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Sep 28

Job Seekers: Be Like Q-tips

Everybody’s mother taught them never to put anything in their ear larger than an elbow. Well, there goes the market for Q-tips. Unless, maybe…

Rebranding the product! Your mother’s slogan is now printed on the side of the box “Warning: Do not insert swabs into ear canal” and the catch phrase is now “Variety of Uses.” The Unilever’s brand and marketing genius is one of the best I’ve seen for suggesting uses for their product. There is even a website for “helpful hints” on the use of Q-tips. The one on the package (that caught my eye when I was…ahem, fishing for one to poke into my ear) was the illustration for electronics. “Clean and dust even hard-to-reach spaces” with a picture of a Q-tip cleaning between the keys on a keyboard. I never thought about that before, but it is certainly cheaper and easier to store than those aerosol cans that spritz who-knows-what when you blow the dust, cookie crumbs and dried tuna salad out of the keyboard.

We talk incessantly about personal branding and how much or how little it can mean to a job search. I still hold firm to my opinion that skills and accomplishments are more important than just a brand, but what do you do when your brand is worn out and not seen as useful anymore? Then it is time for retooling the marketing approach to build on all the strengths you possess. It is almost cliché that past performance defines future performance, so investing the time to rewrite the elevator speech, cover letter and resume can redefine your usefulness.

Revisit your skills inventory – In calibrating a job search to a target audience, often there are omissions that are left behind. At first it may seem like cutting out a piece of your heart, but after editing it may be totally forgotten unless there is a periodic audit of your past performance that succeeded. Nothing is insignificant if it illustrates how you add value to a given situation. The value you brought to your old job is often more than appropriate for your new job. [Q-tips for Baby Care: Delicately care for sensitive areas]

Explore transferrable skills – Without embellishing accomplishments to the absurd, it is possible to apply logical references to previous accomplishments to prove the ability to perform more difficult tasks. Managing a project involves the manipulation of all resources to a successful completion. A change in the type of project should not lessen the importance of managing time, budget and people to get the job done. Focus on similarities to make the brand shine. [Q-tips for Household Use: For all household cleaning – picture shows swab cleaning grout between tile]

Retain important messages – Just because you are rebranding doesn’t mean that you must start all over. Key messages from your previous self-marketing are probably still applicable, so remember that you are polishing the product to make it shinier, not building an entirely new product. Obsolescence creeps closer to your skill-set every second. Showing that you are building on a strong foundation shows ability to learn, grow and contribute. [Q-tips for First Aid: Gently apply ointments and creams]

Incorporate new skills into the message – All jobs, but especially technical jobs, are changing at a rapid pace in today’s job market. If your brand is obsolete because you haven’t bothered to stay current on the latest trends there is no time like now to begin expanding your knowledge. Education, training and even continuing dialog with key opinion leaders in your field shows that you are in touch with technology and not behind the times. Resting on the laurels of past accomplishments need to be updated with applicability to things that are important to employers today.  [The Q-tip package is recyclable…probably more significant in modern thinking]

How useful are you and where do you get ideas for reinventing yourself? It’s all around you. Leo Gerstenzang invented Q-tips in 1923 after seeing his wife wrapping a piece of cotton on the end of a toothpick. Researching yourself on a daily basis and keeping in touch with the environment is like looking through a transparent mirror…your image is projected on the world around you. If the image doesn’t fit neatly into the picture, make the necessary changes in yourself to create one that does.

 

1 comment

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  1. Cyndy Trivella

    Great analogy Tom and yes, the bottom line is just as you so eloquently state. Everyone who wants to thrive will need to keep “polishing their silver” if they want to stay competitive, in-demand or just simply in the know.

    Sometimes it’s as simple as this, staying current and aware gives us topics for conversation so when we meet people, we are more interesting to speak with at parties or networking events. It certainly shows how we interact and communicate, which can be a good indicator of our soft skills in the workplace.

  1. The Weekender: Special Job Seeker Edition » Make HR Happen by Tom Bolt

    […] Job Seekers: Be Like Q-tips – We talk incessantly about personal branding and how much or how little it can mean to a job search. I still hold firm to my opinion that skills and accomplishments are more important than just a brand, but what do you do when your brand is worn out and not seen as useful anymore? Then it is time for retooling the marketing approach to build on all the strengths you possess. It is almost cliché that past performance defines future performance, so investing the time to rewrite the elevator speech, cover letter and resume can redefine your usefulness. […]

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