There are no shortcuts to success, there is only getting lucky and being in the right place at the right time.
No one has all the answers and my goal isn’t to pretend like I do.
These are the types of things I tell people to do that reach out to me asking for advice.
All points will follow a format comprised of a Title, Overview, Discussion, then some suggested step-by-step instructions on how to get started.
This post is long so give yourself enough time to sit down and read it or bookmark it for later.
At times the content is dense.
- Stop Applying. Start Building.
- Your Network is Your Foundation, Build on it
- You are the Campaign, Sell People on Knowing You
- Those that don’t know, Interview and Aggregate
- Be Creative
- Position your Value
- Follow a Process and Keep Going
That’s the mini-list. Now let’s jump off this cliff and hit the icy shocking water below.
Stop Applying. Start Building.
The job application process is broken.
Companies often are not exactly sure what they are looking for, they list roles and responsibilities, but at the end of the day, it’s all based on an interview.
Think about that for a second, you could be great, have great references, be qualified or overqualified for a job and still not get it based on an interview. Hell the majority of the time you might just get a blanket generic email telling you that you’re not what they are looking for at this time, without an explanation.
In one word, the job application process is 100%: SUBJECTIVE
So if something is completely subjective, does that mean it’s a bad thing?
Actually, it means just the opposite, but it does require you to look beyond the four corners of a resume or a cover letter to achieve success in a new world where people are applying to jobs left and right with a click of a button.
The title of this section says “stop applying” and I really do mean this. There is no point in applying to jobs via a job website. Literally none.
We’ll get to how you should apply later in this post, but for now, pump the breaks on any applying that you are doing, you’re just burning bridges with companies that you may want to work for. Remember you have a finite pool of companies that you would like to work with, and an even more finite pool that will want to work with you. No reason to burn bridges by applying directly through job postings.
So if it’s completely subjective, what do you do?
When it comes to marketing the absolute best thing you can do is create a community. With the mass proliferation of the internet, there is more content than ever available to everyone with far less barriers to consumption than there was prior.
As an example, before the internet if you wanted local news from a municipality outside of your geographic location you were out of luck. Today, you can stream local stations, you can read local papers (if they still exist) and you have access to all of the content from that area.
The often overlooked part of this is that those people that were isolated in those communities now can connect to any other community around the world as well. THIS IS HUGE.
The job of any good marketer is to develop communities of people that rally behind a product and share it with their worlds. That’s it, that’s marketing in a nutshell, no matter the medium you take to do this, the end goal is always word of mouth. In today’s age, put another way “would someone share this via a text message?” note that I’m not saying via social media because that’s just rebroadcasting, which is good and shouldn’t be overlooked but to niche down even further, would you text message someone something that you saw related to a product or a brand.
If I had to coin a new term I would call this personalized virality.
How does one generate personalized virality? By creating a community that mates the likes and opinions of a group of people and connects with them on such a deep level that they feel compelled to share it with their peers that share the same feelings.
This is what you should strive to create and build.
Step-by-Step Community Creation
All communities follow the same format and contain the same elements
- Offline connection
We’ll take these one at a time.
A persona is the author of the community, not this community could be based around a twitter personality, Facebook personality, or a blog creator at a website.
The persona is usually a larger than life culmination of features that appeals to the broader audience.
Be your best actor that your community will be able to relate to. Literally everyone has a persona that they embrace in order to connect with a fan base. Remember this, your brands that you represent also have a persona, make sure it relates to who you are marketing to.
Build a community with purpose. If you’re looking for personalized virality, you need to spend time ensuring that your content will appeal to a very specific niche of people or experiences. You want people within your niche to be able to relate to what you are presenting.
Example of a bad niche: Marketing Managers in the USA
Example of a good niche: SaaS Marketing Managers in the Bay Area at a company less than 20 people who are active on LinkedIn
In the beginning, you need to niche down as small as you possibly can in order to find success and start the small growth of a community.
There are no rules to this, you could follow everyone named Kate that works in a marketing capacity on LinkedIn and create a website kateknowsmarketing (dot) com and probably kill it for everyone that knows someone who knows a Kate that is in marketing.
LinkedIn search shows 11,907 people that are named Kate that do marketing. Let the memes begin.
Content is the backbone of what you’re creating, take time on this, bite sized, digestible, or other.
