3 Sales Tips for Startups That Don’t Print Money

Unless your startup is in the business of printing untraceable, impeccable counterfeit currency in large bills, you’ve got to make sales.

Assuming you’re not in a business that puts you on an FBI watch list, making a sale could be the difference between getting funding, growing your team and making it to IPO– or packing up your office and crawling back to the 9-6 cubicle job you escaped.

Not every startup founder has a sales background or, if they do, they may not have the time to properly focus their efforts on sales. It doesn’t matter if you’re a developer who has never sold a thing in their life or a seasoned sales veteran who is negotiating a lease, hiring a team, polishing a product and finalizing branding, sales doesn’t always rank high on the to-do list.

Granted I’m a sales guy and not a CPA, but I’d venture this is a really, really awful way to go about paying bills. Until landlords begin accepting promises of a great user experience on the mobile version as a form of rent payment, you have to sell.

Whether you desperately need to make your first sale to stay afloat or you’d like to walk into your next investor meeting with even better results than promised, these are tested ways to start making sales soon.

(I know because I tested them.)

Upsell your current clients (if you have them)

This is either incredibly obvious or it’s so obvious that you might’ve missed it– but there’s much to be unpacked here.

Arguably the best place to start increasing revenue is with the people who’ve bought from you already. They know about you, you have an agreement or their credit card on file and, ideally, they like you. You won’t need to spend much in the way of marketing dollars– and they’ll convert at a much higher rate than new leads.

Upselling your current clients can feel uncomfortable until you’ve had experience doing it. It’s a feeling of: really, these people who have been paying me– I’m going to go back to them and ask for more?

Yes. Yes, you are.

For one, if they’re your customers you’re bringing them value. And if you have the opportunity to give them a new tool, feature or offer– don’t they deserve to know about it? What if it transforms their business? Do you know your client so well that you can make the decision for them that they don’t want to buy more from you?

Imagine if your favorite app fixed one tiny feature you’ve always been bothered by with a $5 premium version– and you never found out about it because they didn’t bother to send out an email or announce it on social media.

Frustrating, right?

What does it look like when we talk about “upselling” your current clients? Here are a few areas to focus on:

Look at your agreements. Could you offer your client a slight discount if they’re willing to prepay for their next six months of service or sign an annual contract? Put yourself in their shoes and think of compelling reasons for them to sign up for more of your service, for longer and, ideally, with a chunk of cash up front for liquidity. This means the money will continue to roll in– and you spend less time worrying about churn and having to find new clients.

Look at your client relationships. Do you feel comfortable asking your clients for referrals? Referrals are testimonials and lead gen all in one– and four-times more likely to lead to a sale. I was consistently surprised how willing my clients were to offer up referrals or introductions when asked.

Look at your products and services. Is there room for a premium version, some way to white label and resell a related product– or is there a gap in your offerings that you can fill? What has your sales team been hearing from your clients that seems to be missing or lacking– and can you solve this in a way that has great ROI?

Look at your sales team’s commission plan. Are your sales people rewarded and motivated to not just maintain current clients, but grow their accounts? Do you take into account the fact that it’s more expensive to get new clients than maintain existing ones– and incentivize based on that fact? Is it possible to hire a salesperson whose sole job is selling to existing clients?

One important note: this really only works for happy, content clients. Know when to upsell and when not to. Build a sales team around great client service and a product team that takes feedback from your clients.

And to those of you who can only wish they had existing clients, just keep this strategy in your back pocket when you do have clients to upsell. It’ll happen.

Partner up

Hands down, this was one of the most powerful strategies I employed while working at my first startup for new business– and it’s one that many companies use to make sales.

The goal? Find partners who can introduce you to new business.

When approaching a possible partnership, your messaging needs to show that this is a mutually beneficial relationship. Maybe after some discussion about what’s important to them, you’ll offer commission or a spiff on every client they introduce you to.

Either A) they’re going to make money off of you through commission, sales or residuals or B) you’ll add value to their clients so they’ll introduce you for free.

How can you identify lucrative partnerships? Start here.

Consider your product. Is your product easily integrated with a major platform like Shopify or Salesforce? There are entire channel and partnership teams who would love to know about what you do so they can expand their product ecosystem.

Consider your market. Are there similar businesses in your industry that aren’t direct competitors– but serve the same type of customers? Send them an email and find out what they look for in a partnership and start referring business to each other.

