In high school we’re taught how to solve for X and what the major factors of the Civil War were, which is nice if you’re going into a field where those things are applicable. But let’s face it, most of us aren’t. Obviously not all high school experiences are the same, and some of you may have been lucky enough to receive interview advice when you were younger.

I love that I work for a company that gives back to education so I have the opportunity to pass on my knowledge with eight hours a year of paid volunteer time.  This week, I participated in mock interviews for Buchholz High School students to help them prepare for the real world.  It’s opportunities like these that I wish I had when I was in high school (though who knows if I would have appreciated it because I knew everything back then).

After doing a few interviews with the students, it made me realize there are some general things that can help new professionals be a step ahead. Like everything in life though, the more you practice, the better you’ll be at it. So interview as often as possible, and the experience will becomes less and less nerve wrecking. If it’s a job you really want, and sometimes even if it isn’t, you’re going to be nervous no matter how calm you typically are.

1. Prepare Your Resume

This might seem like common sense, but it is overlooked so much.  There are a few general rules you should keep in mind for resume-building that specifically apply to new professionals:

  • Remove the excess. Your resume should be built around the position you’re applying for. Try to highlight skills from previous experiences that would directly translate to this position.
  • One page. You’re a new professional, so there’s likely very little reason for anyone fresh out of high school to have more than one page’s worth of experience. I have over 10 years, and when I build my resume to the position I’m applying for, it becomes easier to fit to a page. If I can do it, I promise you can too.
  • GPA. It’s nice to show, but don’t make it a focal point. It helps show responsibility and you’re proud of it, I get it, but GPA doesn’t directly translate to being a good employee. Plus it honestly doesn’t differentiate you too much.
  • Be different. We’re looking at dozens of resumes when we post a position. Try to stand out. Know the company you’re applying for, do some research and find ways to catch their eye.
  • Brag about yourself. It’s your one shot, so don’t be shy. It’s a lot harder to sound arrogant on paper when you are listing achievements. (We’ll get to how to brag about yourself in the interview without sounding arrogant and cocky.)
  • Proofread. Last, but most certainly not least, look over your resume and make sure it’s free of errors and your contact information is correct. Nothing says “meh” like an error-ridden resume.
  • Want to stand out more? Always bring copies of your resume for those interviewing you. Find out how many will be there and bring that many copies with you. It will show preparation and that you thought about this interview and are taking it seriously.

2. Dress for Success

Dress for the job you want, unless you want to be a super hero. I highly advise against dressing like Captain America for a job interview unless you’re trying to be the next Steve Rogers.

  • Make an effort. You’re interviewing for a job, not hanging out with friends. Dress up for the occasion. Sure, there are plenty of companies that have laidback dress codes but even so, it’s not a good idea to wear jeans to an interview.
  • First impressions. Even when a suit and tie/ nice dress isn’t required, you should think about the impression you’re making here. We, the people doing the interview, know that today is going to be the day we get to see you at your absolute best. You’re bringing you’re a-game today, and if that is a pair of jeans with sneakers, it doesn’t make much of a statement.

3. Be Punctual

It probably goes without saying that you should be on time, but you’d be surprised at how often that doesn’t happen.

  • Always plan for the unexpected. Make the drive or trip the day before at the same time you would on interview day. It allows you to more accurately plan for travel time. Then add 15 minutes on top of that for any other potential unexpected delays.
  • Don’t make excuses. If you do happen to be late, don’t make an excuse as to why. We don’t care.  It doesn’t look good if you already are making excuses and you’re not even hired yet. Own it and apologize. The best thing I can recommend here is a sincere apology that goes something like this:

I apologize for my tardiness. I know your time is very valuable, and I apologize for not respecting that by arriving late.

If they ask what happened, you can share, but I urge you to be careful about using a specific excuse. Instead, say something like “I thought I had planned for everything but it wasn’t enough.”

  • Introduce yourself. Yes, we know who you are, but you should let everyone know your name and it gives you an opportunity to learn theirs.

