Posted by: MSirod | 3 August 2008

Seven Tips for Marketing Yourself

by Allan Hoffman


During the boom, techies with in-demand skills might have been offered a job after a perfunctory interview. Now employers are increasingly selective, so technology professionals — even those with years of experience — must face facts. To get hired you need to become a pro not just at coding Unix or C++, but at selling yourself to companies besieged with resumes.

This is no easy task for those who have forgotten how to pitch themselves to employers. "A lot of people are brand new to this," says Patti Wilson, owner of The Career Company, a Silicon Valley career-management firm.

Here's our crash course in the art of selling yourself, with seven tips to help you cope with the job market's new realities.

Assess Your Soft Skills

In 1999, two years of experience as a systems administrator might have gotten you hired. No longer — not when you are competing against hundreds of candidates with skills similar to yours. Candidates must now assess their soft skills. "This is about doing a little bit of soul-searching," Wilson says.

Ron Peterson, branch manager at the St. Louis office of IT staffing firm Bradford & Galt suggests techies ask themselves about core competencies, especially mentoring and team-building. "Intangibles are going to sell this individual," Peterson notes.

Develop an Elevator Pitch

The elevator pitch is a brief self-marketing statement to be delivered at job fairs, conferences or other networking events. The pitch should echo the summary of a resume, according to Wilson, focusing on four key points designed to attract employers' attention. The pitch should sound informal and unrehearsed. To practice, deliver it to your answering voice mail, Wilson advises.

Learn to Network

As any salesperson understands, who you know is essential to finding leads. Networking is about being able to connect from person to person to person, Wilson says. "It's about building a web of relationships, until you meet someone who's looking for what you do," he adds.

That means attending technical conferences, classes, job fairs, IT organizations and special networking events designed for techies. Even civic organizations, such as arts groups and other nonprofits, can be useful. Plan lunches or after-work meetings with former colleagues, recruiters and others.

"Try to be out there and make an effort to be known," says Wesley Jost, who has retooled his networking efforts after being laid off. "If you sit around and wait for something to happen, you're going to be disappointed."

Seek a Support Structure

In order to learn, or relearn, networking and interviewing skills, look to organizations offering workshops or classes, such as NOVA, a one-stop career-development organization.

Know Your Audience

Selling yourself effectively means learning everything you can about a company, from the time you write a cover letter to interview day. Tech job seekers "need to have researched the company, be able to speak intelligently about the company and offer their skill set to solve the company's problems," says Barry Mills, national recruiting director for MATRIX Resources, a national IT staffing company.

Be a Closer

Mills suggests techies use a traditional sales tactic for closing the sale. At the end of an interview, ask the interviewer, "Based on this interview, is there anything that would keep you from hiring me for this position?" As Mills notes, "It's very much a sales-type question." What's more, send a follow-up note to the individuals you've met at the company, thanking them for their time.

Practice Patience

Finally, don't be discouraged if finding a job takes weeks or months. "Practice patience each and every day," says Jost. "You won't be handed your job like you were a year ago." Put it this way: If you stop looking, you're out of the game. As any salesperson knows, perseverance is essential to closing the sale.

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