Professionally Speaking

Taking Control

This month, Steve and Greg offer their thoughts on resumes, experience and the art of marketing yourself.

This month, I thought I’d share some tips on selling yourself. I recently came across an interesting article from Tom Peters (a prominent management guru who co-wrote the seminal ’80s book, In Search Of Excellence). Peters promotes the concept of using the principles of product marketing for your career. This isn’t as weird as it sounds, as the essence of marketing is about understanding what your customer needs; your competitive advantage (that is, what’s special about you); and targeting your marketing message on how your product—in this case, you—can best fill those needs. Peters has subsequently published a book on this topic and has many ideas on how you can better market yourself. Some of the book is a little over the top—and I can’t see myself doing everything—but there are a few things I found particularly interesting.

He starts with the common view that work, as we know it, has changed drastically. No more can we rely upon working for a company that’ll look after us for life. Rather than lament the passing of the old days, he feels we need to be positive about the changes and ensure that, as individuals, we’re well placed to survive the future. Job security may no longer exist, but employment security is a different thing altogether. Our careers will be more project-based, and we need to have lots of “braggable” project achievements so we can better sell ourselves to prospective employers.

In order to get the reader thinking, he presents a checklist that includes the following:

  • I’m known for (two to four things). By this time next year, I plan also to be known for (one or two more things).
  • New stuff I’ve learned in the last 90 days includes (one to three things).
  • My principal “resume enhancement activity” for the next 90 days is (one item).

These are about understanding where you stand now and ensuring you keep growing in your skills and abilities. He also has the powerful suggestion that—as an exercise—you design your own Yellow Pages ad in order to better understand your strengths and what makes you special. Constant renewal is also important, as there are so many new things to learn. This is as true in IT as it is for any white-collar job.

The Guide for Taking Control
You can read Peters’ original article, “The Brand Called You,” at
. The full details are in his book, The Brand You 50: Fifty Ways to Transform Yourself from an “Employee” into a Brand that Shouts Distinction, Commitment, and Passion! His Web site is at

Being the “Brand You” means there’s no room to be a shrinking violet (this is one area about which many technical people feel uneasy). Once you have a great story to tell, you need to market yourself mercilessly to the world: customers; colleagues; and, more important, your personal network of associates (“You are your Rolodex,” as Peters puts it).

Peters suggests that a resume is old news—that what you need is a marketing brochure. Rather than merely listing titles and positions, he suggests emphasizing the skills you’ve mastered, the projects delivered and accomplishments achieved. (I’ve been undertaking quite a lot of recruiting lately; many resumes leave me cold and make me feel that the person appears to be nothing special—just another technical drone. You need to make sure your resume jumps off the page and ensures that a hiring manager can’t wait to interview you.)

I was also particularly interested in his comment that a management role is synonymous with a dead-end job. He feels that it’s far better to have a progression of more interesting, challenging and provocative projects. This is probably true; in my own case, I’ll probably move to a technical leadership role, but my time as a manager has been a great development opportunity and taught me a great deal about working with people.

About the Author

Greg Neilson is a manager at a large IT services firm in Australia and has been a frequent contributor to and


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