4. Give Strong Answers

I hope you didn’t just skip to this part of the post. The above sections are just as important because they set impressions before you even have a chance at answering questions.  If you don’t do the above steps, it’s hard to overcome a bad first impression just by answering questions.

There’s so much to talk about here that there’s no way I could cover every scenario you’re going to come across, but I hope this helps guide you to an overarching strategy that you can build on and practice.

  • One word answers. Young professionals tend to be nervous, and they’ll answer questions with simple yes or no answers.  Hopefully the interviewer will pick up on it and help calm your nerves by asking more follow up questions, but you can’t depend on that, and it’s not their responsibility. It’s yours.
  • Answer questions with stories. Nothing drives home an answer like giving a story to back it up. And we as humans tend to get excited when retelling a story we like, so it helps calm those nerves.
  • Strengths and weaknesses. Don’t give a cop-out answer to the question about your biggest weakness. If you tell someone your weakness is that you’re a perfectionist, you’d better be prepared to give the most unique reasoning behind it. We hear it all the time, and if you’re interviewing with someone good, they’re going to make you go beyond that.  Give a genuine weakness of yours that wouldn’t be seen as vital for the role you’re applying for.
  • Your passion. It’s always easier for us to talk about things we’re passionate about. It will help tremendously when you’re nervous if you’re talking about something you love. Find a way to relate it to the job you’re interviewing for, and integrate it into your answers to help calm your nerves. This is a great way to brag about yourself without coming off as arrogant.It’s okay to be nervous. Oftentimes , the other side is nervous too. It’s hard to get to know someone in that short timeframe, but you have to try your best to relax and open up so they can get to know you.

5. Ask Questions

Did you think interviews were just one-way questions? Just as it is important for the employer to make sure you’re a fit for them, you need to make sure they’re a fit for you. You should ALWAYS have a few questions that you want to ask at the end of the interview. They shouldn’t be questions about when you would start or how much vacation time you get.  Gear your questions to show them you’re serious about this job.  Below are a few sample questions and the purpose behind asking them.

  • Could you describe the day-to-day functions a person in this role would handle? This gives you insight into what the job entails that may have not been included in that standard job description. It allows you to make sure this is something you want to do.
  • What do you like most about working for this company?This question is my favorite to hear. It means culture and working for a good company is important to the person. It also gives you insight into what your potential boss likes most about the company. If they can’t think of anything on the spot, that’s a red flag.
  • How would you describe your management style?Don’t be afraid to follow up if you get a generic response. This question can tell you if you’re about to work under a leader or a micro manager. Getting a good boss right out of school can help shape you for the rest of your career.This may not apply if you’re just taking a summer job or temp work, but at least have some questions ready. It will help set you apart from those who don’t.

Do a little research about the company before your interview. You should know something about the company you’re interested in working for. Do some google searches about them, and some of the questions you ask can be based on things you found while researching. It will show that you took the time to do some investigating and that you have a genuine interest in learning more about the company.

I hope these five essential interview tips for young professionals will be helpful for your job search. I realize a blog post may not be the most ideal way to spread these tips, so please feel free to share this and pass along to teachers who may find it useful.

Did I leave off a tip you think is instrumental for young professionals? Leave a note below!

Party Up - Find gamers near youToday’s post is about a project I’ve had in my head for over a year but am finally acting on it now that I’ve been given the opportunity to have a team of 5 young and talented developers make my dream a reality. The idea is called Party Up.

Here’s the elevator pitch:

Party Up allows gamers to connect with others that are near them with similar interests in real time while keeping their personal details to themselves. The idea of playing online alone sucks but there’s not a good real time solution that puts gamers in touch with others that are also looking to play that exact game at that exact time. Forums are archaic and Twitter only works if you know the person already. Party Up allows people to forge new and long lasting friendships with people they would have never met otherwise.

