Changing jobs is becoming more common and more challenging every year. At any given point in time, there are more than 23 million Americans actively considering or looking for a new job. Moreover, that number is increasing each year as the job pool expands, new companies are established at an unprecedented rate, new technology creates jobs and opportunities that didnít even exist a year earlier, home-based businesses and self-employment become an attractive alternative for many, and the culture accepts frequent moves as an expected and normal part of good career progress and self-fulfillment.

     Consider that more than twenty-seven percent of workers have been with their current employer less than one year, and the average American workerís tenure with an employer is only about forty-two months. That number is decreasing every year, and if the current trend continues, the average will be less than three years before 2005 is over.

     This phenomenon is posing a real problem for job seekers not only because it means that there is more competition in the job market, but also because the model weíve all been using for career planning was developed in an earlier era, when it was not at all uncommon for workers to spend their entire careers at one company ó or two at most. As a result, the job search process and career planning in general were not subject to frequent and regular exploration and redefinition. You did it once or twice, and then you simply focused on doing your job and getting promoted.

     As a professional marketing and management consultant, this strikes me as a product life cycle problem ó in reverse order. What used to behave like a mature market ó with high brand (or company) loyalty ó has become instead like a new market in the rapid growth phase. During rapid growth, a product category experiences significant new trial, brand switching, and a high consumer need for current information.

     In fact, the basic principles of good marketing strategy ó including an understanding of product life-cycles ó can provide an excellent framework for addressing career planning and job switching in this new environment. Having spent my entire career in marketing management, this should have been obvious to me from the outset. In practice, it wasnít.

     For years, people have come to me for career advice. Thatís probably because Iíve worked and consulted for some very large and well-respected companies: I have had an opportunity to understand their corporate cultures, gain the confidence and trust of senior management, and have substantial input ó with responsibility for recruiting, hiring, training, and evaluating new staff members. The advice seekers were essentially networking and asking me whether I knew of a position that might be right for them.

     Then at some point it occurred to me that these people ó the job seekers ó were faced with having to market themselves, and they were having a problem understanding the parallels between marketing a product, service, or company and marketing themselves to their next employer. They were oblivious to the direct and immediate value of developing and implementing a sound marketing strategy for themselves.

     Thatís when I began to think more seriously about those parallels and study the process by which people make career decisions, change employers, seek new jobs, and pursue their personal objectives in the workplace. It was a fascinating journey, and it resulted in this book ó The Potato Chip Difference: How to apply leading edge marketing strategies to landing the job you want.

     This book will take you step by step through the strategy development process ó the same process that leading management consulting firms use with their large corporate clients ó and will show you how to apply the basic principles of good marketing to the most important product in your life ó YOU.

     If you will take the time and make the effort to understand the steps involved in strategy development, youíll end up with a better plan, in a shorter time, and with a more satisfying outcome than if you simply start sending out resumes, calling headhunters and answering employment ads.

     This book will show you how. The perspective and approach Iíll explain in the pages that follow have already been proven in the real world of product and service marketing, and theyíve helped a number of personal acquaintances and career planners set their own job search strategies. Iím convinced they can work for anyone. Of course, you may want to read other books and get other points of view. You owe it to yourself to begin with the broadest perspective possible. I even suggest some of the references I like best in the course of the discussion ahead. The important thing is that you start with a sound strategic approach ó and thatís what this book is all about.

     Letís get started. Strategy first.

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Last updated: Monday, November 03, 2008