Friday, May 31, 2013

A Winning Strategy

© Andres Rodriguez -

Warning: This blog post is a bit off topic today, but I've received a lot of requests for my "winning strategy" for contests and sweepstakes. People say that I'm "lucky," but as the quote goes, "Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity." 

Since the beginning of 2013, I've won two sets of concert tickets, an Amazon gift card, an Apple TV, and a mini-season ticket package from the local baseball team. Yesterday, I won a Bissell vacuum cleaner and an Osprey Sling Pack backpack in the USA Pro Cycling Challenge Summer of Cycling Sweepstakes. My 12-year-old niece Julia was impressed that I keep winning so many things, and she asked me to share my tips for winning. Before school many mornings, she would text me and ask for "today's tip." I compiled the tips, and am sharing them with you here.

Jobseekers are always looking for the "secret" that will help them find a job faster, or more easily. But the fact is, just like when winning contests, the key is persistence, patience, and a positive attitude. That's just one of the tips I gave to Julia.  Tips that also apply to jobseekers are noted in red.

Day 1: Always crumple up your entry form when filling out a paper contest entry form. It gives the entry more "edges" and it "floats" to the top and is more likely to be picked. [Jobseekers: Set yourself apart from other applicants!]

Day 2: When calling a radio station to be a certain caller, use the "redial" function so you don't have to type in the number again, which wastes time. On a cell phone, hit the "Call" button twice and that will usually redial.

Day 3: Enlist a friend. The more people you can have trying to win a particular promotion, the better. Especially if you are calling a phone number -- have as many phones dialing as possible. (Remember, that's how [your sister] Emily won those hockey tickets with your phone that time!) Many online contests these days have a "social share" component to them -- you can earn extra entries if you share the entry link with your friends, family, and network! [Jobseekers: Your network is there to help you in your job search! The more people you have trying to help you find a new job, the better!]

Day 4: For big concerts and events, there will usually be some giveaways before the event as they work to make last-minute sales (unless the event is sold out). Find out who is promoting it and/or co-sponsoring it, and tune in.

Day 5: Figure out who does a lot of giveaways -- for example, First National Bank does a lot -- and "follow" what they do (i.e., on Facebook and Twitter). Make sure you have your account set to get notifications, especially if some of them are time-sensitive (i.e., "the first 10 people who comment will win.") [Jobseekers: Research who the big employers are in your area -- big companies are often constantly hiring, so if you're looking for an entry-level position, check their website often!]

Day 6: Many places have rules about how often you can win things (like every 30 days), so don't try to win stuff "just" to win stuff ... otherwise, you might be ineligible to be a winner when there's a giveaway you really want. [Jobseekers: If a company uses an applicant-tracking system, they will keep your application on file. If you apply for multiple jobs at the same company, the hiring manager can see that. Apply for vastly different jobs and they'll think you're not serious about your application. So don't apply for positions just to be applying!]

Day 7: Be sure you are eligible for the contest you're entering. Some have age restrictions. If it's a paper entry form, it will often be on the form, or on the box you put the form into. Otherwise, you'll have to look for rules on a website. [Jobseekers: Make sure you meet the requirements for the job -- or, if you don't have the specific credentials, you can demonstrate your expertise in another way!]

Day 8: Nothing you win is truly "free." With most winnings (whether tickets, lottery, or whatever), you have to declare them as income for your taxes. Of course, if you're 12, and you don't pay taxes, this may not apply.

Day 9: The more sweepstakes and contests you enter, the more likely you are to win. As they say, "You can't win if you don't play!" [Jobseekers: Sometimes you only need to apply to one job and you'll get it. But most people will find that they need to apply for multiple jobs -- customizing the resume and cover letter for each job, of course -- before they are offered a position.]

Day 10: Watch out for sweepstakes scams! Some contests are just designed to sell you something. That's why it's important to always read the contest rules. And never PAY to collect your prize. That's a scam too. Legitimate sweepstakes pay YOU, not the other way around. [Jobseekers: Watch out for employment scams!]