Party Up can change how we find people to play games with online

There are other sites out there that try to do this. I think they do a miserable job at it. Sometimes gaming is an impulse to want to play. You don’t necessarily plan it in advance.  But it sucks playing an online multiplayer game by yourself. Nothing drains the online experience faster than getting put in a lobby with terrible teammates.

I hope that Party Up can change how people play online and can help connect gamers all across the world with friends they didn’t know they have. When I started I Play COD seven years ago, I didn’t realize that I would form some friendships that would change my life. I think everyone should have that opportunity at their fingertips and it should be simple. That’s what I hope to accomplish with Party Up.

If you’re a gamer and you like playing online, sign up to receive information and news on the beta over at the Party Up website. It will always be 100% free to use and signing up takes less than 30 seconds. DO IT NOW!

Little off the unbeaten path of my usual posts but I wanted to share my experience with the whole home buying process as a first time home buyer.

I chose Matt Thomas, Broker/Owner of Thomas Group Realty, as my buying agent. As a first time home buyer, having a buying agent was definitely helpful with questions about the market and other items we just weren’t sure of. Some would argue there’s no need to have one but if you value your time, having someone that will organize some showings for you and prepare a day of listings to look at, a buying agent is something you should take into consideration.

We looked at a home we had seen previously on our own during a parade of homes in Finley Woods built by Norfleet Homes but at the time just weren’t prepared to make the jump up to that higher budget. However, while saving up for a home purchase, we realized that the things we liked would require an increased budget. We saw it again with Matt and fell in love and knew it had to be ours.

The Negotiation

This is the part that can be very stressful. If you’re prepared to walk away, you certainly have an upperhand in the negotiations. What I mean by that is if you’re always willing to walk away from a home, you can wait until everything is the way you want it to be. However, we fell too much in love with the home so we were in it to win it. We came in with what we felt was a very strong offer and while it wasn’t accepted immediately, we eventually found the sweet spot and the home was ours.

The Loan Application

Everyone told me to be prepared to have my life choices questioned and my financial records investigated. Maybe it was the over exaggeration of these claims from others that made it seem very easy and simple in comparison. The application process was very smooth and getting approved wasn’t that bad at all. I think I had everything I needed to do done within 10 days which helped save me some at closing too.

The Closing

Everything was going so smooth that there was bound to be a hiccup. That happened at closing. We tried to close a little early and that’s when things got a little bumpy. We had to wait and close on our original closing date but the title company certainly went above and beyond and made up for the mishap to leave me with nothing but smiles. Jessica Cowart with Keller Williams, the listing agent for the property, was nothing but a pleasure to work with during the process as well. I have nothing but high praises for all involved in helping us get our first home: my agent, listing agent, builder and the title company.

Now I’m having to tell myself to stop looking at other listings. But my wife and I are very excited and happy with our first home purchase and can’t wait to get moved in (just a few more days) and get settled down.

If you haven’t heard of Trello, wake up and smell the agile world around you. While most of their concepts likely stem from agile development, their online application can be used from personal to-do’s to team based workflows. It really is that customizable to use for just about anything but I will focus on how I use Trello for a digital marketing calendar.

P.S. It’s 100% free and there’s a mobile app as well.

Who this tutorial is for?

  • Digital marketing professionals who manage social media accounts
  • People with teams to collaborate and discuss ideas outside of email
  • Employees who get asked from upper management what we’ve posted recently or what’s coming up

Now, I won’t go into the basics of how to create a Trello board or how to add members of your team to the board or how to create lists for workflows in Trello but have linked you to those basics. This post assumes you have a basic understanding of how Trello works and that you’re likely already a user of the service.

What I will get into is the system I use with Trello to make a digital marketing calendar that helps visualize what is being posted and when and where it is being posted. From social media to email blasts, this guide will walk you through how to organize an easy to view calender of items you want to post and a history of those postings for any new people coming on your team to get an idea of what kind of routine and schedule you have for your company.

calendarFirst thing first, add the “Calendar” option from the Power-Ups area under the menu for the board. This will give you a calendar button above your lists to see a calendar view of your posts.