This will largely be determined by your Persona and your Niche and the type of content you see people sharing. This is the research portion of creating a good community and one that people will want to interact with.
We’ll get to some good concepts on this later in this post under other chapters, for now, just think about things that you share with your internal teams or people shared while in the same class together in college. Funny memes related to your major, comics related to your industry, and other things that you found to be inspiring or enlightening.
Does your content create discussion? This is the only thing that really matters, every time you create something, you want to look at it through the lens of will it be shared and will it be talked about.
An active community only stays active when we allow for discussion to take over.
The best at creating this can write amazing copy for titles of articles, they can say something that is borderline controversial and they can have built great brands around the discussion portion.
More than that the goal is to get someone to spread the conversation to other parts of the internet. Empower people to have an opinion and share it with the world.
Offline Connection (for marketing purposes this is called conversion)
Having an inspiring community only works if you can find a way to monetize it, what value do you provide to your community where they would actively contribute back to it.
Taking and supporting connection offline (off social networks) is the goal of any community hoping to create connection.
So that was step-by-step for the elements. In the next sections we’ll cover the real nitty gritty of marketing, figuring out how to attract people into your community.
Your Network is Your Foundation, Build on it
Above we discussed how the job application process is broken. The solution is surprisingly simple, change the dynamic of what looking for a job is really all about.
Rather than be looking for a job, build a network in your industry to unlock opportunities.
There is a reason why companies constantly ask their employees if they know anyone for a role and why many of them even pay bonuses for referrals, people want to work with people that they know.
This is your network.
Whether you’re starting out or well into your career, the smartest people are always looking for opportunities to network with others in their industry.
We’ve all heard of the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon and the concept that no one person is more than a tangible level of degrees separation from one another.
This is true. The problem is often we can’t visualize how to connect with people in order to get close enough.
The solution, it’s a lot easier when you focus on your industry to get closer to the people that you are looking to connect with.
Build on it.
The quickest most effective way to build a network is to start with a baseline element in common then bolster this through value and content driven process.
Some common overlooked common denominators for business:
- Same high school/college
- Same major
- Same geography
It might sound simple but these things genuinely work as people pay attention to them and it allows you a level of personalization that opens up the ability to connect. It’s not something to lean on in the beginning, but definitely something to help you focus on while creating your community.
In other words, low hanging fruit.
Step-by-step Network Building
Tons of people wonder how to build a network, I’m going to make it really easy for all of you. It requires a few things:
- Formula (supplied)
- 10 mins a day
Consider this a masterclass on using LinkedIn in under 10 mins.
Create a spreadsheet
I use Google Sheets but you can use whatever you’re comfortable with.
Create columns for:
- First Name
- Last Name
- LinkedIn URL
- URL Extension
- New URL
Let’s populate this sucker
First thing’s first we need to find content that relates to the list we want to create.
- Go to LinkedIn
- Enter the term of choice in the search bar
- Click “Content” then change time to “past week”
This should populate a feed full of people talking about the content you searched for, this is our starting point.
We’re looking for posts with a good amount of comments, but we’ll want to check to see that the comments are real, I’m not talking hundreds of comments but more in the space of 10-30 comments – more than that and you get into the self promoting consultant types. We don’t want those.
When we find a good one:
- Right click on the name and copy the URL
- Remove all the info past the standard ending either their name/ or name94748575/
- Drop this on your spreadsheet under LinkedIn URL
- Fill out the rest of the information
Now to the important part, we’re going to keep the URL for the profile on our sheet and we’re going to type in a formula to link directly to that person’s recent activity.
- In your “URL Extension” column enter “detail/recent-activity/shares/”
- Then in your “New URL” column enter “=concat(A1,B1)” where A1= the “LinkedIn URL” cell and B1=”URL Extension” this will combine those two values in this column
Now for the magic part, you’ve got your list of industry people, let’s make some connections happen. From personal experience it takes a post and an exchange of about three comments before someone adds me to their network. There are some tricks to this though.
- Open your sheet in it’s own window
- Highlight the first 5 rows on your sheet under column “New URL”
- Click “Alt+Enter” this will open them all individually in new tabs
- Click posts
- If it has less than 5 comments on it we’re golden
Commenting on a post, when you comment on a post for maximum exposure and likelihood of engaging follow a cadence to maximize your impact, it’s so simple that it will work nearly 100% of the time.
