In the years that I've been consulting for business executives and entrepreneurs, the phrase I've probably heard most often is this: “How soon can we begin executing?” Everyone, it seems, wants instant answers, immediate gratification and results yesterday.

Perhaps you can understand why consultants are so frustrated. We try to get clients to anticipate future needs and plan for them while there's time to do a thorough job, to consider a range of alternatives, and to let our creative juices flow in some innovative directions.

We know that the really novel solutions don't show up when there's a gun to our heads, or a time bomb ticking in the background. More often, they show up a few weeks after the client makes a decision driven by the timetable.

That's frustrating, because nobody will ever know how clever the consultant is if it's a second-best plan that gets implemented in the market. It's also unfortunate for the client, who is paying top dollar for great advice, then rushing to accept a less-than-the-best deliverable.

Perhaps you can now understand yet another reason for why I think the job search process is really like a strategic marketing project. Everyone looking for a job wants an instant answer, immediate gratification, and a great new job starting last Monday.

I'm convinced that both the client who is timetable driven and the typical job seeker are doing themselves a disservice.

Here's my rationale. Every marketing effort has at least three phases: strategic planning, implementation planning, execution.

In the first phase, you determine what you want to accomplish and how you're going to go about it. In the second phase, you translate the strategic plan into a detailed action plan. Only when those two phases are complete can you begin the implementation.

Otherwise, you're going to be executing aimlessly, spinning your wheels and finding yourself at the end of a lot of blind alleys. If you ever do get to somewhere worthwhile, you probably won't even recognize where you are. (“What was the objective again?”)

In a business situation, you might determine that your strategy is to get retail distribution with a combination of direct sales and brokers. You'd plan the implementation by meeting with the sales team; screening and selecting a broker or a broker network; and preparing the necessary materials, establishing a budget, setting performance goals, etc. Only when you'd done that would you be ready to execute your plan and make the first bona fide sales call.

In the job search situation, it's really the same thing. First you determine your strategy: What do you do best? What companies need those skills? Where are they located? What are their critical issues? How can you make an important contribution to their operation? What cultural values will be comfortable for you?

Once you've done that, it's time for implementation planning. How should you approach the target company? Should you send a blind resume? What should you put in the cover letter? Would it be better to find someone with a contact at the company? Could a networking group prove helpful? How can you prepare yourself for the interview? Would you benefit from the assistance of a career coach or research assistant?

Only when you've completed phases one and two are you ready to begin executing your plan. If you jump the gun, you're likely to blow it, and you will probably only get one shot at your ideal job. You can't expect the management there to give you the time to change your approach and try again.

If all of this sounds discouraging because you really want a quick fix, I'm glad I was able to bring a dose of reality your way. The quick fix rarely works. And if it does, it's probably a short-term fix, so you'll be back in the job market again… and again… and again…. Until you do it right.

No skipping steps, cutting class or undermining your own efforts because you've set an unrealistic timetable.

A job search is the ultimate marketing strategy project.

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image of Michael Goodman

Michael A. Goodman is a marketing/management consultant and author of the book The Potato Chip Difference: How to apply leading edge marketing strategies to landing the job you want. For more information, visit