076: Career Acceleration with Comparably’s Jason Nazar

By October 24, 2016Podcasts

 

Comparably co-founder and CEO Jason Nazar shines a light on employer and employee best practices.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Two big mistakes that are stopping you from advancing in your career
  2. Guidance in your search for finding and keeping mentors
  3. Two transformational questions that you should ask yourself everyday

About Jason
Jason Nazar is one of the most active tech entrepreneurs and investors in southern California, and is a popular contributor for Wall Street Journal, Forbes, INC, and Business Insider. He’s founder/CEO of Comparably, an online platform that makes workplace compensation and culture dramatically more transparent. Prior to Comparably, he founded Docstoc — the largest small business content site with over 50 million members — before he sold it to Intuit in 2013 for a reported $50M. Named one of the most admired CEOs by the Los Angeles Business Journal, Jason is currently Entrepreneur in Residence for the City of Los Angeles, appointed by Mayor Garcetti.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Jason Nazar Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Jason, thanks so much for being here on the How To Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Jason Nazar
Thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I just have to know first things first about your experience as a stage hypnotist. How did that come about, how much experience did you have, and is hypnosis for real?

Jason Nazar
Hypnosis is definitely for real. It may not be exactly what people think it is. It’s not mind control but it’s persuasion. I’ve always been fascinated by persuasion. I write and speak about it a lot, and I read a book in high school about hypnosis. Then when I was 18 in college, I saw a stage hypnosis show for the first time and I just really wanted to understand how it worked because I didn’t know why these classmates of mine were getting up and doing all these crazy things.
Obviously, there was some real experience, and so when I was graduating college, I started taking seminars and reading more books on hypnosis. Then just casually some friends asked me if I could do a stage hypnosis show at a fraternity at UCLA and I said yes, really having no idea how to do one.
It kind of worked and then I just started doing more of them when I was 21, and all I did about probably 40 stage hypnosis shows at every major college, university across California. It’s not something that I think was my life’s ambition but it was a really fascinating life experience and it taught me a lot about the fundamentals of persuasion.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, if I may, could you drop one or two or three bullets about those fundamentals picked up from stage hypnosis?

Jason Nazar
Absolutely. First off, all of hypnosis is focused attrition with a specific intention. Hypnosis is the exact same physiological state as when you’re daydreaming, right? When you’re daydreaming, there’s maybe stuff going on behind you in the background. People are talking but you wouldn’t necessarily remember what they were saying because your mind is going somewhere. That’s all hypnosis is except you do it with a specific intention.
The reason why stage hypnosis shows work is because you do a lot of qualification and you control the context of the environment, and those are two big principles of persuasion. So when I say you control the context, you control the environment like you’re creating an environment where people are specifically wanting to come to a stage hypnosis show and they’re implicitly wanting to follow your directions because they want to be entertained.
The second thing is that you qualify your audience. It’s a numbers game. For me to do a stage hypnosis shows successfully, typically I would need about at least 50 people on the audience, so a lot of times I have 500. I start off every show by asking one very important question, which is, “Who here wants to get a little crazy tonight and have fun?” The people that raise their hand are self-selecting the fact, they’re implicitly saying, “I want to be hypnotized.” Then when you start to take them through a trance and you do different games, you have their implicit permission to start and later on you get their explicit permission. That’s a really important thing.
The third principle, which people can definitely use in their careers is a very strong principle of how you help convert people into any product sale is you impregnate people in the process. You get small commitments upfront. Then as somebody commits to something more and more and more, they feel more embedded and more pressured to do the large commitments.
That’s the essence of how stage hypnosis show works. You control the context. You self-select the audience through a series of questions, and then you get people to make small commitments before you ask them to make larger commitments. Those principles are the same principles I use when I raise tens of millions of dollars in venture capital, when I try to promote my products and services, when I teach people how they can negotiate for better salaries, get promotions in their job.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so good. That’s so good. I’m curious about one particular commitment you have right now. You are the entrepreneur in residence for the City of Los Angeles. What does that entail exactly?

