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5 Lessons I Learned From Failing

Life lessons come in all shapes and sizes. The greatest lessons I ever learned were the ones that came from failure. It forced me to analyze the direction my life was going and to take an honest look at how I was presenting myself. Here are 5 lessons I learned from failing over and over again.

Lesson 1:

Your resume leaves a crucial first impression.

failureWhen I first started sending out resumes after I moved to LA I thought I was going to get hired to be the CEO of Google in no time. How can somebody NOT hire me. Look at these qualifications!! Boy was I in for a rude awakening. Little did I know that my resume was working against me. Sending out resumes can be super daunting, especially when you have to write custom cover letters. I probably sent out 60+ resumes before I finally got a call back. That is a terrible ROI to say the least. Things didn’t turn around until my resume landed on the desk of a job hunter that sifts through resumes for a living. She called me and said, “This resume is horrible, you really send it out like this?” It was definitely an ego bruiser. The qualifications were great but the way it was presented was terrible. She had me change the font, adjust the headers and make it all fit nicely on 1 page. After I made these tweaks I started getting call backs left and right. What I realized is that it doesn’t matter how qualified you are for any job. If your resume looks bad, YOU look bad. It seems simple enough, but I wasn’t being honest with myself. I really thought my resume was amazing. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. Your best bet is to find a job hunter to look over your resume and offer some free advice. It’ll save you a lot of time and effort in the long run. Perception is everything.

Lesson 2:

Companies interview people to acquire free information.

I would say that roughly 30% of the interviews I went on were merely companies trying to squeeze me for free information that would help their current SEO efforts. This is super common but it took me awhile to figure out what was going on. After interviewing with dozens of companies I started to see the same patterns. It was the head of marketing or SEO department asking questions like:

“How would you optimize a page like this?”
“What are your best link building tactics?”
“Which keywords would you focus on for my industry?”
“How would you acquire good links in our industry?”
“How would you boost our social media following through SEO?”

If you see somebody fiercely jotting down notes after every answer, it’s pretty safe to say they are trying to drain you for information. What I started to do was to give vague answers to some of these questions to see how they would react. Based on their reaction, I would know whether or not they were trying to use me to their benefit. If they REALLY try to dig for details, that is a dead giveaway. Nobody that is looking to hire you will ask those kinds of detailed questions in a job interview. Give solid answers but don’t be super detailed. If you feel them getting annoyed at your vague answers, it’s time to walk.

Lesson 3:

Honest answers are better than perfect answers.

I used to always try to give the perfect answers when getting interviewed. I was interviewed so many times that I thought I had the answer to everything. When a question would come up that I didn’t know the answer to, I would try to make up a solution that made sense instead of admitting that I had no idea what I was talking about. Looking back now I realize that if I didn’t know something, I should have just been honest about it. It wasn’t like it was going to make or break me. It’s ok not to know EVERYTHING they are asking questions about. If they think you are a fast talker or bullshitter they will pass on you. Simple stating, “I’m not sure about that, but it’s something I should definitely look into” is better than going off the cuff with some BS answer. It makes you look like a used car salesman or politician when you try to make up answers that you think will make them happy. Showing that you don’t know something says a lot about you. It says that you can admit when you are wrong or unsure, and that you aren’t a know-it-all. Nobody wants to work with a know-it-all. It doesn’t make for a good team member.

Lesson 4:

The more you interview the better!

One of the most important things I took away from doing so many interviews was that it made me into the ultimate pitch master that I am today. Closing leads is one of the most important factors to building your business. There’s no question that delivering quality work is the single MOST important factor to your business and reputation but if you can’t close leads then how will you ever prove your worth as an SEO provider? Interviewing in this industry prepared me for all the questions that potential clients might ask. At this point, I’ve literally heard everything. The biggest common denominator that applies to any client is that you are there to help them make more money. It’s not about traffic all the time, it’s about conversion optimization and helping boost their revenue any way possible. Do that for them, and you’ll have a client for life.

Lesson 5:

Never give up!

One of my favorite quotes is “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” -Winston Churchill

I thought I finally got my big break when I interviewed with an Inc. 500 company that is one of the largest internet marketing firms in all of Los Angeles. These guys were awesome! They had a great office space, full benefits, stock options, and most importantly, credibility.  At this point I was broke, and at $42k a year as an SEO account manager, it seemed like a million dollars. I saw myself coming in and kicking ass for these guys because I was hungry and driven to succeed. I left the interview feeling like I absolutely nailed it, as I do most times. They saw it differently. They sent me the standard rejection email and I was pretty devastated. A few months later the same position opened up again and I immediately applied for it. I got a second interview with them and failed AGAIN. Who gets rejected twice for the same job?? ME, that’s who. When I got rejected for the 2nd time by the same company it was heartbreaking. I felt like such a loser but it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. After getting rejected again, I made the decision to start my own company. It was a defining moment for my career. I realized that I needed to take matters into my own hands and stop relying on other people to build my future for me. In 1 year I went from zero to six figures by MYSELF! I did the research, writing, on-site, link building, managing, selling and closing of every single lead. Who really missed out in the end? Not this guy.

Failing is a part of life and nobody has failed at business more than me. I’ve started over 75+ sites that created zero revenue before I found my niche. I should have given up so many times but my entrepreneurial spirit always pushed me to brush myself off and keep trying. It shaped me into who I am today. I may be a college dropout and a jazz musician that never made it, but I’m not afraid to be a failure. If you don’t give yourself a chance to fail, you’ll never know what it’s like to succeed.

Ryan Bartlett

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