Posted by: nickgerlich | November 28, 2007


One of the things I like the most about my field of marketing is that the subject matter can be applied to just about anything. Marketing is clearly not limited to commercial enterprises. Non-profits and for-profits alike live and breathe marketing. Politicians depend on it. Preachers use it to proselytize and build their religious empires. And even the anti-marketers use it to spew their condemnation of the very method they embrace to make their point.

Ah yes, there’s a capitalist gene in everyone’s DNA; marketing is our lifeblood whether we like it or not.

But there is one aspect of marketing we have not discussed yet. And that is you. Not “you” the preacher or politician, and not “you” the person who works for a manufacturer, bank, or retailer. No, “you” the person who must sell him or herself, the “you” who really is a “product” perhaps in the most abstract sense, but a product nonetheless.

In other words, we’re talking about self-marketing here. Shameless self-promotion? Perhaps, but it’s something we all have to do if we want to get anywhere.

Self-MarketingRemember that resumé you have circulated? This is your ad campaign. It promotes you, with the hope of getting a job. You use those pages to highlight your skills, your academic pedigree, and your relevant work experience. It’s kind of like taking out an ad in the Wall Street Journal, except that you’re in control of circulation now.

And what about your MySpace or Facebook pages? Same thing, although you had better be careful what you put there, as employers do indeed look for you…along with the pictures of your drunken shenanigans in Cabo.

But self-marketing runs much deeper than this. And it is this point that I hope is one of the primary take-aways from my courses each semester. We are constantly in a state of self-marketing, and while our resumés and online documents are often the mouthpiece, it is our political, social, and intellectual capital that truly make us marketable. Together these comprise the human capital that others want…and hopefully in sufficient quantities such that your price is driven sky high.

How’s that again?

One of the hardest things for all of us to grasp is that we are always repositioning and re-inventing ourselves. As Norm once said in Cheers, “It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there…and I’m wearing Milk Bone underwear.” If you fail to be top dog in something, you’ll become dinner for the next guy.

One of my colleagues (and a former student, I might add) paid me a huge compliment the other day. He said, “You’ve re-invented yourself many times.” I pondered this a second, thanked him, and then basked in it a while. At the risk of my head no longer being able to fit through his doorway, I tried to demur, but he went on to explain himself.

Maybe it was by fluke, divine intervention, or someone having a lot of faith in me, but my biggest re-invention came in 1997 when I was beckoned to join what was then a fledgling WTOnline program. I was the second WT professor to go online, and the first in the College of Business. I knew absolutely nothing about delivering a course online (and some of you may argue that nothing has changed!). I was assigned a full-time GA who would teach me HTML and everything there was to know at the time about web publishing.

I’m still not sure how it all happened, but this was the best thing that has ever happened to me professionally. I liked what was happening, and embraced it. And you know what? It became my calling card. I didn’t need to be in a position of legitimate authority; no, suddenly I had referent power simply because of what I knew.

My point in sharing all this is not to sell myself to you, but rather to demonstrate how you can market yourself. It’s all in the packaging and how you meet the needs of a dynamically changing marketplace.

But this is probably the hardest pill to swallow: you will indeed need to re-invent yourself in the future, probably several times. How you respond to the forces of change will determine how well you can market yourself uniquely among your peers. Of course, that’s probably why you’re in college or grad school in the first place. But it does not stop here; this is only the beginning. It’s up to you if others are to feel your pulse.

Dr “All About You” Gerlich


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