Concordia's Thursday Report

Vol. 30, No.1

September 15, 2005


Marketing course wins award

Students use it to sell themselves

By Frank Kuin

Jordan LeBel and Harold Simpkins

Jordan LeBel and Harold Simpkins have already reached 1,000 students with their course, given through eConcordia. LeBel will also serve up “Chocolate 101” as the keynote speech for the Concordia University Alumni Association Annual General Meeting on Sept. 22 at 5:30 pm in H-767 of the Hall Building.

An innovative online course that teaches students to position themselves effectively in the job market has proven a runaway hit with students as well as critics.

One student called it “the most powerful marketing and self promotion course I have taken in my 15-plus years of health care marketing. An absolute must for anyone considering self-employment. This should be a required course for anyone in their final semester who intends to pursue a career.”

Moreover, it has been awarded the 2005 Award for Excellence and Innovation in Instructional Design by the Canadian Association for Distance Education.

The course, Marketing Yourself, developed by John Molson School of Business professors Harold Simpkins and Jordan LeBel, has been taken by about 1,000 students since its introduction just over a year ago.

Marketing Yourself challenges students to assess their own strengths and weaknesses and chart a career plan. It also shows them strategies to achieve their goals, ranging from research on the salary in a given field to tips on writing a résumé and dress codes for job interviews.

At the end of the course, students draw up a complete marketing plan for themselves, a 25-page document that should serve as their guide to launch, or relaunch, their careers.

“The key notion is for students to look at themselves as products, and then to apply the principles of marketing to marketing themselves as employees, professionals, entrepreneurs and artists,” said Simpkins, recipient of the 2004 John Molson School of Business (JMSB) Distinguished Teaching Award.

“Most students think of marketing themselves as writing a résumé and a cover letter and going to interviews. But when it comes to identifying a career path and making sure that you have what it takes to succeed, many other things should be done beforehand.”

Simpkins was inspired to develop the course after years of having graduating students come up to him to ask for advice on what to do next. “I thought, isn’t this a little late? Don’t you have a plan?”

He teamed up with LeBel, who won the JMSB teaching award this year, to develop a course from scratch. Embedded in basic marketing theory, it applies those principles to the student’s desired position in his or her career.

“If you’re a brand, what associations do you want people to have about you?” LeBel said.

“When you have to write a marketing plan, the first thing is to know thyself. Early on, students can take personality tests, where they find out whether they have an entrepreneurial profile, are risk-averse and so on. It’s often eye-opening.”

Other features in the course include videos of Simpkins and LeBel, as well as sessions with a panel of experts and advisors, including a headhunter, a retired diplomat and an “active living” specialist.

At the end of each lesson, students can submit feedback.

Attend once

Students attend class in person only once, for a final exam at the end. Simpkins said students have taken the online course from as far away as Lebanon and Dubai. Arrangements can be made with other universities for the final exam.

“The topic is quite amenable to being done online,” LeBel added. “There are a lot of self-study materials, and students can go over something again if they haven’t understood the first time.”

In addition, there are case studies. In a lesson on branding, for example, students take a look at fashion label Lacoste, a brand that almost died 10 years ago but has been successfully revived. A complete resource center contains links to useful websites so students can research their chosen field.

Simpkins and LeBel are working on a textbook for their course, to be published by Thomson.

Marketing Yourself will be featured on CBC radio’s Montreal Matters next month.