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779: How to Unlock Greater Potential through Unlearning with Barry O’Reilly

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Barry O’Reilly shares his strategies on how to unlearn the mindsets and behaviors that hold us back.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The key to breakthrough improvement 
  2. How to identify what you need to unlearn
  3. How to overcome the fear of change 

About Barry

Barry O’Reilly is the founder and CEO of ExecCamp, an entrepreneurial experience for executives, and the management consultancy Antennae. A business advisor, entrepreneur, and sought-after speaker, O’Reilly has pioneered the intersection of business model innovation, product development, organizational design, and culture transformation. He works with the world’s leading innovators, from disruptive startups to Fortune 500 companies.

He is a frequent writer and contributor to The Economist, Strategy+Business, and MIT Sloan Management Review, as well as a coauthor of the international bestseller Lean Enterprise: How High Performance Organizations Innovate at Scaleincluded in the Eric Ries Lean series and a Harvard Business Review “must-read” for would-be CEOs and business leaders. He is also an executive advisor and faculty member at Singularity University.

Resources Mentioned

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Barry O'Reilly Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Barry, welcome to How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Barry O’Reilly
Yeah, no, it’s a pleasure to be here, Pete. Thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to hear your wisdom about your book Unlearn: Let Go of Past Success to Achieve Extraordinary Results. Could you kick us off by sharing a key thing that you’ve unlearned that has proven quite valuable in your own career?

Barry O’Reilly
Yeah. Well, even writing the book is probably one of the best examples. I have a solid history of D minuses in English literature through school. I’m dyslexic. I think if I told my teacher that I managed to write one book, never mind two, that they wouldn’t actually believe me. So, it was kind of, for me, one of the big unlearning I had to have is actually how to write a book.

And as conventional wisdom, I always say that writers sort of sit there by a roaring fire with a perfect velvet jacket on and a glass of wine, and just like tearing out pages and pages of content. Believe me, I tried that but it didn’t work for me.

Pete Mockaitis
Too hot?

Barry O’Reilly
Yeah, not too good. And, yeah, I would sit there for hours just with writer’s block and I couldn’t quite get the words on the page, and it was really frustrating because I felt like I was doing everything, the tips that people told me. And it’s a real challenge. So, then I started to think about, for me, “Well, how can I sort of reframe what I’m looking at? My existing behavior is not working, so, therefore, I need to unlearn. I’m not getting the outcomes that I’m aiming for writing whatever it is, 10,000 words, 10,000 words a day. Whatever I’d set myself.”

So, I started to actually think about, well, reframe my thinking away from just typing as the only way to create content, and I actually started thinking about content. It’s actually really like creating a book is content. And there were suddenly many ways to create content. Typing is just one of them. So, I started to think about other ways to create content. I could record it. I could speak it. I could interview. I could have someone help me.

So, I landed on the idea of actually talking because that was the most natural way for me to share my stories. And what I did is I got a journalist to interview me. So, we would write down, like some bullet points that I wanted to cover in each chapter, and a journalist would interview me, and I would just tell stories about what the chapter would be about. And we would record it and transcribe it using an AI transcription service.

So, we’d speak for 45 minutes, and I’d get in the region of 20,000 words, record it and get a copy of it in text very, very quickly. And the journalist would then sort of go through that copy, edit it really fast, and send me like this sort of early version of a chapter that was sort of relatively raw but it was edited. And it gave me something to react to. It’s like an MVP or minimal viable product or chapter.

And, suddenly, as I would read through it, then I’d be like, “Oh, no, that doesn’t need to go here,” and I’d remember things I’d forgotten to say. So, we got into this iteration really fast. And that literally got me there. I actually unlearned how to write a book by learning how to speak about the ideas that I wanted to talk about.

And the product of that is Unlearn. And then, yeah, many people are often surprised when they realize when I say I didn’t write hardly any of it. I spoke most of it and I got somebody to work with me, and an AI to transcribe it, edit it, and ship it.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That’s cool. So, you unlearned the notion of what writing a book looks like. And in so doing, you found an approach that worked for you, and that’s beautiful. Well, tell us, when it comes to zooming out a little bit and broadly speaking about people and unlearning, any other big surprises or aha discoveries you’ve made while researching and putting together Unlearn?

