Tuesday, January 31, 2012

No Wonder Job Seekers Are Confused: Part 4

This is the fourth in a series of posts refuting an article in Bloomberg Business on: "Five Out-Of-Date Job Search Tactics". (You can feel free to weigh in using the Comments section below.)

They say: (Lose the) "Endless Bullets."

I actually agree with the advice about not overusing bullets on your resume. (Recruiters giving advice on resume writing are usually the ones who strongly advocate for bulleted lists.)

A focus on accomplishments is also critical, and the author gets that, too.

But be careful of using too "breezy" of a tone in the resume. It's still a business document, after all.

In the next blog post: "Gratuitous Research."

Monday, January 30, 2012

No Wonder Job Seekers Are Confused: Part 3

This is the third post in a series refuting an article in Bloomberg Business on: "Five Out-Of-Date Job Search Tactics". (You can feel free to weigh in using the Comments section below, and check out yesterday's post on "Creaky Cover Letter Language" here.)

They say: (Saying) "Here's Why You Should Hire Me" is out-of-date.

Last Friday night, on the ABC show, "Shark Tank," all five "Sharks" (potential investors) made an important point to the gentleman pitching his company, Salespreneur. (Dave Greco)

Daymond John asks the pitchman (who is supposedly a master salesman) to "sell me this pen." The guy does so, for about 20 seconds, but quickly turns his attention to asking for an investment. Daymon John interrupts him and asks him again to finish his "pen pitch." He does, but forgets to ask for the order! The sharks were quick to point this out to him. 

Not only is the third point in this the Bloomberg article confusing, but it's also missing an important distinction for job seekers. Companies need great employees just as much as employees need jobs. It's often been said that interviews are a lot like dates -- you're looking for a "match." In the interview, the interviewer is getting to know the candidate better, especially how the prospective employee will "fit" into the company. But it's not a one-sided conversation. The job seeker is also assessing the interviewer and the company. If that's not done by sussing out qualifications (on both sides), what's the point?

Which leads to the next statement in the article. I agree with this: "People get hired when a hiring manager believes, intellectually and emotionally, that the person sitting in front of him or her can do the job."

But then the whole rest of the section is about how job seekers shouldn't "grovel and beg" for a job? What? Since when is presenting your qualifications "groveling"? In surveys of pet peeves of hiring managers, not once have I read, "Applicant presented his/her qualifications and then asked for the job." 

In more than 15 years in the careers industry, I've read hundreds of books on the job search. The author claims that "tons of job-search books and articles (nonetheless) encourage job-seekers to grovel and beg." Funny, I've never once read about that in a job search book.

I've also never seen a book with an idea that a thank you note to follow up to an interview should include "10 reasons you should hire me" -- but a cover letter that matches up the job requirements with the applicant qualifications  can be quite effective. I certainly don't equate that with "mewl(ing) and beg(ging) for a job."

And what about this line: "We never, ever want to construct lists of reasons an employer should hire us." First off, the use of "always" and "never" in an article are usually a red flag -- flexibility is required when considering tactics in a job search. (While I wouldn't recommend mailing a single shoe to a job interviewer with the cheesy "I wanted to get a foot in the door" line, the fact is, the tactic has worked for at least one job seeker. As Justin Bieber says, "Never say never.")

I agree that "If the reasons to hire don't come through in an interview, you've already missed the boat." But I'd also say that if the job seeker walks out of an interview without expressing sincere interest in the job, that's a missed opportunity. Companies want to hire people who want to work for them. (If they don't ask for the next step in the interview process, that's a missed opportunity too.)

Tomorrow: "Endless Bullets."

Sunday, January 29, 2012

No Wonder Job Seekers Are Confused: Part 2

Here's the second blog post in a series I'm doing to refute the ideas in what I believe is a misguided article: "Five Out-Of-Date Job Search Tactics" from Bloomberg Business. (You can feel free to weigh in using the Comments section below, and read the first post in the series here.)

They say: "Creaky Cover Letter Language" is out-of-date.

Okay, I agree with them that you shouldn't address a cover letter to "Dear Sir or Madam" -- and I prefer finding the hiring manager's name (when possible), but sometimes that just ISN'T possible. So "Dear Hiring Manager" is an acceptable substitute, or so is my suggestion -- simply leaving off the salutation entirely.

