In the past few weeks, I’ve had the same conversation with at least a dozen corporate executives, so it seemed to warrant a dedicated blog post. One of the greatest challenges facing my clients and countless executives is how to effectively market yourself when you’re a generalist, rather than a specialist. In other words, how do you create a focused value proposition when you’re a jack-of-all-trades, master of none (or, more likely, master of some)?
This tends to be more pervasive among rising and higher-level executives, which makes a lot of sense. As you progress through an organization, your role becomes more strategic, which requires a broader perspective, as well as involvement in groups or activities that fall outside your official domain. Whereas early in your career you specialized rather narrowly in a particular area, you’ve since traded depth for breadth.
When this becomes a challenge is when you decide it’s time to make a career transition and you must now market yourself to your next executive role. Personal marketing is uncomfortable for many executives, but particularly those experiencing pressure to distill their diverse background and skills into a concise and powerful branding statement.
Here are 4 things to consider as you develop your marketing strategy:
1. Recognize that diverse experience is an asset, not a liability.
Before you can craft a compelling value proposition, you must shift your mindset. Your perceived lack of specialization is not a liability. Your breadth of experience and diverse skill set offer you a unique perspective. Because you understand the bigger picture, you are able to conceptualize the benefits and limitations of key decisions. You also possess the ability to effectively communicate with different audiences because you understand their objectives and motivations. To position yourself for the executive role you want, focus on what makes you unique.
2. Have a clear target.
What do you specifically want to do next? Are you having difficulty marketing yourself because you aren’t clear about your target? Are you struggling to narrow your focus because you’ve worked in a number of areas in the past and feel qualified to perform many roles?
While you may be capable of working in a number of different capacities, you must define your target to successfully market yourself. (See Why Keeping Your Career Options Open is a Bad Idea for more about the importance of focusing your executive job search.) Choose a target that best aligns with your strengths and interests and focus on finding opportunities that match that profile. If you need to, you can always adjust your target along the way, but building your marketing strategy around a specific focus will yield much greater results.
3. Emphasize relevant experience.
Just because you have a broad range of skills and experiences doesn’t mean you have to showcase all of them at one time. Once you’ve selected your target, focus on the strengths and accomplishments that are most relevant to that target. Choose examples from your work history that best illustrate your fit for the position you want.
As you move deeper into discussions with hiring managers or networking contacts, you may find it helpful to reference other skills or experiences. These may help to strengthen your candidacy. Leading with this information, however, will only confuse your audience and dilute your message.
4. Believe in your story.
To effectively sell yourself to others, you need to know and believe in your own story. Why are you the right person for the job you want? Most of the executives that come to me struggle, not because they lack a compelling story, but because they lack confidence in their story. They undermine their own value in the way they talk about themselves.
Once you have a clear target and understand your unique differentiators, you must embrace your story. Until you believe in yourself, others will not see you as the leader you want to be. Get rid of statements such as, “I’m the glue that holds this place together,” and emphasize the measurable value you bring to an organization.
If you’re a jack-of-all-trades interested in marketing yourself to your next executive role, the key to success is focus! Don’t get bogged down in the details of your diverse work experience. Select a clear target, develop a value proposition that aligns with that target, and confidently position yourself for that role. If you struggle with this process, contact me to learn more about how I’ve helped many executives overcome this challenge and successfully land their ideal roles
Are you a “jack-of-all-trades?” How do you manage the challenges of marketing yourself to new career opportunities?