How to Stand Out in the Digital Crowd

Posted on June 11, 2010

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Here’s my latest post for Digital Pivot:

In a good economy, we’re told it is essential to stand out among the job-hunting crowd. In today’s economy, it’s even more of a necessity as graduates enter the workforce and compete for available jobs. Here are three creative ways to help you offer up your experience.

Do what you know

Alec Brownstein landed his dream job with creativity, Google AdWords, and $6. When five top creative directors in New York Googled themselves, they got a witty message from the 29-year-old now famous job searcher which read: “Hey [creative director’s name], Googling yourself is a lot of fun. Hiring me is fun, too.” The ad linked to Brownstein’s site, alecbrownstein.com. Eventually, all but one of the shops called Brownstein. The bold move landed him two awards and two job offers. He is now a senior copywriter at Young & Rubicam.

When asked if this move is creepy, Brownstein’s boss, Scott Vitrone, responded saying he was impressed and thought of the effort as cheeky. He said a partner of his initially came across the ad and encouraged Vitrone to Google himself to check out someone “who’s trying to talk to [him].” Vitrone thought of the ad as “beautifully simple” and called Brownstein in for an interview. He adds that Brownstein did what “we try to do for our clients every day. We’re trying to engage the consumer … He was really kind of displaying what our people do here every day.”

Brownstein is a perfect case study. Bold moves definitely get you in the door, but even as Vitrone explained, you have to back it up. Brownstein had the work to back up the ad. Regarding his experience, Brownstein lends advice to job searchers: “Be targeted …  decide who you want to work for and where you want to work, and then don’t be afraid to put yourself out there in an interesting way to communicate to those people.”

After all, he adds, “It’s not like they can fire you. You don’t work for them yet.”

Although this route won’t work for everyone, it goes to show how taking creative risks in your field can lead you to the opportunities of your dreams.

Participate in workshops

In her daily resource for PR professionals, Sarah Evans, better known as PR Sarah Evans to her growing community of 40,000, often highlights workshop posts. Her newsletter #Commentz includes five of the day’s newsworthy bites, one of which usually is a workshop. This week, she links to CBS’ latest coverage on BP’s latest PR mess amid the oil spill and asks readers for their thoughts on the BP CEO offering an apology via Facebook. Readers who respond use the hashtag #Commentz to follow up with thoughts, questions, concerns, and solutions.

Job seekers who take advantage of these opportunities to offer their thoughts or join Twitter chats like #journchat, which Sarah Evans moderates, increase their exposure among employers. These opportunities could also lead participants to flesh out their thoughts in blog posts and help establish them as experts in their field. Providing real solutions and case studies for current issues or problems allows job seekers to fill the employment gaps much like students fill their portfolios.

Assume an identity

Job applicants can take it a step further and develop a scenario where they assume the identity of a prospective employer or fictitious attacker. The now anonymous and infamous voice behind Twitter handle @BPGlobalPR has gained more than 100,000 followers and counting as it humorously bashes the oil giant on its role in the spill. Some tweets read as follows:

“Just got the concession call from Exxon Valdez. They were great competitors and remarkably evil about everything.” #bpwins! May 27

“@BarackObama – Mr. President, would you like to buy a free $25 ‘bp cares’ t-shirt?” www.streetgiant.bigcartel.com for www.healthygulf.org May 27

“As part of our continued re-branding effort, we are now referring to the spill as ‘Shell Oil’s Gulf Coast Disaster.'” #bpcares June 1

As media speculated the true identity of the tweeter, @BPGlobalPR sent out a press release revealing him or herself as Leroy Stick. In the blog post, the person behind the name explains the purpose: “If someone is terrorizing your neighborhood, sometimes it’s alright to grab a stick and take a swing. Social media, and in this particular case Twitter, has given average people like me the ability to use and invent all sorts of brand new sticks.”

Although this is an extreme example, the vocal persona has captured incredible attention over the past couple weeks and arguably has successfully created an anti-brand campaign by poking at the “BP Cares” tagline. Job seekers could take note by creating scenarios where people carry big “sticks” to attack a brand or product of interest and then show how he or she would respond to such a scenario.

On the other hand, someone might also take note by backing into a social responsibility idea by assuming an anti-brand identity. While BP has some cleaning up to do, the person behind @BPGlobalPR could attract some social media job offers.

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