This career advice piece on marketing tools for job seekers originally appears in my career column for Money and Time. This is the unedited version:
The start of the new year is traditionally a good time for hiring. Yes, this means that job seekers should refine their resume. But a resume is just one of multiple ways job seekers should market themselves. Do not spend all of your efforts just perfecting your resume.
Here are 10 marketing tools for job seekers:
Social media profile
More companies are using social media to find candidates. When you update your resume, update your online profiles as well.
Social media activity
Don’t just change the details on your profile. Update your status, post an interesting article related to your line of work, make a comment that showcases your professional expertise. If you are looking for a job that requires social media savvy (e.g., marketing) having a static profile, however, updated, will not be enough without regular and relevant activity.
You don’t need a professional to take your photo, but you do need a professional-looking photo. A photo on your social profile makes it more personable. From a practical standpoint, photos help your networking – some people won’t remember your name after having met you once or a while ago, but they might remember your face.
A cover letter is not a rehash of your resume. It enables you to highlight your most relevant and compelling facts. It helps you smooth over a story that includes employment gaps and/ or career changes. It is a chance for you to make the case for why your dream employer should hire you.
You can’t just copy and paste your cover letter into the text of an email. It will be too long and too formal. A cover email is like a cover letter in that it highlights the best, explains away any red flags and makes a compelling case, but it has to do this in a fraction of the space.
When you meet someone, you need to introduce yourself. What you say is part of how you market yourself. Keep in mind that your new connection ideally can introduce you to others, including possible employers. So what you say needs to be memorable and repeatable.
You also need to be able to talk about yourself in more than a 20-second sound bite. You may book a networking meeting over coffee and have the chance to share more about your background. Aim for two minutes. This is enough time to give the arc of your career, as well as highlight key accomplishments.
Your pitch for someone else to use
Your friend offers to help and will forward your resume or make an introduction at an event. What do you want your friend to say? Using your cover email and 20-second pitch, be ready with a version in the third person that someone can use to introduce you.
Of course, a writer should have clips, and a designer should have samples. But a software developer can showcase programs, a marketer can share a campaign, a consultant can share a slide presentation that summarizes the business case developed. Every professional can showcase their work in some way. A visual, tangible example is so much more powerful than a wordy explanation.
You can pull all of these items together – social profile, social updates, headshot, short introduction, portfolio, and resume – in a personal website branded with your name. You can list your URL on your business card and resume to point employers to additional information. A recent survey of over 15,000 job seekers by branded.me and The .ME Registry showed only 4% had personal websites, which implies just having a personal website would be one point of differentiation.
Listing 10 tools, in addition to a resume, suggests there is a lot for job seekers to pull together. However, many of these build on each other and support the answer to “Why should an employer hire you?” This is a question job seekers must answer confidently and convincingly, regardless of which marketing tools they use.