Jason Nazar
Eric Garcetti, who is the mayor of Los Angeles, is just a fantastic person, a great mayor, and he really did a lot of outreach to the tech community and wanted to support businesses in general and especially fast-growing tech companies. I think he modeled what you see in a lot of venture capital firms where they have this concept of entrepreneur in residence.
For the city, what it means is there are two entrepreneurs in residence for a given year. It’s myself and Eva Ho and our responsibilities are twofold: one, we are really there to liaison between the city and entrepreneurs all across Los Angeles through the city office and entrepreneurs all across Los Angeles. The second is we are each doing a large project for the year, so in my case, we’re going to put on the largest tech job fair in the history of Los Angeles.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Jason Nazar
We’ll have hundreds of companies. We’ll have thousands of jobseekers. It’s going to be in January 2017, and you can go to my blog, jasonnazar.com, there is a link to the job fair. It will be totally free to attend for jobseekers, so you can just sign up and so that’s what the entrepreneurs in residence entails.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That’s cool. And so you’re currently though, your kind of primary role keeping you busy day in day out is being the CEO of Comparably. So tell us what’s that business about and a little bit of the ethos associated with compensation and culture data becoming more transparent firm by firm.

Jason Nazar
Absolutely. I’ve been running tech companies for the past decade. I’m 38 now. I started my first tech company when I was coming out of law school in my mid 20s. Comparably was all about trying to make work more rewarding, so what we do is we make compensation and workplace culture dramatically more transparent.
We help people see how much they should be getting paid. You can see exactly what people like you are getting for similar jobs and you can publicly rate your company. It’s anonymous, so your identity is not given up. The theory is that our belief and our mission is that we want to make work more transparent. We want employees to be more empowered. We want you to understand what you should be getting paid, what kind of experience you’re having relative to your peers, and that makes it better for everybody. It makes it better for the employees. It makes it better for the companies.
What we’re doing at Comparably is we’re really the job monitoring service for millions of employees. We monitor the job market for you and tell you about comp culture. Pretty soon, we’re also going to help people get matched to companies, so we’ll have a solution where we can help match candidates and companies around recruiting as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Interesting. And so what are some of the pieces that you have sort of at the present in your business technological operation that might be a little bit unique and fresh and different from say the pay scale and glass doors of the world?

Jason Nazar
We built this entire product because we try to be different and better. We felt there had not been a lot of innovation. On the compensation side, we have some of most specific data you’re going to find. It’s completely free for employees. It’s free for employers as well. You can just get such a specific level, so you can say, “I want to see how much people like me make in a similar-sized company and in the same location for the same job title. I want to break down that data by gender, by ethnicity, by years of experience of the candidate, by how much money a company has raised.” You can apply all these characteristics, so you can really, really see what somebody like you in a very similar situation and a very similar background is making so you can really understand your market value.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Jason Nazar
On the company-rating side, we actually focus more on survey-structured data than we do on written reviews. I think there are a lot of people out there that have amassed a lot of written reviews and I think that’s valuable. But if you go to comparably.com, you can just really see at a glance. Go to Microsoft, or LinkedIn, or Google, and you can see a whole bunch of snapshots of what people think about their compensation and leadership and their perks and benefits.
You don’t have to read a bunch of reviews. You can just look at the data and you can see how it breaks down by department and experience of candidates. It provides companies a lot more detailed thorough feedback, and we’re not trying to be a place where disgruntled, angry employees go just to vent about their company. We really want to provide a platform where it’s really fast and easy to leave a review and rating and it’s transparent for your coworkers and prospective employees, but companies also get the benefit of really detailed thorough feedback that helps them pinpoint specifically where they need to get better as organizations.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so, so fascinating. Can you share a couple of kind of insights, or themes, or patterns that you’ve already been able to discern and some key transformations that have started to happen as a result?