- Start with picking a part of the post you either agree or disagree with
- Loop in something about your personal experience to back up your belief
- End with a question that is open ended that furthers the conversation
If you follow this pattern, your interactions will amp up. Just because you were an early poster on an active post, you’ll get in front of more people that will comment on the post.
Bonus points, change your Headline on LinkedIn to include the URL of your community and people will explore.
Lastly, consistency, keep a list of people you are looking to connect with handy, add to it monthly, but rotate only 5 per day. Repeat this on a cycle, if you don’t get a request, after a few exchanges, cheat.
- Use your sheet to Click on the people you haven’t connected with under “LinkedIn URL” use the “Alt+Enter” command
- Pop them up in new windows, then Follow the, by clicking on “More” then “Follow”
- They will get two notifications, one that you visited their profile and another than you’ve started to follow them
You are the Campaign, Sell People on Knowing You
If you’re looking for a job in marketing you should know the basics and one of the largest basic principles is that very few people buy on the spot. More often than not, people go through a customer journey before making a purchase.
The same is true when you are looking for a job or to advance your career.
- Social Proof
- Stakeholder Buy-in
So when we look at applying for jobs or making career moves, it’s sort of like launching a product.
We drive traffic to our website, we look at what other people are saying about us, we make ourselves available in digestible pieces, that land us in an interview or purchase page, with the hope that the experience is good enough for the hiring managers to advocate on our behalf.
This doesn’t happen overnight, but you can speed up the process by laying out a clear path for a company to get to know you.
You are the architect of your own destiny. You are in control over how you appear to people online, what work you choose to share, how you choose to participate, what you choose to create, and the communities you choose to interact with.
As the architect of your career, it helps to understand the journey that any potential employer will take with you during the vetting process.
There are a few things that are a given.
- Your potential employer will Google you
- Your potential employer will look at your social media
- Your potential employer will look at your background
How do you want to stand out?
Step-by-step Personal Campaign
With all the above known, do all the above searches prior to applying, make sure the image you are looking to convey is clear and aligned with the positions that you are searching for.
- Clean up old websites you don’t post on
- Clean up social media accounts you don’t use
- Check your personal pages settings
Then we create something that matters.
Create a piece of content that speaks to your industry
The truth is people become more active on social media when they do not have a job break this habit by creating consistency on networks where it matters to be consistent.
Determine the best platform for your content and stay consistent.
We covered off earlier how to grow your network now it’s time for us to figure out how we can streamline the process of creating quality value that allows people to discover you, vet you, and advocate for you based on some simple trust based activities.
Those that don’t know, Interview and Aggregate
I love forbes articles, many of them come from one person and just aggregate the quotes and opinions of a topic of others.
In fact, the other day I saw someone on LinkedIn that just has automated posts of random quotes come up as a Forbes author for doing just that.
Aggregation is the key to success for those still learning.
This kind of work you can actually outsource.
Smart people spend their time building processes for others to carry out. This is called being a boss. When we create processes that allow for outsourced help we can maximize our financial outcomes while minimizing our time spent.
I’m not joking, that list you created earlier with people in your industry, have people visit those profiles and screenshot with links the top posts, then combine those into a LinkedIn Article and tag those people in the post when you share it.
It’s as simple as that.
Step-by-step Aggregation Made Easy
We’ll focus on LinkedIn but the same will work for a blog, twitter, facebook, instagram, etc. it’s all pretty much the same.
Find your niche of people, combine their content, share an opinion on it. Post and tag them.
Because this focus is on LinkedIn, I’ll share the best way to do this.
Open your list of people that you are following
Go to the posts page for those five people everyday for three days, odds are someone will post something getting some traction if we picked correctly.
Screenshot the post, the main one, take a link, you can get this by clicking the three dots on the post and save the link, you’re golden. LinkedIn also has an embed option for your blog, feel free to use both.
Next step, on Tuesday around Noon, post a link to your article on LinkedIn or your blog, the first is better, and quickly share what you like about the posts call it “Top Marketing Posts for Week ##” and repeat.
So if you do this with 5 people and you tag them in your post, they will be polite and thank you for the shout out, which means their larger network will see your post.
Simply rinse and repeat. Your post will trend pretty much immediately, you’ll get activity and more people will follow you.