Day 11: Think about what info to put on the entry form. When I won "the best seats in the house" at the Detroit Red Wings hockey game, they were drawing the winners right away. The guy reminded me of that -- I had put my home number (at my house in Nebraska) on the form, but I changed it to my cell phone and I wasn't even back to my seat yet (wayyyy up high in the arena ... Jon and I didn't even have seats next to each other!) when they called to say I won tickets on the glass right behind the goal. [Jobseekers: Be mindful of the contact information you put on your resume and cover letter! NEVER use your work email address or work phone, but make sure you provide contact information so that it's easy to reach you to request an interview!]

Day 12: Say THANK YOU! When I won the Newsboys tickets from KGBI, I tagged them on my Facebook post about winning the tickets, and I also tweeted them that night to say thanks! [Jobseekers: ALWAYS write a thank you note after an interview!]

Day 13: The bigger the prize, the more likely your personal info (on the entry form) will need to be verified. Aunt Jean once won a trip to Hawaii from Baker's! And Jon and I each won an iMac computer. For big prizes like this, you have to fill out an "affadavit." They will check that against your driver's license, so make sure the info matches! [Jobseekers: Reference checks are part of the job search! Make sure the information you provide on a resume and job application can be verified!!]

Day 14: Luck is the smallest and least important part of winning. To consistently win contests, you need patience, perseverance, and a positive attitude.

Day 15: If the contest offers a daily reminder, sign up! HGTV's Dream Home contests do, and I remember to enter every day when I get the email reminder!

Day 16: Some contests require more than luck. Consider entering essay contests or even those that require you to guess the number of pieces of candy in a jar! (Don't forget to bring your Wonka candy to show your math teacher!)

Day 17: Push through "sweepstakes burnout" -- that feeling you'll never win. Just keep plugging away. It's usually when you're about to give up that something good happens! [This is another great tip for jobseekers!]

Day 18: You have the best odds of winning small sweepstakes. Look for contests at the grocery store, for example, or school. Big national sweepstakes will have lots more entries, making it harder to win. [For jobseekers, this means applying at small companies, and finding out about unadvertised opportunities.]

Day 19: The best sweepstakes to enter for really high chances are those that offer a lot of prizes. Sweepstakes that are giving away 100 prizes have 100 times the odds of winning, compared to those giving away just one prize. I won a $5 Amazon gift card yesterday in the Bausch and Lomb Ultimate Movie Sweepstakes. (Weekly winners win a 40-inch HDTV; 10,000 people were eligible to instantly win a $5 gift card.)

Day 20: Sweepstakes that are "annoying" to enter are also likely to have fewer entries: Look for writing, video, or coloring contests to enter.

Day 21: Some contests require you to enter a code, or make a purchase to enter, but almost ALL of them have an alternative entry option in which a purchase is not required. Read the official rules of the contest to find out how. Not everyone knows this, so these contests usually have fewer entries than other contests.

Day 22: Many contests let you submit an entry every day (for example, the HGTV Dream Home contest I mentioned on Day 15). The more days you enter, the more chances to win. I put it on my iCal (Mac calendar) with an alert reminder so I get reminded each day to enter! 

Day 23: Follow the rules! I read the rules for a contest yesterday where they are giving away $1000 cash in each "entry period," which is every 2-3 days...BUT the official rules say you can only enter ONCE per entry period...not *every day* and those with duplicate entries will be disqualified. It's almost like they are penalizing people who don't read the fine print! So, using yesterday's tip, I have set an alert in iCal to enter only on ONE day each "period" so I do not get disqualified. So ALWAYS read the rules!! [Jobseekers: Follow the requirements when applying for a job!]

Day 24: We talked on Day 21 about contests that require a purchase to enter. Today, we'll talk about "pay to play." Generally, you should NOT have to spend cash to enter a contest. The exception is lotteries. To win the Powerball or Mega Millions, or scratch-off lottery games, you have to buy a ticket. Powerball and Mega Millions offer the opportunity to win millions of dollars, but the odds are small that you will. The most I've ever won is $7. So, you're better off sticking to free contests and sweepstakes. Better odds, and free to enter!!

Day 25: With summer approaching, it's time to think about making sweepstakes entries a part-time summer job. If you're serious about putting these tips to work, plan on spending up to an hour a day entering sweepstakes. The next few days' tips will outline a plan. [Jobseekers: If you are serious about finding a job, you need to devote some serious time to your job search.]

