Last Updated: November 27, 2020

The job market has grown more competitive over the years. An increasing amount of skilled workers are competing for a shrinking pool of jobs, and every year millions of undergraduate and graduate students enter the labor force to compete against more experienced workers.

This is made worse by the fact that the world now has a globalized labor market, forcing United States workers to contend with highly qualified candidates from other countries seeking lucrative jobs and contracts.

With so much competition for jobs, it is necessary for anyone looking for work to do all they can to stand out. A polished resume and an eye-catching cover letter are no longer enough to get a job. Today’s workers must use the tools of the Internet and marketing techniques to frame their skills and experiences in the best possible ways to avoid losing themselves in the pack.

What is self marketing?

Self marketing helps individuals improve their image and reputation to advance their careers. Self marketing is sometimes called personal branding because it uses branding tools to create an image around an employee rather than a product (See also Brand Marketing). It gives candidates more opportunities to effectively communicate their values, skills, experiences, and vision to potential employers. Successful self marketing helps employees separate themselves from the hundreds of other applicants who may be competing for the same job.

There are many strategies that job seekers can use to differentiate themselves. Social networking sites allow self marketers to build profiles where they can show off examples of their work, highlight their experiences, and network with employers. Blogs offer users a chance to demonstrate their expertise and comment on industry trends. Professional conferences present opportunities to connect with employers and make a personal impression, while volunteer work makes a positive statement about the employee’s values.

Tips for self marketing

  • Use testimonials – Let the satisfied responses of former clients help to market your services to future clients.
  • Make self marketing a habit – Treat self marketing just like a second job. Dedicate a portion of every day to working on self marketing efforts.
  • Utilize social media – Use sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google + to show off samples and network with potential clients or employers.
  • Post a resume online – Make it easy for employers and clients to find and download a comprehensive resume from the web.
  • Use online forums – Join the conversation in industry related forums and don’t be shy about highlighting experiences and qualifications.
  • Use a ‘gravatar’ – A gravatar is a “globally recognized avatar and is a picture that appears next to blog posts and discussion board comments.” Using one helps to humanize online activities and promote recognition.
  • Make a case for yourself – Include a section on your personal website that spells out 5-10 explicit reasons why your work is better than others.
  • Use keywords – Using industry related keywords in blog posts, social media profiles, and personal websites makes them easier for employers to find.
  • Market with others – If you maintain a blog, offer to recommend the work of a friend or colleague if they mention you on their own blog.

Who implements self marketing?

There are two groups of people who are most interested in self marketing, inluding those candidates who are seeking jobs, looking for promotions, or trying to switch jobs. They must identify job openings, then market their skills and experiences to hiring directors. If they are looking for a promotion, they will need to market themselves within a company, while those looking for a career change must extend marketing efforts to different industries.

Freelancers are the second group of people who must aggressively market themselves. They work independently and must enter into contracts with a variety of employers. Developing relationships with other freelancers, past clients, and industry professionals is necessary for finding consistent work as a freelancer. These independent contractors will need to self market continuously to keep clients aware of their brand, their abilities, and their reputation.

The Rise of Self Employment

Over the last few years more and more people have decided to go into business for themselves. The chart below, based on data from The Bureau of Labor Statistics, shows the growth of self employment in recent years. In 2010, the peak year, people who were employed for themselves made up 14.5% of the entire work force. Clearly this is a form of employment that is popular and growing. As self employment grows, so does the necessity for self marketing.

Tools for self marketing

  • Quora – A social question and answer site that is popular with employees in the tech industry. The site can be used to do research and to spread a personal brand.
  • Kickstarter – This site allows users to donate funding for creative projects. Taking on an ambitious project subsidized by Kickstarter funding can be a great way to show off skills you wouldn’t otherwise have the means to.
  • Refollow – This simple tool makes it easy to remove inactive Twitter followers from your list of followers. Clearing away inactive followers frees up space for others with a legitimate interest in your work.
  • Pingomatic – This service allows users to “ping” blog posts and comments so that they are easier to find on the web.
  • Later Bro – Users can enter status updates in Later Bro and then set scheduled times for them to be posted. This makes it easy to consistently and evenly keep your social media profile updated.
  • TweetBeep – This site sends users Tweets that contain prescribed keywords. This is a great way to keep up with the industry conversations happening on Twitter.
  • Tumblr – This blog site makes it easy to set up a blog and share content across the web and social media. Compared to other blog sites, Tumblr is optimized for networking.

How is a self marketing plan developed?

In developing a self marketing plan, job seekers must identify what kinds of jobs they want, what their biggest strengths and weaknesses are, and how they are perceived professionally. Self marketers must understand where they are in order to know where they are going. Once these questions have been answered, the job seeker can start identifying potential employment opportunities.

Understanding where employers gather is key in the networking process. People looking for technology jobs might seek out blogs or high profile message boards to start making connections. Conversely, someone looking for work as a chef might attend cooking demonstrations or farmer’s markets to connect with people interested in food. In the same way that traditional marketers must target customers, self marketers have to target specific employers. (See also Targeted Marketing)

The process of building a personal brand is labor intensive. Job seekers must constantly update blogs, respond to emails, maintain correspondence, and refine their overall image. Their self marketing plan should describe in clear language a systematic approach to the job hunt. It needs to identify daily tasks, key contacts, ongoing projects, and new networking opportunities, giving potential employees a clear sense of when, where, and how they will promote themselves.

At the outset, the self marketer needs to set goals for themselves. The goal could be as simple as finding work, or involve more nuanced objectives like increasing Twitter followers or getting a personal email from an industry leader. As the marketing effort moves forward, it needs to be analyzed in the context of those goals. If things are not working as planned, the marketing strategy needs to be adjusted.

Careers in self marketing


How can a marketing school help you succeed?

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There are very few jobs associated specifically with self marketing. This is a marketing strategy that people do in their own time and for their own benefit. Rarely do people get hired to carry out the self marketing efforts of others. That being said, job seekers can greatly improve their chances of finding work if they earn degrees in marketing from four year institutions.

The theories and techniques taught in marketing departments can apply as well to people as they do to products. The fundamental principles are the same. A degree in marketing teaches students valuable strategies for connecting with people online, highlighting strengths, making lasting impressions, and developing brand images. Students who have training in marketing are better equipped to take control of their own professional image.