As I have often written here on Forbes — for a beat I have loosely defined as “the past, present, and future of citizen empowerment” — the unstoppable phenomenon we call social technology is changing the way we need to think about lots of things. One the one hand, it has empowered us; as ordinary citizens, we can do things today that at one time were the sole province of a few professionals. On the other, along with this privilege comes the responsibility of doing things you never had to do before. Example: when social media first got the attention of marketing professionals (a little more than just a decade ago), many believed that they should start blogging, the most prevalent social-media publishing tool at the time, well before easier tools like Twitter came along. What they did not realize is that blogging can be a burden. Not long after the first blogging land rush, many marketers began abandoning their projects. (The Web today is still littered with the remains of long-dead blogs.)
But there’s one other thing that I’ve often observed about the opportunity/burden that social tech has introduced: the driver of these new behaviors is the new digital economy which dictates that value in all markets increases when power is shared among more people. Doing more on your own may feel like a burden. But the reality is that doing more on your own is a market imperative.
I was reminded of this challenge recently when catching up with Jeff Saperstein, a fellow Silicon Valley marketer who not only successfully made the transition to the digital world, but also found a new market for the fundamentals of his craft: career coaching. Working with his clients virtually — using Skype and more current tools like Zoom — Saperstein has structured a career coaching curriculum that tracks to technology marketing principles. And it all fits under this relatively little-known thing called positioning.
Think like a technology marketer
I’ll provide some context. Before I became a tech marketer, I worked as a ghost-writer and editor, and — for a brief but unforgettable time — as a small professional theater producer. At some point I realized that I was a communications professional; communications, I realized, was the common thread through my entire professional life. By the time I had this minor epiphany, it was the late 1990s and I was living in San Francisco. Just south of me — in Silicon Valley — I had many friends earning perhaps three times my pay, and some with the same skills. Having had my fill of theater work, I felt it was time to rebrand myself for the Valley. For a few weeks, I worked with a career coach and found a job at a large Silicon Valley PR firm.
I quickly learned two things. First, the large firm was not a great fit for me; I learned early that redirecting one’s career is an iterative process. Second, I learned that in Silicon Valley, branding is not regarded nearly as high as positioning. Reason: as a number of early technology marketing strategists have observed, the most important challenge for tech companies is to differentiate from others; there are way too many companies that sound alike. Which is why brand advertising for most tech companies comes much later on the marketing timeline, if it even comes at all.
Understand the problem
So how does any company approach positioning? I spoke with Saperstein earlier this week, and we traded notes on one of those early technology marketing strategists: Guy Kawasaki. Kawasaki, who first rose to fame as a marketer for the Apple Macintosh launch in the 1980s, has had a great Act II helping startups find their voices in an even nosier world. Among other tools, he’s created a popular template called “The Only Ten Slides You Need In Your Pitch.” There are other templates like this, but what I like about Kawasaki’s is that it most closely reflects the process that all good consultants must follow to close a deal. And it all starts by understanding the problem that you can solve for your client, or — in the case of job hunting — your future employer.
How does this differ from the traditional approach to job hunting? Most hunters, says Saperstein, begin the process thinking they know what the employer wants and prepare themselves with generic tools — a resume, LinkedIn page, and pitch. But unless the job is generic — an increasingly rare thing in the new economy, where jobs that are not outsourced really need to matter — this isn’t likely to work.
Saperstein — who like me grew up in New York City — likes to draw on recollections of life in the old country. “I like the metaphor of tailoring. Most job seekers think that employers today like to shop off the rack, when in fact they are looking for custom-made solutions.” But you can’t find a solution unless you take the time to investigate. A smarter approach is to take time with a number of potential employers to discover the real problems before presenting yourself as the ideal candidate. This can save you a lot of time, and spare you a lot of bad interviews.
Then focus on the solution
And it can also help you develop the right solution to present to a potential employer. This lines up nicely with the next slide in the Kawasaki deck: “the solution.” It’s actually more of a hypothesis of what the employer needs and what you — because of your talents and your passions — can deliver. You may need to iterate (remembering my experience). But unlike an off-the-rack product, your hypothesis would be more like “something that’s custom-fit,” says Saperstein. To steal another phrase from the tech marketing world, this approach might also help you get closer to a “market fit,” when you finally find a buyer for the things that make you so special and that fit with what you want to do in life.
The Saperstein way to career discovery should resonate with anyone who fears that there’s are only a limited number of places for his or her talents (I speak with people like this practically every day). And it comes from someone who made the transition himself, from counseling marketers to counseling job seekers on how to more effectively position themselves for the new economy. As I said at the top of this article, that might feel like a burden. But just as many tech companies have benefitted from a disciplined approach to matching their talents to actual needs, job seekers too can benefit. It’s the new market imperative that folks like Saperstein are helping people to embrace.
This article was written by Giovanni Rodriguez from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.