Earning a leg up doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.
While it’s a good practice to be vocal about your accomplishments in job interviews and cover letters, not every certificate, trophy or accolade is going impress to employers.
The most important thing to know when thinking of paying for a supposed résumé booster is that price is not always commensurate to the return on investment. There are no guarantees that costly courses, certifications or even graduate degrees are going to translate into better job opportunities.
With free techniques, all you risk is your time.
Here are six ways to distinguish yourself without spending a dime:
1. Get certified in Google AdWords/Analytics.
You can earn certification for these important advertising and metrics tools by studying for the two tests, which are free. Best of all, you can pass without ever having seen an AdWords or Analytics account, though experience certainly helps. Certification is valid for a year.
2. Get certified in social media advertising.
Facebook Blueprint teaches you how to use different Facebook tools available to marketers. Courses are bite-sized and categorized according to difficulty.
Will it help an employer make money, and therefore get you hired? You bet. Organic Facebook reach gets you just about nowhere these days, so a firm grasp of Facebook’s tools is a good way to set yourself apart from a competitor.
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3. Contribute to an industry publication.
Publications like Huffington Post or PR Daily will take guest submissions from the general populace. Don’t know what to write about? Draw from firsthand experiences. Here are three subject lines that freshmen in the workforce can pull off:
- Why I decided not to take a summer internship
- 3 false assumptions marketers make about Generation Z
- 5 PR practices that are ripe for disruption
You can even be whimsical, such as one of the most-clicked PR Daily stories of all time: 39 ways to close your emails.
Whatever you write about, be authentic to yourself. A good rule of thumb is to get acquainted with the publication’s content before pitching, and to follow these guidelines.
4. Teach yourself a skill.
The good news for most new professionals is they already have a certain amount of intuition when it comes to social media and the internet. The bad news is, so does everyone they’re competing against.
If you’re looking for a new skill that’s incredibly relevant and a little more unique, try Canva. PR and communications pros swear by Canva because it makes graphic-design amateurs look like they invented the artform.
Creating amazing graphics for your portfolio is an easy way to wow, and listing Canva as a skill will qualify you to take something from someone else’s workload. It’s a lot less technical than learning Photoshop, too, though there are free ways to learn that platform, as well.
5. Cold-email someone in the industry.
Most professionals are surprisingly accessible, and many are willing to answer unsolicited emails. Sending one an email asking for a phone call, coffee meeting or written advice to a specific problem is a perfectly acceptable way of building inroads.
Just ask these professional speechwriters how they got their first gig.
A6 (cont’d) #RaganChat: Perhaps most practically—cold email writers you admire. Speechwriting can be a tough field to break into, but most writers are eager to help young strivers out. I got my first opportunity at DOJ mainly via pestering.
— Dan Cluchey (@dancluchey) January 2, 2018
Cold emails have worked for me, too. #RaganChat
— Nate O. (@n8o) January 2, 2018
6. Participate in Twitter chats.
There are boatloads of worthy Twitter chats, including #BufferChat, #CisionChat, #BrandChat, #ContentChat, #RaganChat and more. Getting regularly involved will increase your name recognition in the industry.
If you’re graduating this year, there’s no day like today to get started on these initiatives. If you’re already an established pro, these practices could give you the boost you need to forge ahead in your career.
Ragan/PR Daily readers, what would you add to this list?