Consider consultants and agencies. Marketing agencies and consultants make a living introducing their clients to new products and services to help them solve problems. If you sell an eCommerce plugin, wouldn’t it make sense to partner with a digital agency so they can add your tool to every site they sell?

The great thing about agencies (and why I always targeted them) is that they usually have a handful of clients– and are looking to bring on others. If you sign one agency, you now have access to multiple clients– instead of chasing after one single client.

Consider white labeling: If you don’t mind someone else taking credit for your product while you count the cash, this can be a smart option. Your branding is scrubbed from the product and replaced with the partner’s branding or interface– but they sell it.

This is especially helpful if you have a small sales team or haven’t sold before. Let someone else do the selling!

The big benefit of partnering up? You can work with dozens of partners who will feed you leads and clients. Instead of having to chase 50 cold leads, you’ll have partners who are equally invested in making a deal happen– and you’ll come recommended.

Find a company’s partnership or channel sales team or, if they’re quite small, someone in marketing, product or sales. They’ll typically be your best chance at getting a reply.

I’ve been on both sides of the partnership coin, from creating partnerships to getting paid commission from one. They were my highest value business relationships.

Revisit old leads

It’s what every salesperson doesn’t want to be asked to do by their manager.

I’d always think: really, I’m going to call someone who’d previously told us ‘no’?

And then I’d close a sale using that strategy and realized that’s why sales managers tell their teams to comb Salesforce and find old leads. I began hitting old leads and found thousands of dollars worth of sales.

I’m a big believer in disqualifying leads that will obviously waste your time so be ready to move on from them if it’s clear there’s no potential. However, you might be shocked how much cash is sitting in your CRM.

Think about it:

• This director might’ve been called around the holidays. Between Christmas shopping and family travel, they didn’t have the time to even think about your product. Now it’s January and they want to hear more.

• The person who’d told you “no” before doesn’t work there anymore; they were fired for making awful decisions, like not investing in awesome products like the one you’ve built.

• They’d used all of their budget and couldn’t make a deal happen, but it’s a new fiscal year– and the money is back and they’re ready to buy!

• The payment terms you were offering didn’t make sense for them– but your finance team now lets clients break up payments in quarterly chunks and it becomes possible for your client to buy.

• The integration they needed that you didn’t have before was just approved as a beta version– and it’s time to let your new client know the one road block that prevented you from working together has been cleared.

• They bought from your competitor and your competitor absolutely sucked. The onboarding didn’t go well, they’ve had four account managers in three months and it’s not working how they were told it would.

• The last sales rep they spoke with from your team? They didn’t click. There was nothing about the pricing or product they didn’t like, but the last guy’s used car salesman style turned them off.

Literally every single one of those scenarios has happened to me.

If you’re using some sort of CRM or even just a spreadsheet to track leads, also track why you’ve “lost” the sale. Over time this will help you identify common traits in leads that don’t close, shortcomings in the product, issues with pricing or even common objections to train on further.

A bonus tip

Over the years, I’ve found that sales is a science: you introduce new variables, attempt to add in as many controls as possible and test new hypotheses. Sometimes you’ll find a theory that works for a month– and then never works again. The Invisible Hand or some unknown force changes everything, I suppose. But what’s important is that you try something for a while to give it time to mature and find out if it’s effective.

No, you don’t want to have a losing strategy for a year– but don’t change course on a daily or weekly basis. Build a strategy that you try on a few leads or clients, change messaging, test new call approaches on low-quality leads to see how they react. But overall remain consistent with the same amount of activity, similar methods and approaches. You’ll eventually get a feel for what’s working.

Sales is far from just picking up the phone, making a few calls, being polite and slick with words. It’s a daily effort of keeping positive and motivated, being consistent, having high emotional intelligence and knowing how to move a conversation from “I’m not interested” to “How do we get started?”.

If you’re new to selling in a startup environment, the good news is you have all the agility and flexibility you could want. Focus on what works, take care of your clients, add value to every interaction and be the most useful person they’re speaking with that day.

Or at least until you can figure out a way to be the Uber of counterfeiting.

Photo Credit: Viktor Hanacek

Sell Booze at the Beach– And Other Lessons I Learned While Working With 200+ Small Businesses

If you’re looking for almost certain small business success, open a liquor store near a beach.

That’s one small business lesson.