Jason Nazar
We publish a lot of data. If you go to comparably.com and you go our blog, you’ll see all sorts of studies that we do on the gender pay gap and on negotiations and who’s been promoted. We really just six months in to being a live product have amassed literally millions of millions of data points.
For example, we broke down the gender pay gap. We have one of the most comprehensive studies of what’s going on with the gender pay gap in tech.
There were really some fascinating findings. The gender pay gap for example is most pronounced with women that are just entering the workforce, so it’s right as you come in. It’s younger employees that are affected most. Then we also break it down by cities. We can show the cities where it’s most pronounced. For example, Atlanta has one of the largest disparities when it comes to gender pay gap. These are the kinds of insights on a macro level that we’re able to publish. We’re almost like on a weekly basis either featured in Fortune, Forbes, or Business Insider, or TechCrunch sharing our compensation and culture data, what’s going in the market.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so fascinating, so fascinating. Since you probably know about this better than most humans on the planet, I’m just going to ask with the gender pay gap, people will come out on kind of both sides of that with regard to 77 cents on the dollar, and there are those who say, “No, no. If we take a look at folks in the same position working the same hours with the same credentials, etc., it really is quite minor.” So what’s your take on to the extent to which the gender pay gap is how wide is it? Like it’s fair to apples to apples can be with your data analysis and where does it stand right now in your view?

Jason Nazar
The gender pay gap is 100 percent real and I think you see by the figures one of the things that we try to do is to the point that you’re saying just get really specific. So for example in our case, we try to stay focused on the tech industry to start. One of the things that we do is we triangulate gender pay with departments. We thought it would be really fascinating to understand, “Okay. How does pay based upon gender break down when you add this component by departments?”
So for example, like if you look at admin roles, customer service roles, you actually see that in many cases, women are getting paid more than men at least in tech. As you get to the executive level, there is a gender pay gap, but it’s a little bit less pronounced and even within the context of engineering, there is a gender pay gap but it’s not typically a full 25 percent difference. But if you look at roles in marketing or BD, or sales, you see that there is a very large gender pay gap and it does exist. There is that difference in that women getting paid $0.75 for every male $1 getting paid. Then you also see which cities are kind of the worst culprits of it also.
That’s the kind of data that we try to expose and then we try to also add any years of experience and show that as well too. I think the data that we found definitely corroborates it. But I think what we’re trying to do is just make it more specific like where is it really most pronounced, where is it getting better, and those are the kinds of things that I think make the conversation about the topic more valuable because it’s such a raw emotional topic.
I mean one of the reasons we do what we do is because there’s probably two things you care most about work: What you’re getting paid, right, so what you’re being valued for your contribution and the quality of the experience you’re having, so what are you getting out of it, what are you able to contribute to society, what are you able to learn as an individual, what are your career advancement opportunities.
Pay is such a raw emotional topic especially in the United States. It’s so taboo. That’s why we started Comparably because you could ask me and you could ask me and I will answer. But we could probably in this podcast talk about like the diseases that people in our family are facing and serious emotional challenges we’ve gone through, ask me really private things, and it wouldn’t seem that odd. But if I came out and I said, “Hey, how much money do you make in a year, Pete?” You would really think that I was an asshole.
It’s because the topic is infused with so much emotion and taboo and so it’s understandable that you know when there’s any class of people whether it’s women, or ethnic minorities or anything else that are getting paid less, it’s going to be fraught with emotion. Part of what we’re trying to do is address that and have great data to explain, “Hey! Here’s what’s actually going on in the market and here is what you should be getting paid.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well excellent. thank you, and so I’d love to hear. You’ve also done a whole lot of great writing and interviews and such about in terms of your career perspectives for young professionals, and it’s just so great to have you here. One in particular, you wrote a Forbes article about fatal mistakes we’re making at work. I would love to get your take either from that article or some new epiphanies you’ve had. What are do you believe some of the most commonly arising fatal mistakes we’re making at work that we need to stop?

