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Marketing Yourself – I

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Winning Move #1:

Think of Yourself as a Product with Value Rather Than a Person with Need.

Years ago I went to a Boat Show in Boston, looking to buy a canoe. When I intently entered a booth where there were both canoes and high-speed powerboats, the salesman sensed that I was hot to buy. But he made one critical mistake. He didn’t understand my needs and tried to sell me a powerboat. I patiently waited out his sales pitch, not wanting to be abrupt. But he'd already lost me. If he didn't care to understand my needs, I thought, why should I fulfill his?

Why do people buy a product? Because they see value in it. They see a benefit to themselves. When people hire people they too are buying a product, one in which they see value and benefit. You are the product. They are the market. What are the product's biggest benefits? What market has the greatest use for these benefits? Which market is the easiest to penetrate?

Simple, Identify your benefits. Look for the matching market to "consume" these benefits. Sell yourself to that market. Follow the Winning Moves in this section on marketing. They, like you, have value, and they will guide you along the path to the market. Stay on that path. Don't waste time on the wrong match. You'll use up valuable energy, which will generate negative feedback and lower your self-esteem and ultimately your value as well.

And how do you determine your value in the job market? There are both general and very specific publications on compensation rates. The government's Occupational Outlook Handbook, found in most libraries, gives fairly general compensation information on nearly all professions. It's a good place to start.

For more detailed compensation information, look to professional societies and associations to find publications listing income by job function, level of education, level of experience, length of experience, professional status, number of people supervised, and work region. The National Society of Professional Engineers, for example, publishes yearly a highly detailed, 125-page professional engineer income and salary survey.

Contacting a leading association representing your industry is a good way to determine compensation rates. (See Winning Move #10 for more specific information on associations and how to find and contact them.)

Another way to determine compensation in your profession is to network with other professionals and specialized headhunters in your field. This approach will get you information that is more up to date, more local, and less standardized. (See Winning Moves #9, #12, and #39 for how to get the kind of information you need from your network and from headhunters.)

Some companies will pay according to what they perceive as your value to them. Others will have budgets and policies that are not flexible. Your previous salary may or may not have any bearing on what your compensation offer will be. If your past salary has been on the high side of the scale, it's possible that your value may appear higher. On the other hand, your prospective employer may not be able to afford you and may reject you because he feels you'll never be happy going backward. In short, there are too many variables to standardize the salary approach. Your best bet, as I've said before, is to do everything possible to find the best match between you, your skill level, and the company. Show your prospective employer how your particular background, special skills, innate abilities, and past contributions to other employers would make you an employee with special, added value. Then negotiate.

And remember the value of fringe benefits: They’ve a deduction for the company and an after-tax value to you, whereas your salary is before tax. So, in many cases it is in your better interest to negotiate benefits rather than salary.

Winning Move #2:

It's Easier for Companies to Hire from Within-So Get Within

For a company to look outside itself for new people is more expensive, more time-consuming, and riskier than finding new candidates internally or within its network. Why should a company spend money on a headhunter or an expensive classified ad if they don't have to? Why should they trust an outsider? Going outside is the last recourse.

For years I had entry-level clients who insisted on following traditional channels to try to get radio jobs in Boston. Very few ever got anywhere. Finally I found out why. Almost all of the radio stations used a small, Boston-area College’s School of Communications to feed them their people. It was all they needed and all they used. Everyone else was circular-filed.

Be Like an Eagle, Not Like a Buzzard: Buzzards Wait and Look for Remains, While Eagles Soar and Hunt Their Prey

How do you find out how companies find their new employees?

One way is a simple telephone poll. In the case of the radio-station jobs, a polite, tactful telephone call to radio stations would have revealed a hiring pattern: "Hi, I’m interested in the field of broadcasting and Tm wondering if you would be kind enough to let me know how WXYZ goes about finding new people in this area." This usually gets a straight answer or at least a referral to someone who can give you one. "Kind enough," by the way, is an enormously effective phrase, appealing to a person’s sense of decency. Use it often.

Another method of determining hiring patterns is to call headhunters (professionals whose business it is to act as independent agents to find candidates for companies with job openings). You can obtain the names of the headhunters specializing in your industry or field through the comprehensive Directory of Executive Recruiters, published by Kennedy Publications in Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire. Call the headhunters in your geographical area; the directory breaks its listings down by state and industry specialization. Remember, headhunters are people who spend their days in the world of hiring for certain industries. They know about specific companies and their hiring procedures. They spend much of their time cold-calling companies to offer their services. Don’t push them to find you a job. If they're interested, you can be sure they'll speak up, but gently probe them for information, flattering them a bit if you have to. You might say: "I read that you're a specialist in the area of media employment, and I'm wondering if you'd be kind enough to help me determine how major Boston radio stations find new employees."

