Harvard Business School teaches a simple concept. It goes like this: “Identify your unique competence and match it to a larger opportunity.”
While intended for Harvard business students, that message transcends the corporate lexicon taught in classrooms and should be at the very center of your marketing the brand called "You."
Today I’m going to show you how to leverage that exact business concept in a way that will help you achieve your goal of launching your Dream Career.
Your “unique competence” is a combination of your God-given talent, your learned skill-set, your education, as well as your life and work experiences. Even the intangibles such as your character, integrity and work ethic are part of the mix.
The key is to zero in on the top attributes of your personal (and professional) brand and package it in a way that shows proof that you can solve a unique problem, fill a specific need and be the right answer to a larger opportunity.
And when I say, "package it," that's another way of saying how you position yourself in social media, craft a cover letter and resume, and how you speak to your target audience, whether on the phone or in person.
During the first phase of launching your Dream Career, it's important that everything you say and do (online or in person) has a consistent message that highlights your unique competence that is matched to a larger opportunity. Your message is basically saying, "I'm the answer to one of your biggest challenges."
Let me give you an example. When I was in my 20s I started a sports marketing company that produced 3-on-3 basketball tournaments and beach volleyball events during spring break. For sponsors, I was targeting the most well-known brands in the United States. But at first, I wasn't even getting past the gatekeeper!
I realized my brand didn't stand for anything. I wasn't highlighting my unique competence. And it definitely wasn't matched to a larger opportunity. So why would any sponsors listen to my pitch?
I identified my unique competence was delivering the Generation X demographic to potential sponsors. (During this time GenX was the most sought-after demo in marketing, just like the Millennials and GenY are today.) So,my pitched changed from "generic" sports marketing company, to "Specializing in GenX." Because of that, Pepsi became the title sponsor and then Frito-Lay, Ray-Ban and Southwest Airlines all became sponsors as well because my unique competence matched larger opportunities.
In your case, the “larger opportunity” can be anything related to the employer’s business objectives. This includes things such as increasing sales, creating new revenue streams, managing clients, writing press releases, editing video, designing sneakers, community outreach, market research.... the list goes on.
Regardless of the Dream Career business sector you choose, opportunities can be found. A strategic way to view the employer’s opportunities, or business objectives, is to re-frame them as business challenges and problems.
The reason you want to do this is because it will help position you as a legitimate candidate. You want the employer to see you as the person who can meet those challenges and solve those problems.
The good news is that sports companies in every business sector have problems. All kinds of problems. And they need your help. For example, businesses need help with:
Like every other industry, there's no shortage of problems that need to be addressed. In order to identify the opportunities that fit, you must be proactive. Do your homework. And do the legwork. The more specific a problem you can solve, the more attractive you’ll be as a candidate. This will increase your chances of launching your Dream Career in your favorite industry.
And if you’re graduating soon, or new in the business world, you don’t have to be the single answer to the problem. Instead, communicate how you – as a team player – can make a solid contribution to the department’s challenges.
If your goal is to work in your dream industry, make sure “Networking Events” are part of your career-launching strategy. Not sure what that means? Networking Events include networking in-person at trade shows, conferences, seminars and workshops. Jobs in your dream industry don’t just appear out of thin air. You need to network! Below are 3 keys that will help you make meaningful connections at live networking events.
When you’re at a networking event, the last thing you want to do is rattle off a long-winded Marketing Message (aka Elevator Pitch). There are a couple of reasons for this. For starters, it will turn off anyone who hears it. Secondly, it sounds disingenuous.
One of the first questions people ask at a Live Networking event is, “What do you do?” That question is perfect because it gives you an opportunity to deliver your Marketing Message. However, proceed with caution.
With all the energy and excitement in the room, you’ll be tempted to shoehorn your entire Marketing Message while answering that one question. Instead, state a simple three-second answer such as, “I specialize in Information Technology.” Or, “I help companies market themselves through sports.”
A 30-second answer sounds scripted. And forced. A three-second answer is more conversational. And genuine. Plus it gives the person asking the question an opportunity to follow-up with another question, allowing you to finish your Marketing Message in a more natural way.
The rest of your Marketing Message should support your initial answer, such as where you went to college, your major, your work experiences, etc. All of this supporting information should be communicated in a conversational manner.