But if you’re reading this, especially if you’re not looking to sell cheap vodka to college kids on spring break, you’re more likely hoping to find out what practical and actionable lessons could help you.

As part of the sales team for a tech company, I worked with over 200 small businesses across the Midwest and East Coast, from established bike shops to brand new clothing boutiques to the aforementioned beachfront liquor stores.

Especially from the viewpoint of a salesperson, there’s a misconception that sales is all fast-talking, clever pitches and hard closes a la Glengarry Glen Ross. In reality, the closers getting the coffee in 2017 do much more listening than talking.

With all that listening over the course of thousands of phone calls and demos, I began picking up on trends. I began to see patterns in the businesses that called to cancel service after closing within three months– and those that called to add more locations to their account as they expanded.

While geography, demographics, market demand, business plans and previous experience will dictate a great deal about the success (or failure) of a small business, there are undeniable do’s and don’ts that separate those closing their doors and those opening new stores.

Here are the lessons I learned from the best business owners– and their out-of-business competitors:

They build relationships, not transactions

This is a lesson I’d learned early in life watching small businesses I worked for “nickel and dime” their customers to death. The owners were so focused on margins on each sale that they neglected to consider the impact on the experience and lifetime value of a customer. There were no extras or freebies, every moment was monetized and short-term profit came way before customer satisfaction. Sales became transactional and impersonal.

As a certain fascist chef might say: “No soup for you.”

The best clients I worked with saw the value of a happy customer– and not just a margin. Bike shops would offer free clinics and flat repairs. Clothing boutiques employed a “personal stylist”. Employees knew customers’ names, their preferences and created an experience during their visit.

It’s a race to the bottom if you’re competing only on price, location or selection. Great service that leads to relationships will have your customers driving past your more convenient, better stocked and cheaper competitors– and telling their friends about you.

Another big benefit? You’ll better understand what your ideal customer profile is and this will help decide everything from pricing to marketing to in-store experiences and promotions.

You can’t effectively sell your service or product without really understanding who needs it.

They reward customer loyalty

Customer loyalty, especially as a result of fantastic relationships, is key. For one, some estimates show that acquiring a new customer is six to seven times more expensive than keeping your current customers happy.

Loyalty programs like Thirdshelf are a fantastic tool for rewarding your customers for their continued business and support– as a supplement to offering great customer experiences. The more they shop, the more it pays off– for both them and the business. In fact, 69% of consumers say they choose where to shop based on where they can earn points or perks– meaning if you’re not even offering a loyalty program, the cards are stacked against you.

For small businesses that are worried only about the short-term, they’ll see a rewards program as a loss, product going out the door without generating maximum revenue. The savvy clients I worked with knew that a well-considered loyalty program and its perks were a guaranteed way to keep customers coming back and buying more.

It’s not enough to just throw an offer at your customers. Pay attention to what they buy and what promotions draw sales. Yes, your loyalty perk is great for the customer, but make it work for you, too.

They get over sunk costs

If you’re not familiar with a sunk cost, Merriam-Webster defines it as “a cost already incurred that is not subject to variation or revision…”

To give you an example, the business cards you purchased where your last name has a typo? That’s a sunk cost. You’ve already paid for the cards. They can’t be fixed. And, unless you’re someone really special, your misspelled business cards don’t have any resale value. Go ahead and get new ones printed.

Unfortunately, I came across this mindset quite often with small business owners. They’d invest five-hundred dollars in a poorly built, buggy eCommerce website their high-school nephew built. Even if it didn’t function and was literally costing them money through lost sales, they couldn’t imagine scrapping the whole site and starting over– even if a new solution would solve all their issues.

The successful businesses I worked with made smart, well-researched decisions and certainly weren’t careless with their money. But if they saw a tool, platform or solution that would make a difference, they were willing to abandon their old ways. Their eyes weren’t focused on buyer’s remorse but on what would make their business profitable.

It’s never fun to realize you wasted money on a bad decision, but if there’s no possible way to benefit or recoup the investment, it’s best to move forward and find what does work. You won’t ever benefit from protecting yourself from the realization of a bad choice or wasted money– and you’re only compounding your mistake by not moving on quickly.

