Sell, sell, sell

Sell, sell, sellHow many job applicants realise that getting the next job, moving on in their career, is a marketing and selling exercise? Imagine you are a sales person (job applicant) approaching a potential client (the recruiter). Get this next hour right (interview) and they could be buying from you (employing you) for the next ten years or more. What can we learn from the marketing and selling professionals? Tony Atherton looks at how to market and sell yourself onto the next step of your career ladder Today we look at one of the so-called four Ps of marketing: your Product, i.e. you and your skills, and how they can be used to sell you to your next employer or manager. (The other three Ps: Price, Place and Promotion will be mentioned in later articles.) But technical specification alone rarely sells an electronic product and so it is with your skills. Every applicant for that job will have the same specialist skills as you. If you are an RF design engineer, so are they. If you are a GSM specialist, so are they. On your CV and at the interview you will describe your skills (features in sales jargon) but they will rarely differentiate you from the opposition. If there are 100 applicants then an average CV and an average interview will place you 50th, and there is no prize even for coming second. To stand out you need something extra. That something extra, according to sales people, is to describe the features (your skills) but sell the benefits (your achievements). Few applicants do this. Many recruiters are fond of the saying ‘past behaviour is the best indicator of future performance’. The secret of selling the benefits to a recruiter lies in describing how you have added value for previous employers. Your achievements prove that you use your skills productively. By describing what you achieved for others you help the recruiter to picture you doing it for them. In sales jargon: you sell the sizzle, not the sausage. If you are serious about making a career step, instead of simply finding another job, then you need to do some tough homework. Mainly for your own use you will need a very detailed database which describes the your skills and achievements. List your skills that can be transferred to another job. Technical skills spring to mind but other skills are important and most of your competition will not use them either in their CV or at an interview. Doing so, especially skills with people (teamwork, leadership, etc.), will give you an edge. Try classifying your skills generically under the four headings: handling data; generating and processing ideas; handling things such as tools and machinery; and dealing with people. Or use the headings: communication (written and spoken); numeracy; IT; working in or leading teams; keeping up to date especially in fast-moving technical areas; solving problems or using initiative; and business or commercial awareness. Vitally important: list your achievements which provide ammunition for CVs and interviews. Start each item with the words, I have, and go on to write it all down. Fill pages. I have designed, I have installed, I have led a team. Include details such as numbers, costs, prices, profit margins and dates. Put your achievements into context: I increased sales by five per cent in a falling market (better that five per cent in a rising market). When applying for specific jobs pick the three or four achievements most relevant to those jobs. Work them into your CV. Show how you added value. Sell the benefits. Today’s engineer: Just what is required? The skills base of Scientific Generics, communications technology design house in Cambridge, stretches from product innovation right through to technology business management. Most of its 200 employees are based in Cambridge and 75 per cent of them are what human resources manager Jon Sparkes calls fee-earning engineering consultants. “One of our aims has always been to minimise the overhead functions in our own organisation. We are continually looking for ways of earning fees from all our activities, including some administrative functions,” says Sparkes. This is an indication of the business-minded attitudes which prevail in science parks like Cambridge. But at Scientific Generics, like the other consultancies, the emphasis is very firmly on building up experienced engineering teams. According to Sparkes, Scientific Generics recruits its hardware and software telecommunications development engineers from a range of industrial sources including network operators, manufacturers and other R&D groups. “We’re typically looking for between three and five years professional experience,” says Sparkes. Today’s design consultancies expect a high level of business acumen from its consultant engineers. The opportunities for engineers with a sense of business development – an MBA is always welcome – are considerable, as Sparkes at Scientific Generics points out, the company is continually spinning off technology businesses which it believes have a market niche.
Salaries for the engineer with the right skills are unlikely to be bettered in similar jobs anywhere else in the country. However, Sparkes at Scientific Generics insists that salaries should not be the primary motivator. Sparkes points out: “What we offer is the calibre of the people you will be working with and the variety of the projects. These are challenging projects.” Identify your top ten achievements. What did the company and your manager gain from each one? Practice telling a friend about your achievements and the benefits they brought. Start to overcome that natural feeling of reluctance to talk about your successes. Complete your database with definitive records of the other usual items: qualifications, training, hobbies or interests. Show whether hobbies are solitary occupations (showing initiative and drive) or group activities (showing teamwork and co-operation). Highlight any which suggest people skills: leadership, teamwork, encouraging, counselling and so on. All of this will help you to build a description of the specification of the product that is going to market and sell you. In later articles we will show how to use some of this data when analysing job advertisements, at interviews and when evaluating job offers and negotiating salaries.
Tony Atherton is a management training consultant with a background in electronics. Career management after redundancy is one of his specialist courses. Tel/Fax 01962 885534 E-mail:

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