Originally Published: Monday, 16 April 2001 Author: Kristina Pfaff-Harris
Published to: interact_articles_jobs_skills/Linux Job Skills Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Marketing Yourself: The Four P's

Kristina Pfaff-Harris look to the four P's to help create a successful focused job search.

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In this article, we're going to help you get a job by starting out with a basic marketing concept: "The 4 P's:" Product, Price, Promotion, and Place. Making up something called "the Marketing Mix," the four P's are in almost every Marketing 101 textbook, but are often ignored by people trying to promote themselves in the job market.

The Person as Product

The objectification as a human being as a "product" to be "sold" is not a comfortable idea for many. Nevertheless, witness the host of books and articles on "Selling Yourself," and "The Job Market". They call it the job "market" for a reason. Self-marketing is big business: there must be something to it. So let's get to how the four P's can apply to you, the "person as product."

First, you're the Product that needs to be promoted. When putting together your resume, you should focus on accomplishments rather than just duties and responsibilities. If you think of this in a marketing context, writing up a list of job descriptions would be like Coca-Cola(tm) running advertisements that say: "Drink Coke. It is a brown liquid with bubbles that has been around for many years." Or imagine McDonalds' advertisements saying "Our French Fries are kind of yellowish and salty. They are made from fried pieces of potato." No! Coke ads say it tastes better than Pepsi in taste tests! McDonalds says their fries beat Burger King's! So, if you're the product, why are you better than Generic Systems Analyst or ACME Kernel Hacker?

You need to figure out something very important before you can begin: what kind of product are you? Go back to the skills list you made up before, and now rate your skills on an enjoyability scale. This will help you define what kind of a product you are, and what kind of a product you want to be. For example, if you are not in dire need of a job, you have the freedom to define yourself in terms of what aspects of your experience you like the most. If you've been a Network Administrator who occasionally did Perl CGI scripting, and you enjoyed the scripting more than the network stuff, focus on the scripting experience when you write your resume, and look for those Perl jobs. If you've been an office manager who got thrown into network troubleshooting, focus on the troubleshooting. Sometimes, you need to redefine what sort of product you are for each job you apply for. That's fine -- after all, you've got that enormous list of job skills and accomplishments to pick and choose from. If you are in dire need of a job, you'll be wanting to define yourself as the sort of person who's highly qualified for each job you apply for. Whatever you do, however, don't be tempted to represent yourself as something you're not. No one likes to buy a Rolls Royce only to find it has the engine of a 1972 Volkswagen Beetle.


Next is Price, which I prefer to think of as market position. Where do you want to position yourself in the job market? Are you an inexpensive entry-level product? Or an expensive executive-level product? Okay, granted, we all would like to be at the top of the food chain. But in putting together your marketing materials (resume, and so forth) you need to be realistic about your price. High-End luxury automobile manufacturers do not target their advertising towards people who make minimum wage -- it would be silly. By the same token, McDonalds doesn't target their advertising towards the rich. There's nothing wrong with applying for a job that you may be only marginally qualified for, but to apply for a job that pays hundreds of thousands of dollars a year when you're just out of high school may not be quite as successful as you might have hoped.

Your position in the job market depends on your qualifications and experience, and changes as you move up and move on. For the most efficient job hunt, you'll want to find a range, say, entry-level to mid-level, or middle-management to upper-middle management, and focus on jobs in that range. Do some market research and find out what salary surveys indicate may be an appropriate salary for your level. Of course, it doesn't necessarily hurt to apply for a job above your range, you're just less likely to get it, just as Coca-Cola(tm) is not likely to get $100.00 U.S. for a 2 liter bottle of brown bubbly liquid

Another important consideration is to look at the subject of price from the perspective of your own needs. Sset a realistic range in your own mind so that you're not likely to jump at the first offer. If you need to make $1,000.00 US just to meet your existing needs, it makes no sense to apply for or accept a job that pays less than that. However, leaps of $10,000 - $20,000 a year in salary from job to job are common in the competetive technology industry, so don't sell yourself too short.