They use technology to their benefit

kaboompics_Young Entrepreneur Working from a Modern Cafe

Photo Credit: Kaboom Pics

While selling a tech product I recognized quickly how resistant to technology many business owners are. They had tools one Google search away that would give them more data than they’d ever had, free platforms that would manage tasks they were paying people overtime to manage and incredible ways to market and advertise their business for a few bucks.

Coming at this as a Millenial I’m biased; I remember VHS tapes and “car phones”, but most of my life I’ve had access to the Internet. The point still stands, however. The technology that offers the most utility and function wins out.

It’s no different for small businesses. Software isn’t just for enterprise-level companies with huge IT teams and budgets. There’s a thriving marketplace for small-business technology that doesn’t require a PhD in Computer Science. Most offer awesome support and easy-to-use interfaces.

Just about anyone can build a Shopify or WordPress site to have an online presence– and if you’re not online, your customers aren’t finding you. A point of sale like LightSpeed can help you manage inventory, customer data, sales history and reporting for relatively little money. UpWork can help you hire freelancers from all over the world to rewrite your sales collateral or design a new logo. Marketing on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter using tools like Buffer or HootSuite are unbelievably more cost-effective than print ads, flyers or billboards. Many businesses make the bulk of their income by selling through Amazon or eBay.

Technology has been democratized. It’s within reach for those who are willing to look for it and spend some time evaluating what they need and what solutions exist. My A-team clients embraced technology– from how they hired to how they sold to how they ordered product to how they reported their accounting.

And if this still sounds outside of your comfort zone, there are plenty of consultants and agencies out there who can help you with your technology, marketing and operations. Specialization and focusing on what you’re best at has its benefits.

They make it easy to buy


Photo Credit: Mike Petrucci

Perhaps loosely related to my last point about embracing technology, smart business owners make it easy to purchase from them.

It starts with being found in the first place. Again, good businesses are not relying on placing flyers under windshield wipers in local parking lots– and they aren’t just hoping someone walks into their business by chance. They’re marketing online, they’re growing an Instagram and Facebook following– and closely monitoring those channels for customer feedback. They have an active Yelp presence and watch Google for reviews. They have a well-built and thoughtfully designed website that shows what their products and services are, how to contact them and links to social media accounts, customer testimonials and more.

My recommendation: ditch the inflatable purple gorilla advertising your 10% off sale and use marketing tactics that really work.

Once you have your a potential customer’s attention, converting them from potential to paying is vital. If they’ve come this far, you don’t want to lose them now– especially if you’ve invested a few marketing dollars into their interest.

Should they find your site and want to order online, your purchase process should be straightforward and logical; don’t make them go through fifteen mandatory forms and only accept one obscure payment type. You should have a quick check out process and accept all major credit cards and PayPal.

Should they find you in real life or walk into your retail store, their buying experience must be similarly simple and easy. Your store layout should be logical. You should pair related products together. You should know exactly how many of each item you have in stock. You should know what services people want. If you schedule appointments, make it so people never have to call in with a tool like Booxi— because, most likely, they’ll avoid the phone.

When it comes time to buy, checkout should be easy. Accept credit cards– and accept the fact you’ll be paying a processor a fee to do so. You’re better off paying the fee than losing this customer’s first sale– and future second, third and fourth sales.

You should be capturing their information (name and email, at minimum) which makes it easier to see what they bought in the past, handle returns or exchanges and create a personal touch. Tied into an intelligent marketing plan, this is one of the most valuable points in the entire sales process.

Ideally, you’ll embrace an omnichannel solution where your inventory, customer data and shopping experiences are shared across online and in-person platforms. Customers can look up the shirt they bought online so they can buy the same shirt in a different color when they’re in the store. They’ll be able to see how many reward points they’ve earned by shopping online and in your store– all from their iPad at home. Your inventory will update across channels so you’re never selling products in-store or online that don’t exist.

This really amazing idea isn’t reserved for only mega-businesses; there are plenty of small business solutions that offer this for a few hundred bucks a month and can connect with a number of eCommerce and point of sale technologies.

Here’s the good news

If you watch the news or read the newspaper for even five minutes per year, you’ll see the doom and gloom around retailers and small businesses. Macy’s is shutting down nearly 70 stores in 2017 while Amazon buys out Whole Foods; the ground is shifting. The business landscape is changing, but that will be great news for nimble, intelligent small businesses who embrace their customers, use technology and remove barriers that kept customers from buying.