Contrary to the author's opinion, it can be difficult to find a hiring manager's name. Without the hiring manager's name, you're usually sending it to HR anyway, so addressing it to "Dear Hiring Manager," isn't going to offend the HR person. They know that ultimately the best resumes will be forwarded to the hiring manager (decision-maker).

Of the five "out of date" tactics, I probably have the least objection to this one (and I offer an even simpler alternative -- no salutation -- but I don't think the simple line "To Whom It May Concern" is going to kill a job seeker's chance of an interview if the resume and the rest of the cover letter is solid, and they have the right qualifications.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

No Wonder Job Seekers Are Confused: Part 1

I came across this article on another career professional's Facebook status, and my first thought (which I tweeted) was, "Just read a career article from a major, mainstream business magazine that was completely off base. It's no wonder job seekers are confused."

I wondered if I should even draw attention to the article, because it would increase attention to yet another presumptuous, prescriptive article that is going to confuse job seekers. But I think it's important for us, as career professionals, to reinforce the idea that there are lots of opinions about what does and doesn't work in the job search -- but even huge media companies endorse some stinkers.

(My colleague, Julie Walraven, of Design Resumes, does the same thing in her blog post today: "Point - Counter Point: Is the Resume Dead?")

Here's the article: "Five Out-Of-Date Job Search Tactics" from Bloomberg Business. In a series of blog posts, I'm going to offer my rebuttal to each of their points. (You can feel free to weigh in using the Comments section below.)

They say: "Dedicated resume paper and envelopes" are out-of-date.

They say not to use any kind of special paper or matching envelopes in your job search because "Dedicated-use resume paper is a 1980s artifact."

Brought to you by the same people who find online applications "more efficient" are the folks who suggest you use "plain white bond paper" when you *do* print out a resume to bring with you? Yikes. Have you heard of the importance of first impressions, people?

How do you stand out today? Go the extra mile.

If everyone else is applying online, follow-up with a paper resume in person or via mail.  Sure, the 16-year-old temp employee ("Jennifer," I call her) may not care (LOL, BFF -- BRB!!!*) but the hiring manager (as long as they're over 25), probably will appreciate the effort.

While I agree with the author that content is king, ugly resumes aren't effective either. Horizontal lines absolutely have a place on resumes ... even for non-creative types. Is she serious?!?!

Rather than being out of date, dedicated resume paper and envelopes can help you stand out from a sea of job seekers.

[Addition: This article, "Is The Paper Resume Dead?" appeared in online in Wall Street Journal's Career section on Jan. 25, 2012. The answer is: It's not.]

Tomorrow: "Creaky Cover Letter Language."

* Jennifer is more versed in text messaging than text resumes ... LOL = Laugh out loud; BFF = Best friends forever; BRB = Be right back)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Is Your Search Optimization Strategy Working?

You may have heard a lot about SEO. (I've written about it before a couple times on this blog.) It stands for "search engine optimization" and is important to the algorithms that can put your resume writing website at the top of the search results page on Google or Bing or leave you at the bottom. Here are some ways to measure if your efforts are getting noticed.

You first need a basic understanding of SEO. When people search the Internet, they use keywords or phrases to find what they are looking for amongst the hundreds of thousands of web pages that have been created. If you've ever looked in the upper left-hand corner of your search engine results, often certain words return millions of results. For example, this search for "Resume Writer" on Google returned 3.8 million results. Yikes!

No one bothers to go through all of those. They rarely look beyond the first or second page. So that is where you want your web pages, content, videos, and blog to appear, in order to be found by those who are looking. (And here's another trick: Don't try to rank nationally for "Resume Writer" -- instead, try to rank for "Resume Writer (Your Area of Expertise or Geographic Area)" -- i.e., "Resume Writer Baltimore" or "Resume Writer Elementary School Teacher.")

You have to do some work first. SEO is not an exact science. But, you can use keyword programs (for free) to help you find out which have the highest amount of competition and which are underused. From there, the trial and error begins. Some recommend using one keyword per web page to see which ones are drawing the most traffic for you. Also be sure that your website is registered with the major search engines.

Some Ways to Measure SEO Success:
  • Backlinks. These are the external links that link back to your website from other places. You can create backlinks by using the resource box when submitting content to article directories, bio boxes when guest blogging, as well as signature lines on forums and places like that. (You can also get a backlink by becoming a member of BeAResumeWriter.com -- there are two member directories on the site -- one for free members, and one for paid members -- that can provide a backlink with high authority.)
  • Traffic metrics. How many unique visitors do you have compared to returning visitors? What you want are unique visitors because these are new faces that are being drawn in by your marketing strategies. You can also look at revenue generated against visitors at any given time. You can find out your traffic by using Google Analytics. This free program gives you lots of information to calculate your SEO success. Test your keywords for at least three months to get an accurate picture of whether or not they're working.

