Once in a blue moon, when somebody takes the time to read my professional bio, they discover that I was an advertising major in college — and then they usually ask how I ended up becoming a career counselor, as opposed to ending up plying my trade within the ad agency world. The answer? Even though I stumbled into this occupation totally by accident, many years ago, I quickly fell in love with it as soon as I realized that some of the most critical issues impacting today’s job hunters involve the implementation of basic, bottom-line advertising principles!

For example, after 15 years spent studying the job hunting process, I still haven’t found a better success formula to offer my clients than the one that was drilled into me repeatedly by my advertising professors at the University of Washington: Message+Reach+Frequency = Top-Of-Mind Awareness. Here’s a quick review of this concept that explains how it can help guide YOU to better results if you’re currently in the market — and seeking to generate a larger number of interviews:

Message: The concept of message involves putting careful thought into how you’ll explain your goals to people, both verbally and on paper, so that people CLEARLY UNDERSTAND what you do, why companies need it, and what differentiates you from your potential competitors. Job hunters with a poor Message tend to “wing it” out there without actually thinking through the key themes to stress or how they can set themselves apart from the crowd. Job hunters with a strong Message, on the other hand, work hard to develop a concise, compelling explanation of their goals that gets people energized and makes people highly motivated to assist them. They then practice this important message until they have it committed to memory and can deliver it smoothly and effortlessly when the need arises!

Message-Related Tip: If you’re wondering whether your message is getting through to people, ask a few friends and networking contacts to “feed back” what they’ve heard from you in terms of your target job goals and industries; the degree to which they can do this accurately (or not) will tell you a great deal about how much more you might need to concentrate in this area…

Reach: The concept of Reach, in advertising terms, involves the NUMBER of potential customers you’re reaching with your message. Are you getting word of your availability out to a high enough volume of the right contacts and companies to be successful? Job hunters with poor Reach tend to be those who are only talking with a small handful of individuals or limiting their outreach efforts to 10-20 companies, at most. Those with strong Reach, on the other hand, tend to add dozens of folks each week to their Rolodex and will have identified and approached as many as 50-100 relevant target companies within the first month or two of their search. The employers are out there — but have you actually contacted them?

Reach-Related Tip: Assuming you’ve been searching for work for at least a few weeks, add up the number of companies and individual contacts you’ve spoken with about your availability to date; if this number adds up to less than five contacts a day, on average, it’s time to boost your output!

Frequency: Lastly, the concept of frequency relates (this shouldn’t surprise anybody) to whether or not you are educating people FREQUENTLY enough about your job search goals and availability. In most corporate marketing scenarios, the rule of thumb is that it takes seven separate impressions before a customer will remember your product or take action to buy it. This same principle applies to the job market, as well. Job hunters with poor Frequency tend to take a drive-by approach to their search, firing off resumes to companies a single time only without engaging in any follow-up efforts. Job hunters with strong Frequency, however, recognize the importance of making multiple impressions in order to stay “top of mind” as a candidate, so they come up with a systematic way of touching base with everybody in their network — and their top target companies — to keep them fully engaged as allies in the process!

Frequency-Related Tip: Make a list of the 10 people you’re counting on the most (e.g. friends, recruiters, career coach, former colleagues, etc.) to help you find work — and then figure out the last date you talked directly with each person about your job search and latest developments. If it’s been more than a month, you’re not following up enough! Don’t let the “out of sight, out of mind” principle cost you leads…

Ultimately, assuming a person’s employment goals are realistic from the outset, it’s a pretty safe bet that any job search that is producing below-average results is likely suffering from a lack of attention to one or more of the three elements outlined above. Again, however, most people never receive any training in these critical concepts, so may not realize just how much Reach or Frequency they need to build into their game plan to achieve success — or they may lack the objectivity to realize that their Message isn’t as effective as it needs to be. If you’re currently looking for a new job, therefore, consider taping the M+R+F=TOMA formula on a piece of paper somewhere near your work space and referring to it on a regular basis. This age-old approach has proven to work for corporate marketing endeavors, and it can pay huge dividends for your personal marketing campaign, as well!