Away with the average
How online entrepreneurship creates a unique advantage for job seekers
Do you want to get ahead of the pack in life, career, and business?
The secret is in online entrepreneurship, storytelling and building relationships with others. The three go together.
I discovered it early in life. I lived in Poland until the age of 24. I moved to New York 10 years ago, where I have led several lives: construction worker, scaffold operator, waiter, office manager,marketer, Internet entrepreneur, professional speaker, NYU professor, author, and — eventually — a laptop entrepreneur. In that order.
I love to help others achieve success.
For the past ten years I have employed various Web strategies to achieve unprecedented growth for Fortune 500 brands, such as Apple, start-ups and entrepreneurs.
I love helping others achieve success… but I also love to practice what I preach. As a recent entrepreneur, I built Alphametic, an organic growth accelerator, with a roster of clients including global brands, such as L’Oreal and Hoval. I’ve built multiple Internet businesses generating passive income, and various websites, including SearchDecoder.com, and Sumo Hacks.
I wrote three books, including “SEO Like I’m 5,” spoken at countless events around the world, obtained three degrees, including MBA, and my ideas were featured on various media outlets, including the Huffington Post and Chicago Tribune.
Visit MatthewCapala.com to learn more about the author.
Published on Medium, a better place to read and write, Away with the Average, is a collaborative e-book. Constantly evolving, its content is live.
I will respond to every question or tweet. Enjoy the read!
Away with the average
When I was in business school I read the World is Flat, by Thomas Friedman. The title is a metaphor for the post-Internet world viewed as a level playing field, where everyone has an equal opportunity. It also alludes to the shift in skills and approach required for companies and individuals to compete. The book was my game-changer.
A decade later, Thomas Friedman continues to challenge the way we think about America’s workforce, education, and business. In his recent thought-provoking piece in the New York Times, the Average is Over, he wrote:
A membership in a student association and two Summer internships used to be enough for college students to find work after graduation. Today, that’s average.
A one-page resume is no longer enough to get an interview either. Today recruiters search your name in Google to learn more about you. That is your zero moment of truth.
Invisibility is a fate much worse than failure.
In order to stand out in the pile of job applications that recruiters receive every day, you need to find your extra.
It is helpful to have a roadmap. I don’t proclaim to be an expert on this subject, certainly no Mr. Friedman, but here’s what has worked for me…
Getting ahead of the pack
I attended the City University of New York, which didn’t really guarantee a job offer upon graduation. The recession was in full swing and I faced the worst job market of my generation. Moreover, English is my second language, and — even worse— I had to have immigration visa sponsorship from any potential employer.
Facing rejection after rejection, I was met a grim possibility about returning to Poland. Although the odds seemed stacked high against me, I couldn’t walk away from all I had worked for.
I had to find my “extra”.
My extra was a website featuring a free e-book about online marketing. I should probably pull it down because the information is outdated (and loaded with affiliate links), but I feel too sentimental about it. Building this website was one of the best investments I ever made. It set me apart.
It was because of this “extra”that I landed one of the four highly competitive internships available at the Associated Press Digital, next to Ivy League students. In my second year of business school I worked part-time at Mattel and then got hired straight after graduation in 2008 by one of the biggest global ad agencies.
Half of my resume was professional experience and education. The other half featured my ‘extras’ — websites and online ventures I created.
Online entrepreneurship enabled me to create opportunities that I would not have had otherwise.
Later in my career I founded SearchDecoder.com, which has helped me build a valuable network of relationships, get job offers, land speaking engagements, and eventually a rewarding teaching position at New York University.
Are you indispensable (aka. a Linchpin)?
In his influential book, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?, Seth Godin described a new way of working for all of us. Showing up at our job is not enough anymore. The ones who conform, follow instructions and give an honest day’s work for a day’s pay is just going to become invisible cogs of a giant machine. These cogs are easily replaceable and insignificant in the management’s eyes.
In one sentence, the Linchpin is an individual who can walk into chaos and create order, someone who can invent, connect, create and make things happen.
Nowadays, the attendance based compensation system is history. Great jobs no longer spell out in detail what is required. Simple tasks are being automated and outsourced. Hence, to move forward in our career, you have to be the ‘new player of the game.’
You are not your resume. You are your work.
Writes Seth Godin in his bestselling book. If you haven’t read the book and you don’t have the time to do it, here is a great summary.
What does it all mean?
Career planning used to be straightforward, but now uncertainty prevails…
First, there is no such thing as long-term job security anymore. Your career advancement is no longer your company’s responsibility either.
Compliance and obedience will no longer be rewarded in the workplace the way they once were. Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup, says people working in large organizations should behave less like employees and more like entrepreneurs.
How to Get Ahead in Career, Business, and Life Leveraging the Internet and Social Media Tools
Demonstrate online entrepreneurship
Businesses that are hiring today have transformed their organizational models, removing layers of hierarchy in favor of flatter structures. As an employee, you are expected to fit in and add value on day one. It’s actually best to consider yourself something more than an employee; you should assume ownership.
Leading companies look for proof of entrepreneurship when they hire. They want you to run their business as if it was your own.
Prior to the shifts caused by the digitalization of business that Mr. Friedman talks about, entrepreneurs faced high barriers to entry. Not anymore. Putting up a website on Wordpress is free. All you need is a domain name and hosting. GoDaddy is one of the favorites because they have great customer service.
“I have a start-up” is the new “I am in the band.”
Says Alexis Ohanian, founder of Reddit. In fact,starting a website is probably much easier (and cheaper) than starting a band.
It is not about the ROI. Recruiters are not business analysts. It is about you trying to build something. The skills you develop doing it. And the way you can talk about it.