What you ultimately want is for people to buy from you. You want that conversion from casual visitor to customer. It is essential that you include a call to action on your website pages that will compel the reader to make that conversion. You can track this metric as well.

Help your prospective resume clients find you online by maximizing your efforts at "Search Engine Optimization Success."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Wearing Two Hats: Resume Writer and Mom

I'm not a mom myself, but I am a dedicated aunt to a whole bunch of nieces and nephews, including "The Five Princesses," who are featured prominently in my Facebook timeline. (My brother lives next door to me, and when he has the girls, they're frequently found at my house.)

The "Five Princesses" on Halloween. 

So while the kids aren't around 24/7/365, when they are next door, I really understand the challenges of resume writers who are also parents. And one of those challenges is balance (and, along with that, time management). An advantage of being a self-employed resume writer is the flexibility that it *can* offer you, to both serve your clients and support your family (financially, emotionally, and physically).

A balanced life helps you continue to "have it all" and gives you the time you need to enjoy the life you've designed. Here are some tips, strategies and ideas to balance your working and family time.

  • Schedule time for everything. It may sound extreme. However, scheduling time to work and time to play really does help you find the balance that's right for you. Scheduling your life forces you to look at your priorities and make sure you find time for them. When Sean has the girls, I know that I'm not going to get a lot of work done. (Unless you count a massive shredding party as "work." Kids love to help out. Get them involved in your work.) Conversely, when they're not here (or when your kids are at school, for example), buckle down. Schedule your client consultations for those times, because it's not going to be quiet when the kids are around!

Allocate your schedule as you see fit. For example, you may decide that working from 6 a.m. to noon every day works best for you. Then you have from noon until bedtime to focus on your mom responsibilities. Alternatively, you may decide that working three 10-hour days a week works best for you and then taking the other four days to focus on your mom responsibilities. There's no right or wrong schedule here. A balanced life is defined by you.

  • Prioritize. This is important for both your business and your personal life. There's always more to do in every area of your life. Take the time to prioritize both. For example, for your business your priorities are likely your income-producing activities (writing resumes, career coaching, etc.). The time you spend working with clients (or working on client projects) is a high priority.  

On the personal side, spending time with your partner each week is a priority -- as is spending quality time with your children. However, cleaning the house or having the greenest lawn on your block may not be a high priority.

  • Get help. Once you know where your priorities are, you'll most certainly notice that there are tasks and responsibilities that are not on that list. For example, the house cleaning or your bookkeeping. These are tasks that get pushed to the back of the list. These are also tasks that you can get help with. For example, you can hire a housecleaner for an hour a week, or outsource your bookkeeping to a professional (or a virtual assistant). Figure out the "highest and best use" of your time. If you can make $50/hour working with clients, it can be worth it to hire a neighborhood kid (or your own kid!) for $10/hour to mow the lawn or rake the leaves.

Make sure that when you outsource a task you fill the available time created with a high priority task. For example, if you outsource your bookkeeping, perhaps that frees up three hours of your time each month. Make sure you use that time to work on income-producing activities. The goal is to earn more money than you're spending on outsourcing.

Finally, learn to recognize when your life feels out of balance. There's no formula that can tell you. It's up to you to know when things are askew. This is where regular planning sessions and quiet time alone can help. You can perform an honest analysis of your life and where it is going and make any changes necessary. This is your life. You decide how you want to live it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Effective Website Design to Attract Resume Clients

In yesterday's blog post about "New Year, New Marketing Ideas," I talked a little bit about the role of your website in attracting new clients ... but I thought it merited its own blog post.

One of the most important elements of your online business is your website. Itís as important to you as a storefront is to a brick and mortar business. Your website represents who you are and what you have to offer.

Your Website Is Your Prospect's First Impression

You know what they say about first impressions, right? Actually, a lot is said about first impressions. Two of the cliches are:

  • You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and
  • Your first impression matters most

Essentially, they say the same thing. Your prospect's first impression matters. You want people to come to your website and:

  • Feel welcome -- like they want to stay and have a look around
  • Feel comfortable moving around on your site
  • Feel confident in you -- your knowledge, skills, and products or services
  • Feel like buying (or at least signing up for your free special report!)

