In 2011, Amos Haffner was looking for a new gig. A creative marketer with years of experience, he decided to update his resumé—but not in the traditional way. Instead of just updating his work experience and objective, he gave the entire document a visual makeover, turning it into an infographic. At a time when infographics were hitting their renaissance, the move was bold—and it paid off. His infographic resumé went viral, getting attention not only from his peers but from the larger marketing community.
Haffner has since updated his resumé, as you can see below, but he hasn’t slowed down on the unique self-promotion front. We caught up with him to chat about how to embrace self-promotion and tap into your creative inspiration.
You gained recognition for your first infographic resumé back in 2011, a time when infographics as a visual medium were exploding. Were you worried that the idea wasn’t going to land?
I remember getting halfway through the design process after concepting my first infographic resumé and sharing it with a few people who were close to me and them responding one of two ways. 1) “WOW! This is amazing. I’ve never seen anything like this.” 2) “Why are you spending so much time on that? It’s too left field. No hiring manager or recruiter will know what to do with it.” But I knew the conviction I initially felt to go about my career transition in a creatively authentic way was going to work.
Why do you think people responded so well?
Anyone hiring for a role needs that role met to help solve a business problem they are experiencing. But, more than that, they want a relationship along the way with another human. My brand position of being a “Center-Brained Marketeer” (note the extra e—because it’s more fun that way) was brought to life more fully with the development of that infographic resumé. It spelled out the more obvious career experience bits but had plenty of my personality tidbits interposed throughout. It even had a music track embedded for people to listen to while they perused it. (The only downside was file size.)
What were the most significant results you saw because of the resumé?
Quantitatively: My site traffic went bonkers! Specifically, I saw a bump by 5,200% in the first week after I launched the original amoshaffner.com. I also got every meeting I asked for—100% of them! Qualitatively: In the five years since that first infographic resumé, I’ve learned the piece has been featured in three college courses. There are creative and business leaders I very much respect in Indianapolis who still talk about it as “the bar” for all others.
We all know marketing is necessary, yet so many people struggle when it comes to marketing themselves. How do you recommend someone get over that struggle?
Get objective, which will be very difficult. Talk to people who know you in weekday and weekend circles. What value do you bring? What problems do you solve? What do you want to do in your career? (If you don’t know, you might even try to dabble in some different kinds of contract work.) View yourself as a product you’re marketing, and take yourself to market.
If you’re between jobs, keep a disciplined schedule—even more so than when you were actively employed. If you used to work out in the mornings, keep doing that. But don’t go overboard if you’re an achiever. You still need rest on the other side of that coin.
Lastly, invite others on the journey with you. Think about how much power there is in bands hitting the road together. Even in the movie The Incredible Journey those two dogs and cat had each other!
What do you consider to be the biggest dos and don’ts of self-promotion?
In addition to the dos above, know how you’re going to promote yourself, especially if you’re taking a unique approach. For example, when I moved into my latest career transition I did a few things:
- I let my local network (tier one) know what I was up to and how they could help immediately.
- I started having meetings while I was getting my new materials together, including amoshaffner.com and my updated infographic resumé.
- I hit the next tier of my network once the site was updated and started watching my digital analytics (social shares, traffic via GA, goal conversions on downloads, etc.).
- I followed up with recruiters who’d reached out to me in the past.
Currently, I’m having multiple meetings and phone calls per day while providing my network updates via email and text. And, of course, I’m keeping active on social media but not being overly self-promotional. Though I’ve not activated a paid social campaign, I plan to serve retargeting ads to folks who’ve visited my website but did not click on my CTA for my infographic resumé. (Note: Make certain all your social profiles are consistent with your personal brand/career campaign in both language and design.)
That said, do not:
- Try to be all things to all people.
- Go after a next step that is wildly below or above your level of experience.
- Try to be someone else.
- Annoy your network by badgering them for too much aid.
- Be impatient.
Describe your marketing philosophy.
Know your customer’s pains better than anyone else. The best marketing strategy and creative storytelling starts there, stays there, and finds its best future there.
You describe yourself as center-brained. How does that influence your creative work?
Like ivy to a trellis, I’m a creative marketeer who appreciates process. Creative needs guard rails, and process needs grace. Design is lost without strategy, yet data is lost without strategic interpretation resulting in good UX, which can be improved through conversion rate optimization.
Marketing technology will keep evolving. Customer expectations will continue shifting. But everything communicates. Everything. Even saying nothing says something. I believe the best forms of communication involve deep research paired with inspiring creative output and effective promotion in a given market.
Where do you get your creative inspiration, and what do you do to get unstuck?
I actually wrote a blog post that goes into more detail on this topic as it pertains to great design. But, if I really have to boil it down, it’s three things: curiosity, humility, and observation.
Curiosity: There are almost always more questions. Just ask any toddler. (But you’re not as cute as one, so don’t overdo it.)
Humility: Always collaborate—even just to bounce ideas. Remember: Just because you’ve done it before doesn’t mean somebody else can’t help it become better, or that you can’t better it yourself this time around.
Observation: You are surrounded by inspiration all the time. In nature. In your industry. Outside your industry. In music. In your sleep. The best advice is to trap the inspiration ahead of when you need it. Write it down. Sketch it. Evernote it. Voice memo it. Field note it. Pin it. Don’t forget it. Your various inspirations will be readily available when the time comes for them to be called upon.
What’s one piece of advice that changed your life?
“Give expecting nothing in return.” My infographic resumé returned the results that it did because I’d also worked hard and with integrity in the same market for a decade. The “network” I’d unknowingly built rushed to my aid like an overwhelming wave of gratitude. Genuinely caring about people and the value of relationships (in business and personally—but why is there really a separation?) is all the quality stuff life’s about.
In fact, I’m leaving right now to meet a college student who’s interested in going into marketing. There is slim to no chance I’ll “get” anything from the conversation. But, man, I’d have loved to have had access to a 37-year-old marketing professional when I was 20.
Also, be present. Career transitions are a tempting time to be overly fixated on what’s happened in the past or what you want in the future. All the while, you can forget to live in the now. If you’re still in a job and seeking the next step, don’t forget you’re being paid to work where you are, to provide value where you are. If you’re between jobs and actively looking for the next thing, be fully invested in the coffee meeting you’re having without checking your email to see if the recruiter finally wrote you back.
Quite practically, in a moment of conviction recently I tore myself away from making some modifications on the back end of my site to go play basketball with my 7-year-old, who’d just arrived home from school and was surprised I was home. He needed me more than the padding around my CTAs needed to be adjusted.
For more tips from Haffner, visit amoshaffner.com.
Like this? You might also enjoy these:
- Gemma O’Brien, the queen of handlettering, talks about all things typography
- Geert “Gene” Nellens tells us why he created the infographic video game Metrico
- Ryan Rumboldt reflects on the future of motion graphics