Have you ever been to New York City? Near Central Park’s south end, you will find hundreds of horse and carriage proprietors — each hoping you’ll sign up for a ride around the park. In a more recent addition in the last several years, there are also many peddling tours pulled by a cycling guide. With so many choices, how can anyone make a living?
It made me think about how important it is to identify and focus on a unique value proposition — for people seeking business from tourists in New York City and job seekers trying to differentiate themselves in a crowded job market.
Walking along Central Park West, I saw one horse-and-buggy driver who would have earned my business if I were planning to take a tour of the park. He let me take his picture (displayed here), but I noticed he wasn’t sitting at the curb for long — he was soon galloping around the park with customers in tow. What was different about him? As you can see from the photo, he went the extra mile in terms of his attire and that of his horse. Most of the drivers were dressed casually, almost sloppily in comparison to this one proprietor. Despite the heat, he went the extra mile to “dress up” his horse with a festive feather, matching his own purple vest. A top hat was the perfect addition to his look.
Finally, his carriage was special and a bit unique compared to the other horse drivers. I envision tourists considering their photo opportunities. A tour is an investment; why wouldn’t customers want the most for their money? If they assume most of the drivers are capable of providing a safe ride and basic, useful information, choosing a carriage clearly depends on aesthetic considerations, and this driver made the most of that fact.
This month, the Career Collective (a community I co-coordinate with my colleague Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter) addresses the question of the mid-year job-search check-up. There’s nothing more important than knowing what makes you special when you’re looking for a job. If you haven’t already spent time thinking about this important topic, the mid-year point is a good time to re-evaluate (Please click through to the links at the end of this post to my colleagues’ ideas about the topic.)
Obviously, for the job seeker, neither attire (nor a top hat!) are necessarily distinguishing factors. (Although, make no mistake, how you dress can and does make a big difference in how you may be perceived.)
Aside from aesthetic features, what can a job hunter do to help him- or herself stand out?
Discover Your Hook
What is special about you? What skills and accomplishments set you apart from every other person in the room? In your industry? It’s not easy to determine what makes you special and unique, but it’s important to think about it if you’re going to market yourself. Think about your work. What do you accomplish better than anyone else? (Or, better than most people?) Have you been able to solve a problem and come up with solutions no one else could? Think about the results you create; how do you make a difference?
If you don’t know what makes you stand out from the crowd, it will be difficult to convince anyone else why they should hire you.
Context of Your Target Audience
Once you begin to focus on what makes you special and unique, don’t forget to consider how you fit into your target employer.
You will find out the employerâ€™s needs via research, informational meetings and networking. Don’t forget to investigate industry conferences. Many post their speaker programs online, so even if it is not feasible for you to attend, it’s easy to learn your field’s major pain points. How do your skills and accomplishments help address the topics top-of-mind to people in your field?
Can you help the organization:
- Earn more money?
- Handle their work more efficiently — saving money?
- Attract more customers?
- Solve some problem?
- Create a new product or service?
Focus on the target audience’s needs – not on what YOU want
Think about itâ€¦If someone approaches you and starts talking about themselves and what they want, how closely will you listen? Statistics demonstrate that people donâ€™t typically have very long attention spans to listen to other people talk.
Now, think about talking to someone who focuses on YOUR needs. A little more interested? I bet you are! Who doesnâ€™t want to hear someone describe how he or she solves your problems!
The lesson for job seekers: when you identify your unique value proposition, be sure it isn’t all about YOU!
Big brands like Disney decide what they offer before they create and place their advertisements.Â When they want to advertise Disney World, they appeal to families and parentsâ€™ need for an affordable, yet magical vacation.Â Their brand is all about magic and family fun.Â Their television ads appear on shows with a high viewership of people Disney targets.
If Disney didnâ€™t consider what they offer, they wouldnâ€™t be able to target their marketing.Â By defining themselves and what problem they solve, they can offer a hook (an affordable family vacation).
What is brand YOU all about?Â What makes you special and unique?Â Think about what you offer an employer.Â Consider your top five work and personal accomplishments.Â Write them down and think them over.
Marketing Brand YOU
It’s great to know your value proposition, but if no one has heard of you, it won’t do you much good!
Make sure you put together a 360-degree marketing plan, including a high-quality resume detailing exactly how you are a good match for the position. Optimize your LinkedIn profile with keywords and a story that makes people want to learn more about you.
Consider creating an online profile, or a social resume — YourName.com — to showcase your expertise and value. The site may include a blog focusing on your insights and accomplishments, or it may simply serve to help you own your name online and give you the opportunity to highlight what you want people to know about you if they search for you online.
Create a Google Profile. This has always been a good idea, but with the introduction of Google+, it is even more important, since Google+ draws on your profile information. (I haven’t had a chance to write about Google+, but it is a new social network combining elements similar to Facebook, Twitter and several other networks. Learn about it HERE. It’s still new, and not available to everyone, yet. The jury is still out regarding how useful it will be for job seekers, as right now, only early adopters have jumped on. Stay tuned for more information about Google+, but create a Google Profile even if you never plan to use the new social network.
Evaluate your Twitter and Facebook presence. Are you using them to your advantage? I could write a book about how to make these networks work for you…In fact, I did! 🙂
My book describes how to use social media tools (including Twitter and Facebook). The basics:
- Be sure your profiles are suitable for anyone to view and represent the best, professional YOU.
- Don’t waste the opportunity to connect with new potential colleagues.
- Learn what you can via social media channels about what is happening in your field or industry Following Twitter hashtags during conferences is a great way to accomplish this.
- Share what you know online to demonstrate your expertise and attract people to YOU.
Unfortunately, landing a job is a lot harder than donning a top hat and a purple vest, but with some planning and a real focus on what you have to offer your target audience, your mid-year career check-up couldn’t come soon enough. Let me know if I can help.
Here are links to Career Collective member responses!
4 Summer Strategies to Step Up Your Job Search, @DebraWheatman
Putting Your Job Search Up On The Rack For Inspection, @dawnrasmussen
It is Time for Your Check-up Ms/Mr Jobseeker, @careersherpa
Mid-Year Career Checkup: Are You “On Your Game?” @KatCareerGal
How to Perform a Mid-Year Job Search Checkup, @heatherhuhman
Reposition your job search for success, @LaurieBerenson
Mid-Year Job Search Checkup: What’s working and What’s not? @erinkennedycprw
Mid-Year Job Search Check-Up: Getting Un-Stuck, @JobHuntOrg
Mid-Year Check Up: The Full 360, @WalterAkana
5 Tips for Fighting Summer Job Search Blues, @KCCareerCoach
Are you positive about your job search? @DawnBugni, #CareerCollective
Where Are The Jobs? @MartinBuckland, @EliteResumes
Mid-Year Job-Search Checkup: Get Your Juices Flowing, @ValueIntoWords
When Was Your Last Career & Job Search Check Up? @expatcoachmegan
Is Summer A Job Search Momentum Killer? @TimsStrategy
Is It Time for Your Resume Checkup? @barbarasafani