Due dates. Every card past “Post Ideas” below will need due dates. It’s important because that’s what will make the cards show up in the calendar view.  The “due date” isn’t necessarily a deadline but a date of when you want to post it. Schedules for digital have to be flexible for other priorities. If something gets moved back, just make sure to update the date.

Labels

Before we get into the actual list purposes, let’s go over labels, colors and their meanings. This is completely flexible to your preferences and how you would like to set this up. The colors are 100% your own to label as you see fit. I went with something that made sense to me and that was the following: (click for image representation)

  • Incomplete – Red
  • Scheduled – Yellow
  • Posted – Black
  • Used other colors to represent the different mediums and sites.

I didn’t list every color I used for each site because some cards will have multiple sites they’re posted to. But the Incomplete/Scheduled/Posted are exclusive of each other. You should never have a card that has 2 of those at a time. If it’s scheduled, it shouldn’t be incomplete. If it’s posted, it certainly shouldn’t have either of the other two as well. The reason that’s important is for the visual representation the calendar will give you when looking from that view. It will allow you to quickly identify what cards are coming up that need to be worked on. Something with the incomplete label that is tomorrow should hold higher priority to look at than something a week from now.

Because I’ve grown to understand the labels and colors I can look at the image below and know exactly what sites these were posted to and that no posts were missed based on the black posted label on these cards. (Happy Friday! was scheduled but not posted at the time of this article).

For my board, I have 6 different lists: User Submissions, Post Ideas, Needs Review, Scheduled, Posted and Reports. We’ll go through each list and the purpose of them. Some you may find won’t apply to your situation. That’s okay, Trello isn’t meant to be a one trick pony. You’ll find your own unique system that works for you and that’s the best way to use this.

User Submissions

I work in a large organization where other employees often suggest things we should consider for posting to our social media. Rather than having them email me directly, I setup a User Submission list and setup a vanity email that would email the board and create a card with each user submission.  If user submissions do not apply to you, skip to the next section.

This may be more difficult for small business users but just try googling “auto forward email to another email address for [INSERT YOUR EMAIL CLIENT]” and try to see how that can be done for you.

How to Get the Email to Board Setup?

Under the menu for the board, you will see an”Email-to-board Settings” option.  Here is where you will you get your custom email address for the board.  This is what you’ll want a vanity email to auto forward to. We use something short and simple like Social@CompanyName.com that’s easy to remember.  You set the list you want the emailed card to go to and the position. If you select bottom, newest entries will go to the bottom.  This list is a staging queue. Once you review the card and decide you’re going to do it or not, it can be archived or moved to the appropriate list for copy and scheduling.

The card name will be whatever the subject was in the email and the description will be whatever is in the body of the email. Attachments will come through as well.

Post Ideas

This is a great list to have whether you have a team or you’re a 1 person digital power house. It’s a place where you can jot down your ideas so you don’t forget them and flesh them out later. If you have a team, it’s a great place to collaborate before they get moved to another list. When brainstorming, you don’t necessarily need a due date just yet. I would take this list to use for just discussing with your team or yourself about what you really want to do with it.

Needs Review

In my company we have 2 copywriters. Their expertise is making sure the copy is well written and is up to snuff with our style guide. As you can likely see, there’s a few errors throughout this article. That’s because I’m so spoiled with their knowledge of grammar and wordsmithing that I can get away with just throwing out general ideas and rough drafts and let them fine tune the messaging. They’re here to make sure I don’t goof up our style guides and adhere to them. They deal with them on a consistent basis through print and digital so it just makes sense to get them involved here.

The needs review can also be if you have a boss who wants to see everything before it gets scheduled. If neither of those apply to you, you can remove this list and go straight from ideas to scheduled but I’d recommend having this list even if it’s yourself reviewing the copy the next day. You’ll probably catch a few things after you come back to it.