Targeting the Job Market: Promotion

Now that we've decided what sort of jobs you want to look for, and what kind of salary is likely for those jobs, our next step is "Promotion". Promotion is about how to inform prospective employers about your availability, and, perhaps more importantly, why they should hire you. In a way, this ties in to your "Product" definition, or what sort of skills and qualifications you bring to a job. Generally, there are two major parts to the promotion of yourself as a job candidate: The resume, and the interview. We'll focus on the resume here -- the interview is a topic unto itself!

We mentioned earlier that , many people write a resume fresh for every job they apply for. Why? Two words: targeted advertising. Naughty telephone lines place ads in magazines with (ahem!) off-color or adult content: not in the Wall Street Journal. Cisco Systems places ads in business and technology-related magazines: not in "Gardening Weekly". See the trend? The point here is that if you are applying for a programming position, and your resume says a lot about networking and little about programming, you're not targetting the right information to the right people.

When you're looking for jobs, especially in online databases, look at the descriptions and keywords associated with each position. First, notice the things under "Required", and second, the ones that are "Desirable." Go back to that long list you made of everything you've done, and pull out the things that match those keywords. These are the things that should be featured most prominently in the resume you send to that employer. Your resume should ideally be something that promotes you as a candidate for the job you're applying for -- not necessarily a list of everything you've ever done. Be careful not to "overqualify" yourself as well: If you're really desperate for any job, and you're applying for something in fast food just to tide you over, don't mention that you have a graduate degree in nutrition and are the former head of the CIA.

Sure, recruiters and Human Resources people often want to see a chronology -- but that doesn't mean that all jobs have to be laid out in exact chronological order on the resume. Some studies have found that the average employer looks at a resume for about 10 - 15 seconds. If they don't see qualifications and experience related to the job they're hiring for in that amount of time, they'll often go onto the next. Because of this, many people begin their resumes with a list of "Skills" or "Summary of Qualifications" with bulleted keywords that describe the skills that are related to the job. To keep the interest alive, many people find it easier to break up their job experience into two categories on the resume itself: "Applicable Experience" or "Related Experience". In these sections they list the jobs which are most related to the one they're applying for, and use a category like "Additional Experience," for things like "Casino Lounge Singer," or "Air Traffic Controller." Of course, the Related Experience section should come cloer to the top of your resume.

The "Additional Experience" section does serve two purposes. The first is to fill in chronological gaps that may appear in between jobs listed in "Applicable Experience". The second is to show that you've done (and can do) other things. Again, think about advertisements you've seen: At the top or in big letters, they say something that catches your interest like "Free Servers" or "Win $10,000.00 in cash." As you read down, the itemsintended to keep your interest are first, while the rules and fine print are at the end. Most marketing material follows this pattern -- put the things most likely to interest the target audience up front. Your resume should do the same.

Finding your Place

The final P in our look at self-marketing basics is "Place." In a marketing context Place usually has to do with product distribution -- getting the product out to the customer. In a job search context, similar concerns apply. There are the logistics and costs associated with relocating, as well as whether or not you even want to be "Placed" in a certain area. With so many Internet-based job databases, you may find a job outside your town that appears too good to pass up. Before you drop everything and go, however, there are several important issues to consider.

First of all, if you're happy where you are and have obligations that keep you from being able to relocate for any reason, don't apply for jobs in a different geographical area. If you might consider relocating, just not to Las Vegas under any circumstances, don't apply for jobs in Las Vegas. This might seem obvious, but you'd be surprised how much time job hunters sometimes waste applying for jobs they don't really want. If you are willing to relocate, keep in mind that moving is seldom, if ever, a fun experience. It's possible that you just want to get out of where you currently live, and don't particularly care where you go as long as it's out! Especially if this is your situation, it's critical that you consider what requirements you have before you agree to relocate.

Think about what the conditions might have to be for you to move. Would you move to another town or another country for a huge salary? If so, how huge would it have to be?If you would consider relocating, decide what you would need to make it worthwhile: employer-paid moving expenses? The first six months rent paid on a new apartment in the new town? An employer-paid room in a hotel until you find a new place to live? It can be very helpful later if you consider some of these things before they come up in a negotiation, and make up a list of your requirements.