And you want them to feel like coming back!

The Key Elements to Effective Website Design

Many people still think that effective website design has to be complicated. They use fancy flash graphics and make their visitors jump through hoops just to get to the core information. Effective website design is actually quite simple. One of my favorite career websites is Blue Sky Resumes.

Louise Fletcher has done a nice job of creating an inviting website. Let's look at some of the keys to effective website design.

  • Navigation. Navigation is essentially how your visitor moves through your website. If they have to search for pages, they're likely to leave. If information, is difficult to find, they'll leave. Conversely, if your website navigation is simple and straightforward, you'll provide an excellent visitor experience. This means more sales, traffic and conversions = more profits. (The best way to create effective navigation is to think through what you want your prospective clients to know, and in what order, and then design your site accordingly.)
  • Branding. Your website design actually helps form a brand image in your visitor's mind. Every aspect of your website helps establish who you are and what you're about. At a very basic level, color plays an important role. For example, if you focus on careers in the sustainable industry, then chances are you're going to use greens on your site to represent nature. If you work with accounting or IT clients, then you will probably use blues. Colors are associated with professions, niches, and industries.
  • Sales. Ultimately your website design needs to support your goals. Your goal with a resume website is to get clients to take action to start working with you -- either calling or emailing you. If elements of your design distract from your goal, sales can suffer. (It's fine to offer job search resources, for example, but if you're SELLING resume services, your emphasis should be on that, not on how many articles and links to free service sites that you can compile.)

Before you create your website or have someone create it for you, make sure you have a clear idea of who you are, what your website goal is, and how you want your resume writing business to be perceived by your visitors. Then make visiting your website as simple and enjoyable as possible. That's good website design. Keep your goals and your customers' experience at the forefront and you can't go wrong.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New Year, New Marketing Ideas

January is traditionally the busiest month for resume writers, according to the Resume Writers' Digest Annual Industry Survey. So if your phone hasn't been ringing (or your emailbox "binging"), here are some ideas to help you attract new clients right now.

  • Re-evaluate your marketing plan. Wait. You do have a marketing plan, right? A written document that outlines your vision for your resume writing business, your goals and objectives, who your ideal target customer is, and the "5 Ps" (what Products/services you'll offer; your Pricing strategy; your Place/distribution plans -- i.e., whether you'll work with clients in person or virtually, or both; how you plan to Promote your business, and People involved -- you, and/or subcontractors or virtual assistants who will serve your clients). You'll also want to outline the marketing tactics you plan to use (including your marketing budget) and a schedule for implementing the tactics.

Every few years it is necessary to take a look at your marketing plan with new eyes. If you're not as busy as you'd like to be, you should evaluate your marketing plan every few months. What are you doing now? What's working? What's not? How can you revamp your existing marketing tools (articles, blogging, public speaking) and employ some new ones (social media, teleseminars/webinars)?

  • Become a social networker. Speaking of social media, Twitter and Facebook are becoming valuable tools for a lot of resume writers, who have used the social media sites to position themselves as expert resources for clients, recruiters, and the media.
  • Advertise your business on your personal Facebook page. I came across a resume writer last week who just made the announcement that she was no longer going to post any business-related posts on her personal page. Huge mistake! Facebook has just changed their algorithm again, and it's resulting in less visibility for Business Pages. The new "Subscribe" feature also makes it easy for "non-friends" to follow what you're up to -- and posting business content on your personal profile is what they're usually looking for! Post links to new content on your website and other promotional links that friends and family can view and share. But don't neglect your fan page for your resume writing business. It's still a valuable tool. Encourage current clients to sign up and tune in for special information or offers that they won't find anywhere else.
  • Don't neglect offline tools. For many resume writers, a significant portion of your business is still local. Just because more and more clients are finding you online doesn't mean that you should neglect offline tools, like direct marketing, flyersm and promotional items.
  • Video marketing. People love to watch informative videos online. You can take what you know and turn it into a visual presentation that immediately gives new clients a picture of who you are and what you do. I am loving doing "Desktop Demos" -- on my Mac, I just use QuickTime and a USB headset/microphone to do a quick video. It saves as a .MOV file, and I upload it to YouTube so anyone can view it. Easy!! Check out this video I did last week on how to use BeAResumeWriter.com's Pass-Along Materials.

