Self-marketing – a necessary evil?

OUR Australian culture is unique. I think the word that best describes us and our funny ways is egalitarian. For those of you who are rushing to your dictionaries – let me save you the time – it means “believing in and upholding the principle of equality among people”. We all want to be equal. Fair enough. Of course, our cultural leaning towards this principle has also brought us egalitarianism’s cousin, the Tall Poppy. You know, the one who achieves more. They must have cheated, right? Because we’re all equal here in Oz.

Egalitarianism is a great principle. It keeps the bastards honest. And it is what makes us who we are. But does it also hold us back?

The workplace has transformed. We’re being asked to be more accountable, for everything. And, increas-ingly, we’re being asked to prove to those who hire us how we will continue to add value to their organisation. We’re being asked to market ourselves.

This runs against our cultural grains. Australians in general are not ones to blow their own trumpets. This concept doesn’t sit well with us. We’d prefer to get on with the job at hand and let people see the results for themselves. And we certainly don’t like to see some other brown-noser pushing his or her own barrow to get ahead. It’s just not Australian.

Our reluctance to stand out from the crowd, I argue, does hold us back. I could argue this point at both the national and personal level. Given we are focused on career success, I’ll follow the personal path and leave the national argu-ment to Hugh Mackay.

Let’s put this in the context of advancing your career. You used to only have to market yourself when you were out of work and going for a new job. These days, that situation certainly still applies, however add onto that the possibility of promotion, the chance to work overseas, joining a new project team, and the classic organisational restructure where everyone is asked to reapply for their jobs. Every single one of these scenarios requires you to sell your value to the person or people who will make the decision on your next role. How well prepared are you?

The consequences of not marketing yourself, parti-cularly if you are a corporate employee, can be dire.

Consider the case of Joe Bloggs (not his real name) who decided to ignore corporate politics and just do a good job. Joe didn’t bother “playing the corporate game” and spending time with his colleagues and bosses other than the necessary day-to-day communication. Joe’s com-pany had recently merged with another and he knew that job losses were imminent. Rather than setting out to prove that he could add value after the merger, Joe relied on just “doing a good job”. What happened to Joe? Well, he no longer works there, and he didn’t resign.

The message? Rapid change puts a premium on information. Politics just means dealing with people. And times of rapid change can advance the careers of people who are politically astute – ie those who can market their value to those who matter.

Self-marketing can take many forms, including correctly structuring your resume, conducting yourself in interviews and wisely playing the corporate game. All are skills that can be learned. Over the coming weeks, we’ll cover the finer points of resumes and interview techniques in more detail.

The key to self-marketing is like any marketing – understand what the buyer wants. When asked about their work, most people recite their job responsibilities. The employer, already losing interest, thinks, “Fine, you know what you need to do in your job.” But the employer’s real questions are: ”What does this person want to do?”, “What can they do for me and this organisation”, and “Will they fit my team?” You’ll need to answer these quest-ions to their satisfaction to make the cut.

Answering these, and similar questions, means being able to articulate your strengths, achievements and

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