Bonus: You’ve provided real value to a community of people like you looking at who the voices are for their industry.
They say that AI is taking over jobs, but those that require brains to play a role for non-analytical things will always have a role. Creativity is a tough thing to teach.
If everyone is zigging, zag.
Your job in a profession is to stand out. We know that those that stand out are often gifted with quite different treatment from those that don’t.
Searching for a job is no different.
If a job has 250 people applying for it, how will you stand out?
I’ve provided examples above of how to create value from existing sources and build a community around it, these are things that will allow you to stand out in a crowd. I know because these are the things that would rocket anyone up to the top of my list of prospects when I look to hire.
Step-by-step to Be Creative and Stand Out
OK I lied a bit here, I can’t step by step everything. As above you should have enough examples from above to figure out what you can create to stand out. There are lots of options around these sorts of things. There is no one way on this front.
I can think of a few things that would for sure get you noticed though.
I’m not advocating for this, but I would hire you.
Re-targeting the decision maker
I will fully admit I don’t know if this has been done, but I would tip my hat to anyone that goes this route.
If you had an interview with the hiring team, they are likely all on your confirmation email invite, you could take those emails post interview and then re-target them across social media with links back to your website, LinkedIn profile, whatever. You could actually redirect them to a custom page on a website with something cheeky like.
“So it looks like re-targeting works. Thanks again for the opportunity to interview with [company].”
Yeah I would definitely be impressed by something like that. Now don’t all you go doing this at once.
Find Value in Overlooked Spaces
Literally. Everyone likes flashy. I like overlooked opportunities.
Having spent, admittedly, a lot of time in bars I’m always intrigued by how they are set up.
I’ve never once seen an advertisement on the coat/purse hook under a bar, not once. I always have to poke my head down there, but never anything hanging on it. Missed opportunity for a vendor.
There are lots of things like this that are overlooked for more flashy alternatives. Know your audience and create an experience worth sharing.
Position your Value
Salary, bonus, equity. Only one of those is guaranteed.
I’ve seen a lot of people concerned about starting salaries and low pay. Unless you’re at the top of the chain this is always going to be the situation.
Instead of looking at it as low pay, look at it as paid continued education.
You are getting paid to hone your craft and leverage a built in community. Take full advantage.
Your company can say they care about you, they don’t. You’re replaceable. Everyone is.
You’re the only one that knows how to use a system you rely on, they’ll buy another one and start fresh.
It doesn’t have to make sense, it’s just how things go. You should value your time though, always be valuing your time.
What value can you create in yourself when you move on to your next role?
Step-by-step to Create Value
Look at all the job listings for the next job up in experience, write down all the elements that people are looking for, work them into your current job.
Look to simplify your workload. If you can’t get the money you are looking for, find ways to work in a less stressed environment, while still getting work done.
In all the companies I’ve ever worked with, 0% of them were completely optimized and had processes in place around optimizing towards lowest hours worked with greatest impact.
The notion that people pay you for hours is quickly fading, people pay for work to get accomplished, when, how, and how long it takes should not matter.
View your time as valuable, maximize your result per hour.
Move on from your company.
I think this is the one thing people don’t like hearing. Your job is to learn enough and build a large enough network to find your next opportunity and make up for the difference in pay based on your new experience.
Follow a Process and Keep Going
People learn through repetition, people get noticed from consistency. Most of your success will be contingent on your ability to be consistent, have focus, and understand that nothing happens overnight.
In all the companies I’ve worked in and with, the one thing holding back them from being more successful has been process. Most people lack discipline.
I myself struggle at times to stay consistent. I use tools too.
I have apps, programs, websites, that I use to keep organized.
Docs, RSS readers, Daily Prompt Newsletters, and a whole bunch more.
Step-by-step to be Consistent
- Block off time
- Develop a schedule
- Remember that work isn’t everything
- Always be learning
- Look for Value and quality over quantity in everything
Congrats you made it to the end of this very long post.
A few things to always remember.
- No one has everything figured out
- We’re all on this journey called life together
- Passions and interests can change
- Remember that connections last longer than jobs if you let them
I genuinely hope this helps some of you out that are looking for work, looking to level up your career, looking to break free and create something or just simply want to know how some people have been able to work towards a better balance.
tl;dr: Keep being awesome by being awesome to those around you and good things will happen when you put in the work.