers and try to bring up elements of your research in a subtle way to find common ground and ease the mood. Also, make sure to read commonly asked interview questions and how to answer them strategically. Your preparation will make a difference.
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Your career is like a product, and your future employer is the client or customer. Start treating your career like a brand that is constantly growing, and don't be afraid to voice your value to get heard.