Going to generic networking events is OK, but there are much better events such as industry-specific events. For example, if you’re interested in sports media, you’d find better connections at a Sports Video Group (SVG) event than a generic event. There are conventions and professional associations in every industry. In addition to networking at the conventions, I would also encourage you to join those professional associations that match your interests.
And as a member of SVG, or any trade group that has a direct link to your career, you’ll be privy to many more industry-specific events outside the organization. Target those ancillary events and put them on your calendar as well.
While your goal is to land a job within your dream industry, make sure your expectations at Live Networking events are reasonable. In other words, trying to land a job—at the event—is ridiculous. It’s also obnoxious. Your primary objective with Live Networking is to establish some good contacts. The way to establish good contacts is by doing your homework.
This kind of homework starts with identifying who you want to meet and knowing which events they will be attending. If they’ll be speaking or presenting at the event, this gives you an excellent opportunity to engage them before or after the event, depending on the itinerary.
Those targeted contacts should be nurtured in such a way that those contacts become genuine connections. A connection is better than a contact. It’s a deeper, more meaningful relationship. It takes time, effort and a little finesse.
The best way to make initial contact with your targets at Live Networking events is to first introduce yourself (first and last name only, at this point) and ask a simple question such as, “How did you get your start in broadcasting?” Or, “How do you see broadcasting changing in the next five years?”
If Live Networking makes you feel uncomfortable, you’re not alone. Lots of people feel the same way, including senior executives. Asking open-ended questions like those mentioned above is a great way to take the pressure off. It’s puts the emphasis on the other person, which is fine because at this juncture, it should be about them. You need to be a sponge.
Eventually, the person you are targeting will ask the inevitable, “So, what do you do?” And from there you’re good to go. But if they don’t ask what you do, ask them a follow-up question along these lines: “I specialize in TV production. What advice do you have for someone looking to break into this part of the business?”
During Live Networking events there are unwritten rules. Don’t ask for a job. Don’t ask for a job interview. Don’t seem needy in the slightest way. And don’t hand out your resume. In addition to those, “Don’ts” there are also some “Do’s.”
Do have a business card that includes your contact information, social media information and your blog or personal Web address. Your business card should also include the same Marketing Message headline/tagline that’s on your LinkedIn profile. Place it right under your name like a title.
Do follow-up with every single contact you make via email, including other aspiring executives like yourself. A simple, “It was great to meet you” is fine. I would also recommend including a link to your blog/website and an invitation to connect on LinkedIn. And if it makes sense, follow them on Twitter.
And if you did ask someone for “Career Advice,” it’s in your best interest to mail that person (not email) a ‘Thank You’ card the very next day. That means you better be collecting business cards. But… (here’s another “Don’t”), don’t be over-aggressive! The networker that goes around the room collecting business cards like a maniac is repulsive. Only after you’ve had an engaging conversation do you ask for the person’s business card. Make sure to hand them your card at the same time.
With select individuals, it’s important to keep the conversation going. When I say select, I mean those that have the power to hire you. These folks are either Directors, Vice Presidents, Senior Vice Presidents and, of course, any C-Level executive. And when I say, 'keep the conversation going,' that means figure out a way to keep your name in front of them. (Note: sending your resume is not one of them!)
If you don’t have a blog that’s relevant to your new contacts, start emailing important articles that are meaningful to their business. Or a special report, or a study that brings some sort of value to their department. This will not only make you stand out and keep your name in front of important people that can impact your career, but reading all the key articles you collect and email could eventually put you on our way to becoming an expert in your field.
- Be conversational when answering 'What do you do?'
- Ask open-ended questions about the career of others
- Mail physical Thank You cards to anyone that offers career advice
If your number one career goal in 2019 is to launch your Dream Career, keep reading! I’ve been helping people with their careers since 1998. And out of all my business experience, including my dream job with the Dallas Mavericks, nothing has been more fulfilling than helping people — just like you — achieve their career goals.
IF I CAN LAUNCH A DREAM CAREER, SO CAN YOU!
In college, I was an average student, at best. I didn’t go to a prestigious university. And to be frank, college didn’t come easy. Mainly because my focus wasn’t on academics, it was on my career. I didn’t go to college to get good grades. I went to college so I could have a career I was in love with. While some students poured all their energy into math and science, I dreamed about a career in sports. And I would strategize ways to make it happen.