Jason Nazar
Well, I try to write things that people tend to have strong opinions to whether they really agree or they really strongly disagree. One of the things I say is a big mistake at work is acting like yourself. What I mean by that is if you’re someone that’s driven, if you’re ambitious, and if you want to move forward in your career, then it’s not about the fact that you’re not good enough, but wherever we are, there’s someone else that’s done more.

I’ve often coached my employees and I say, “Take your business mentor, whoever your business mentor would be, and act as if, act like that person. How would they conduct themselves in the meeting, how would they communicate, how would they deal with deliverables, how would they write, how would they dress themselves, and act like that person.” The purpose of the exercise is to try behaviors that push us outside our boundaries. We get so comfortable with what we know.
And so I think one of the mistakes that people make at work is just kind of being yourself, like you don’t challenge or look at what you’re doing and how you could be better. One of the things that the most successful people I’ve ever met do is they act as if they’re already financially successful. They act as if they’re already confident. They act as if they already know the answers. Now that needs to be backed up with a strong sense of ethics and hard work and a desire to get better, but that’s one of the big mistakes I think people make.

Pete Mockaitis
And it rhymes to that little song lyric, which I never really cared for. It’s like, “I don’t want to be anything other than what I’ve been trying to be lately.” I was just like what? What does that even mean and that sounds like a terrible situation in which you’re sort of stuck being in the same zone and not growing. I like what you’re saying that’s e even more kind of contrary to the lyrics was like proactively try to be someone else, see how that goes for you.

Jason Nazar
Yeah. I mean in the context of life being comfortable in your own skin is a really great desirable place for us to be. In the context of career advancement, I think being able to try on the attitudes and behaviors and styles of people that have more success than us is very valuable.

Pete Mockaitis
So good. Another fatal mistake perhaps.

Jason Nazar
Another one I talk about is not making yourself absolutely instrumental to the company. The fact of the matter is if you want to have job security and if you want to put yourself in a position to be able to get promotions and raises, there is one simple way to do it. The way to do it is to make it if you were not at that company tomorrow, shit would just start to break, right?
I can look over my team and I can say, “Well, there are certain people that if they probably didn’t show up tomorrow, things would just kind of keep moving along and we could fill that hole. There are other people that if they didn’t show up, we would be in really deep S.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Jason Nazar
And those are the people that have the most leverage. They (a) have the most job security because if they were gone, the business would suffer, and (b) They often don’t realize they could come to me, if they said, “Hey, I need a promotion, or I need a raise,” they have leverage because they are so critical to the business. What everyone should do in their career is ask yourself like look at what you’re doing for your company and saying, “How indispensable am I?”
Right now, different roles are different. If you’re’ a senior exec, inherently you’re probably more valuable to a company than if you were an entry-level intern. But even within the context that you’re in, whether it’s an entry-level employee or somebody that works in admin, or somebody that works in any department, how critical are you to the goals of that department and relative to your peers that are in similar situations. If you can put yourself in a position where you’re instrumental and indispensable to a company, you have ultimate job security, and you have the most leverage to get promotions and raises.

Pete Mockaitis
That makes complete sense. I have been on the sort of leadership management side of that, and I know I recognize that there are indeed certain people who are just making it happen and you’re just hoping that they’re not on vacation at the wrong time.
And so now you mentioned being in someone else’s skin or pretending that you’re like them and what would they do in this circumstance. You’ve written some other pieces associated with getting and keeping mentors. What are some key takeaways to bear in mind there?

Jason Nazar
With mentors, the first most important thing is like anything else in sales, you have to ask. I give this example that I went to four years of grad school. I got a law degree and an MBA but I was a weird student. I didn’t go to class that often. I didn’t buy books. I rarely studied, but I was constantly networking. I probably asked no less than 50, 5-0, people over 4 years to be my mentor. It’s this weird thing that creates this weird relationship that when you ask somebody to be your mentor, they actually feel indebted to want to go out of their way to help you. And so one is just don’t be bashful about asking people to mentor you. It’s something that on the receiving end, it feels really good to get that kind of complement that somebody cares enough about you and respects and likes you enough that they want to get your knowledge. And the second —

Pete Mockaitis
If I may…

Jason Nazar
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Sorry to jump in but so you asked 50 people. what was your hit rate in terms of how many of them said sure and then they sort of met with you and shared their wisdom and guidance with you?