If you have an iPhone, it's also easy to record and upload a video to Facebook. Possible topics: share job search tips, give an update on the job market in your local area (who is hiring; who is not!), walk people through a before-and-after version of a fictionalized client's resume....
  • Create a press release. Are you about to offer a new service or product? (LinkedIn profile development, your new career membership site, salary negotiation coaching), Create a press release that will attract new clients to your business. Use a press release service and be sure that your content is SEO optimized. (Want more ideas on how to use the media to attract new clients? Check out the recording of my teleseminar on "Feed the Media" in the Free Level Resources section of BeAResumeWriter.com. Not a member of BeAResumeWriter.com? Click on the "Become a Member" tab and apply for your free membership)
  • Take a fresh look at your website. Are you making it easy for prospective clients to understand how they should work with you? You need two things on your website: A clear "call to action" that tells clients exactly what you want them to do to start working with you (call? send their existing resume?) AND you need a way to capture information about folks who visit your site but aren't ready to start working with you yet. (A free report delivered via autoresponder usually fits the bill.)

These are just a few ways you can attract new clients for your resume writing business.

Monday, January 16, 2012

When You Might Want to Relocate Your Resume Writing Business

That's Jon digging out after a snowstorm.

My husband, Jon, and I talk a lot about moving. Mostly when we've had a massive snowfall here in Nebraska, where I live. A couple of winters ago, we had so much snow that we had a snowdrift that obscured our house (as viewed from our street) for more than a month. It was hard not to think about moving somewhere warm on a day like that.

This winter has been better. Today, in fact, it's in the 30s. Yesterday it was in the 50s, and tonight we're expecting snow. That's par for the course in January in Nebraska. Hopefully it will be a dusting. But the big snow is coming. It always does.

But weather might not be the only reason you would consider relocating your career services business.
Finances is another major one. You might have considered relocating your business in an effort to ease the financial burden. But, if you are established in an area, why would you consider this? Here are a few reasons.

Why Relocate?

• Growth -- The object of your career services business is not just to help clients, but also support yourself. Your current location may not offer your resume writing business the opportunities to do that if you work with a primarily in-person clientele, and the folks in your area can't afford your services, for example.

• Cost -- This one affects resume writers with both commercial office space as well as those who work from home. It's a fact that different areas of the country have different costs of living. If you work virtually with clients, living in an area of the country with a lower cost of living can make a huge difference in your profitability. Your revenues may be the same, but if your expenses are half of what they would be in a higher cost-of-living area, you can be pocketing a lot more of the money.

Poor market -- Maybe your resume writing business just isn't doing well in its current location. The market for your business may have dried up due to economic changes. In order to survive, you may have to consider moving to an area with richer resources. (Again, this is more likely to be the case if you work with clients in person, or if you do a lot of speaking/networking in your local community.)

Lifestyle changes -- No one lives in a bubble. Sometimes personal issues make it necessary to make a change in your personal location ... and consequently, your business location. Last year, Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter moved from Kansas to Texas so she and her husband could indulge in their love of sailing. (The better weather didn't help either -- right, Jacqui?)

Amenities -- If you have an inner city office for your resume writing business, you already know that space is at a premium and an expensive one at that. A chance to grow larger may mean finding a larger office space that wonít break the bank. Areas outside your current city can offer relaxing scenery, open work environments for employees, better parking for customers and delivery people, as well as options for expanding again without moving this time.

Relocation may not be something you've contemplated for your resume writing business, but sometimes it is a viable option. The reasons above are just a few that could lead you to a new venue... or at least get you started thinking about it!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Resume Writers: Should You Start Your Own LinkedIn Group

Recently, some folks on the NRWA E-List have been complaining about the volume of email messages. (The surge corresponds with my return to the organization. Coincidence?)

One list member suggested switching from the current YahooGroups format to a LinkedIn Group. If you're not familiar with LinkedIn Groups, let's chat a bit about LinkedIn Groups and why you should join them -- and maybe even start your own.

I still find a lot of resume writers are confused about LinkedIn and how it can help their business. One important function of LinkedIn is to connect you to other resume writers. I've heard from a couple of resume writers that they're reluctant to get "LinkedIn" with other resume writers. I say, "WHY NOT?" Resume writers can be a source of referrals, ideas, and inspiration.

LinkedIn takes the guesswork and legwork out of networking with others in your field. This site allows you to search for, connect with and get needed advice from professionals with a few clicks. There are no face-to-face meetings unless you want them. Even so, you can get to know people through their profiles and interacting in groups and discussions.

