Q&A with Personal SEO Author Melanie Feldman
Regular readers of SWT will know that I have a passion for employability and in particular discovering innovative and creative ways people have utilised digital tools to improve their Personal SEO and land the job of their dreams. Well, recently I was fortunate enough to catch-up with Melanie Feldman who co-authored BOLD: Get Noticed, Get Hired along with Joshua Siva and Liz Madsen for a Q&A session about the book and how it can help people stand out from the crowd.
1. Hi Melanie, so who is the book by and most importantly what’s it about?
The book was written by myself, Joshua Siva, and Liz Madsen. Three friends and fellow entrepreneurs who all went to university in Pittsburgh.
BOLD: Get Noticed, Get Hired is a new book about 23 successful individuals who are living proof that by being patient, ambitious, and sometimes thinking outside the box, it is possible to get your foot in the door. Stories from the likes of ESPN sportscaster Neil Everett to ‘The Google Job Experiment’ Alec Brownstein, this book takes readers through triumphs and tribulations that will inspire and motivate any job seeker to begin their own career journey.
2. What has changed in the employment market and why do people need to ‘stand out?’
Everything. The number of unemployed, and underemployed people in the market looking for their ‘opportunity’ has skyrocketed since the market collapse in 2008. To put this in perspective, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer recently shared at a TechCrunch event that Yahoo receives upwards of 12,000 resumes per week, which is roughly a fivefold increase over the past year! Resumes are digital and can easily be shared. More and more of the working population are now social on LinkedIn, getting themselves out there every day. The fact of the matter is that it’s easier than ever to apply for a job, so therefore everyone follows the herd, and no one stands out.
3. How can people ‘stand out?’ Are there any commonalities that your case studies share?
Yes! The biggest thing to remember is that companies are simply a group of people united by a common goal. It’s these people who share that common interest which make the decisions, which is why it’s so key to get noticed by them. Every case study we had involved some bold idea and technique executed just to stand out enough so that a current employee (ideally someone with decision power) notices them for who they are.
4. What’s been the most creative, outstanding and original job application you’ve come across?
Tough question. Every person we connected with for our book stood out in their own, unique way. You’ve written about Graeme Anthony already which we found to be an incredible story, so another one which comes to mind is ‘The Google Job Experiment’ by Alec Brownstein. Alec is a really charismatic and creative person – let’s just say that upfront. But when he was competing to get into the agency world in NYC of all places, competition was heated. Add into the mix that Alec had limited experience, certainly nothing professional, he fought tooth and nail to land an internship only to find out it was for college students. So have just graduated from Tufts, he naturally re-enrolled himself in university via a local college to meet the requirement.
But with a foot in the door, he was still only an intern struggling to stand out. Going BOLD, Alec thought ‘if I could just get noticed by the creative directors I’d like to work for, I think I’d stand a good chance’. To get his voice heard and portfolio seen, Alec assumed that the creative directors ‘Googled’ themselves from time to time (like everyone else) to see what search results came up. So he bought google advertisements specific to each creative director’s name. In that personal moment during each self-search, Alec’s advert appeared up top shouting, ‘Googling yourself is fun. Hiring me is fun too’ with a link to his portfolio.
Sure enough, he got the an overwhelming amount of positive feedback, which lead to interviews from most of the creative directors targeted, and job offers from several. Total cost was less than $10, and it took only a few minutes to set up. He knew he could be great, if he only got the chance. Standing out to get noticed gave him that chance, which got him hired. We want to point out that it’s hard to explain Alec and everything he did in a paragraph, but his interview with us bring this story to life. Pretty creative right?
5. How can people protect their online reputation?
It’s easier said than done, but everyone needs to recognize that anything which is shared, written, or connected via the internet and social media is fair game for the world to potentially see. And with billions of people around the world, the likelihood that you share your name with someone else is also pretty high. Companies like Brand Yourself (www.brandyourself.com) offer a great tool to optimize and influence the results which appear for your name (in essence, search engine optimization or ‘SEO’). Additionally, setting up a professional Linkedin account, running a blog, and/or having your work featured wherever possible such as university bulletins, slideshare, prezi, youtube, local newspapers, etc. can all support an individual’s personal branding. Bottom line, doing nothing is no longer an option, and applicants need to be proactive in measuring what is associated with their name in the digital world.
6. How can people learn to ‘stand out?’ Should it start at college, university or should the individual take responsibility?
All of the responsibility falls on the individual. Using college as an example, too often, students rely on their university’s career fair to be their job ticket. The reality is your competing with everyone who went to your university, who are all wearing the same business professional attire, to go along with a CV full of the same classes and clubs which their classmates also represent. Afterwards, everyone follows up with the same companies and writes the same standard thank you notes. Sound redundant and boring? That doesn’t work.
Learning how to ‘stand out’ comes from understanding what you want, and taking ownership for creating an action plan to get there. Our book offers dozens of ideas as a starting point, and gives the reader the framework for ‘standing out’ in their own unique way.
7. Do graduates lack employability?
No, they lack creativity and therefore tend to blend together by the masses. Additionally, we find that students are waiting too long to get in front of real people at the company they would like to work for. So when it comes time to land a job, graduates tend to follow the path of least resistance which is dropping their resume into a corporate portal, or distributing a mass email to a group of corporate contacts. That doesn’t help the graduate and certainly doesn’t get them noticed. Graduates need to ‘stand out’ in order to connect with the right people, and build the right types of relationships.
8. What are the downsides to ‘standing-out?’
With passion and the right motives there is little to lose. Especially when an applicant is applying to a more competitive company or industry, they need to up the ante and put some skin in the game if they want to get noticed and get hired. A lot of people think they will be ruined from embarrassment in the process of standing out. The reality is, short of doing any crazy and dangerous stunts, we’ll all live to see another day. There is only respect to be gained when putting yourself out there and standing out in support of something you want.
9. What 3 tips would you give to ‘stand-out?’
1. Figure out who you want to “stand-out” for and get their contact information (Tip: LinkedIn makes this easy)
2. Write down what you want to achieve from getting noticed by your target contact such as an email, a coffee meeting, a phone call, etc.
3. Always, always, always be persistent in following up to make sure your message was heard loud and clear. But remember, be passionate, not annoying.
10. Is the traditional, two-pieces of A4 paper CV dead?
The A4, certainly. The ‘essence of the CV’ …….far from it; it’s just taken a different form.
I would like to thank Melanie for taking the time out of her busy schedule to talk to us and wish her and the team the very best of luck with the book.