Unlike a business like Macy’s which would take six months, ten McKinsey experts, fourteen departments and forty-six meetings to make small changes, a small business can make major changes quickly and easily.

Small business is the speedboat to Macy’s Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

My recommendation? Examine your business from top to bottom.

Imagine you’re about to appear on Shark Tank and Mark Cuban will grill you on how much you pay for your products, what you’re doing to attract new business and what your unique selling points are– just before Robert Herjavec jumps in to ask how you gauge customer satisfaction.

How would you do in answering their challenges?

Look at your entire business. What’s working and what isn’t? What have you been putting off and know you need to finally tackle? What’s the best part of your website (and is there a best part of your website)? How do customers find you? What product or service do you make the most money on and how might you get more people to buy it? What do you hear from your customers– and do the one-star reviews on Yelp hold any truth to them?

There’s a great deal of low-hanging fruit and new customers to go after right now if haven’t explored new strategies and technologies for a couple years. But if you’re not entirely sure where that fruit is hanging, how to get those new customers or how to really consider your options, I can help.

If you’re part of a small business or startup and you’re ready to begin making those changes, I work with businesses just like yours. From social media strategy to identifying tech tools that fix problems and more, I always start with a discovery call to understand more about your business including its challenges, opportunities and goals. 

Let’s put 20 minutes on our calendars and get these improvements started. You’ll be glad you did.

Featured Image: Alex Iby

Staying Positive During a Job Search: A How-To Guide

Nobody really wants to look for a new job.

It’s usually something we have to do– like sitting through commercials on Hulu or accepting your coworkers friend request on Facebook– even if it means employment, more money or a work/life balance.

It falls into that uncomfortable Bermuda-triangle-like zone of financial stress, uncertainty and rejection. Add in some hurt pride if the job change wasn’t exactly your idea.

Unless you’re the type of adrenaline and risk junkie who finds joy in feelings that we’re probably evolutionarily predisposed to avoid, these aren’t emotions or experiences you’re particularly excited about having.

If you’re in the middle of a job search right now you know exactly what I mean.

But it happens. You want to leave a job or the job wants to leave you. If trends continue, job changes will be as common as watching the Olympics every few years. According to PwC, 25% of Millenials expect to have six or more employers over their lifetime.

So this job change thing? It’s likely to happen more often– which could be great news.

The more we do something, the less scary it is each time– and the better we are at preparing for it, moving through it and thriving. I’m a big believer that happiness is correlated with expectations, so if we expect to change jobs frequently and experience volatility, our happiness won’t take the beating it would otherwise.

But it’s easy to rationalize through it when job hunting is an abstract concept. A job search, whether you’re still employed or not, is stressful and it’s easy to feel defeated and pessimistic.

I’ve searched for work a number of times– sometimes with a job and sometimes without– and worked for four years in sales positions. It’s the time I spent in sales that helped me build a toolkit for staying positive and it can be directly applicable to a job hunt as well. Rejection, financial pressure and uncertainty live in both sales and job hunting– but the good news is there are solutions that work.

Here are a few ways you can stay positive– even during the toughest job search– that I’ve already vetted:

The 3 to 1 Rule


Credit: Brooke Cagle

When I moved to NYC without a job, I had a very short window of time to find work before I’d go broke and move back home to Ohio.

At this point in my career, I’d had an internship and an entry-level advertising job– but not much else. Entering into one of the most competitive job markets in the country brought about something I’d never experienced so much of all at once: rejection.

A few weeks into my job hunt, I made a rule for myself: for every rejection or piece of bad news I encountered, I’d do three things to counter it.

For example, if I got one of those boilerplate emails informing me I wasn’t a fit for the role, I’d spend the next hour applying for another job, follow up on another application and send a LinkedIn message to someone whose job sounded interesting.

The reason this works?

It keeps you moving forward and countering something negative with several positives and eventually this 3-to-1 rule will lead to good things. If adversity motivates you, this is a great strategy.

Like Frank Sinatra said: “The best revenge is massive success.”

This is your new job (or second job)

One trap that I see job seekers falling into is treating their job hunt as a vacation and not taking it seriously. Sleeping in until noon. Staying in pajamas. Falling out of shape. Working inconsistent hours. Netflix binging.

If you’re still employed, yes, you’ve had a long day but you still need to carve out consistent time if you want another offer.

It can’t work any other way.

