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How to use Porter's 4Ps to plan your career.

Written by

Amy Buczynski

You may have heard about Michael Porter’s 4Ps as it relates to the marketing mix for a product.   In this blog we’ll take a closer look at the 4Ps - product, price, place and promotion and look at how we may use this framework to help you plan your career. In a sense, the marketing mix is all about putting together a gameplan to put the right product in the right place at the right time  for the right price. If marketers can use it as a statetgy guide to introduce a new product to the world, it may be a useful strategic framework for thinking about a game plan for how to introduce yourself to employers.

It makes sense, since in the job market, you are the product. In this analogy employers are the customers who want to “purchase” your time by hiring you to work for them. While you may not have all the answers right now while you are still in college, don’t worry, most people don’t. It can, however, be a useful exercise to start using the framework even before you have answers and revisiting your ideas each year to see how they grow and evolve with you. While it is important to be open to new opportunities as they arise, it can also be useful to have a gameplan for such important aspects of your life as your career.


Here you can think about yourself as the product that companies are looking to “purchase” by hiring you. If you look at how marketers typically approach this aspect of the puzzle, it is important to note that they start off by doing a lot of research. It may be helpful to utilize internet research, the career services office at your college or any professional mentors you have in your network to better understand what companies are looking for when they are hiring. Luckily there is a ton of easily accessible information available online to anyone. Do you have a dream company you would like to work for? You can start by searching their careers page and reading job descriptions for various roles you are interested in. Notice what qualifications they are looking for in candidates. Some may vary by position but you may see some themes emerging across all of their job postings which can give you insight into specific traits that particular company values. Do you know you have a specific dream job you would like to work towards, such as Vice President of Corporate Strategy?

You can do a quick search of this job title in different companies and industries to see what skills are required and if there are common attributes shared by various companies. Once you have done some research and understand what companies want, you are in a better position to plan for how to gain these skills. You can think of this process as the product development phase. What courses, leadership activities on campus and internship experiences will help you hone these skills and give you the opportunity to demonstrate mastery to prospective employers? Another key aspect of product development is packaging. In this case you can think of your packaging as your resume, as it is your main marketing tool for landing a job interview, a requirement to getting an offer. A ton of effort should go into your resume and getting feedback from as many people as you possibly can is a critical step in this process. 


One of the first considerations related to price is understanding the established price points already available in the market. There is a ton of information available about the established price points, or in this case, salaries available online.  Salary information can be found directly in job postings or from third parties such as Glassdoor. Salaries can vary widely by industry as well as job function and it is important to be honest with yourself about how much this matters to you. If you want to be a high school math teacher and a millionaire by the age of 30, you may not have alignment between your goals. This means  you may need to become exceptionally creative to chart a new path of being a math teacher with a very lucrative side hustle or face a difficult choice of which is more important to you.

This may change for you significantly over time, which is why it is important to keep checking in with yourself.  While there are always exceptions, in general it may be easier to transition from starting with a more demanding career earning a higher salary to a lower salary with a better lifestyle or greater alignment with your values related to impact, rather than the other way around. Financial independence and the freedom of choice that comes along with it is a very important aspect of living a fulfilling life. In 2010, a study was released that showed happiness was only boosted by earning more up to a salary of $75,000. However a new study has found that threshold may be much higher - $500,000. Only you can answer the question of how important money is to your happiness, but it definitely is a question worth asking yourself.


Place is another important consideration in the marketing mix, meaning where the product will be available for sale, both in physical stores as well as online. With regards to your career, place - meaning where you will live while you work is also a very important consideration in optimizing for your overall happiness. You may choose a place because of family and friends or because it has always been a place that you have dreamed about living or because you are curious to try a new lifestyle before settling back into the place you grew up.  For some college students this is the most important factor when choosing a next step in life, for others they are willing to move anywhere for the right opportunity. Only you can answer the question about how important this is compared to the other Ps in this framework.

It is also important to note that this has been significantly impacted by the covid-19 pandemic, as even consulting, an industry that was reluctant to work remotely before the pandemic forced the issue, is seeing an increase in remote jobs. There are pros and cons to remote work which need to be carefully considered for your first role. The increased flexibility and reduced commuting time offered by remote work can lead to improved productivy and a better work life balance. However, remote work can make communication more challenging which may be even harder as you are just starting out. You may also experience more difficulty in separating your work life from your home life if you are working from home and feel more isolation as work can be a source of friendship, particularly early on in your career.


Within the context of the marketing mix, promotion refers to how a company will communicate the benefits of their product to their target market. Within the context of career planning, you can think about this as the career opportunities you will have beyond your first job - the promotions you will be eligible for. Many college students are unsure of exactly what they want their careers to look like in 10 or 20 years and that is okay. If you find yourself in this position, it may be useful to start out in a career that gives you exposure to as much as possible so you can start to make more informed decisions as time goes on.

Consulting is a great first step out of college for exactly this reason. Not only will you have exposure so you will have a better understanding of the best fit for you, you will be learning valuable skills which will make you marketable for the position that is most interesting to you later on. It is a choice that leads too many options in the future, which is a great position to put yourself in. Many c-suite executives had their start in consulting. For example, Google’s current CEO, Sundar Pichai, started his career off at McKinsey.


We hope you found this discussion about how to adapt Michael Porter's famous marketing framework of the 4Ps to help plan a career useful as you think about the next steps you take on your professional journey.  Applying product development techniques to yourself by researching what companies look for in candidates, gaining the necessary skills, and creating a well packaged resume can have a big impact on your career trajectory.  Remember that the decisions you make about how to spend your time and how you tell your story of the experiences you have will become your personal brand over time.

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