Scheduled

Set it and forget it! Once the post has the scheduled label on it, that means it is either scheduled directly on the site, through Hootsuite or some other platform you use. Scheduled means if human life ceased to exist, the post would go out because it is set ready to go. Scheduled is rewarding because it starts giving you shape to your calendar. You want to see yellow everywhere. The less red (incomplete) on the calendar, the better. If you know you’re going to be on vacation next week, all next week should be prepared and ready to go ahead of time.

Posted

That black label is less important to immediately update. You probably shouldn’t just assume all scheduled posts actually went out and go verify on that social media site that it actually did get posted and then update the label. We don’t clear the cards or archive them when they’re posted because archived cards won’t show on the calendar view. We’ve discussed but haven’t finalized a time frame where it’s okay to remove older posts and archive them to clean up the posted list view. If you were to do this, I would recommend an “Archive Posted” list that you move the cards to after said date range then you can archive all at once from a list.

The reason we keep posted items on the calendar is it can be helpful to go back and see what you have done at a glance on the different sites. If you archive them, you then have to look on each site and spend time locating those posts. We feel this is the best way to have a quick look in the past without too much effort.

Reports

What’s the point of doing any of this if you’re not going to have insights? We have a list for reports just to keep it easy to find. Each month has a report for each medium we posted to, to get a glance to see how our posts did. Top performers, frequency, etc. It helps us know what we should change moving forward.

In Summary

Trello is a very powerful tool and can be used for a variety of things. Some use it for development, we use it for project lists outside of digital reasons and now we’ve adopted it for use as our digital marketing posting schedule.

Have you found a unique way to use Trello or do you have a suggestion to make the above process even better? Let me know in the comments.

How many times have you heard this when someone is trying to sell you on why to use their company/service/product?

We have the best customer service!

It might seem like a good selling point but the fact of the matter is, it doesn’t mean anything. That’s right, saying “we have good customer service” doesn’t mean anything and is a terrible way to sell a service or product.

Now, hold on, that doesn’t mean good customer service shouldn’t be given or that you should not care about customer service, it’s very, very important. In fact, customer service is a reason many people choose to do business with a company because of their reputation with customers. The problem is, anyone can say this and most do try to use this line so it doesn’t mean as much when you say it from the company side.

Sure, mentioning reviews and social media posts can go along way to show that you have great customer service but it still doesn’t cut it. There’s probably a good bit of you knowing exactly where I’m heading with this next part which is great but it’s time to start using it.

Quantifiable Statements

Which statement is more compelling: “We have great customer service” or “Ninety-five percent of our business comes from referrals”? One says it the other shows it. 95% of business doesn’t come from referrals through mediocre customer service.

This seems like common sense and most topics like this will come off as common sense. The difficulty is in the application of the information. It’s easy to sit here and make statements arbitrarily about businesses and what they should do. Each business is different but you should be able to come up with a quantifiable statement that helps either give you a competitive advantage or several quantifiable statements that support your selling points you’ve been using. If you can’t come up with them, there could be a chance you’re making up selling points to your customers just to close a deal and they’re going to be very unhappy with you later.

I highly recommend reading Creating Competitive Advantage by Jaynie Smith and William Flanagan for more detail into quantifiable statements as well as ways to articulate your competitive advantages over the competition.

Sorry for such a long time lapse since last writing. By now, I’m sure you’ve heard or seen the new Taco Bell ad campaign, Breakfast Defectors. If not, you don’t internet, watch the boob tube or listen to the radio very much. This new campaign is very good, in fact, maybe too good. Taco Bell is taking on fast food giant McDonald’s on their claim as king of the hill for breakfast fast food options. If you haven’t seen it yet, take a couple minutes to watch the full ad below:

I mean, if you stop and think about it, when is the last time you thought about Taco Bell for breakfast? They’re well known for their post midnight audience but it looks like they’re trying to change that image or bring in a new audience of business professionals. But this is a bold move trying to take on McDonald’s in this fashion. This isn’t Taco Bell’s first knock on McDonald’s either. They’ve done some smaller campaigns in the past with Ronald McDonald’s preferring Taco Bell over McDonald’s but that was an open hand sparring session compared to the blows their taking with the new campaign.

