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Roadmap For Your Career: Your Personal Marketing Plan

by Ed Scribner, PhD; Eric Pratt, PhD; and Elise Sautter, PhD

You've marketed yourself successfully from school to the workplace. This is only the beginning. Now it's time to develop your personal marketing plan.
When you make that exciting first step into the accounting profession, it's only natural and appropriate to settle in and concentrate on learning the job at hand. But don't wait too long before planning your future. You're only at the beginning of what promises to be a long and fruitful career.

One thing that will set you apart is a sense of specific purpose and direction. Whether you stay with your first employer your entire career or move elsewhere, proper planning benefits both you and the organization you serve. When it comes to gaining this kind of forward-looking perspective, there's no substitute for developing your own personal marketing plan. (If you can do this while still in school, so much the better!)

A marketing plan is a formal document that contains guidelines for business programs. A personal marketing plan (PMP) does for an individual person's work and related activities what a marketing plan does for a business. In addition to guiding your future, your PMP helps you to decide how to allocate your personal resources over a given period of time. The time horizon of a plan varies according to the needs of the individual or firm, but the typical time frame is one year. As you might imagine, very few people take the time to write down a formal plan, so it's one major way to get a jump on your competition.

These Questions Need Answers>

Your personal marketing plan should answer the following questions:

  • What is my current situation?
  • Where do I want to go?
  • How should I get there?
  • Who or what is going to get me there?
  • How much will I need to spend?
  • How long will it take to get there?
  • How much money can I expect to make along the way?
  • Why did I or did I not do what I set out to do?

The Components Of A Marketing Plan

To answer these questions, your PMP should contain the following eight basic sections. Begin each section with a separate heading or subheading.

Mission Statement

Much like the mission or vision statement of a business, a personal mission statement in a PMP is a statement of (1) your activities, (2) your products, and (3) your "customers." In this section, list your area(s) of specialization, what you're trying to accomplish with your work, and what further specialization or change of direction you might seek in the future. As Stephen Covey writes in his popular book, The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, developing a personal mission statement may require considerable time and reflection. This step may also require extensive research so that you can identify the positions and industries that are most attractive to you.

Current Marketing Situation

Borrowing from marketing strategies that have been used by successful businesses, the personal marketing plan contains vital information about the market, product quality, competition, and distribution. A corporate marketing plan defines the market and major competitors and each of their strategies for price, quality, distribution, and promotion. It also shows the market shares held by the company and each competitor as well as sales trends and developments in the major distribution channels. These ideas can be brought down to the individual level. The information in this section will serve as the foundation for proposing strategies and tactics for your own professional growth. In this section, you should provide relevant facts about yourself and the job market. Who are you? What kind of career do you want? What does the market look like (salaries, growth rate, locations, number of positions, experience/job requirements, technological change, etc.)?

Swot Analysis

After compiling the information in Step 2, look for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that you face in your chosen market and industry (career field). Having just started a career, this is an especially good time to look for your own strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps you are good at creative problem-solving or can speak one or more foreign languages. You may be well equipped for work in the international arena. Perhaps you honestly consider yourself more comfortable with the technical aspects of "number crunching." Look candidly at your mission statement and write down your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, given your desire to develop a career in your chosen field.

State Specific Objectives

Actually write down your personal/professional goals for this plan's time horizon. For example, in business, a manager might strive to achieve a 15-percent market share and a 20-percent pre-tax return on sales. In a PMP, some goals might be to pass the CMA exam, earn promotion within 12 months after starting a new job, secure specialized training, learn a foreign language, or expand networking opportunities. These goals should be as specific and measurable as you can make them and should be tied directly to your career development plans.
Strategies And Tactics (Using A Marketing Mix)

This step is the action part of your plan. While objectives are narrow in scope, strategy is a broad plan of action by which an individual or organization intends to reach its objectives. A business strategy involves marketing tools like product line, product quality, pricing, and promotion. Tactics transform strategy into specific, shorter-term actions to implement the strategy. Suppose your objective is to earn a promotion within 12 months after starting a new job. Talk to your peers and supervisors to develop a strategy to achieve this goal, along with tactics to carry out the strategy. Like a business, you should use all possible marketing tools to achieve this objective. The tools that marketers use to achieve organizational goals are called the "marketing mix." No tool is inherently more important than another. What is important is how you "mix" the various tools together. Here are the tools at your disposal in developing your own "personal marketing mix."


What changes/improvements should be made in you (the product) to prepare you for advancement in your market? Do you need to improve your computer skills, learn a second language, improve your communication skills, or get more business training?

Promotion: What can you do to improve communication between you and your co-workers (or, as the case may be, potential employers)? What kinds of appropriate networking should you be doing?

Price: What salary expectations are reasonable? What fringe benefits are important to you? Are you planning for retirement? The way to keep from having to be distracted by thinking about retirement is to start saving at the very beginning of your career.

Place: Are there any geographic considerations? Are there any specific locations where you want to work? Are there any locations that you find unacceptable?

Budget: Your PMP budget must follow the action program to show how much it will cost. In a PMP, the budget lists estimates of all the personal expenses that you are likely to incur in achieving your objectives. For example, it should contain the cost of business clothing, transportation, suitable housing, entertaining, and so on, including costs you never had to consider while a student.

Projected Sales And Profit

During your accounting coursework, you probably studied budgeted or pro forma financial statements that a corporation draws up for its planning horizon. In your PMP, this step is somewhat different. Rather than preparing a pro forma income statement for yourself, you will forecast roughly the amount of money you need to spend (Step 6) and how you expect to provide for these expenditures (i.e. scholarships, bonuses, salary, consulting, etc.). Remember, for a PMP, there are some non-financial intangibles. For instance, so-called "psychic income" may be important. Being in the best location for you may mean higher "profits" than an increase in salary.

Performance Evaluation

An important part of any plan is follow up. Review your plan regularly to see if it is working. A good PMP should have alternative strategies for achieving the objectives in case the primary plan appears to be straying off target. If at any time during your planning period your assumptions change, you should switch to your alternative strategies or even find new strategies.

Standing Out From The Crowd

Writing a comprehensive PMP is an ambitious but worthwhile project, especially if you haven't developed one before. The plan and the thought that you put into it set you apart from the competition. Therefore, it's a wise move to begin the disciplined marketing planning process soon after you enter your first position.

Ed Scribner is a professor of accounting, and Eric Pratt and Elise Sautter are associate professors of marketing at New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico.

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