Will They Buy What You're Selling? Personal Marketing 101

By Megan Patiry on January 31, 2014

This article is brought to you by College Pro. Looking for an edge over your competition? With College Pro, you’ll learn business skills you can take with you in any future career. To learn more about College Pro, click here or call 1-888-277-7962.

I stood in perpetual dread outside of a row of giant corporations, soaked to the bone under what seemed to be the storm of the century. The ad prices and last year’s yearbook trembled between my fingertips, and giant claps of thunder asked me why I was here, performing the incredibly hassling act of door-to-door marketing.  I could already hear the employers inside screaming at me to go away. How dare I try to sell them something?

Okay, so it wasn’t really that dramatic. It wasn’t raining, for one, nor was anyone really screaming at me–but inside, that’s what it felt like. My time in high school selling ads for our yearbook was pretty daunting, and before entering those businesses, my hands felt dirty. Needless to say, it wasn’t the best first marketing experience on record. To be clear on how terrified I actually was, my mother ended up selling most of my ads … and I still squeaked by with a C in ad sales.

Photo by RedBalloon Advertisers via Flickr

Marketing is commonly associated with trying to sell something (which it is) and using pushy techniques to do so (think door-to-door salesmen). As negative as it may seem, there is still no arguing the fact that it’s an essential part of growing business and selling products; and now, it has also become an essential part of the job search.

In essence, the time has come to market yourself. The good news is that marketing doesn’t have to give you the feeling that you’re “selling yourself” along with your humanity under a stormy sky. In fact, following the steps below will greatly increase your chances of landing the job you want and will help you to create a place for yourself within your field.

Identify Yourself and Your Strengths

Larry Chiagouris, professor and author of The Secret to Getting a Job After College, stated for USA Today, “Students should list what they’re good at and what they like to do, then they should take that list and apply it to a career direction.”

It is important that you know your skills, how to implement them and why an employer would need them. Knowing, fully, your passions and strengths is the foundation to having the confidence to market yourself  to potential employers; without it you’re more likely to fumble during an interview or give vague, generalized descriptions of skills rather than specialized, knowledgeable ones.

Be Authentic

Once you’ve determined your skill set, make sure your resume, LinkedIn profile and all other aspects of your “brand” remain authentic. This is essentially letting your personality shine through while still demonstrating your skill set.

Alyson Weiss, social media specialist, stated in an article for Career Moves:

“The key to successful ‘branding’ language is authenticity, not a specific tone … and strategically using a combination of industry buzzwords that will immediately mean something to a target connection, notable accomplishments that back these buzzwords up, and unique language that helps you stand out in the crowd.”

Define Your Goals and Your Audience

Set goals for yourself, such as where you would like to be in six months and where you see yourself. This will help you decide exactly where you don’t want to be, so you then can market effectively in the direction you wish. After deciding on a goal, focus on areas of marketing that will help you get there, and people or companies you need to reach to make it happen. Once you determine this target audience …

Develop Your Story

I put this step ahead of networking for several reasons, mainly because in lieu of knowing your skills like the back of your hand, having a story to back up these skills appeals to human nature, and therefore potential employers. This shouldn’t be mistaken for a fabrication of how you came to be, but rather a story of you as the product. Typically, this is put into the elevator speech, which is something we’ll discuss in an upcoming tip.

Susannah Breslin, freelance journalist and Forbes contributor, stated in an article for Forbes, “Products don’t exist in space. They are plot points in stories. And increasingly consumers want their products embedded in stories.”

“More often than not, people are not buying your product,” she wrote. “They are buying your story.” 

Beslin also goes on to mention Oprah Winfrey as an example of a person who has sold their life story. If you look carefully, you will also notice that most highly successful blogs and self-improvement books tell the author’s story as a backdrop for the information they’re providing.

Tailor Your Online Profiles

This goes for LinkedIn, your online resume or portfolio and any other networking sites you’re utilizing. These are where you feature your story, showcase your skills and interact with other professionals, so you should be sure to tailor them to your “brand.” Keeping yourself, as a brand, consistent across platforms also confirms the authenticity of your skill set.


After you have developed your story, identified your audience and tailored your marketing efforts across your online platforms, it’s time to network. This includes attending and volunteering at events within your marketing scope and developing your elevator pitch. This is commonly a 60-second speech that outlines who you are and what you can do, and the more you can craft it into a story, the better.

Christine Clapp, a member of Toastmasters, stated in an article,”That personal story you share will help establish a connection and build rapport with listeners.”

“People at networking events don’t always remember a name, but they can usually recount an interesting narrative,” she wrote. “People enjoy listening to stories because they are entertaining and more memorable than highlights from a resume.”

It is also important that the first sentence of your elevator speech outlines the services you provide, effectively, “… describing yourself as the solution to a problem faced by your clients,” Clapp stated.

Look, Listen and Learn

In addition, learn from others in your field or niche that are successful and that you admire. Attend one of their seminars, read one of their books or browse their blog.

Pay attention to the details of how this person presents themselves and how it has worked for them. How is their website set up? How do they market their qualities on their website or in their portfolio? You will find that most of these individuals are able to effectively use a mix of “showing” their skills through the use of showcasing their work and “telling” them through their professional title, which breaks away from in-your-face, pushy marketing techniques; i.e., “You must hire me now, because I have everything you’ve been looking for. I am one-of-a-kind. Hire me, I can do it!”

As you can see, this type of language comes off as slightly desperate and, in all respects, pushy. There is a way to let potential employers know you have the qualities they are looking for by showing them, and by letting your work and your story do the telling. There are also assertive ways of doing this that don’t involve desperate pleading, such as requesting a face-to-face meeting or following up with a networking contact through a direct phone call.

Always remember, at the end of the day, it’s important that you develop a nearly unshakable confidence while marketing yourself, and that you market your true (albeit professionally polished) self.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to step inside and out of the rain.

Run your own business, get control of your future, make an impact on your life. To learn more about College Pro, click here or call 1-888-277-7962.

Megan is a freelance writer, organic foodie, health activist, and spontaneous traveler. She also has a passion for adventure, hiking, yoga, and paradoxically, chocolate in all its raw, gluten-free forms.

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