There is no way around it: To land a job today, you have to consider yourself a product to be sold in the marketplace. Successful products require successful branding. There are 5 power-packed branding techniques that, used correctly, are certain to distinguish you as the product of choice.
So take a step back, assess your marketing strategy and brand yourself with:
1) Attractive packaging. Customers reach for products that are visually appealing.
- As a job-seeker, this means you'll need to ensure that all of your written materials are eye-catching and pleasing to read. Incorporate liberal use of bullets and white space on your resume, in your cover letters, in each of your online profiles and on your business cards.
- Whenever you're out and about meeting people, at networking events and, most especially, at a job interview, dress the part. Be sure your clothing is neat, stylish and represents you professionally. Get a modern haircut and make certain your accessories are appropriate and up-to-date (this includes eyewear).
- Watch your nonverbal messages. In order to be successful, your manner must exude confidence, warmth, enthusiasm and energy.
2) Desirable attributes. Employers who will potentially "buy" you represent your customer base; therefore you must target your product description to meet their needs.
- The strategic use of keywords is critical to making you (the product) of interest to employers. Recruiters (both independent and internal company recruiters), human resources and hiring managers will select you as a potential "buy" by the words you've chosen to include on your resume and in your online profiles.
- You can determine which keywords are in the greatest demand by using the online job postings as your primary research tool. Review them carefully and identify the skills that are requested over and over again. Also note the order in which these requirements are placed. This way, you'll gain both an accurate reading of skills that are currently in demand and the order of their value to employers.
- Remember to cite these skills and other valuable industry buzzwords whenever possible--both in your written materials and in your verbal descriptions of your experience and abilities.
3) Demonstrated ways you will outperform the competition. In order to set yourself apart from other products, you'll need to sell your distinguishing features.
- Emphasize the added value you will bring as a uniquely qualified individual. What makes you better/more qualified than other candidates? Which talents, attributes and skills differentiate you from the competition? What experiences have provided you with a unique perspective on your work?
- Highlight your cross-functional skill sets and focus on the fact that you have a "unique combination of X & Y." Clearly show how you can make an exceptional contribution to the goals of your potential employer.
4) Word-of-mouth recommendations. Customers want to believe in the products they buy. Therefore, obtaining referrals from a source your potential customers trust is the most effective way to sell yourself.
- Alert your network to the positions/organizations you are targeting and let them know how they can support your efforts.
- Provide your contacts with a copy of your resume so they're aware of how you are presenting yourself and which accomplishments you're highlighting.
- Be certain to prepare each of your references so that they can best recommend you for a particular opportunity.
5) Appealing pricing. Because customers don't want to overpay for products and services -- especially in today's market -- you'll need to be flexible with your salary requirements.
- Know your real value in the marketplace. Check out sites such as Salary.com and Glassdoor.com to ascertain what similar positions are paying.
- Determine the income range you will feel comfortable accepting.
- Develop an adaptable approach to negotiating salary and benefits. One of the most widespread stereotypes against hiring mature applicants is the perception that we're too expensive. Although you'll want to be paid fairly for your skills and experience, your ultimate goal is to create a win/win situation with your new employer.
There's no doubt that job-seekers over 50 face special challenges. Nevertheless, if you're armed with the right information and attitude you can brand yourself to attract employers who will value your skills and experience. So determine the features that will set you apart, make certain you're projecting the attributes your customers are seeking and anticipate success. Who knows? You may be the product that gets pulled off the shelf and be back at work before you know it!
Mary Eileen Williams is a Nationally Board Certified Career Counselor with a Master's Degree in Career Development and twenty years' experience assisting midlife jobseekers to achieve satisfying careers. Her book, Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50, is a step-by-step guide that shows you how you can turn your age into an advantage and brand yourself for success. Updated in February 2013, it's packed with even more critical information aimed at providing mature applicants with the tools they need to gain the edge over the competition and successfully navigate the modern job market. Visit her website at Feisty Side of Fifty.com and celebrate your sassy side!