Marketing skill handy for getting hired

by Carol Kleiman

April 29, 2004

`Learning how to market yourself ... is a critical skill for all job seekers because it allows you to apply marketing theory to the most important product--yourself. It's all about a brand called you."

That's the strong belief of Margaret Sullivan, chairwoman of the marketing communication department at Columbia College Chicago and a former advertising copywriter. And she backs her words with action.

Although it's unusual for a college to include job hunting as an academic subject, Sullivan's department offers a 15-week course, "Marketing yourself: Job-hunting skills for the rest of your life."

The course, she says, "prepares students not only for their first, but also for their second and third jobs." It was introduced in 1989--another difficult employment period--and was the idea of David Gordon, now internship director in the department.

"Marketing yourself is a special skill and needs to be addressed over your lifetime," said Sullivan, a faculty member since 1978. She has a bachelor's degree in social psychology.

What's the advantage of teaching career guidance in a marketing setting? The strong edge it offers is a marketing perspective on finding a job. Another plus: Its instructors are marketing professionals who know the exact skills job seekers in any field need to sell themselves to a prospective employer.

All that is a big plus in a slow and challenging job market, where anything that gives you an advantage is needed.

And here's what's needed, from a marketing perspective:

"Job seekers need to know job hunting is a full-time job, so you have to plan to hunt for one 30 to 40 hours a week" Sullivan said. "You have to network on a regular basis, use informational interviewing, keep track of your accomplishments and keep a job-search portfolio and everything related to it in one place.

"Marketing yourself also is about understanding what you can do for the employer--and what the employer needs."

Sullivan says classes are based on a 12-step program. They include getting started; self-assessment; job assessment and the exploration of alternative choices such as internships and volunteering.

Also included is reassessment of career goals; resume preparation; development of cover letters; role playing for job interviews; job search strategies; getting interviews; weekly calls to employers and assessing your progress.

A final aspect of the course focuses on reducing stress, because a job hunt, the department head says, can be one of the most stressful things you can go through.

"A job search is like launching a new product--it takes focus, concentration and support," Sullivan emphasized. "When manufacturers want to introduce something new, they first do market research, product development and assess the marketplace.

"And that's what job seekers have to do, too."

Learning the ropes about how marketing really works is another important tool in a successful job hunt. "A recent graduate wrote me that if he had not gone through the role playing in one of the classes, he would not have gotten an excellent and hard-to-get job at an exciting media television network," Sullivan said.

"He said it warmed him up and made him feel like a well-oiled machine, and that's what marketing is all about--skills, not personal feelings."


Carol Kleiman's columns also appear in Monday's and Tuesday's Business sections. Hear her on WBBM Newsradio 780 at 6:21 p.m. and 10:22 p.m. Mondays and 11:20 a.m. Saturdays. Watch her "Career Coach" segments on CLTV. E-mail

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