Another "Place" consideration is whether or not you like (or would like) to work in a certain area. For example, some people are more comfortable in a rural environment, while others thrive on Big-city life. If you really hate living in a city, then you won't find your Dream Job in New York or Los Angeles. Wherever you place yourself, you'll have to live there as well as work there, and you will spend at least as much time off the job as on. If you hate where you're living, it will eventually detract from the joy of even the coolest or most well-paid job: Trust me on this one! However, if the salary is large enough, it's possible you could move to the new place, work a few years, retire and move to where you DO enjoy living. Before you relocate, though, make sure you have thought all these things out and know what you are getting into.

Finally, before you decide on your place, make sure you do your homework. If the place you're looking for is in another country, you will have visa, passport, work permit, and even cultural and language issues to deal with. Things that you might take for granted in your native country, such as what side of the road to drive on or even obtaining a driver's license, might be quite a bit more difficult in other parts of the world. That $20.00 unlimited DSL account you have in the US might translate to a lot more money and more limited access somewhere else. Likewise that favorite beer of yours in Germany might not be available (or affordable) in Japan. Before you Place yourself outside of your native land or country of citizenship, you'll want to be very careful to make sure you're not getting into something that will be difficult to get out of.

There are far too many sad stories about people who were promised a certain job, a certain salary, and benefits in a foreign country, only to find that upon arrival, the promises are revised. There are currency conversion issues, work visas and other documents, insurance, housing and legal issues which will rear their ugly heads when you go for a job in a foreign land. Some countries have little legal protection for foreign workers, so it's extremely important that you do your homework before agreeing to accept a job overseas.

Whether you go to another country or just another state or province, be sure to consider the differences in the cost of living as well. According to the cost of living calculator at Homefair.com, a salary of $30,000.00 US in Reno, Nevada, USA, for example is equivalent to a salary of about $53,000.00 US in Tokyo City, Japan, but only about $23,000.00 US in Inchon, Korea. While a raise in salary from $30,000 to $54,000 might sound fantastic, it can work out to be not much of a raise at all, if any! As you can see, depending on location, you may require more than twice your current salary because housing, food, taxes, insurance and other costs are higher. By the same token, the cost of living may be significantly lower elsewhere. If you make $30,000 US in Hamburg, Germany you'll need to make only about $20,000 in Reno, Nevada, USA. Don't let the currency numbers fool you either: 10,000,000 Korean Won is only about 18,000 Deutsche Marks, 9,000 U.S. dollars, or 5,500 United Kingdom Pounds. This also seems like common sense, but in the excitement of a negotiation these details can and are often overlooked. Many job seekers don't look past the salary amount in comparison to their current salary, and ignore the differences in cost of living. Before you go, try a cost of living calculator such as the one at Money Magazine's Website and a currency calculator such as the Universal Currency Converter. While these are not scientific tools, they can help you get some idea of what you are getting into.

So that's a bit of Self-marketing 101, with apologies to my former business professors. As you can see, properly marketing yourself for the right job can take a lot of work. Some people don't really find it worth the effort, and simply send out applications and lists of former jobs and qualifications over and over until they get hired somewhere. That strategy may work for a lot of people. However, we have found that the more you can focus your search, the less time it takes to get interviews for jobs, and the fewer resumes you have to send out before getting a response. Just like in any other activity doing your homework usually pays off in a job hunt.


Kristina has, over the years, worked as an Air Traffic Controller with the US Army, Casino lounge singer, freelance journalist, portrait photographer, English teacher, Resume writer and self-marketing consultant, systems administrator and Perl programmer, among other things. While employed as a resume writer, she gave intensive workshops to military and other organizations about transitioning from federal or government service to the civilian sector, and aided many people in changing job fields through appropriate self-marketing techniques. Her years of extensive on-the-job research in job searching, self-marketing, resume writing, and changing job fields herself led to her position as a staff writer for the Jobs section of Linux.com. Kristina did not have time to write a bio, which is actually all to the good. Her bios are usually quite frivolous and whimsical, and tend to show a complete lack of respect for all that is dry and stuffy. In fact, she absolutely refuses to take herself seriously, a flaw which has caused her to have a terribly interesting life. Besides writing for Linux.com, she wrote for the computing page of her local paper for a couple of years, and has had fluff pieces published in Newsweek and Internet World magazines, after which she figured that some people will publish anything and gave up writing for money. She can now be found puttering about with websites devoted to language and linguistics, teaching and learning and CGI programming in Perl.

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