LinkedIn Groups: Increase Your Visibility and Expert Status

This brings us to LinkedIn Groups. What are they? These groups are like small gatherings of professionals with similar business niches or interests. The entire site is available to you, but concentrated groups help you to target those professionals with whom you need to network.

Groups help you do many things:

* Discover other professionals to meet quickly
* Actively participate in discussions relevant to your interests and needs
* Zero in on the most influential people on LinkedIn within your professional sphere
* Know which profiles to view and which people to "follow" in discussions
* Begin your own discussions to help establish yourself as a leader in your field

These are also excellent reasons to begin your own LinkedIn Group. Before you do, though, get a feel for the process by joining a group or two. You can search for relevant groups using different parameters.

For Resume Writers, I recommend these groups (Note: Some groups require pre-approval or membership in the associated organization in order to join):
Career Directors International
Career Management Best Practices
Career Professionals Network
Career Professionals of Canada
Career Rocketeer
Career Thought Leaders Consortium
JibberJobber Career Management
Resume Experts
Resume Writers & Career Coaches
Strategic Resumes LinkGroup

Once you find one that you like, introduce yourself. Do this by posting a new discussion question and then leaving a comment. Let people get to know you.

LinkedIn Groups can also increase your visibility and popularity on the site. While you are leading discussions, don't forget to leave meaningful comments on other discussion topics. It will look pretty suspicious if you only post questions and never join in the discussions of others.

Build up a presence and a following. When you are ready, create your own group. If you specialize in a particular industry or niche in your resume writing business (and you should!), you can check out the existing groups that serve these markets, and perhaps create one that focuses on jobseekers in that niche.

Ask your existing clients to join your LinkedIn group. Don't forget business contacts on other social sites like Facebook and Twitter. Invite LinkedIn members with similar interests as a way of connecting with new faces.

You should definitely be involved in a couple groups on LinkedIn .... and consider starting your own to increase your visibility, ranking, popularity, network and credibility among clients and prospects.

Got any other suggestions for career-related LinkedIn groups? Post them in the comments below.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Viral Marketing and Your Resume Writing Business

You probably know what a viral video is -- like the YouTube video of the skateboarding dog. Infographics are also something that often go viral -- most often on Facebook. This infographic from Hubze, ironically, is on how to get your content to go viral.

Viral marketing tactics can be effective in spreading the word about your business, your product, and your service without offending others or being self-serving.

But, viral marketing is inherently self-serving, isn’t it? Well, yes and no. To be truly effective, viral marketing must include a give-and-take approach. You must engage others, take part in conversation, and give as much as you get. In other words, don’t expect your message to spread itself. Viral marketing takes time, careful planning and well-thought out execution.

It has, for lack of a better word, an incurable need for attention.

While viral marketing can be applied in a number of ways, there are 3 main approaches:

#1 – To Share. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube are in fact products of viral marketing themselves. While they’re sole purpose is to allow (and encourage) users to share information, they too must share their service via their users. It’s simple, really. Their users believe in them and enjoy their websites so much, that they share those websites with others. Knowing this and trusting this would take place, these social media powerhouses have become multi-million, some billion dollar businesses thanks to, you guessed it, viral marketing.

#2 – To Add Value. Adding value is not a characteristic unique to viral marketing. It is a common marketing approach across the board. For hundreds of years, business owners have understood the importance of offering their customers “more.” For instance, buy this product and receive this additional product for free. You get the picture. So, this notion of adding value applies to your viral marketing in the same way. However, rather than simply applying added value to your products and services, make value-added offers to those who share your message. For instance, send this message to an additional 10 people, and receive a free product. Incentivize and you will see results!

#3 – To create buzz. Similar to sharing, creating buzz is can be extremely effective. How is it different? While sharing refers to others literally sharing information with friends (i.e. Like my Facebook page? Sign-up for your own Facebook page today and see more of what I’m up to, including photos, favorites and more!) creating buzz is more about spreading the word. Consider how gossip spreads, or the way in which gossip magazines create stories based on hearsay. The idea is to get people “talking” about you and your business in a positive way so that they begin to encourage others to become customers, sign-up or carry on the conversation on their own.

As you can see, viral marketing is about more than inundating your audience with your message. Its about strategic planning and taking an approach that puts your business in a positive light while enticing others to not only become customers, but to spread the word as well. 

