Using Marketing Principles as a Job Seeker

Dr. Joseph Barber, Associate Director

I am currently taking an “Introduction to marketing” course on Coursera as a way to think about the whole job search process in a slightly different way. Marketing is actually a very relevant topic when it comes to the process of career development. At some point as a job seeker, you are trying to encourage another entity (an employer) to purchase your product (your skills, experiences, and knowledge). To do this, you have to have a product worth buying, you have to know how to sell that product, and you have to know how to sell that product to a particular segment of customers. So far, some of the most pertinent topics covered in the course include the idea that no matter what the product is, it won’t be equally attractive to the entire customer base. In other words, some buyers will really like the product, some will respond to it fairly neutrally (they might buy it, but they might equally buy a similar product from another vendor), and some won’t find it attractive at all. In business, it generally makes the most sense to focus efforts on the subset of the population who really likes the product (taking a customer-centric approach and using a process of segmentation), rather than just hoping that everyone will find your product equally attractive (a product-centric approach). One of the career analogies here is quite clear. Sending out 50 versions of the same resume to 50 different companies (even if the job being applied for is similar – e.g., medical writer) won’t work as well as really taking the time to understand the differences between the employers, and targeting the most attractive and relevant ones with highly tailored application materials.

So far in the course, several marketing principles, assumptions, and theories have been shared, and I am still processing this information in my mind. It is interesting, though, to look for other areas of overlap between these concepts and what we focus on as career advisors. Here are three market-driven principles that were shared:

  1. Know your markets
  2. Customers have the final say
  3. Be the best at one of these three concepts (compared to the competition): operational excellence, performance superiority, and customer intimacy, but just good enough in the other two

Knowing the market is essential. The more you understand about who your customers are (and in career terms these are hiring employers), the easier it is to convince them that you have what they are looking for. If employers are the customers in this case, then they still get the final say. That means that there is little point in telling an employer about all of the great work you have done, and all of the super experiences that you have gained, if this information does not align with what the employer is looking for. For example, over the course of a 5-year PhD, a graduate student can gain a very wide range of transferable skills. However, one of the consequences of doing a PhD is often a lack of practice talking about these skills outside of the context of the very specific research field the student has been working on. In an interview for a non-faculty job, PhD students and postdocs have to be careful not to answer the question “so tell me about your research” by actually spending 5 minutes talking about the specifics of their research. Instead, they have to be able to answer “so tell me how you did your research”, because the answer to this question will be much more skills-focused. Additionally, having completed a 5 year PhD and a 5 year postdoc, there may be some expectation on the side of the candidate that these combined experiences by themselves should qualify them for a wide range of positions. This is not the case – the employer wants the candidates to be able to show how these experiences make them a good fit, and wants the candidate to be able to demonstrate this level of understanding.

And then the idea of being the best at one of the concepts listed above (operational excellence, performance superiority, and customer intimacy), but good enough at the other two, might be relevant to the job seeker as a way to show that there are different approaches to successfully landing a position. Performance superiority might represent the research skills a student has gained. Someone with 15 published papers and two grants might demonstrate performance superiority. Operational excellence might represent the number of connections that a candidate has in different career fields, or their knowledge of these fields and of what employers are looking for based on extensive research into their different career fields. Customer intimacy would represent the degree to which a candidate has actually initiated and then further developed relationships with contacts at different employers through collaborations or networking (taking the idea of knowing people to the more advanced level of having professional relationships with these people). Given this, the following scenarios demonstrate how excellence in any of these three areas can help. Someone might be hired because they are the best at what they do even if they don’t have a lot of contacts or professional relationships with employers, or even if they don’t know much about the business itself (they can easily be trained in that, for example). Another person might get hired because they have been able to craft a spectacular resume that shows that they understand the nature of the position to which they are applying, even if they are not the best candidate in terms of their accomplishments (the most accomplished individual who cannot articulate how their accomplishments are relevant might not get the job, after all). And finally, someone else might get hired even though they are not the most accomplished, and even if they don’t have a smart-looking, tailored resume, but because they have great working relationships with people at a specific company, and those future colleagues can easily see themselves working with the candidate for the foreseeable future (fit always plays a role in hiring decisions). You only need to be the best in one of these dimensions…, but it helps if you are not terrible at the other two.

One other marketing topic that is directly relevant to the job search is the idea of brand positioning. One of the points mentioned in the course is the idea that a personal brand is not what you say about yourself, but represents what others say about you. You can come up with a really snappy brand statement about yourself, a well-craft narrative about what skills and experience you bring, but if this is not how the customers see you, then these statements won’t stick. This is another good reason to develop a broad professional network, and to cultivate this network carefully, and tend to it frequently. It will be people in this network who create your personal brand. You can help them through your interactions, through being able to articulate your unique selling proposition (the clear, simple, and unique benefits you bring), but beyond that, they will define your brand for you. When it comes to branding, the goal is to get consumers to notice the brand, but also to understand the information it represents. Just like with resumes, if there is too much information (and especially too much irrelevant information), the audience will likely block all of it out. Clear, concise, target-focused information should be at the heart of personal brands, resumes, and pretty much any form of communication.