Another way to determine how particular companies find people is to call their human resources representative directly Most companies with 100 or more employees have at least one professional dedicated to the human resources function, (The term "personnel" is passé, don't use it.) Directories of key human resources people are published by industry associations. For example, in New England, The Northeast Human Resources Association publishes the names and phone numbers of human resources people from more than 3,000 companies. Human resources people are hard to get to, but persistence will pay off with key information on how they hire. (See Winning Move #10 for more information on how to find association directories)
  • If you can't find the company you want in a professional directory, make a simple telephone call to the main switchboards of your target companies, saying: "I'm sending some correspondence to your Director of Human Resources, and I'm not certain of that person’s name. Could you help me?" The response will vary, depending on the company's size. You may get the name of the Director, if they have such a position. Or the company may be so small that the person answering the phone says, "Well, Sally Jones, our Vice President, usually handles that sort of thing." Or, if they're really small, the response might be, "You've reached the Director, the President, the Operator, and the guy who empties the trash. What can I do for you?" At any rate, you'll get more market data to plug into your search on hiring.
Larger companies have job-posting or requisition systems, which often include company-published books of internal job orders. If you can network with someone inside the company, it may be possible to obtain a copy. Make a list of anyone you know who is remotely involved in your target industry, even if it's a friend of a friend of the uncle of your ex-wife. With tenacious networking (see Winning Move #12) you can get the inside scoop and, with luck, a copy of the job listings. Once you have this, and you can see a position that matches your qualifications or abilities, you can develop a strategy for approaching the appropriate human resources person (often a specialist called a company recruiter) with your specific job-matching qualifications. The company recruiter's job is to fill positions; it only makes sense for this person to want his or her job made easier.

If the right channels aren't filling the position, the recruiter wants the next-best, cheapest, and most expeditious solution. With this approach you can be on the "inside" even though you are technically on the outside of the company. By writing the recruiter, showing your knowledge of the position, and aligning your qualifications with the company's needs, you can most likely generate a meeting. You will appeal to the recruiter's needs, and provide a quick and easy solution to his or her job requisition. The "outside" job seekers will be left in the dust.

So get inside. Every company has its own system for hiring. Find it. Find someone who was hired and find out how he or she was found. Learn the company's culture from that person. Learn the kind of people the company likes and the way they like to be approached. And use the telephone; it's one of your strongest allies. It is cheap and brings you quick, bottom-line information.

Winning Move #3:

Make Your Job Search, 80 Percent Research.

You are fortunate to be living in the greatest information era in history. Just about everything about anything can be found right down the street at your local library.

Let me take you through some examples. Let's say you're a marketing person and want to focus your job search on the toy industry. You'll need to get all of the available market information; (1) the future outlook of the industry, (2) the strengths and weaknesses of various companies within the industry, and (3) the key contacts at your area of penetration within each company. No problem. Begin by visiting your local library. Smile when you go in. Find the reference librarian-these people are wonderful and love to help find stuff. Here's a sample of what you'll uncover about the toy industry.

From the Standard Industrial Classification Manual Index (found in any library) you'll learn that there are seven toy-related categories:
  • 5945 Toy and game stores-retail

  • 3612 Toy transformers-mfg.

  • 5092 Toys (including electronic)-wholesale

  • 3942 Toys, doll-mfg.

  • 3069 Toys, rubber: except dolls-mfg.

  • 3942 Toys, stuffed-mfg.

  • 3944 Toys: except dolls, bicycles, rubber toys, and stuffed toys-mfg.
Let's say your focus is on manufacturing stuffed toys. (You always loved your teddy bear and want to market those old faithful companions to children worldwide,) Here is what you'll find under 3942 Dolls & Stuffed Toys:
  • Total of 22 companies

  • Total sales of $666 million

  • Total employment; 6,600
Under companies (111 shows 4 of 22) you'll find the following information:
  1. Tonka Corp., 6000 Clearwater Dr., Minnetonka, MN 55343. 612-936-3300. Public. $908M sales.

  2. Russ Berrie & Co., Inc., Ill Bauer Dr., Oakland, NJ 07436. 201-337-9000. Public. $276M sales.

  3. Applause, Inc., PC. Box 4183, Woodland Hills, CA 91365. 818-992-6000. Privately held. $98M sales.

  4. Dollcraft Industries, Ltd., 1107 Broadway, New York, NY 10010. 212-807-7933. Privately held. $1M sales.
Let's start at the top, at the biggest-Tonka. If you look under Tonka Corporation in the Directory of Corporate Affiliations (Section 2-Parent Companies), you'll find:

Tonka Corporation, Minnetonka Corporate Center, 6000 Cleawater Dr., Minnetonka, MN 55343 612-936-3300 (also fax and telex numbers)
  • Assets: $910M

  • Earnings: $5,800,000 [oh oh-losing money!]

  • Liabilities: $822M [oh oh-debt!]

