Photo of A Young girl, looking out over water

Five tips to Bump your Resume to the top of the Applicant Stack

Standing on the floor of an auditorium, throwing your cap into the air, you feel like you have the whole world in front of you. Graduating college: something everyone has told you will open doors and opportunities.

But you can’t find a job. Because even though your parents said a college degree was the key to a successful career, so did millions of other parents.

“In fall 2015, some 20.2 million students are expected to attend American colleges and universities.

Not all will graduate, of course, but many will. Which means you aren’t as unique as you felt looking up at a sea of caps and tassels. You have to prove to employers why you are the graduate they should hire.

So how do you get a job? Where do you start? Maybe you’re a recent graduate, looking for your first full-time job, or maybe you’re a seasoned 9-5er, looking to grow your career. Either way, the job-hunting process isn’t easy or especially fun, but it can be done successfully.

1. Attitude

You’ve heard the saying: Mind over matter. That’s what you have to remind yourself as you continually pump out cover letter after cover letter, often with no response from companies. But don’t feel bad for yourself; focus on why you decided to job hunt in the first place.

† Career Improvement/Change
Are you trying to move up in your career, or switch fields completely? That’s nothing to be ashamed about. Improving yourself and being open to learning a new skill or trade is a mindset many employers seek. Just make sure you have a legitimate reason for switching paths. Telling someone you want to be your next boss you are only interested in the field because of money won’t put your name at the top of the list.

† Lifestyle Change
Are you looking for more balance in your life? Everyone wants to be happy. This goal isn’t one employers are going to scuff at, or penalize you for choosing.

The key is to stay positive. Walking into an interview with low self-esteem or a shy demeanor isn’t going to stand out to a hiring manager.
Something caught your eye in the job posting, and you felt you had something to offer the company or you wouldn’t have applied for the position. Prove it to the interviewer sitting across from you.

2. Set a Schedule

In the last seven years, the economy has bounced back from the 2008 recession, mostly thanks to new companies.

“Companies less than one year old have created an average of 1.5 million jobs per year over the past three decades.”

So there’s something out there for you. Set a goal for how many job applications or office visits you want accomplish each day or week, and schedule them into your daily routine.

Photo of Computer desk

Credit: Dave Meier, “Milk No Sugar”

If you want to apply to three jobs a day, schedule them so you complete one after each meal. If you find your mind wondering off when you sit down to write a cover letter, set a timer to give yourself a deadline.

3. Use your Networking Resources

Everyone knows you get a job by knowing people. But what if you move to a city where you don’t know anyone, or at least anyone in your field?

† Social Media
Ask friends if they know anyone who is looking to hire someone at their company with your skill set; it’s likely at least one Facebook friend knows someone who can help you out. Or maybe someone is looking to leave their current job soon, and having a name to give to their boss when they turn in their resignation letter makes them feel better about leaving.
This isn’t the time to be shy – reach out to the random contacts.

† Forgotten Contacts
Maybe you do know a couple people yourself, but aren’t that close to them. No shame. Reach out to them too. If you are applying where they work, ask if you can put them down on the application as a referral. Given you’re a responsible and hard-working employee, vouching for you can sometimes help them out as much as it can help you.

4. Take what you can get

So you’ve gotten a few interviews… but they’re with companies or for positions you aren’t as interested in as others? Don’t blow them off; you can learn something from every interview.
Approach the interview as an opportunity to craft composed responses to questions you haven’t been asked before, and pay attention to what companies are interested in on your resume.

Photo of Prospective Interviewees, lined up.

Credit: Business Insider

What happens when you get offered a position, but you’re holding out for a different job? If you’re unemployed, you likely don’t have many options. Take the job and continually apply for jobs you want. But don’t blow off your new gig too quickly. Remember what stood out to you in the first place, making you want to apply, and give it a chance. Again, you can learn something from every situation. Maybe you’ll pick up a skill in your new position that makes you more marketable in your next position.