Day 26: There are websites online that list available sweepstakes. Some offer daily entries, some weekly, some monthly, and some you can only enter once. You're a great record keeper. You can create a sweepstakes strategy list to track which contests you're trying to win. (Some you may have to enter using your Mom's name.) We can map this out.

Day 27: Set up a separate email address for your sweepstakes (again, probably under your Mom's name/info). This is an email you'll check each day, and this is the email address you'll use on the entry forms, to keep your "real" emails from getting clogged with spam. (I wish I had done this. I get a Lumber Liquidators email to my main account every day because of the HGTV contest.) [Jobseekers: Consider setting up a "disposable" email account that you can check every day for your job search, but that you can close later on. Unfortunately, your job search can attract spam emails!]

Day 28: I'll show you how to create an online list to manage your daily, weekly, monthly, and one-time entries, including where to look for new contests. This is your sweepstakes strategy. [Jobseekers: create a daily, weekly and monthly strategy for your job search! Track who you've talked to and who you need to connect with!]

Day 29: Start a notebook to track your wins. This will remind you of the prizes you've won, helping you to stay motivated. Second, you have to report wins of a certain size for tax purposes. Third, you can spot patterns to win more consistently. [Jobseekers: Keep a job search journal! Track the applications you've submitted, interviews you went on -- especially questions you were asked -- and job offers.]

Day 30: When developing your sweepstakes strategy, only enter contests that offer prizes that you would truly WANT. Remember to read the rules before entering. And watch out for sweepstakes scams. Good luck!! [Jobseekers: Don't apply to jobs just for the sake of applying for them. Only apply for jobs you WANT, and take the time to customize your resume and cover letter for each position!]

Day 31: We live in a sweepstakes-friendly state! States are allowed to have their own rules governing sweepstakes. Because of this, some sponsors will prohibit entry from residents of particular states. Florida, New York, and Rhode Island are commonly excluded from large sweepstakes. California and Utah are rarely included in sweepstakes sponsored by wineries or beer breweries. Hawaii and Alaska are often left out, because shipping to those states is more expensive. But Nebraska is rarely excluded. Yay, us!

Day 32: There is a difference between sweepstakes and a lottery. Sweepstakes are generally free while lotteries usually cost to enter. Do sweepstakes!! [Jobseekers: You should NOT be asked to pay to apply for a position. If you are asked to pay, it's probably a scam!]

Day 33: Figure out what kind of prizes you want to win and look for those contests! [Jobseekers: Figure out what kind of job you want and look for companies that hire for that position!]

Day 34: Learn about "odds." Your "odds of winning" is a measure of how likely you are to win. Like with last weekend's PowerBall drawing, the odds were 1 in 175 million. Not good. But smaller contests, or ones with lots of prizes being given away, will have better odds. The odds are usually listed in the Rules section. It's not that you shouldn't enter contests with "long odds" (that is, a short chance of winning), but don't get your hopes up on those!

Day 35: I'm going to reiterate the importance of reading the rules if the contest. For one, it will spell out exactly what you will win...and how to claim it! For example, I got an email Monday telling me I won a 5-pack of game tickets to the Lincoln Saltdogs baseball games...but that the first game (of 5) is THIS Thursday, and I have to claim the tickets in person at the Lincoln Journal-Star office during working hours. or tomorrow, I have to make the drive to Lincoln to get them. If I had read the rules more carefully, I would have known that!

Day 36: Check out the website -- it provides a list of open contests, and you can check the site each day. [Jobseekers: There are specialized websites that offer job postings. Find them and check them daily as part of your job search strategy!]