  • Net worth: $88M

  • Approximate sales: $908M

  • Employees: 3,600

  • Manufacturer of toys and games
The directory goes on to list corporate officers, from Chairman down to Vice President of Marketing and Product Development, and then their operating units: Tonka International and Parker Brothers in Beverly, Massachusetts, Tonka Products Division in Minnetonka, Minnesota, and Kenner Products Division in Cincinnati, Ohio.

"Gee," you say, "it's a big company. There should be lots of hiring and a place for me." But first you'll want to learn even more details about Tonka's products and financial standing. You can find it in Moody's Industrial Manual in your local library. This provides 15 years of Tonka's stock performance, and accounts of recent developments, such as; "On January 31, 1991, Hasbro agreed to purchase Tonka for $470 million. For the quarter ended 9/30/90, net income dropped 62.5%...." Ah ha!! Will Hasbro be cleaning house at Tonka? Will they bring in their own people? Perhaps this is a good time to approach Hasbro with your skills rather than Tonka? Certainly Tonka Corporation does not appear to be the right avenue.

You read on about Tonka: "Mired with debt from the 1987 acquisition of Kenner Parker and a sluggish retail environment, the near-term earnings outlook is weak. Also, Tonka has been unable to come up with any hot new toys."

You can go still further. Value Line Investment Survey, in the section titled Ratings and Reports, tells you that "the toy industry experienced a soft retail environment during the second quarter. But one company which continues to do well is Mattel, which posted increases in both sales and earnings for the period."

So on you go to Mattel, and then others, repeating the process outlined above until you find the hottest prospects with the best hiring potential and financial futures.

To learn still more about the toy industry, you can go on to the Encyclopedia of Business Information Sources, 7th edition. Here you'll find detailed industry information on:
  • Specialized directories within the toy industry. Example: The Official Toy Trade Directory, Edgell Communications, 545 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10017. 212-503-2913. $8.00,

  • On-line data bases. Many mid-sized to large libraries have a computerized search system such as InfoTrac or CompuServe. For a minimal cost, you can log on to obtain specific information. Your reference librarian will be glad to help you plug in a key search phrase. The computer will then scan various media materials to give you sources of information around your key phrase. These data bases are useful, and they're getting more sophisticated all the time. The Encyclopedia of Business Information Sources tells us, for example, that there's an on-line data base on a U.S. Census on retail trade, something that could tell us about the prognosis of retail sales in the United States.

  • Statistics sources. Example: U.S. Industrial Outlook which says: "Strong import competition and the continued movement of domestic manufacturers to off-shore production sites kept toy industry employment down in 1989.
Domestic corporations continued to shift production to Far East markets to take advantage of lower labor costs. Increasingly, the domestic toy industry is more involved with the licensing, marketing, packaging, and distribution of dolls, toys, and games."

U.S. manufacturing of toys is not good, they say; it's going overseas. But marketing is growing domestically. And you're in marketing. Let's see what the trade associations, professional societies, and trade periodicals have to say.
  • Trade associations and professional societies. These are great sources of information. For a nominal charge you can join one of them and gain access to current industry information, sub-groups, industry networking meetings, specialized industry training, and very detailed directories. Many associations even provide their own industry job listing service. You learn that the Toy Manufacturers of America Association is located on Fifth Avenue in New York City.

  • Periodicals and newsletters. From these publications, the names of which you can find from such sources as the Encyclopedia of Business Information Sources, The Directory of Directories and The Newsletter on Newsletters, you can get more specific information on particular products, on trends, and on smaller, non-public organizations. You'll find such a title as Playthings: The News Magazine of Toy, Hobby and Craft Merchandising. There could be good stuff in here. If there are articles pertinent to your interests in toy marketing, you'll gain further industry knowledge, help your job search, and ultimately gain more credibility.
Further, networking with the authors of articles can be a superb job-search tool. Write the authors of the articles that interest you, flatter the writers, ask intelligent questions, and develop relationships with these people. If you do this well, you'll eventually get yourself some much-needed inside information and contacts, working yourself closer to the coveted hidden market of toy industry hiring.

Finally, trade magazine advertisements will give you clues and information on specialized products within the industry, and on the emerging smaller firms of which little or nothing is written in the library publications. For example, in Playthings you might see a trade ad that tells of a fast-growing stuffed-bear product, distributed by an emerging firm in New York City, not far from your home in Pelham, New York. You call the company and explain that you read their trade ad in Playthings, and found their stuffed-bear product very appealing. You ask if you could speak to someone involved in the marketing of the product. From this person you learn that the company is small, and primarily an importer, marketing their product here in the States. They could be just the company you are looking for.

Like underground streams, the information and the smaller, less prominent companies are there, gurgling away. And these companies are vital, more flexible, more dynamic, more exciting, and no less secure than many of the well-known giants. Dig deep. Don’t give up. And you'll be rewarded long before your fellow job seekers.
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