Jason Nazar
Honestly, 100 percent.

Pete Mockaitis
Whoa!

Jason Nazar
There was never a time I make the joke that there are all these people that were my mentor and they were probably bumping into each other and talking about this mentee they had that they didn’t even know it was the same person. But the flipside of that is it’s not a relationship where you can just take. You have to give. I was drawing on their wisdom and experience and expertise, and so I knew I needed to contribute something.
I wasn’t going to contribute necessarily equally value but the biggest thing had to contribute was my time, and so I would ask everything a person, “What can I do to you out? Is there any project?” I would be on the lookout for news articles that I thought might be interesting to them. If there were a connection that I would make that would be valuable, I try to do it.
And so the key thing about that relationship is even if you’re on the wrong receiving end of being the mentee, go out of your way to try to provide as much value and that person will then do the same in turn for you.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s excellent. And so any other pro tips in terms of having that mentorship relationship being as fruitful as possible?

Jason Nazar
It’s easy to ask somebody to be your mentor. It’s work to keep up the relationship and so a mentor is a unique relationship. It’s kind of like an advisor to a company. You shouldn’t have to rely on that person on a daily or a weekly basis. But you want to be able to call them when you’re going through a big life event whether it’s trying to get a job or take in-between jobs, or trying to figure out how to do something new you haven’t done before and to have the currency that just be able to reach out to somebody. You can’t let 6 months go by and never talk to them and just ask them for something because it then feels like you are a moocher.
Even if it’s just dropping a little line to somebody over email or mention them on Facebook or Twitter, with social these days, or trying to do something. Just if you ask two or three people to be your mentor, make sure you’re communicating with them every other week even if it’s just a quick little text or email or something over Snapchat that you can share with them.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely. Thank you. I also got a real kick out of your popular articles. Boy! It was like 5 million views plus on Twenty Things 20-Year-Olds Don’t Know and I really enjoyed reading many of those. Could you maybe select a couple of those things that you think that also 30- and 40-year-olds seem to forget?

Jason Nazar
Yes. This was a post I wrote on Forbes a couple of years ago that really just went insanely viral, Twenty Things 20-Year-Olds Don’t Get. Oprah re-Tweeted it. Jack Welch re-Tweeted it. I was featured on The Today Show. I think it’s universal knowledge. It’s probably the most pronounced when you’re at the start, and this is really within the lens of career advice.
The biggest one that I think applies to all of life and I try to remind myself all the time is not a limitless commodity. Time is the one treasure that we start off our life with in abundance and everyday that we live, we just lose some of it and we can never get it back. Especially when we’re younger, we always think, “Well, there is time for that later on. There is time for me to start a business later on. There is time for me to get my act together. There is time for me to push harder in my career.”
Then you wake up one day and you realize time was your biggest asset and now it’s your biggest enemy. Within the context for example of entrepreneurship, I know a lot of people that say they plan to and they want to start a business. Let me tell you, it gets a lot harder in your 30s. It gets a lot harder in your 40s. Once you get married if you get married, and once you have kids if you’re going to have kids, and you have a mortgage and you have car payments, it makes it more difficult. When you’re 21 years old and all your friends are already poor like you and you don’t have any money, and you’re already in debt because of student loans, that’s a great time to try to start a company because you have nowhere to go but up.
You can keep trying over and over and over again in your 20s. I mean how many people do you know, how many people do you have on your podcast, Pete, where they didn’t really kind of find their career until they were 28, 29, 30, 31. They tried all these different things, and they kind of got it together as they got closer to 30. Well if you can have as many swings at the plate as possible in your 20s, the biggest thing that you could imagine, that’s how you have a lot of success.
Just everybody takes time for granted. We always think there’s going to be more time to be with the people we love and to get healthier and to do the things professionally we want to do. Nobody ever ends life saying, “You know what, I had enough time to do everything I ever wanted to do.” Like show me that person and that’s probably the luckiest person we’ll ever get to meet.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s powerful. Thank you. Well, Jason, you tell me is there anything else you want to make sure we get to cover off before we shift gears and hear some of your fast faves?