Those are my "Winning Tips for Julia." Let me know in the Comments below when you get your first win!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Beyond Marketing - Why Social Media is Important for Resume Writers

Most resume writers understand the value of using social media to market their resume writing business. They create Facebook pages, LinkedIn profiles, and dutifully fill out their Google business listing — all in the hope of expanding their marketing efforts. However, did you know there are many more benefits of social media than marketing? With proper use and deployment of social media, any business can do all of the following and probably more.
  • Find subcontract writers and freelancers. Looking for subcontract writers? Or someone to handle a one-time project for your resume writing business? Use social media to help. Create a detailed listing of what you're looking for and post it on your social media accounts. Ask your friends and followers to share. It's more than likely that the person(s) who answer a call like this will be more compatible than using a huge impersonal job board.
  • Create more sales. You may think that sales and marketing are the same thing, but they're not. Marketing is increasing your reach so that you can get more leads, but sales are different. Social media can increase sales outside of your marketing efforts just because your clients might share with others the positive experience of working with you on their career marketing efforts. And if they like what you are talking about on social media, they might like to buy from you more.
  • Reward customers. Provide discounts, special incentives, and targeted career content for your customers using social media to "check in" or when they communicate with you via social media. People love getting free things, so take advantage of that by using social media to encourage more interaction with your customers and between your customers.
  • Brand your business. It's important that you brand your resume writing business across all social media accounts as honest, relevant, and even generous. (For example, be sure to mention when you volunteer your services by speaking to organizations or participate in job fairs!) Be aware of how consumers, as well as your referral sources and other resume writers, view your business via all your social media interactions. Listen to your customers and be perceived as a company that does so. Demonstrate these things as often as possible as a way to brand your business on social media.
  • Connect with your customers. You can set up private closed groups using Facebook that only your clients can see. It's a great way to increase your connection with your clients and to build a community. Encourage your clients to support other jobseekers in their job search.
  • Easy project collaboration. Another use for private Facebook groups is easy project collaboration. In Facebook groups you can upload documents and communicate easily in one spot about various projects, without ever having to have a face-to-face meeting — but still be able to keep excellent records of the events and ideas as they unfold. I know of one group of resume writers that is working on a book project through a Facebook group.

By being involved with social media, you can increase your profile among prospects while building a stronger connection with clients. Use social media to form a connection with your community. Your resume writing business can be an integral part of your community in every way that it can. And those are benefits that extend beyond using social media only for marketing.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Using Visuals in a Way You May Not Have Considered (On Pinterest)

I've blogged before about "Using Pinterest In Your Career Services Business" and "Best Practices in Content Curation" and today I want to combine both of those topics and talk about using visuals in your content curation on Pinterest.

Check out my Pinterest profile

One of the best ways to establish your expertise as a resume writer is by sharing content with your prospects and clients. When others realize your level of expertise, they will be more likely to recommend you to others, as well as patronize your resume writing services.

Using Visuals on Pinterest to Promote Your Resume Writing Business
They say that "seeing is believing." When marketing your resume writing business online, seeing is a big part of believing that your services can help your customers in their job search. To that end, using visuals on Pinterest can assist you.

You might be thinking that Pinterest is very focused on visuals. You're right. But Pinterest is not all about food and craft ideas. Here are some "visuals" for Pinterest you may not have considered:

  • Tutorial videos. These "how to" videos show people ways to use technology in their job search (i.e., you may create a tutorial of a specific LinkedIn feature -- like customizing your profile URL) or talk about a specific job search technique (such as salary negotiation tips).
  • Service demonstrations. This can be done in video form as well, but you can also do a slide show presentation board that shows prospective resume clients the evolution of a resume (explaining the importance of the different sections usually found on the resume, and how to build in accomplishments and visual interest). Another type of video would be an animated slide show. 
  • Mix your media. Create pinboards that feature a mix of videos, slide shows, and grouped product images, all for a common theme. This gives readers several things to see on your board that can pique their interest.

Tips on Visuals

  • Make them colorful ñ When images "pop," they are easy to see. Use a variety of colors. 
  •  If you can't find an image, create one! You can create your own charts and visuals and then take a photo of them. Use clear writing and colorful pictures that are easy to see. 
  • Make them informative! People want something pretty to look at, but they are mostly looking for information. Be sure that your visuals give lots of that. Don't forget to make great use of descriptions on Pinterest.

Visuals offer another type of media to help market your resume writing business online, so make the most of them on Pinterest!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Have You Heard of "Time Boxing"?

Resume writers are always looking for new time management strategies. One of these is called "Time boxing."

Does it seem like there aren't enough hours in the day to get all of your work done? That could be because you are working harder instead of smarter. Time boxing is one way to make the most of the time you have. It seems like a simple thing to do, so you may wonder if it really works. If you've never done it before, give it a try. 

