Notes from a Job Search: Creative Ways to Market Yourself

Once you get beyond the basics, how can you get noticed without being annoying?

With so many people caught between jobs these days, CFO asked Gary Starr, a CPA and MBA who was most recently CFO at a $70 million professional-service firm, to write about his current experience looking for a new position. In the third installment of a series, Starr looks at ways for job hunters to increase their visibility in some creative and unusual ways.

One of the trickiest aspects of a job search is finding different ways to market yourself. You need to make people aware of your skills and experiences without coming across as self-aggrandizing. This is not necessarily an easy task for financial executives, who typically don’t have a marketing mind-set about business issues or about themselves. However, it is important to change your mind-set and start thinking about creative ways to get noticed, besides just networking and sending e-mail updates. There are many ways to do this; here are a few suggestions.

Get Published

The most obvious marketing strategy for me is writing articles. I have begun to write about the search process for several online forums, giving helpful hints. In response to my articles, many people have reached out to me, including recruiters, old friends, and people who didn’t know me. I also posted a note about the articles on my LinkedIn profile, which helped with the exposure. We all have expertise and good knowledge about various topics; it’s just a matter of transferring the information into a compelling article or blog. Having exhausted the search tips, I am now thinking about my next subject, and I am energized by the challenge and possibilities.

If writing isn’t your passion, think about other ways you might leverage online media to raise your profile. For example, I noticed recently that someone on LinkedIn started a group called “150 Most Influential Recruiters” and invited all the recruiters who had been tagged with this honor by a major business publication. In two days, more than 20 recruiters signed up. That was a great idea and a smart way to get noticed. I wish I had thought of that!

Go Back to School

Finding opportunities at your alma mater could be a good way to get exposure. Consider taking or teaching a class, or volunteering at a high-profile alumni event. You might even ask the alumni office for people to contact or review the alumni list for networking possibilities. There are many opportunities here; you just need to find the right one for you.

Do Good Work

Volunteering your time at a nonprofit organization is a good way to help others and feel good about yourself. It may also allow you to display your expertise, especially if there is an opportunity to meet some of the board members. You might also register with BoardNetUSA, an online organization that matches individuals with nonprofit boards. I obtained my last job as a CFO through one of my nonprofit board connections.

Find the Fountain of Youth

Look for a start-up that needs help or find some part-time work. There are lots of groups and organizations for start-ups that could be good beginning points. New York City even provides space and desks for start-ups before they are able to go out on their own. I recently began working with a preseed start-up, and it has been an interesting and challenging experience. I am using my financial skills and connections, and I am learning a lot about the digital media space. I’m happy to take on any new projects that help me expand my nonfinancial skills. You may be able to negotiate some compensation for your efforts in either cash or equity, but don’t dismiss an opportunity if no money is involved; the experience and exposure can be invaluable. (By the way, the founder sought me out through my LinkedIn profile and connections. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is robust!)

The bottom line is that there are endless possibilities to market yourself; you just need to move outside your comfort zone. Getting involved in activities that allow you to meet other people, extend your network, show off your skills, keep busy, help others, and generally feel good about yourself is critical while you work through the lonely process of finding that next full-time opportunity. — Edited by Alix Stuart

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