You don’t need to wake up at 6:30am like you used to, but it’s really helpful to build a routine. Maybe you get up at 8, hit the gym for an hour and are online and applying for jobs by 9:30. You make lunch at noon. You block off 1 to 3pm specifically for following up on jobs. You block off 3 to 4pm to reach out to people on LinkedIn. You take a break for dinner and are back online for an hour around 7pm to check your email and save jobs you’ll apply to in the morning.

If you’re still employed, maybe you do start getting up at 6am and spend an hour applying for work. Hit a coffee shop on lunch break to send out more applications and use your evening to visit a meetup for other graphic designers where you might meet someone hiring. Cut out the Game of Thrones/Call of Duty/basketball watching until you’ve found the right job. If you’re willing to put in the work, it’s a litmus test for how serious you are about changing your future.

What some call “time chunking”, or breaking tasks into specific time periods and focusing solely on those tasks, can be effective. If you spend an hour solely focused on finding and saving jobs to apply to in the next hour, I guarantee you’ll be more effective than if you spent that hour answering emails, finding new job posts, checking Twitter and finding networking events. Your attention span is far better and you’re more productive.

It also makes you get out of bed, take a shower and know that your day has a very clear purpose even if there’s no need to be at the office.

Find what motivates you

Kelly Brito

Credit: Kelly Brito

This is a big one.

Without focusing on motivation and rewards, job hunting can feel a lot like punishment.

That’s why it’s important to figure out what motivates you, both on a micro and macro level. Perhaps it’s telling yourself that, if you get an interview lined up for next week, you’ll treat yourself to Chipotle on Friday afternoon. Maybe if you spend the morning cold emailing 15 hiring managers you’ll take a break at noon and go to the park for an hour.

There’s big picture motivation, the long term goals you’re working toward. Once you land this job you’ll book that Costa Rica trip you had planned before the layoff happened. Or once you’re in the position for six months you’ll buy your kids new bikes, just because. Perhaps you’ll donate your signing bonus to a homeless shelter.

Yes, if you’re looking for work your new full-time occupation is finding a job– but don’t forget about self care. Will you actually interview well if you’re burnt out and feel unrewarded? Will you be effective if it’s all stick and no carrot?

Keep these motivations in mind. Write it down and put it on a piece of paper in front of you. Put your goals on your phone background.

Make sure you have a combination of short-term achievable goals (sending out 15 emails/applications per day, attending 2 networking events per week, etc) and long-term goals (getting an interview, getting a second interview, getting an offer). If all your goals are long-term and distant you won’t feel like you’re making progress, even if you are.

When you win, whether it’s a great conversation at a job fair or a signed offer letter, celebrate and recognize how you reached that win.

Set Your Targets

One of the most difficult parts of job hunting is quantifying how well you’re doing– and if what you’re doing is effective. I often work with job seekers who say they spend hours each week on their job search, but don’t feel like anything is coming from it.

That can feel demoralizing quickly.

The trick is figuring out how much activity you’ll probably need in order to land a job, so I employ a strategy I used while working in sales.

An examples goes something like this:

If I send out 50 applications and 20 LinkedIn messages, I estimate I’ll receive 10 responses.

If I get 10 responses, I believe 4 of those will turn into interviews.

If I can turn 4 of those responses into interviews, I’ll be invited to a second interview with 2 companies.

If I can get two second interviews, one should lead to an offer.

Everyone’s numbers and techniques will be different and it might take time to figure out what your numbers are, but the advantages of this strategy are twofold:

  1. You can quantify how much you need to do to consider that day or week to be “successful”. If you’ve been job hunting for two months without an offer it can feel like failure– when in reality your small efforts are building up to a huge payoff; you may get three offers in the next week from work you put in two months ago. When you’ve hit your daily “quota”, consider that day a small win and take a short break to do something you enjoy.
  2. You can quantify what works and what doesn’t. Let’s say you spend an entire week sending applications through HR portals and you DM a few people through Twitter who have jobs at companies you’d like to join. Perhaps two out of fifty HR portal applications lead to an interview– but three out of four Twitter messages lead to an interview. By identifying which methods work through tracking results you’ll figure out the best ways for getting an interview and, eventually, an offer.

Like any good salesperson (because that’s exactly what you are while you’re job hunting), you’ll want to try different strategies. Spend one day sending out resumes with a short cover letter and another day sending out a more in-depth cover letter. Track the responses. Change the tone from formal to casual in your initial email. Track the results.