Want to learn more about Viral Marketing? Check out the Viral Marketing Stampede special report, available now in the "Paid Member Resources" section of BeAResumeWriter.com. (Bronze member benefit.)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Why Pro Bono Work Can Set the Wrong Expectations: Part 2

This is part 2 in a series of blog posts to discuss some things that have been on my mind recently related to the careers industry. Yesterday's post is "We Are All Ambassadors," and you can read it here. I talked about how we need to be remember that we are representing our entire profession of resume writers when we comment or provide advice on careers-related topics online.

Today's post has to do with pro bono work. It relates to yesterday's topic, because I talked about some not-so-nice discussions going on in certain LinkedIn groups ... and one of them had to do with pro bono work. It was a discussion that garnered almost 50 comments -- it stayed pretty civil -- well, until the last few comments. Apparently, an earlier discussion was equally lively, and led to a post on the "Look Before You Leap" blog. I hadn't looked at that article when I started writing my post, but the author points out a lot of good things to think about.

I personally write up to a handful of pro bono resumes each month. They can be for family members, or friends, or even friends of friends, if they're someone in need. Usually, someone asks me to take a look at their existing resume -- very few of them are starting completely from scratch.

But yesterday's Facebook exchange with the "friend" of my friend who was looking for cover letter help underscored an important problem when providing pro bono services. Sometimes the recipient doesn't understand the value of the service you've provided. That can be either a monetary value (i.e., someone who hasn't been on the receiving end of seeing their professional career transformed into a working document that speaks to their personal value as an employee doesn't "get" why a resume can cost an average of $400) or even something like questioning the document when it's completed (this would be akin to "looking the (proverbial) gift horse in the mouth." If they haven't paid for the resume, are they more likely to question your resume strategy? Are they more likely to question how valuable a "free" resume can be for helping them?

I had another similar situation arise last week. As I mentioned yesterday, being friends on Facebook can lead to folks asking for career advice. My younger brother's former kindergarten teacher (and the wife of a former neighbor's son -- I told you, Facebook makes for some strange friendships!) contacted me through a Facebook message to inquire about help for her daughter, who had recently graduated from college, but wasn't confident in her resume. I asked her mom to have her send me the resume so I could see what she had to work with. Her mom wrote back, "She has a resume (so she says) but she is worried that it is soooo weak. She needs to visit with someone -- other than her mother -- for advice, at least that is what I think -- HA! I haven't seen her resume -- and she had some college help. I think some professional advice would be so beneficial." So, once again, I asked her to have her daughter send me her resume. The next day, I received this message: "I'm going to work with (daughter) on her resumes -- she has one for Art and one for Business applications. They are both extremely 'light' on information. Can you refer us to a book or website with some solid info to model, as we build these resumes?" Mind you, there was no discussion of fees or work process or anything at that point. I had simply asked to see the resume. (Going back to yesterday's theme of "We Are All Ambassadors," I didn't (couldn't!) respond to her request for a "book or website ... to model" without my head exploding. So I didn't respond at all.) When someone is asking for help on behalf of someone else, will the "end recipient" value your work? (Early on in my resume writing career, I stopped accepting projects set up by wives for their husbands. I should add rejecting requests from moms for their kids to that list!)

As Miranda points out on the "Look Before You Leap" blog, providing discounted services may also lead to referrals from folks expecting the same cheap/discounted/free service. I mean, it's tough to say in an email, "Hey, here's the resume I wrote for you for free that I would normally charge $400 for ..." Do you link them to your "Prices" page on your website, so they can see what you'd normally charge? Do you mock up a dummy invoice and put the $400 discount on there, so the end line item is $0? That question addresses the issue of whether you provide free or discounted services as a way to build your portfolio or business, instead of as a way to "give back."

Another issue I hadn't considered until yesterday... if I write someone's resume for free, and they choose to give me a gift for doing so, does it devalue my services? If they get a $50,000 job, and send me a $100 gift card in appreciation, I'm thrilled to get it. (After all, I wasn't expecting anything -- I wrote the resume as a favor.) But do they think, then, that the resume is only worth $100? (Again, they may be unfamiliar with your "normal fees" -- and I'm not speaking specifically here about folks who you help because they are unable to afford your services ... I'm talking about friends and family.)

I also consider: "How will I feel about providing help?" I like to give back. (I often say that resume writers have a little bit of "social worker" in us. I sure do.) I once helped a down-on-his-luck friend who had been unemployed for several months by writing his resume. Then, he came back to me asking for a federal resume. (I generally don't write federal resumes or military transition resumes.) Then he showed up at my door unannounced occasionally over the next month, usually because he wanted to tweak the resume (and/or cover letter) for a job posting. Fortunately, he landed a job before I resented him too much. But often when we say "Yes" initially, it doesn't mean "Yes...forever." Having standards for who -- and when -- you will help folks is important. So is setting boundaries so you don't feel taken advantage of. (I have trouble setting boundaries.)

