Chances are you or someone you know is or has been out of work. Joe Himelfarb understands.
In the past seven years Himelfarb has been laid off four times. And while attending networking events, he noticed his fellow attendees always seemed so defeated. “When it comes to the job search, you’ve got to be positive and upbeat,” he says. This observation switched on the light bulb over Himelfarb’s head. He put together a workshop on selling yourself to get the job you want.
His next presentation of “Selling You Inc.” will be on Tuesday, May 17, at 8:30 a.m. at the Princeton Public Library. This event is free. Visit www.sellingyou.eventbrite.com to register.
Himelfarb grew up in Yonkers, where his father is a diamond setter and his mother worked for the Yonkers Board of Education. After high school, he attended college in Buffalo because “the schools there were as far from home as possible but still in New York, so I could take advantage of in-state tuition.” In 1985 he received both a bachelor’s in physics from Buffalo State College and a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from the SUNY Buffalo. In 2010 he received a mini-MBA in digital marketing from Rutgers.
Himelfarb says he was determined to change the world working as an engineer. He soon realized engineering wasn’t his forte. While working for AT&T Submarine Systems, where he assisted with the manufacturing and installation of several trans-oceanic fiber optic telecommunications projects, the sales department asked him to conduct presentations. He then moved on to the sales account team at Hewlett Packard that was responsible for supporting AT&T. Being hired at Hewlett Packard didn’t come easy.
After a series of interviews, Himelfarb learned that Hewlett Packard was on a hiring freeze and that he would have to wait for the much-coveted sales position. He eventually landed the job because of persistence. He called the company on the 15th of every month to ask if the freeze was lifted. After a year of this Himelfarb got the job. “I didn’t let them forget about me because I was politely persistent,” he says. “They could have told me to stop calling.”
If the word “sales” makes you think of the smarmy salesman who sold you your first used car, stop. Selling isn’t evil. “People tell me they never thought of selling when it comes to the job search,” he says. “It’s not hard to make it approachable.”
Whether it’s multi-million dollar computing systems to companies around the world, or consumer products in a homeowner’s backyard, he enjoys helping his clients get from where they are to where they want to be. After working in freelance sales where “if you aren’t selling, you aren’t getting paid,” Himelfarb says he had to find something else. That’s when he began selling swimming pools for Anthony & Sylvan Pools in Green Brook. He did this for two years before going back to tech sales in a position at Ocean Computer Group. He worked there for three years before being laid off in August.
Tired of hearing the same excuses each time he has been laid off, Himelfarb decided in August to attend one networking event per day. His goal: Meet two to four people per event. While he wanted to meet as many people as possible, Himelfarb knew it was unrealistic to have meaningful conversations with more than four people. And he wanted each person he met to remember him when anyone says the word “sales.” This, he says, is the key to good networking.
“You want to be the first person someone recommends when they hear of an opening in your profession,” he says. “Being in the forefront is the key to branding yourself.”
Himelfarb’s plan worked well enough to get him his current position as a senior account executive for Tekmark Global Solutions in Edison. He sells IT professional services and staffing.
A main thing to remember when selling yourself or anything else, Himelfarb says, is that the customer always comes first. “Customers care only about themselves,” he says. “You have to know what they want to hear. An employer doesn’t care that you’ve been out of work for a year. It’s never about you. It’s always about them.”
Himelfarb says that when selling yourself, apply the theories and techniques of selling you would use when selling a product or service. “This isn’t rocket science as some might lead themselves to believe,” he says. “You have to prove you have something to offer. The job search revolves around selling you talents.”
In this social media age, you can still use old job search techniques to focus your attention to the job at hand. Don’t be afraid of LinkedIn or Facebook, Himelfarb says. It’s important to mine your connections.
Also, put a different spin on the activities you currently perform so you can distinguish yourself from the other applicants. Make the interviewer feel glad they met you and wonder how they ever got along without you.
Himelfarb says that if you’re not used to selling, this all is a huge challenge. He tries to quell this feeling when he’s teaching. Above all, you must keep an open mind. “You can’t go in there like a knight in shining armor,” he says. “I can’t reiterate enough that it’s not about you. It’s always about the customer.”