I have obviously got more to learn about marketing, and hopefully will come across more ideas for how marketing principles can help individual job seekers. Interestingly, I think there will be information from this course that can also be used by institutional career centers at universities to better market themselves to their customers (the students and postdocs they serve). From branding, to segmentation and targeting, to customer-centricity, these are all relevant to how we as career advisors can better work with these populations.

A Natural Fit

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the Career Services Summer Funding grant.  We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending the summer.  You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Melody Cooke, WH ’16

COOKE2After living in Florida and California for most of my life, I had very few expectations and reference points as to what my summer experience would be like in New York City and Long Island. In addition, there wasn’t much information online about the program or company I was interning at and even less information about the area I was living in. Nevertheless, I took a chance and I couldn’t be happier with my decision as this was my favorite internship experience by far.

The company that I was interning at was called Hain Celestial. Most people have never heard of the company, in fact I knew nothing about it until I applied. Although the company’s name doesn’t ring a bell, a lot of their natural and organic brands ring a bell in consumers’ ears. For example, they own Celestial Seasonings Tea, Terra Chips, Sensible Portions, Almond Dream, Health Valley and Greek Gods Yogurt to just name a few. In fact, walk into a Whole Foods and you’ll run into one of their products/brands in almost every aisle. It wasn’t until I started working at Hain that I realized that it was actually the leading CPG (consumer packaged good) company for natural and organic products. On the food and beverage side, almost all of Hain’s products are USDA Organic and/or Non-GMO Project Verified along with gluten, dairy and allergen free lines and overall healthier and cleaner ingredients than comparable products. On the personal care side, almost all of Hain’s products are free from harsh chemicals, parabens, petrolatum and phthalates, have 100% vegetarian ingredients and no animal testing. Even though it was a niche and less well known market, it felt great to be working with high quality and wholesome products that are healthier and better for people and their families.

COOKE1During the summer, I got to work with the Snacks Marketing team on Terra Chips, Garden of Eatin’ and Sensible Portions. I was assigned an amazing mentor who challenged me and awesome team that supported me and gave me feedback. Both my team and projects were a great fit because we had similar work styles and thinking plus I was able to apply and develop my analytical, communication, presentation and collaboration skills on a variety of projects and hands-on tasks. Everyday I had the opportunity to learn something new about brand management and CPG, a field that I’m very interested in pursuing after graduation. I’m very thankful for the opportunity to participate in meetings and work on projects that were actually applicable to my team and Hain’s future competitive strategy. What’s great about Hain was that it was big enough to have a diverse portfolio to work on yet still small enough to have a tight knit team to allow faster execution of plans and opportunities to spearhead projects for Hain’s growth.

Aside from my projects, I also had the chance to attend a sweet potato photoshoot with our communications and packaging team (yes, there is such a thing as a food stylist!) as well as visit the PR agency that we work with in Manhattan to learn about data analytics.

The HR department did an excellent job of organizing events that enriched the program. For example, every Wednesday we had lunch & learn’s where someone from one of the departments would present and answer questions about their work and past experiences. They also took us to the Terra Chip Factory in Moonachie, NJ and gave us a Long Island experience by taking us to a Mets game. Finally, all of the interns from different departments were assigned to a group project in which we presented in front of upper management at the end of the internship. We even had an opportunity to have lunch with the CEO three times.


I was really amazed by the program and how well developed it was since was only established last year. They always welcomed feedback and continued to improve the program throughout the summer.  I definitely recommend the program to anyone interested in CPG, brand management/marketing and learning about the natural and organic industry (non-gmo project verified, organic, clean ingredient products).

Overall this was an amazing summer with a great internship that really fit my skills, interests and goals to pursue brand management in CPG. I want to thank Career Services for their generous support from first helping me with my application to finally making this internship and moving to New York possible.

A Day in the Life: Marketing Research or Consulting? Blurred Lines…

by Dina Liu, WH ’12

I read an interesting article this morning on my train ride to Kraft in Northfield, Illinois, about the rise of agency-bred & raised consulting shops.  These “sexy” agencies are starting to realize that their advertiser clients are demanding more insights, more analytic prowess, and most importantly, more actionable recommendations for what to do in-market.  From trying to stem the hemorrhaging of lost market share to re-positioning an old network as the new Hispanic Millennial destination, these agencies’ clients are demanding more.  Interestingly enough, while the world of agencies is still playing catch-up and starting to understand that it’s not sufficient to just be a “media shop” or a “creative shop,” Nielsen has carved a spot out for itself that is now ingrained in our clients’ business models.  And this is why I’m making the claim (you heard it here first!) that marketing research has replaced traditional consulting.  Gone are the days where your “research vendor” sat in the corner and only serviced you when you had a problem that required immense data crunching.  Now?  Now we sit with our clients, have dedicated consultative teams that align to our clients’ business groups, and provide the ammunition they need to make real-time decisions that make the most impact on top-line revenue and bottom-line margins.  Nielsen is the foremost leader in this area of consultative insights provider.  It’s not enough for me to tout my company’s credentials in this guest blog & claim that I’ve got one of the coolest jobs ever.  Here’s a short story on what happened not a few months ago:

nielsenI did a tour of duty through product marketing for a digital ad effectiveness product called Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings (OCR for short).   Nielsen’s focus on digital advertising has sharpened over the last five years, as the industry continues to see TV dollars migrating across screen to Digital and Mobile.  Not only did I get the opportunity to understand the depth and chaos that is digital advertising in this day & age, but I got to be part of an incredible product leadership team that created this product, from concept & ideation to full-scale production & commercial release.  OCR is now one of, if not THE, accepted currency on which digital advertising will be traded on, similar to how the Nielsen TV Ratings serve as the foundation for the television advertising world.  Nielsen’s focus didn’t stop there.  Domestic?  Sure, we’ve got the US market…but what about our clients who span multiple countries and continents?  One of my major projects was the preparation for the commercial launch of OCR in the French market- a European country whose privacy restrictions are notorious in technology/telecom.  Working hand-in-hand with our incredible team of engineers around the globe, our own data provider partners, and our client service and sales teams, I got incredibly close to this product and was sent to Paris by Nielsen to train the local Nielsen team and host a client roadshow across the biggest publishers, advertisers, and agencies in France.  Never thought two years ago, that here I’d be in Paris presenting to the directors of digital strategy for Starcom Media Group, Carat, Havas, Microsoft, L’Oreal, and Yahoo on why OCR will revolutionize digital advertising as we know it.

Long story short: Nielsen as a company embodies this incredible transformation we are seeing in how clients use big data and their consultative partners.  We are no longer just a “data provider” or a “research vendor.”  To sit on our laurels & accept those descriptors doesn’t do Nielsen justice.  The culture, the mentality, and the senior leadership continuously push us to be THE solution to our clients’ problems.  Spread sheets and number crunching?  They’re most likely here to stay, but at least we can say that this is no longer the ONLY thing marketing research can provide.

Dina Liu graduated in May 2012, from Wharton with double concentrations in Marketing and Management.  Primary extracurricular activities: President of Penn Mock Trial and member of Sigma Kappa, worked at the Penn Housing Office 3 out of 4 years.  Junior summer, interned at Blackrock supporting their retail Defined Contribution business in their marketing and sales department.  Currently working at the Nielsen Company as an Associate Media Analytics Consultant servicing the Viacom and Discovery Communications accounts in our Watch business.  Live in Manhattan, have 2 goldfish, and enjoy foodie dates around the five boroughs. 

Day in the Life: Marketing in the Entertainment Industry with Disney & ESPN Media Networks

We’ll be focusing on Entrepreneurial Careers next week, February 13th-17th leading up to Wharton’s Entrepreneurship Conference.  On Tuesday, February 14th we welcome Sasha Mitchell to @PennCareerDay on Twitter!  As the Affiliate Marketing Coordinator at Disney and ESPN Media Networks, Sasha is focused on branding, negotiations and other critical pieces to start and run a business.  Post your questions to our Facebook page or send us a tweet  to @PennCareerServ leading up to February 14th.   Sasha will answer them on @PennCareerDay throughout her day.  Read more about Sasha below, and remember to follow her on Tuesday the 14th!

Sasha is the Affiliate Marketing Coordinator at Disney and ESPN Media Networks. Her group, Affiliate Sales and Marketing, is a unique group within The Walt Disney Company, generating tremendous revenue each year by negotiating billion dollar deals with cable, satellite, and teleco providers. Sasha works specifically on the Cable Network Group (CNG) Brand Team, which includes Disney Channel, Disney XD, Disney Junior, ABC, ABC Family, and SOAPnet. Her counterparts work on the ESPN channels.

Day to day activities include: coordinating the planning, execution and implementation of multiple Affiliate Marketing projects to support the sales and distribution goals with smooth efficiency,  Overseeing all aspects of the fulfillment of requested marketing materials including processing, tracking and fielding requests from Account Management teams, writing creative briefs for assigned projects and serving as the liaison with external and internal vendors, and tracking the Affiliate Marketing budgets. She attributes networking and cultivating valuable relationships throughout her college career for getting her “foot in the door” with Disney and ESPN Media Networks.

Sasha graduated from The College in May 2010 with a Economics major and a Mathematics minor.

A Day in the Life: Product Marketing at LinkedIn

To wrap up our week on Careers with Startups, as shared by alum Adam Levin and our Penn in Tech Panel: The World of California Start-Ups, we’ll be focusing on post-startup life.   We welcome Ada Chen Rekhi to @PennCareerDay on Wednesday, November 9th.  Take advantage of this opportunity to learn more about her experience in the startup world, and her new role at LinkedIn.   This is also a great follow up to her recent blog:  Should I Join A Startup? Examining the Pros and Cons.  Read more about Ada below, and check out her posts from November here on our Twitter resource page.

  Ada Chen Rekhi is co-founder and head of user growth at Connected (, a startup based in San Francisco which provides contact management without the work. Connected was recently acquired by LinkedIn, and Ada is now on the Product Marketing team there. She is a recent Penn alumna who graduated in 2006. You can connect with Ada on her blog at or on Twitter as @adachen.