So here's my takeaways: DO continue to volunteer your services when you feel it's appropriate. DON'T expect anything in return. DO establish guidelines for yourself on who you will help, and under what circumstances. DON'T be surprised if you don't get the response you expect from the people you're helping. DO continue helping others anyway. (DON'T throw the baby out with the bathwater.)

I don't have all the answers. (Like I said earlier, the inspiration for this topic just struck me yesterday.) But I'd be interested in your feedback -- either on here (in the comments below), or on the Resume Writers' Digest Facebook page.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

We Are All Ambassadors: Part I

The first blog post of the new year is always a tough one for me. (Last year, it took me until Jan. 26 to come up with something worthy -- but it ended up being one of my most popular blog posts ever. Check out "I Got Distracted" if you want to know more.)

The first blog post is important. You want to strike the right chord -- set the right tone -- for the year. But you don't want it to be trite. (Or about New Year's Resolutions, if you can help it!) So I debated Sunday (New Year's) about writing one, and made it through all of yesterday (Monday) without coming up with anything profound ... but lying in bed last night, the pieces finally came together.

It all started early Monday evening. I was trolling Facebook (instead of writing the resume I was supposed to be working on, or doing anything else on my lengthy-at-the-moment to-do list). I saw a status update from a casual friend of mine, "Anyone out there can help me with a cover letter? I'm applying for a job at {Company Name}."

I commented, "Are you talking to me?" because I had written a resume for her a few months back, as a favor. I didn't hear back from her, but one of her friends commented a few minutes later, "check Microsoft Word templates :)" ... to which I (somewhat snarkily) responded back, "...only if you want to have your cover letter look like every other one." My friend's friend, came back with, "Well, she can use it as a guideline so she can know what to include in it."

Ugh. At that point, instead of responding back with something even more snarky, like ... "I'd take the Gallery of Best Cover Letters over what Microsoft's engineers thinks passes as an effective resume," or, "I'm thinking of reading WebMD in hopes of being able to assist the surgeon the next time I have a procedure" -- I realized that 1) I was wasting my breath and 2) I wouldn't be representing the careers industry very well by escalating the conversation. So I went back and deleted my two comments... and managed to restrain myself from using the "block user" function on my friend's profile. (It's not her fault her friends don't understand how to job search effectively, right? See, I almost said, "It's not her fault that her friend is an idiot" ... but I didn't.  -->  :) -- right?

The message here, however, is that many of us as resume writers use Facebook to generate new business -- through use of Fan pages, events, Facebook ads, and even status updates on our personal profiles -- but it's a double-edged sword. We Are All Ambassadors for the professional resume writing community.  When we're sharing posts we've written on our careers industry blog, or mentions in the Career section of the local newspaper, or giving general job search tips to coincide with key dates (i.e., in September for "Update Your Resume Month"), we are increasing the visibility of professional resume writers. (Tell me you don't get requests for service or referrals from what you post about careers topics on your personal Facebook profile.)

But we're also representing the industry when we get snippy with one another in LinkedIn Groups. (Guys, these groups are public, and job seekers can see them too. One of the hardest things about resume writing is that there are very few "hard-and-fast" rules, so politely disagreeing is fine, but some of the threads really get out of hand. Or on Twitter. Don't have a fight with another resume writer on Twitter. The whole world is watching.)

Unless the reputation (and personal brand) you want to cultivate for yourself is that of a jerk, be careful about your tone when posting on social media. "Animal" on Twitter has solidified the reputation of many headhunters as "jerks" by some of the comments he posts -- he's well aware of that. (His tagline on Twitter says, "SENSITIVE? DON'T FOLLOW ME -- Feel free to criticize me in public.")

But this approach can (and does!) turn people off. (And paint a negative stroke on the whole industry ... a topic I'll get into later this week.)

We're all ambassadors. Including me. And remember, digital dirt persists.
So think before you post, and post carefully.


I'm going to take up this theme -- "We Are All Ambassadors" --  as a multi-part series for the week.
Check back tomorrow for Part 2: Why Pro-Bono Work Can Set the Wrong Expectations.

And I'd love your comments.