What Is Time Boxing?
Like the name says, you are putting time into a box. Well, not an actual box, but a virtual one. Basically, you divide your time during the day into segments and use each for a specific task. These boxes can have a certain limit or maximum amount of time depending on how you work.

For most resume writers, the computer is our main business tool, so setting a limit on the time used per task can break up the monotony of the time we spend in front of the "small screen."

Start with a time limit, say 90-minute intervals. This is about the maximum amount of time that the brain will stay focused and creative before we get off our game. And for clients, you want to offer quality and your best work. Also, don't forget to schedule in distractions and free time. That is a big difference from what you might be doing now. When everything has its place within your day, it is easier to operate more efficiently.

Four Benefits of Time Boxing
1. Increased focus. When you know that you have a certain amount of time to devote all to one task, it is easier to get tasks completed. For 90 minutes, all you think about is writing the resume or answering all your emails. When the time is up, you move on to another task with the same fervor.

2. Curbs procrastination. When a task seems overwhelming, the result is often putting it off as long as we can. That only leads to a rush job and stress later on. With time boxing, you only spend a certain amount of time on a task and it makes it more manageable. With each box of time, you are closer to completing the goal. Even if you just start with 15 minutes in your time box to write the resume, you'll often find that once you get started, you find it easy to just keep going.

3. Time consciousness. Instead of wondering where your time goes, you can find out. If you want free time, schedule it in a box. Surf the Web or take some downtime, but within the confines of your schedule. It works the opposite way too: If it's not in your time box, DON'T DO IT. That means, if checking Facebook isn't in your time box for this block of time, don't look at it. But you can schedule a 15-minute period of time in your next time box to check it out. (It can help to use an egg timer, or the timer on your smartphone, to keep track of your time boxes.)

4. Motivating. When you see how much more energy you have for the tasks that need your attention youíll want to "box"everything up. When productivity increases, you can then look at big projects in a new way so that you are no longer putting them off.

How is your time spent during your business day? Time boxing may be the answer to plug those sink holes of time you have been encountering.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Get 'Er Done

"Larry the Cable Guy"

I hail from Nebraska, home of Dan Whitney, better known as "Larry the Cable Guy." One of "Larry's" signature lines is "Get 'er done!" and that's the topic of today's blog post.

As a resume writing business owner, it is your responsibility to see that nothing falls through the cracks, so to speak. When dealing with multiple client projects — and wearing all the hats required of a business owner — that can become a daunting task.

Project Management
Keeping everything straight can become a complicated proposition at times. Your responsibilities as a resume writer and business owner include:

* Communicating with clients to evaluate their needs (turning prospects into clients)
* Writing the resume, cover letter, and/or other career marketing communications (or managing the work of a subcontract resume writer to handle the writing)
* Answering client questions (at all stages of the project)
* Evaluating finished work at each stage of the project

* Handling delivery of completed work to clients
* Collecting payment and managing the associated paperwork (taxes)

How to Get Things Done
As the one who is tasked with making it all happen for the clients, what are some ways that your job could be easier? Here are a few tips.
  • Get organized from the beginning. Utilize project management tools that help you to stay on top of your projects. At any time, you can just check up on a project and see exactly what is going on and who is working on what. Online project management software (like Basecamp) allows you to create projects, upload information for the client and any subcontract writers, assign writers to a project (if needed), and communicate client needs. There are also ways to set milestones for each part of the plan.
  • Communicate effectively right from the start. Let your client know what to expect at each stage of the process (information-gathering, writing, and project approval). If you encounter problems along the way, let the client know as soon as possible so the situation can be handled.
  • Create a contingency plan. You never know when "life will happen" to you. Have a "plan B" in place in case something happens to you, or disaster strikes. Also, if you don't already have a resume buddy or professional will in place, get 'er done!
  • Lead your client. Let your client know what you expect from them at every stage of the process — especially the information-gathering stage. If your client needs to meet deadlines for getting you information in order to have their project delivered on time, make sure they know this! A good writer/client relationship involves you leading him/her to where you want them to go!

When it comes to project management the best defense is a good offense. Set yourself up for success. And "get 'er done!"