By Nisa Chitakasem, Founder of Position Ignition and co-author of Sell Yourself With Confidence.
The concept of ‘selling’ yourself sometimes attracts negative associations in our culture. We as a society are keen neither on thinking nor speaking highly of ourselves as we’re afraid it’ll be frowned upon as ‘shameless self-promotion’ and that we will come across as brash, selfish and narcissistic. However, not only is self-promotion nothing to be ashamed of, but we all, at some point in our lives, will need to do it for the sake of our careers, whether it’s to land a promotion or pay rise, find a new job or successfully change careers.
A lot of people have the misconception that self-selling is really just talking about yourself a lot. Nothing could be further from the truth. Selling and marketing is all about making something look attractive to the target customer and few things are less attractive than someone who is constantly about ‘me, me, me’ and doesn’t stop to listen to what anyone else has to say. Instead, ask questions and find out as much as you can about the person you’re talking with—ask about the industry they work in, about what’s going on in their company and so on. Listen and learn in order to find your route into their acquaintance.
Practice consistency in word and deed. It’s much easier to sell something that’s a consistent brand. That’s why even the biggest companies are still so brand-conscious. In order to brand yourself, get into the mind-set of being consistent in everything you say and do in the professional sphere. Consistent brands are the most recognizable and therefore the most attractive to buyers. The best brands stick to their principles and so should you. It’s much easier to be consistent if you stand up for your beliefs and don’t chop and change according to what you think different people want.
Develop the Product
Just as a company shapes and designs new products to ship to market, you must too. What’s your product? It’s you. Start developing yourself as such by first getting to know yourself better. A good salesperson knows their product inside out. Don’t take it for granted that you know yourself as well as you ought to. Dig deeper and get to the bottom of who you are and what you have to offer. Think about your record of achievements, key strengths, career highlights and areas of expertise. Find your niche. Once you’ve created a list of your strengths, pick out one or two that are your strongest.
Know Your Value
Anyone who ever sells anything knows the price of it, knows its value. Get to know what your market value really is by getting a sense of the going rate. Look at other roles and job advertisements in your sector, or across sectors but for your particular type of role. See what the average salary is and get a sense of where you fit into the spectrum. Think about where you currently are and where you would like to be. Ask your network what they think if you need an external opinion.
Getting trained up will increase your value. When you buy a battery-operated product, there’s nothing more annoying than having to buy the batteries separately. So products with the batteries included seem like much better value than those without. If an employer looks at your CV and sees you made the effort to learn new skills by taking a course or doing voluntary work in exchange for training, they’ll look on you more favourably. This is because training new employees up costs money, so if you’re already trained up, you seem like more of a bargain.
Do Market Research
Research the organisation you want to work in or the business area within your company you want to move to. If you’re a job seeker looking for insight into a business, look at its website, read any press on it, connect with its employees on LinkedIn and ask around your personal network to see if anyone has any information on the company. If you’re already within the organisation and you’re seeking a promotion or transfer, research the position you want to be promoted to or the department you want to move to by speaking with the people already in similar positions or within that department.
Create an Elevator Pitch
Make it a statement about who you are and what you can bring to an organisation in as small a number of words as possible. Include what the most important things about you are, from the point of view of your academic/career record and current job status or description. Use the elevator pitch not only when you’re talking with people, but when you’re talking to them. For example, use the pitch even when you’re just leaving a voicemail for someone you haven’t spoken to before. Use it if you’re giving a speech in front of a group of people who don’t know you yet.
Leave a Paper Trail
Being able to sell yourself on paper is very important as your CV or LinkedIn profile is often the main vehicle for showcasing your talents. Know who you are creating a resume or profile for. Who do you want to be reading these and hence what is it that you want them to be thinking and knowing about you? Think of these tools as a way to entice people towards wanting to meet you. It’s not about telling them everything. It’s about giving them just enough to be interested—less is more.
Stay Focused at Work
Everyone loves a good quality product so perform quality control on yourself by making sure your standards don’t slip in your current job. Be the best you can be in your workplace, don’t neglect your work duties in pursuit of a new job and be professional at all times, regardless of whether or not anyone is watching. By keeping the habit of a good work ethic and professional work standards, you yourself will be convinced of your own value—which is crucial when you’re going in for the sell.
Get Out There
Find out where to go in order to meet the right people and get yourself known. Seek out networking organisations in your nearest city. Such groups are like private members’ clubs for the 21st century, bringing together people with something in common and helping them build relationships with one another through activities ranging from dinners to workshops to seminars. Also browse and explore the professional networking and special interest groups on LinkedIn. There is a group for almost anything on there and people are specifically there to network and to do things that will further their careers, so take full advantage of this.
About the author
Nisa Chitakasem is the Founder of Position Ignition, the UK’s leading Career Consulting Company which created the Career Ignition Club. She is also the co-author of their forthcoming eBook Sell Yourself with Confidence: 100 Tips on Selling You. Nisa co-founded Position Ignition.com to provide career consulting to people looking for guidance and support through their career change, new career direction, job search and career development.