Westport consultant says set
yourself apart in job search

     As a management consultant for the past 22 years, Westport resident Michael Goodman was used to people asking for help with their job search. But when he had an unusual number of requests over several months, all asking the same kinds of questions while he offered the same fundamental advice, it occurred to Goodman that most of what he was saying could he generalized and captured in a book.
     The book offers job seekers a strategy on how to capture the right job in a competitive labor market.
     “I decided to write a book that offered a strategic overview, rather than a how-to book with information about such things as writing resumes,” Goodman said.
     The result is “The Potato Chip Difference: How to apply leading edge marketing strategies to landing the job you want.”  The book focuses on how an application of the same strategic approach that management consultants use with their corporate clients can help a job-seeker land the perfect job.
     “When people are searching for a job, they usually don't have a well-thought-out strategy. That's the piece most people miss,” Goodman says. “People without a job are so anxious.  They are so eager to take action that they just begin sending out resumes and going on interviews. But you are more efficient at getting what you want when you take the time to plan first.”
     When asked about the name of the book, Goodman cites his former position as director of marketing at Frito-Lay. When joining the firm, he was amazed the company's senior manage­ment could tell so much about a potato chip just by looking at it. They could tell what part of the country it came from, often the specific manufacturer, the frying temperature, what kind of oil was used, the salt level and perhaps even the number of days since it was processed.
     “The point is that there is no such thing as a commodity,” Goodman said. “All potato chips are really just sliced potatoes, fried in oil and salted. The connection to career planning is that from an employer's perspective, most applicants look like a commodity, just another resume crossing their desk. Applicants must distinguish themselves from the competition.”
     To do so, Goodman suggests finding out some background about the company to which a job-seeker is applying, and then customizing the resume accordingly.
     “See what the company does, what it's all about,” Goodman said. “You can find a lot of that information out on the Internet. That's a good way to get their public face. But then talk to employees or former employees, vendors, or anyone who deals with the company. With this information, you can tailor your resume to that specific company.  It’s important to know both yourself and your employer before beginning a customized search.”
     By taking time for some introspection, and making sure there’s a good fit between the applicant’s skills and interests and the employer’s needs, Goodman believes people will make a better career choice.
     “Rather than taking the first available job that pays enough, take some time with the search,” Goodman said.  “Then you won’t change jobs so often, and you’ll actually get a better result with less stress.”

Positioning is a key

     The highly publicized woes in the American economy have created a new set of challenges for technical professionals in the job market.  But most technical professionals,

Photo by Robin Fellows

Getting the job of your dreams
Michael Goodman, author and management consultant,
will be speaking at Westport’s Barnes & Noble
about how to strategically land a desirable job

according to Goodman, are lacking many of the skills needed to meet the challenge.
     “It's common knowledge that most technical professionals have had a pretty easy time in the labor market over the past seven or eight years,” Goodman said.  “But with so many high-profile companies cutting back, the competition for good jobs has suddenly become a lot more intense.  And many technical professionals are having a tough time making the adjustment.”
     In Goodman's view finding a good job is, at its core, a “marketing challenge.”  He readily acknowledges the importance of having the kinds of technical skills, experience, and background that employers are seeking.
     “But whenever you're competing with other technical professionals who have the same kinds of skills, experience, and background you have,” he adds, “your success almost always comes clown to how well you market yourself, and in particular, your ability to 'position' yourself.”
     “Positioning;” says Goodman, “is at the core of marketing strategy, and the failure to position yourself is probably the single most common reason why people don’t get the job they really want.”
     Positioning, he points out, is still something of an art – not a science – though it is based largely on an analysis of empirical data.
     “You can't effectively position yourself as someone you aren't,” Goodman asserts. “A good positioning is truthful, accurate and precise, and it exists in the mind of your customer, or next employer, not just on a piece of paper.”
     Starting with the positioning, Goodman extends the application of leading edge marketing strategies to all the relevant areas of career planning - including identification of potential employers,

development of a targeted resume, preparing for and  guiding the interview process, handling tough questions, negotiating salary and terms of employment, and accepting the offer in a way that will all but ensure success.
     “It's no different than marketing a product,” Goodman says. “And usually it's the best marketers who get what they want.”
     “Most people – especially those who are technically trained – are at a real disadvantage in the job market today,” says Goodman.  “They may have the skills employers are seeking, but they don’t know how to market what they have.  And in the end it’s all about marketing.”
     “The parallels between marketing a product and marketing yourself are truly striking,” Goodman says.  “Just as a well-positioned product stands out from the crowd of commodity products, so does a well-positioned person stand out from his or her peers when a prospective employer is comparing resumes.”
     “Once you understand what marketing is and how it works, you will never be a commodity again,” he asserts.

 Marketing career

     Goodman was born and raised near Chicago, and attended Purdue University, where he earned a bachelor of science degree in industrial engineering and a master of science degree in industrial administration.  He completed additional post-graduate studies at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.
     Early in his career he held brand management and senior marketing positions at Procter & Gamble, Frito-Lay and International Playtex.  He moved to Connecticut in 1977, and in 1979 founded Dialogue Marketing Group, a strategic planning, marketing and consulting firm in Westport, where he still works and lives.

Five steps to your own
 marketing strategy

     Senior management consultant and Westport resident Michael Goodman has identified five major steps in the job-search process that lend themselves to smart marketing. They are:

  • Understanding the product and the customer by actually selecting your next employer based on thorough research up-front to ensure a good fit between your skills and interests and the company's real needs.
  • Positioning yourself properly by communicating your uniqueness and separating yourself from other job-seekers who don't understand good marketing strategy.
  • Setting and managing expectations so you don't end up over-promising or selling yourself short at a critical juncture in the process.
  • Avoiding the most common pitfalls by anticipating and pre-empting awkward questions and helping your interviewer do a good job of assessing you.
  • Closing the sale by structuring and accepting the offer in a way that will ensure a win-win outcome (or, as marketers often refer to it, a "repeat purchase").

     “For a trained marketing professional, each of these is second nature,” Goodman says. “For an engineer or technically trained person, they just don't have the same meaning. And the gap can mean the difference between getting the job you want and settling for a second-best job.”

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Last updated: Monday, November 03, 2008