March Consultant of the Month
With career beginnings in the Marine Corps, Alex Cwalinski now serves in the marketing industry as an SEO and link building expert. Working from Boise, Idaho has given him a fulfilling balance of interesting work at Intuit and enjoyment of home improvement and beautiful surroundings.
What are you currently working on?
I primarily work with Intuit QuickBooks on offsite SEO and link building – getting other websites to like our content so much that they link back to our pages. That means creating really good content or reaching out to other non-competitive, larger companies that have us write articles for them.
Alex's Keys to Success
- Using military benefits for education
- Engaging in different roles to find the right fit
- Delving into a hot industry early on
- Leveraging keywords in hyper-targeted job searches
What was your favorite project to work on or work you are most proud of? Why?
When I first started at Intuit, a supervisor asked for my help to improve their numbers with link building. Thankfully I already had experience with the software they were using so I knew my way around it. There are thousands of websites that have mentioned QuickBooks but don’t link to it. All I had to do was ask them to link back to our page and surprisingly they were receptive. My boss was super happy and bought me a nice bottle of scotch; it felt very rewarding.
What path did you take to become a consultant?
I joined the Marine Corps when I was 18 and got deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Eventually, I got qualified for Force Reconnaissance, a special operations unit. Then I realized I couldn’t keep doing this – it was dangerous. I had older colleagues that had issues with their knees and backs. I had to get foot surgery before I got out of the military.
Using the GI Bill, I went to UC Berkeley. I was interested in podcasting and audio journalism and did an internship at KQED, San Francisco. That was fun, but so fast paced. In a newsroom, you had to be working on three stories at the same time and have five waiting to come up. I decided it wasn’t for me, so I moved to Boise, Idaho to look for remote jobs.
I discovered SEO and started to educate myself on it. I read about it for hours and hours online. In 2015 when the industry was still new, I found a job doing offsite SEO, content marketing, and link building. I got on that bandwagon early on and built a few years of experience, then found the opportunity to work as a consultant for Intuit. I absolutely love it there.
What do you love about consulting?
I like the title and the flexibility it gives me. I like being on a contract with a very clear role, instead working for one place for an indefinite period of time. I love the people I work with. I love being independent, but being part of a team and advising them. Every time your contract comes up, it gives you an opportunity to ask for a raise or benefits. Everything's negotiable.
What has been your biggest challenge about being a consultant? How have you addressed it?
With big companies, there are lots of stages of approval needed for projects. If you have an idea, you have to run it through the proper channels. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out who to contact. When I first got to Intuit, I was constantly asking people tons of questions. It was definitely a learning curve. At this point, I know exactly who to reach out for, so the process is much quicker.
How do you market yourself?
Primarily LinkedIn – I keep my profile more updated than my resume. When I have applied for jobs, I've honed in on one or two and gave it my all. In my first marketing job, my employer said she got over 500 applications. She first deleted the ones with no cover letter, dropping it down to 100. Next, she threw out the people who didn't cater their cover letters to that specific job, which left eight applications. It's important to focus on their keywords and use them in your resume, because it’s so easy to apply for jobs now and companies use software to sift through applications.
What are the things you like to do when the work slows down?
I look for opportunities for link building, such as exploring different keywords and variations of words. I nerd out using Ahrefs, online software that collects data on websites and keyword searches. I like to search other small business websites to see what they're working on, what they need help with, and finding easy win opportunities for them.
Currently, I’m remodeling my house, which is never ending. It was a fixer-upper and I'm doing flooring and painting. I like to read, go hiking and skiing.
What’s one tip you would give to new consultants?
In your LinkedIn settings, turn on the button to notify recruiters that you are available for hire. Add people you know on LinkedIn to build your connections out. Keep your LinkedIn up-to-date, for the industry that you want to get into. Focus on what's new and cutting edge in that field – learn about it, ask people for tips, and put those keywords in your profile.