Jason Nazar
Just I would really encourage your listeners go check out comparably.com. I would love to get the feedback from folks. It’s a product that we really think is going to help a lot of people. If you just want to very quickly be able to see how much you should be getting paid, if you want to see how your coworkers rate your company, if you want to be able to get access to get the absolute best jobs and job offers for doing the least amount of work that you’ve ever have to do and be able to keep your identity anonymous. It’s a great platform.

I’m an easy guy to find. I’m @jasonnazar on Twitter. My blog is jasonnazar.com. You can email me at jasonnazar@comparably.com. You will see a pattern here. I’m not that creative, and so I love your feedback.

Pete Mockaitis
Perfect. Thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
Hopefully you’ll get some good amounts.

Jason Nazar
I’m sure I will.

Pete Mockaitis
And so then could you start us off by sharing your favorite quote?

Jason Nazar
Theodore Roosevelt, Man in the Arena, “It’s not the critic who counts, but the person in the arena.” My absolute favorite quote of all time.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes! How about a favorite study or experiment?

Jason Nazar
Prisoner’s experiment, Stanford, the Prisoner Dilemma. The experiment that was done at Stanford University I think in the late ‘70s were students were broken down into two groups: prisoners and prison guards. The folks, the students that became prison guards actually became verbally and physically abusive, and it shows the power of context to drive persuasion and human behavior.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite book?

Jason Nazar
I like The Alchemist. I like hero journeys of somebody going through a path of self-discovery.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. A favorite tool, something that you use often and it’s pretty handy.

Jason Nazar
I use comparably.com day to day to day. I use Shazam quite a bit. Always songs that I hear, I open up Shazam and I capture it and I put that song on my Spotify play list or I just the album outright on iTunes.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite habit, a personal practice of yours that’s been helpful for boosting effectiveness?

Jason Nazar
I try to start off each day and I ask my team to do the same writing down on a post-it note, “What’s the one most important I have to get done today?” It’s in the context of work and I try to hold myself accountable that if I literally didn’t do anything else, but I just got the one single most important thing I had to do get done, it’s typically not something I can get done in 10, 15 minutes. It’ going to take more time, energy, thought, planning, concentration. I know that if I do the single most important thing that I have to do every day for my business, that over time, I’m going to succeed.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so good. How about a favorite nugget, something that you share in your writing and working with folks that rally seems to get people nodding their heads or taking notes in a hurry?

Jason Nazar
I spoke for many years about the power of why and if you are trying to start a business or if you’re trying to do anything big in life, it’s not the what and the how but it’s why. You need to have a big burning why and it needs to drive and push you. You need to feel connected to it. if you don’t have a big why, and if it’s not driving you, you’re going to use the what and the how as an excuse for not doing that thing you said you were going to do.
Then separately I think kind of self-help boils down to two really powerful questions. There was an article I wrote on Forbes called 35 Questions That Could Change Your Life. You could check it out, but I think there are two transformational questions we can all ask ourselves. The first is what are you pretending not to know. The second is why am I not doing the things that I know I should be doing? I think if those two questions are analyzed, and looked at, and given thought and energy, they are two of the most important things that we can do to improve ourselves as people.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so good. Thank you. Well, Jason, this has been an absolute treat. Thank you for sharing your most precious treasure with us here. It’s been a ton of fun. I hope Comparably is just monstrously successful for you and your team.

Jason Nazar
Thank you, Peter, and keep up the great work. The podcast is fantastic. It’s a great list of guests. I feel very honored to be included and you’re doing a lot to help a lot of people, so keep doing what you’re doing.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you.

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