LESSON 3: Message – 4 C’s Copy

Messaging

The 4C’s (or Don’t Air Bad Commercials)

Don’t be like this guy (hint: one of the worst Super Bowl ads of all time, Miller Lite’s “Evil Beaver”)

Be like these guys in Hyundai’s “Smaht Pahk” ad from the Super Bowl in 2020

When we are networking with people in our job search, it is like running a commercial for ourselves.  When the message is garbled, unclear, or otherwise ineffective, it is like running a bad commercial.  And like our friends at Miller Lite who spent a lot of money getting the Evil Beaver in front of as many people as possible by running it during the Super Bowl, so is the job seeker who is staying very busy networking but with a poor message.  The best course of action is to go off-air and get your message right first.  I can’t emphasize this point enough – Until you know what you are looking for and can clearly express that to someone else in a way they understand and can act on, you shouldn’t be actively networking.  It is the exact same thing as airing a bad commercial.  You are only hurting your brand and turning off people who could otherwise help you.  

The Junk Drawer

  • Another common and costly mistake job seekers make is to try and “keep their options open” by identifying as many roles, functions, and industries as possible that they might be suited for.  The logic is that by having a broad array of places where they might be a fit, they increase their odds of finding an opportunity. Unfortunately, the exact opposite consequence is the result.  Failure to be reasonably specific dooms you to going in the junk drawer of people’s minds.  If you’re familiar with Daniel Kahneman’s bestseller Thinking, Fast and Slow, you will recognize his finding that our brains need a way to classify information (in this case, your job search specifics). When your job search focus is left too wide open, our brain doesn’t know where to “put you” and just like with things in our homes, stuff that doesn’t naturally go in a predetermined place goes in the junk drawer.  Not where you want to be.   

A key concept here is that all of your messaging needs to be consistent, focused, and integrated.  Whether we are talking about networking, your resume, your LinkedIn profile, how you present yourself in an interview – whatever the forum or medium, you need to be “on message”.

So, what steps can you take to ensure your message is on point?  There are a couple of critical questions you must be able to answer for people: “What are you looking for?” and “Why you?” Failure to answer these questions clearly and concisely will lead to lots of time spent networking and interviewing with very little to show for your efforts.  You might call this “netwasting”.

Back in 1997, in his seminal piece entitled “The Brand Called You”, Tom Peters presciently identified the notion that you are as much a brand as Nike, Starbucks, and Levi's. These brands know what they stand for, and importantly, what they don’t stand for. If you promise to come back and finish this section :-), check out this hysterical Saturday Night Live skit for Shimmer, a brand that didn’t know what it stood for). To help you be better positioned to answer, “What are you looking for” and “Why you?”, let’s consider the 4 Cs, four sequential steps that will help crystalize your answers.

Convictions

If we look at an iconic brand like Coke, its core convictions are around refreshment and inspiration. The “Share a Coke” campaign taps into this in a brilliant way by featuring personalization on bottles with your name or that of someone you care about. It capitalizes on Coke's equity for bringing people together and sharing a special moment. What it isn't about is sweet, brown, fizzy water (any more than you are just an accountant or engineer or whatever the most generic description of your job is). Similarly, uncovering your core beliefs about your personal strengths, your distinct value proposition, and the work environment where you most flourish will be a huge stride forward in helping you establish your brand in the minds of others. We’ll cover this more in Lesson 4.

Clarity

Clarity is a beautiful thing because it frees your mind from confusion.  If you’re confused about your core convictions, then you’re like a pinball machine, reacting to the last thing someone told you was important in your job search. This is why so many job seekers are constantly tweaking their resumes and making them a cluttered mess. Conversely, when you have nailed down your convictions, you are liberated from trying to be all things to all potential employers. You are free from faking it in the hopes of convincing someone of something you’re not even convinced of yourself. One of the hallmarks of having established clarity is the ability to say, “No, that’s not a good fit for me.” Clarity will unlock your ability to convey your brand in an articulate, unambiguous, and compelling way.

Confidence

By being clear in your own mind as to what you are looking for, why you excel at it, and how you can add unique value to the next employer, you will be instilled with a new-found confidence. You can tell stories about how you have exercised your strengths in previous roles, the contributions you have made, and why you are genuinely excited to have an impact in your next assignment. For those of you who are more naturally shy, this will help you get over your reluctance to feel like you’re bragging. Telling the truth about your strengths and accomplishments isn’t bragging, it’s just the truth. When you speak the truth, you will have more confidence and your confidence will show.

Contagious

Have you ever noticed when someone feels good about himself or herself? They sit up straighter, they have more inflection in their voice, their eyes are wider, and they smile more. When you are confident, it has the wonderful side benefit of causing the other person to believe too, i.e., it’s contagious. When you believe, you make me believe! When the message you are sharing in an interview or networking meeting is grounded in your convictions, the sincerity of your message alters the tone of the discussion positively and you become much more persuasive. And guess what? Persuasiveness lands jobs.

In the next section we will dig a little deeper into how to identify your unique brand.

Reflection:

  • Have you used an assessment like DISC or CliftonStrengths Assessment to help you identify some of your key personality traits?  If not, these tools can be wonderfully insightful to help you understand and articulate personal qualities that inform your convictions.
  • In what ways have you been trying to be too many things to too many people (i.e., in the Junk Drawer)?
  • What are your core convictions about your strengths that you offer employers?