And if you’re looking for new ways to apply for work, I have a few tips here.

Don’t go it alone

startup stock photos.jpg

Credit: Startup Stock Photos

This one has always been tough for me. If I’m looking for work, I feel it’s up to me to stay consistent, apply for jobs, prepare for interviews and accept an offer.

That’s true. Nobody is going to find you a new job without your involvement.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t involve others in your job search. Support and encouragement can be massively helpful, whether that’s some constructive venting to a buddy or having a former manager work through a few interview role plays with you. This is where a career coach can be of help.

If your last job ended alongside a few other coworkers, set up a job hunting group. Get together at someone’s apartment, bring some snacks and get competitive with who can have the highest activity throughout the day. Encourage each other when there’s bad news– and good news. Work together to prepare for interviews. Bounce ideas off each other. Attend networking events with your crew.

Think Guardians of the Galaxy meets LinkedIn.

Make a list

There are plenty of well-documented reasons writing out goals and ideas is helpful.

One of my favorite positivity exercises is keeping a list of all the good things that happen throughout the day and reflecting back at the end of the day. If you get in the habit of focusing on the three negative things that happen during your day while job searching you’re unlikely to notice the six positive things that also happened.

Keep a notepad next to your laptop and write down the previously-mentioned goals and motivations every morning. And then jot down the good things that happen that get you closer to those goals– even if it’s as simple as “I got out of bed today and took a shower!”.

Eventually these lists will go from “I applied to 7 jobs today and got retweeted by an industry expert!” to “I negotiated an extra 4 vacation days into the contract at my fabulous new job!”

Focus on the positives. Learn from the negatives.

Beware of social media

Erik Lucatero

Credit: Erik Lucatero

“Don’t compare your behind the scenes with other people’s musicals.”

If I knew where I first encountered this saying I’d happily give the person who wrote it credit– but I can’t recall. It’s the perfect analogy for how we experience our own lives and view the lives of others on social media.

While you’re sitting there in your underwear considering applying to a job that pays less than your first job out of college, it’s easy to pull up Instagram or Facebook and start comparing.

Your old coworker just bought a new boat. Your ex-boyfriend is backpacking through Cambodia. Your friendly rival from college has two cute kids and makes a killer living writing a smoothie blog.

But that’s what they’re sharing. For better or worse (probably for worse), we’ve all become quite good at being our own highly self-aware PR agencies, posting only curated content that gives us the most Pinterest-looking lives possible. What you’re not seeing on Facebook or Instagram from these same people are their struggles– and they surely have them.

Your buddy with the boat? Maybe he bought the boat with an inheritance from a close family member who passed away and he’d much rather have them back than the boat. Your ex-boyfriend? Maybe he’s having a really tough time with homesickness. Your friendly rival? Maybe their kids were up with the stomach flu last night.

This is the behind-the-scenes stuff nobody shares.

So while you’re sitting on your couch either unemployed, underemployed or unhappily employed, realize that these people have bad days and struggles exactly like you do; a quick audit of your own social media feed of fabulous times with less than fun back stories prove my point. We all do it.

Help others

For a variety of reasons, helping others is hugely beneficial for our mental health and well-being.

During a job search it can feel most important to put the oxygen mask on yourself before helping others. It’s wise to spend time on your search and make sure you’re not diluting your time with distractions, but if you’re feeling down helping others may be the solution.

There are plenty of volunteer opportunities, whether it means delivering meals to seniors through Meals on Wheels or mentoring a more junior person in your field. Stopping by to chat with a sick neighbor and offering to do their grocery shopping could make a world of difference– for both of you.

Try putting an offer out on social media asking people how you might be able to help them. See what happens. I’m confident nobody has ever helped another person without feeling more positive.

Here’s the good news

A job search isn’t an end, a failure or a death sentence. It’s a change of plans, a fresh start and an opportunity to take control of your life.

It’s quite rare when we can step back, look at the future and have such a direct ability of shaping what comes next. We live in a time of direct access to people all over the world, tools and opportunities that make traditional employment unnecessary and you don’t need to be a well-connected Ivy League grad to find a job.

With the right tools, strategies and attitude it’s very possible you’ll look back at this transition as one of the defining (and best) forks in the road life presented to you.


Featured image credit: rawpixel.com