Why are job seekers like brands?
“You’re not that special. Just one of many.”
(image by TSBAGO…and HI!)
Undoubtedly if you’re a job seeker, you’d have heard many rejection excuses that in the end boil down to those few words – just less harsh.
The Darwinian efforts of brands struggling for consumers’ attention and products for shelf space closely mirror what’s going in the world today. Too many job seekers, not enough jobs. And where there are jobs going ‘round, there aren’t enough trained people to do them, creating a major imbalance.
Whether you’re a brand or a job seeker, you’re going to need that something extra special and the clichéd extra factor. I often hear people ask – either directly to me or anywhere else: “How do you stand out? Is there a set formula?”
Unfortunately, for both brands and job seekers there aren’t. Like many things, there are several underlying rules, but one “formula” that works cannot be applied to everything else as-is.
How job seekers are like brands
Brands need to be flexible especially in times face adversity, but this is a gargantuan task. Along its lifespan, a brand gets to become known for one thing and to be described by adjectives that are vaguely similar to each other – comfort, speed, taste and so forth – and so do employees. As they advance through their career path, the more specialised they become – social media marketer, pop star, real estate broker, divorce lawyers.
However, there are those who transcend organizational borders fluidly, much like there are brands that can cater to almost anyone. For example, some people drink Coca-cola almost anywhere (ironically, I have yet to meet a marketer who has not used Coke as an example in their entire career span). Then there are those who would drink it on special occasions and some only with whiskey. There are also those who use it to cook and some use it as a medicine (which isn’t that far-fetched, since its original recipe was used as a medicine).
Another brand that does well in this is Virgin.
It boils down to the core; the heart; the DNA (this proliferation of terms is proof that branding can become a victim of its own making. Note that I did not use the original version of that quite). Call it what you want, I call it brand positioning.
Virgin’s core offering is a well known brand that will give you better value than the market leaders (and a sprinkle of edge). The point here to remember is that value means different things depending on who you ask. Cash-strapped people will define value in monetary terms whilst those are time-starved often quote time-saving as value, as can be seen in the rise of online grocery shopping. There are those who like the convenience of using the one brand to fit in with lifestyle. If you use a Sony VAIO, you can hook it up to your Sony Bravia to watch the videos and photos taken with your Sony Handycam and Sony Cybershot. If anything goes wrong with either of them, you only need to go to one place: a Sony shop. If you need a cable for the Handycam and a new battery for the Cybershot, you go to one place: the Sony shop. That might cost more than, say Maplin or Circuit City, but almost certainly saves you times.
Fluid positioning allows brand to move horizontally across industries and subsectors. Car brands are “engineering experts” and no longer “the best car your money can buy” and this allows them to produce anything related to engines and motors: from cars to lawn mowers to food blenders. Tech companies, similarly, are repositioning themselves not as technology experts, but future-proof entities. “Making tomorrow better” is expansive and might allow them to capitalise on their own environmental technologies. Mobile operators are now “better, connected” and “sharing” and have moved into fixed lines and internet services. In theory, they could try and move into “connectedness” and “sharing” subsectors. For example, Virgin could start an online dating site. Though the name could cause a controversy or four. Then again, what do you think their underwear line was called?
Similarly, mid career job seekers are half way through their chosen careers and moving on up. It’s not easy to leave that and pick a new career, or move into less related areas. And assuming they’ve weighed in on the consequences and took the jump, they’d still have to compete with others who are experienced in that area and those who are already in that industry who are looking for less pay just to get a job. If Coca-cola found a market gap – where the consumers wanting red and white clothing and that’s all they wear – and moved into that arena, the giant beverage maker might find themselves up against the (emerging) market leaders in that segment.
Coca-cola might have a few dollars to spend and a huge brand (incidentally the most valuable brand and second most utter word in the world – please tell me I don’t need to paste a link for this!), but they are still known for drinks, not t-shirts.
Consequently, an accountant who plays drums at weekends who lost his job recently might find it hard to be invited to play at a club when the local band is more in demand.
Unless he does it for free, which might help him to move things along a bit? But what if the club doesn’t even have space for him? Many graduates are being urged to do internships and “get new skills” (despite already spending loads on the newly obtained “skill” at university). So these newly fired up ants apply to the companies they want to work for. Remember that this is the entire newly economically workforce that we’re talking about. Employers then get inundated with emails and letters and Game Boys and get pissed off. Ants then get responses such as “We’re sorry but we do not have the resources to manage interns”. As a result, perhaps less than 10% (rough guess) of the graduates get internships and the rest get to work on ships (or at the checkout counter)
Perhaps the question to ask now is not “How can we reverse this”, but “how QUICKLY can we reverse this”.
NB. Just remember to NOT say these things.