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.

Conclusion
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.

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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.

Conclusion
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.

Happiness to Last

“Is happiness merely a passing emotion, or a permanent state?”
In my daily devotion book yesterday, it explained, both states exist.

“There is happiness that reacts to events (this is temporary and volatile), and there is happiness that overrules circumstances (which is strong and lasting).”

I’ve been asking for happiness for some time now, without realizing there are two solutions to my desire – one less satisfying than the other.

Be happy... not because everything is good, but because you see the good in everything.

Events create temporary happiness: moving to Austin and getting a job. But in the days or weeks after the event, happiness can fade; it’s the lasting happiness that satisfies, and that comes from The Lord.

I think the same principle can be applied to marketing. I’ve been searching for a content marketing position for months, after learning of its lasting effects. I’ve been on job interviews that focus solely on sales and numbers, but that ideology is like temporary happiness. After a few days or weeks, you are looking for your next sale or event to make you and your client happy again.

While ultimately business growth is viewed from a numbers standpoint, content marketing works to grow businesses by creating relationships with clients. This is accomplished by writing blog posts or ebooks, creating videos or infographics, and attracting clients with a clean website.

All these content marketing strategies show transparency and build trust. Because of that trust, clients are more loyal and the numbers follow. This is a stronger foundation to build businesses on, and will create a lasting happiness for both you and your client.

Moving to Austin was great, but living here is what keeps me happy each morning. Getting a job will be great, but growing and learning in the position, creating friendships, and meeting goals is what will keep me engaged and happy walking into the office each day.

Lasting happiness comes from knowing you are following God’s path, and you are in the right spot for the time being, even if you aren’t happy at the moment. While I wish I had a job right now, I feel satisfied knowing that moving to Austin was the right decision. This weekend presented overwhelming tasks at times, but when I asked myself if I regretted the decision, it was a resounding “no.”

The happiness I experience from moving to Austin will last, and I believe more lasting happiness will come my way.

Brand yourself

During my year-long job search, I’ve learned a few things; it doesn’t matter if you have the skills listed in a job posting, employers are looking for more than just someone who can fulfill each bullet point. A few years back, Forbes reported, millennials stay at a job, on average, less than three years, and will have 15-20 jobs during their lifetime.

dream

This job-hopping trend has created the need for workplace culture – or an environment that will entice employees to stick around. Often companies will brag about free break room snacks or flexible working conditions, like the ability to work from home a certain number of days each week, in order to come out on top in the minds of recent graduates.
So how to employers determine if a certain candidate would be a good fit with the company and its workplace culture? By exploring how you brand yourself.

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Below are three places you can brand yourself online that will catch the eye of employers.

† Start a personal blog

Personal blogs are both a great way to show off your writing skills and what’s on your mind, but don’t use this outlet the same way you did your 5th-grade diary. Research and write about something relevant to the industry you are looking at entering. What changes are leaders making and how are they making them? What are consumers interested it and how are they reacting to the changes? In the communications field, I’m constantly looking for new ways to tell and share compelling stories. Social media and multimedia are popular among consumers, but I’m also concerned with how to engage my audience, such as through the use of mobile apps.If you don’t feel confident enough to tackle an industry-related post, you can write about a less serious but still professional topic, on something that may interest your employer, its employees, or its clients. Think about community events or volunteer opportunities that encourage involvement.

You don’t want all your effort to go to waste. If you ever wonder why some posts or writers gain such popularity, leaving you with less love, check out “The Science Behind What Content Goes Viral.”

Here’s a list of reasons why people are drawn into certain personal blogs:

▪ The post sufficiently covers the topic it addresses. Puny points don’t speak well of your ability to write long-form, thorough content.
▪ It evokes strong emotion. People are more likely to engage in your post (comment) if they are surprised, humored or angered by it. Feel good posts are great but what can a reader say about a positive post that can’t be summed up with an emoji?
▪ It educates your readers about a topic. If your post is interesting or causes the audience to think, it’s more likely to gain devoted readers that discuss topics with you.

† Utilize social media

It probably goes without saying that you shouldn’t post drunken photos to Facebook or Instagram, but creating an online presence that shows your personality is important because it allows your audience to get to know you.

▪ Share your blog posts on Twitter.
▪ Update old friends about your life on Facebook.
▪ Post a picture of your afternoon at a museum to Instagram.

† Complete your LinkedIn profile

Employers are obviously going to be interested in your work history, but the social media site also allows you to add classes you’ve taken, hobbies you enjoy, and volunteer experience onto your profile. All those little “extras” help tell a more complete story of who you are, and whether you’d be a good fit with a company.

Find yourself looking for a new job? Try boosting your resume and cover letter game with these non-traditional methods.

The Power of Written Word

As a writer, journalist, and communications professional, I know the power of words. I certainly endorse written work, if for no other reason than to keep a job – but really we can learn so much, just from reading others’ writing.

I was reminded of this when I reviewed a particular blog post I wrote a couple years ago, after finishing my internship with Indianapolis Monthly. I learned about different writing styles, online, print and digital editing, but also how to scour through information of all sorts, to simply educate myself. You never know when seemingly random information, read during downtime, may become useful. Seize the moment.

You can read more about my time as an Indianapolis Monthly intern, here

A Lasting Effect

“Everything is historic, because it happens and then it’s history.”

That (or something like that) was a direct quotation from a co-worker today, joking about how many times the word “historic” was used when predicting the snowstorm along the Northeast coast earlier this week. Turns out it wasn’t so historic for most residents, but if you break it down, sure – everything is history after it happens. It doesn’t have to be distant or ancient history to matter.

In the news business, someone once told me, what we are doing is recording history. Years from now, we can look at old newscasts and relive this day. When you want information about something, you can look it up in a newspaper, search the topic online and see how news stations or social media users covered it.
Looking at my job from the perspective that it’s more than just a daily newscast was significant. It puts more pressure on me to produce shows that mean something later, but it’s also more rewarding. The work that I am doing now could be used to inform generations not yet born.

We all know it’s important to record history so we can learn from it. I’m happy to be a part of something that lasting.

Restoring Faith in Humanity

I’m sure many people of heard of or enjoy following “Humans of New York,” but if not, I encourage you to check it out. A photographer talks to strangers on the streets of New York – for just five minutes or so – and captures a photo of them as they answer a question. Many are powerful and it really “restores faith in humanity” as people like to say. If nothing else, the project unites the human race, in understanding and empathy.

One common question asked is “If you could give one piece of advice to a large group of people, what would it be?

I don’t live in New York so I doubt I will ever be featured in the project, but I got to thinking about what sort of advice I would want to convey to a large group of people.

I would tell the group to respect and appreciate the work of others. It is so easy to assume you are the only one working in your office, or the hardest worker in your office. It is so easy to assume that your job is the most important one or the one contributing most to your career field or community. But the truth is: The majority of people are working their butts off, and outsiders don’t understand. We criticize the work of others, without appreciating the impact their careers have on their own life.
I work in media, one of the most openly hated and disrespected career fields. But people don’t realize that we work for hardly any pay, to inform communities of things they demand knowing, but don’t want to give credit to the ones who inform them of those things. Just like engineers, doctors, secretaries, teachers, businessmen and women, and all other workers and career fields, we want respect and appreciation for the work we do.
When was the last time you met someone educated about the world around them without the use of newscasts, newspapers, magazines, social media, websites, or an app on their phone? We are professionals and experts in our field, just as others are in their respective fields. If we all looked at other’s work with the same understanding, respect and empathy we have for our own work or those in our career field, I think that is when real faith would be restored in humanity.