This new campaign paints McDonald’s as the big brother, communist overlord and those who eat it as sheep like characters who just do as their told and don’t dare break away from the norm. WIth today’s society, this campaign works perfectly and probably why this advertisement got a 9.8 on effectiveness compared to the average ad of 5.2.

I don’t know about you but it certainly has piqued my interest about their breakfast options and I’ll likely try one soon. Have you defected yet? Leave your thoughts below.

It’s not just small mom and pop shops that have trouble with marketing. Big brands fail too… and when they do, boy oh boy is it a huge face palm.  Krispy Kreme UK had a recent promotion for their Hull store over across the pond but a couple things went unnoticed when they posted the image.

“KKK Wednesday” was set to happen February 18th.  Krispy Kreme UK did finally make an official statement as seen in the comments above on my post where I tagged them on Facebook.  The apology read:

With regards to the Hull Krispy Kreme Half Term Activities:

Krispy Kreme apologises unreservedly for the inappropriate name of a customer promotion at one of our stores. We are truly sorry for any offence this completely unintentional oversight may have caused. All material, both online and in the store, has been withdrawn and steps are being taken to ensure that greater precautions are taken with publicity materials in the future.

The idea was created by the Hull store to attract customers into the shop to decorate doughnuts using the Krispy Kreation Station product.

But wait, did you notice the other mistake? February 22th was listed on this piece instead of 22nd. Due to the glaring mistake of the Klub name, this likely flew under the radar for most with the whole KKK thing.

Just another reason to have a peer review of marketing pieces before they go out as well as a copywriter review all text prior to public release.

During the Super Bowl, Coca-Cola aired a TV commercial based on turning negative things into positive things and branded it with the #MakeItHappy hashtag.

They continued this campaign on Twitter which used an automatic algorithm to turn negative tweets into pictures of happy things. In a press release, Coca-Cola said it wanted to “tackle the pervasive negativity polluting social media feeds and comment threads across the internet”. Gawker, decided to have some fun with this and exploit the automated tweets Coca-Cola was producing.  Gawker tricked it into tweeting large chunks of the introduction to Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

The bot, made by Gawker’s editorial labs director (Adam Pash), got Coke to tweet the words “My father was a civil servant who fulfilled his duty very conscientiously” which was formed into the shape of a pirate ship.   As of Wednesday, the campaign was suspended entirely on Twitter.

In a statement to AdWeek, a spokesperson for Coca-Cola said: “The #MakeItHappy message is simple: the internet is what we make it, and we hoped to inspire people to make it a more positive place. It’s unfortunate that Gawker is trying to turn this campaign into something that it isn’t.”  The statement ended: “Building a bot that attempts to spread hate through #MakeItHappy is a perfect example of the pervasive online negativity Coca-Cola wanted to address with this campaign.”

This isn’t new.  This happens a lot, way too much with companies setting up auto RT’s and favorites of anyone who mentions their brand. Twitter CEO was very embarrassed over this but as long as companies continue to try and do things automatic with bots and algorithms, there will always be someone who finds a way to ruin it.  There is nothing better than having a human monitoring and engaging on Twitter. Bots can’t distinguish between genuine and sarcasm.  Anytime you use a computer to do what should be human interaction and engagement, you will run the risk of it being exploited.

Was what Gawker did a dick thing? Yeah, it was.  Will it shed light into why a company should never use bots for Twitter in the future? Hopefully.

Welcome to my professional website!

As you can tell the main purpose of this site is to serve as a digital resource to review my resume but I will also blog about things from time to time that I find interesting. Some of it may be related to marketing and some may not, it really just depends about what’s on my mind. Most blog posts here will tend to stick to some form of professional topic like management or leadership.

We’ll keep this one short and sweet and see you next time about a topic much more exciting than this.