My junior year I applied to for an internship with the Dallas Mavericks. I got an interview. And I poured everything I had into getting the internship, including making a hand-made Dallas Mavericks "magazine." Long story, short: I didn't get the internship. I was crushed, to say the least.
I used that defeat as fuel, so I started my own sports marketing during my senior year. Within a few years I was landing major sponsors and advertisers like Pizza Hut, PowerAid and Pro-Cuts among others. I was also securing deals with Emmitt Smith’s marketing agent, Tony Hawk’s ad agency, and because of those relationships I had the privilege to work with NBC Sports and NFL Properties.
The primary reason my Dream Career came to fruition is because I discovered how to achieve career goals. Today, I’m going to show you some key principles that will help you not only set goals, but more importantly, how to achieve them.
Brian Tracy, a world-renowned expert on goal-setting says, “You can’t hit your target if you can’t see what you’re aiming for.” In other words, if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll wander aimlessly and never reach your ideal destination.
When you have a clear vision of what you want to do with your dream career, then you’ll be able to formulate a plan to get there. Having a good vision of your career includes having the ability to articulate the value you can bring to an organization. This is what employers care about most. Focus on your value. Imagine where you fit and how the company will benefit what you deliver.
After you have a clear vision of your career, write it down. Pro Football Hall of Fame running back, Emmitt Smith, said it like this: “It’s only a dream until you write it down, then it becomes a goal.” Emmitt didn’t accidentally become the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. He did it by starting with the simple act of writing. This exercise part of the crystallization of your vision.
Setting career goals and having a crystal clear vision of where you want to go is extremely powerful. But that’s only the beginning. There’s an old axiom that says, “Plan your work, and work your plan.” You’ll have a better chance of accomplishing your goal when you put together a solid plan behind it.
Imagine if NFL playoff teams didn’t have a plan in place to achieve their goal of beating their next opponenet… that would be foolish! It’s a do or die situation. Same goes for you. Landing that first job in your dream industry is your playoff win. As the saying goes, When you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Word.
One of the biggest reasons people fail to reach their career goals isn’t because their goals are too big. It’s because they don’t establish a time and a place to work on them. Too often people think setting the goal is the key, but it’s not. That’s only the beginning.
Imagine if a college football player had a goal to play in the NFL, but never established a time and place to prepare. He’d get crushed. You don’t haphazardly go into the NFL Combine. You schedule time to prepare. Likewise, you don’t haphazardly pursue a job with a dream company like ESPN, or Nike. You schedule time to train for it.
But instead of a weight room, your training ground is anywhere you can turn off your phone and get locked in on what you’re trying to accomplish — that’s where you need to be. Same place. Same time. Each and every day.
In your quest to launch a dream career, you will face challenges. Doors will slam in your face. You will hear the word “No.” And your insecure friends might even make fun of you for pursuing such a lofty goal.
So, how do you prepare for such harsh reality? You become resilient! You develop fortitude. Mental toughness begins by making a promise to yourself that you will not give up, no matter what.
Successful people have mastered this mindset. When things get difficult, they don’t quit. They simply hang on just a few minutes longer than everyone else. Making a promise to yourself will give you the inner strength to persevere.
Zig Ziglar, the legendary master motivator said, “You can have anything you want in life, if you will just help other people get what they want.”
I’ve seen this principle work time and time again. Many business deal I’ve done over the past 20 years all started because I reached out to help someone. Are these highly-targeted individuals and companies? Yes. Are there strings attached to my generosity? No. You have to come from a genuine place of truly wanting to help others succeed. When you do, doors will start flying open.
Don’t make this hard. Now that you have a vision of what you want to do in sports, figure out who will pay you for doing it. Market yourself accordingly. (See Key Principle #6 above for best practice. Then buy my book, Dream Career: How to Break Into the Industry of Your Dreams - Fall 2019)
I don’t talk much about this because it seems so inconsequential. Almost absurd. But I hear from a lot of students, recent grads and even seasoned professionals tell me they get to the interview stage, but then don’t get the job. And I always ask them, “Did you ask for the job?” Almost every one of them says, “No.” Huge mistake. Marketing yourself for a job is an exercise in selling. Go for the close, and ask for the job!