5. Stay Connected to the Industry

While you wait to hear back from your dream job, don’t get distracted and forget to keep up on your homework. Show your future employer you know what you are talking about in your field, by blogging or tweeting about industry-related news, or embracing new technology and showing off how to use it appropriately.

† Workshops
Go to workshops to learn new techniques on how to improve a business or website, and confidently talk about what you’ve learned in interviews. Not only could it be just what the company is looking for, it shows initiative and eagerness on your part.

† Classes
Check out what your local universities have to offer, or coursera, an online “school” which offers classes from professors around the world, and includes certificate options.

Job hunting is a long process. But by keeping your head up, continually applying for open positions, and looking for opportunities to improve your craft, you’ll find something you love.


SEO Tools to Improve your Google Search Result Rank

Ever find yourself way over your head? Maybe you took on too many projects at work, or invited too many people to your house-warming party and didn’t make enough food.

I saw an online posting about a WordPress group meeting up at a local brewery to learn at SEO (search engine optimization, or how well you rank on Google search results). I thought, “Hey, I blog on WordPress and I’m interested in marketing so this could help my future career. What can it hurt?”

One beer in, I’m surrounded by business owners looking to boost the traffic on their websites. Not the personal blogging workshop I was expecting.

Photo of Hops and Grain brewery where the workshop met

Credit: Rich Plakas

Fake it till you make it.
I did actually learn a few things while (likely) looking like a deer in the headlights, sipping beer in the corner of a brewery.

Google is constantly changing its algorithms used for ranking websites; you’re not going to outsmart it.
No one knows exactly what Google uses to rank pages higher or lower than others (but we have a guess).

Keywords – words your audience searches for on Google, and you should have on your website and blog posts.

The technology giant has consistently used keywords to try and deliver to search users what they are looking for, but once this was discovered, marketers and bloggers took advantage of it, and started keyword stuffing their pages, or using specific words unnaturally and too often on their website, in an attempt to rank higher on Google’s search result pages.
Google caught on.

Photo of Google Search Engine

Keywords are important, but only if they are relevant. Longer, more specific keywords are better than short keywords. For example, instead of naming your blog post “marketing tips,” name it “content marketing for healthcare professionals.” Sure you may not get as many website viewers – anyone not interested in healthcare related content marketing will likely pass you by – but those who are interested are going to stay on your website longer. Quality visitors are better than a higher quantity of visitors.

Content – Continually updated websites, with new content greater than 300 words in length, will rank higher on Google’s search result pages. Marketers know this; the reason they have publishing schedules is to remind them to add and maintain their websites on a consistent basis.

Aside from just pumping out new content on a regular basis, it’s always best to write unique content. If it’s something useful and relevant that your website visitors haven’t seen elsewhere, they’re more likely to view you as an authority, and visit you first when they are looking for quality information.

Backlinks – links to your website from outside sources.

You’ve done it on your own blog posts – linked to a page that goes more in-depth about a topic, back-ups a statistic with a study, or otherwise uses an authoritative site to support what you wrote. When someone does that to your website, Google like it.

Some backlinks are easy to get, and you may be doing already.

† Social media channels – Place a link to your website on all your profiles.
▪ Google+
▪ Twitter
▪ Facebook
▪ Instagram
▪ Pinterest
▪ YouTube
▪ Reddit
▪ Stumbleupon
▪ LinkedIn
▪ Yelp
▪ Foursquare

 Guest posting – link back to your own website when writing about industry topics on relevant sites.

The higher the quality of content on the websites that backlinks to your site and the more traffic they receive, the better it is for you.

Ultimately, the effectiveness of keywords, content and backlinks depends on your competition. If they are performing at a high level, you must as well. You can do everything right, but if you ignore your competition, you likely won’t come out on top.

So it turns out, being over my head worked out well for me. And the beer was good too.