Fast Company

Building a Buzz Around Your (Career) Brand

Marketing is marketing. It doesn't matter if you're a business trying to attract and retain customers or an eager job seeker trying to capture the attention of potential employers. Your ultimate success or failure will depend on your ability to position yourself (or your product if you're a business) that addresses a problem people will pay you to solve.

Last week, I had a chance to be a fly on the wall at "Building Buzz Around Your Brand," an event hosted by Grasshopper.com and MassChallenge at the Microsoft New England Development Center on the campus of MIT. Beyond enjoying the cool digs, attendees also learned marketing tips from folks from Brainshark (an entrepreneurial company with more than 150 employees), Holland-Mark (an advertising agency that boasts an average of approximately 37 minutes per visit to their website), HubSpot (an inbound marketing software provider whose blog gets more than 250,000 hits per day), and Grasshopper.com (a company that provides a mix of products and services to entrepreneurs--oh, and they are also responsible for this really cool video). Each speaker shared his perspective on brand building with the more than 100 people who were in attendance--a diverse audience which included recent MBA graduates seeking employment, entrepreneurs hoping to bootstrap a startup, folks who are gainfully employed in the marketing space.

Which marketing tips can help you build a buzz and stand out from the thousands of other job seekers you'll likely be competing against ala the Google Job Experiment?

"Craft a personal short email message with one single call to action," Jay Wilder, Business Development Director with Brainshark. Job seekers often craft lengthy emails to people they've never met. Although you might fancy yourself as a great writer, there's a pretty good chance the person you're reaching out to does not want to read your life story in one email. You want to provide enough background to explain why you're writing and, when appropriate, include an "ask." I'll include a brief disclaimer--an ask never equates to asking for a job or internship in an introductory email. But it could include inquiring to see if he or she would be willing to chat with you for 10-15 minutes over the phone about his or her career.

"Be imperative," Mike Troiano, President at Holland-Mark Digital. With hundreds, if not thousands, of choices out there, it's not enough to be interesting--you must be imperative. This is especially true if you are targeting smaller companies. They might be more worried about whether they're going to make payroll next week than they are about helping you advance your career. What makes you imperative? Do you possess a certain skill set or background that helps the company solve a specific problem or fill a need? Be sure you are able to effectively articulate your value proposition before reaching out to companies of interest.

"Create compelling content," Kipp Bodnar, Inbound Marketing Manager at HubSpot. As a job seeker, compelling content can mean a lot of things--a persuasive email or cover letter that piques a recruiter's attention, providing a great response to an interview question, or finding ways to make a positive impact on your employers. Recruiters often have to sift through thousands of applications--your ability to create compelling content can be a key differentiator.

"Find out what people are interested in and help them," David Hauser, Founder of Grasshopper, Grasshopper Labs, and Chargify. Probably the most important piece of advice for any job seeker--before you can write an effective cover letter or build a meaningful connection with someone through networking, you must identify their needs and interests. When you meet someone new, be sure to ask about the challenges they are facing and what keeps them up at night. Once you have that information, you can look for ways to help them address those challenges. This approach completely changes the relationship dynamic. Instead of dreading networking, you will instead look forward to connecting them with resources (friends, colleagues, articles, etc.).

I'd also add this tip--no matter where you are or what you're doing, always look for non-career related advice you can apply to your search. Before going to this event, I thought it would give me a few ideas I could apply to my job--never thinking there would be a few slices of fried gold. Boy was I wrong. As Mike Troiano put it "Start ups fail because the dogs won't eat the dog food." As a job seeker, it's about getting recruiters to bite on your candidacy.

Shawn Graham manages the CourtingYourCareer blog. Find Shawn on Twitter @ShawnGraham or via email at shawn(at)courtingyourcareer.com.

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