What “Mad Men” Teaches Us About Career Search

By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS, CSMCS

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This past Sunday marked the opening of the new season of the hit TV series, “Mad Men.” The title refers to Madison Avenue and its strong connection to advertising in the 1960’s, not insanity.  “Mad Men” is an incredibly well written TV show that deals with the trials and tribulations of the lives of the people involved in one high level advertising agency.

What is the connection between “Mad Men” and career search?  As I watch the show, it further underscores how important the concept of product branding is to the successful sale of the product. They painstakingly create campaigns looking for the precise slogan, gimmick or catch phrase that will make the product stand out and capture the hearts and minds of the public to bring in sales.

This same painstaking care is what it takes to run a successful career campaign.  Career search involves creating and selling your personal brand in such a way that helps you stand out and capture the attention of the recruiter, hiring manager or other professional involved in the hiring process.

It is with the same effort and intensity that advertising people use to create their campaigns that a person in job search must use to work on creating their Value Proposition, their resume, their outreach letters, interview prep, etc.  It is also with the same intensity that a person in search needs to network so that they can take qualitative steps towards securing their next position.  I mention qualitative steps because it is the quality of the work that a candidate does rather than the quantity that is what leads to success.

What are some specifics of what I am referring to?

To start, if you are in search, you must take the time to sit and reflect on the stories of your work life. Think about the different things that exemplify your skills and strengths. Once you have this straight in your mind, create a Value Proposition that reflects this information in a concise manner. Create your resume using your Value Proposition and incorporate metrics that reflect the successes that you brought in your past jobs. Pay attention to the words that you choose so that your resume does not come across as “plain Vanilla.”  Use language that is engaging so that you grab the reader and make them want to read on. Remember, you only have 15 seconds to get the person reading your resume to keep going before they say, “I have 500 other resumes in the pile. Next!”

You want to keep your network up and nurture it to be able to access the hidden job market and gain entry to the positions that never make it to the job boards and Craigslist. In addition, when you finally get called for an interview, you must prepare by learning everything there is to know about the company and what is currently happening. You want to show that you are well-versed and current about the happenings at the firm. By creating a strong, concise Value Proposition and knowing the stories of your work life, you will be able to respond with confidence to most questions that are asked of you in an interview.

By paying attention and synthesizing your ability to solve the needs of the company in a thank you note after an interview, you distinguish yourself from the crowd. And, knowing the things that are important to you during contract negotiation help to provide clarity so that you can negotiate for the best compensation package that you can get.

Like the “Mad Men” of the 1960’s, if you put as much care and detail into creating your brand for your career campaign, you will position yourself in the best way possible for success.

Please leave me a comment and let me know if this helped you. As always, if you are struggling in search, please reach out to me at lindavan@myexecutivecareercoach.com or 203-323-9977.

I wish you every success –

LINDA

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