If you don’t have a solid business idea, focus on social good. Lavall Chichester built a social sustainability widget ‘on the side’ and developed an innovative online marketing strategy to promote it. He was one of my first hires at Profero.
Become a Blogger
Blogging has helped me move up in the world. But don’t just take my word for it. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs I follow, such as Randal Fishkin, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Dharmesh Shah, built multi-million dollar businesses by blogging. I learned by reading their blogs and experimenting.
Paul Shapiro graduated from Rutgers in 2012 and is now a mid-level manager at one of the biggest ad agencies in the world. In my interview with Paul, he attributed his remarkably fast career progression to blogging:
I had taken a proactive approach to my job search, making online personal branding a priority. I had partaken in multiple informational interviews with industry leaders most of which were attained through relationships that I built through an active social media presence.Amongst the most common feedback I had received was to blog, so I listened and started writing. I eventually learned that my blog had greatly helped my candidacy for my first job. I would give the same advice to any job seeker or anyone looking to boost their career. Start blogging. A blog shows internet savviness, drive, and the ability to write among other things. Start blogging now and you will thank yourself later.
I couldn’t agree more.
If you are a beginner and don’t know where to start, read Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk. I started here as well. I recommend Wordpress as a blogging platform because it has a lot of free social media plug-ins that will make your blog stand out.
Brand yourself on LinkedIn
Let’s be clear about something. Your mere presence on Linkedin is not an extra. It is average.
You should be very serious about how your Linkedin profile looks. What are your extras?
How many connections do you have? How many people have endorsed you for skills or recommended you? Do you have a professional photo? How many Linkedin groups are you an active member of? Do you share insightful content?
Successful companies that offer great careers, such as Google or Facebook, look beyond your last job description and professional skills. They want to get insights into your personality and character. Are you amazing or average?
Use visual tools on Linkedin to enhance the visibility of your profile. Adding rich media, such as videos, slideshare decks, and images worked well for me, pushing my profile to the top 1% Linkedin All Star users.
Become your own curator of information
Content curation is about sorting through content on the web and presenting it in a meaningful way around a specific theme. That’s not rocket science.
Social media provides great tools for you to express your creativity. And the best way to generate following and gain authority is to curate and share great content.
When you start on Twitter, don’t call yourself a guru, expert, ninja or maverick. I made this mistake early on in my career. It turns people off. Your attitude should be to learn from others who have done it longer and know more.
Dale Carnegie, in his book How to Make Friends and Influence People, gave one of the best social media tips I ever heard (even though social media was not invented during his time):
To be interesting, be interested.
Ask and answer questions. Follow people who are interesting to you. Share their content. Rinse, repeat, and over time your audience will grow — not because you are a guru, but because you share interesting information. Thus, you are interesting.
Gone are the days when only industrial-sized companies could create value and exert influence. Today, the key word is social media influence.
Your ability to attract followers on Twitter is a skill that potential employers will love. They can tap into your influence by hiring you. They will also see you as someone who can help them build their own online influence.
Use SlideShare for personal branding.
Have you used SlideShare? It is a Web 2.0 based slide hosting platform — similar to YouTube, but for slideshows. With 60 million monthly visitors and 130 million page views, it is amongst the most visited 200 websites in the world.
The graphic marketing tool can turbocharge your personal brand. Serving up images relevant to the brand you are trying to build combined with short, punchy text sends out an irresistible message to learn more about you.
If you do not prefer writing in-depth posts or mugging for videos SlideShare can be your online savior.
It is also a great medium for introverts interested in self-promotion because you don’t need to get in front of the camera or a big audience.
Content strategist Gregory Ciotti explains that beautiful, well-designed SildeShare presentations garner the most attention. Pay attention to substance and style to build your personal brand using the creative marketing medium.
Storytelling rules on SlideShare.
Stories never go out of style. Build a story through a combination of colorful imagery and eye-catching copy to reel in intrigued viewers and expand your brand awareness.
Show off your talents while weaving an inspiring tale for viewers. Since storytelling brands rule the online and offline world you would be wise to follow branding wizards and case studies on the subject.
Dan Schawbel, the author of Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success, and owner of the award winning Personal Branding Blog explains:
From the corporate brand (BMW), to the product brand (BMW M3 Coupe) and down to the personal brand (car salesman), branding is a critical component to a customer’s purchasing decision. There is no hiding anymore and transparency and authenticity are the only means to survive and thrive in this new digital kingdom.
Many people think that personal branding is just for celebrities such as Paris Hilton or Britney Spears, yet each and every one of us is a brand. Personal branding, by definition, is the process by which we market ourselves to others. As a brand, we can leverage the same strategies that make these celebrities or corporate brands appeal to others. We can build brand equity just like them.
Social media tools, such as SlideShare, have leveled the playing ground and have enabled us to reach incredible heights, at the cost of our time.
You can summarize the above-mentioned tips into two simple action items that I borrowed from Carl Lange:
Do things, tell people.
You would not believe how much opportunity is out there for those who do things and tell people. You build something online that is interesting and you tell everyone about it. Then you get contacts that lead to contracts or job offers. You make a lot of friends who think what you do is cool. You cannot get there alone. I wouldn’t get there without a mentor.
Then, the next time someone needs to solve a problem related to that cool thing, they come to you first.
What’s your extra?
Higher education plays an important role in fostering online entrepreneurship. At the NYU School of Professional Continuing Studies, graduate students in the Integrated Marketing Program take a proactive approach. In 2012, we founded the Inbound Marketing Clinic to equip students with the tools to get ahead of the pack. I dedicate this e-book to its members.
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