Barry O’Reilly
Well, the notion of unlearning was the thing that probably struck me the most. So, the first book I wrote was Lean Enterprise: How High Performance Organizations Innovate at Scale. It was part of our recent series, or the lean series, and it was more successful than I could’ve imagined, to be honest. And when we released that book, a lot of, sort of medium to large scale enterprises or scale of startups were sort of saying, “We’re not a startup. We’re actually scaling our business, so what do we need to put in place to make us successful?”

And, suddenly, I was in the room with like Fortune 500 executives or startups in Silicon Valley that was scaling rapidly to work with them, to help them grow and innovate their businesses. And I was fortunate to spend time with these people, some of the most competent talented people you could ever hope to meet. And what I kept discovering was that while learning new things was hard, what was even harder was letting go of their existing behavior, especially if it had made them successful in the past.

So, the unlearning even in itself was a big aha moment for me, is that the real skill is not learning new things; it’s actually recognizing when your existing behavior and thinking is actually limiting your success, and then how do you find ways to adapt or innovate yourself to meet the sort of changing market or situation that you’re in.

And that was really my big inspiration for sort of writing Unlearn and the stories and the examples and so forth that are captured sort of within it, and have just sort of been really the things that have driven me on continuously to sort of do this. And for many people, it’s interesting because unlearning is sort of an act of, if you will, sort of vulnerability. You have to sort of say that, “What I know is actually limiting my success, and, really, I have to sort of shift out of it.”

And for many people, that’s very difficult because their success is tied to their behavior. Their behavior and actions are tied to their identity. You’re asking someone to change their identity, in a way, and that is extremely difficult for people.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, could you maybe walk us through an example that illustrates the unlearning process that would be helpful for professionals looking to become all the more awesome at their jobs?

Barry O’Reilly
Yes. So, probably sort of one of the classic examples that I cover in the book is working with a senior executive from a Fortune 100 bank, and she took over the role or went into the role, and everywhere she went, first day, people just kept asking her to make decisions, everything from what direction should the company go in, right down to what paperclips they should order. Every single person was just turning to her to say, “What do we need to do here? What do we need to do here?”

And, for her, that was a signal. She was like, “There’s a decision-making problem here. I shouldn’t be worried about what paperclips we’re ordering. That should be people are confident and inspired enough to do that. Like, why is everything from paperclips right through the company direction landing on my desk and everyone freezing?”

Now, the process for unlearning is it’s a three-step process. It’s first about this recognition to unlearn, identifying or diagnosing where your existing behaviors are not working. In fact, the way I defined unlearning is it’s a process of letting go, reframing or moving away from one’s useful mindset and acquired behaviors that were effective in the past but now limit our success. So, it’s not forgetting, removing, or discarding your knowledge or experience. It’s the conscious act of letting go of outdated information and making space for new information to come in to inform your decision-making and action. So, the first step is a diagnosis.

So, straight away, this executive could diagnose that nobody was making decisions, and that is not the outcome that she was aiming for. She wanted to have a high-performing organization where people could take responsibility and have an accountability to make decisions at the appropriate level, depending on the decision to be made. So, that was a signal for her.

And so, I sat down with her, and I got her to say, “Well, let’s describe it. Let’s describe what success would be. If this is the behavior that needs to be unlearned, how could we talk about division or the objective or the outcome you’re aiming for the people would be achieving?” And I got her to sort of write a story about it, write a vision statement for what would be true in the world if they had unlearned this challenge.

So, she wrote down things like people would be making safe-to-fail decisions, that they’d make small decisions to understand. If they had to make a big decision, they’d break it into smaller parts and learn along the way what works and what doesn’t. And this sort of learned helplessness to make decisions would be removed, and all of her direction would be what success is and why it matters. None of her direction would be how to achieve it. The teams would offer opportunities on how to do that.

So, writing this sort of story, it gave her these sorts of outcomes that she talked about, the learned helplessness disappears, her direction of what success is and why it matters. She wouldn’t be saying how to achieve it. And, straight away, we wrote those down in an unlearning statement that would basically say, “The company would’ve unlearned when 100% of her direction is what success is and why it matters. Zero percent of her direction is how to achieve it. Zero percent of people displayed this learned helplessness when making decisions.”

So, suddenly, she had sort of had this statement that would encapsulate this unlearning of decision-making as a problem within that company, and she actually shared this with a bunch of her team to sort of for them to understand as like what would be success criteria for unlearning it. And then the next step is to sort of re-learn. It’s like getting people to try new behaviors to try and move towards these objectives or outcomes that we’ve described.

And so, I always get her to sort of like pick one of these outcomes that she originally had described to sort of focus on. So, there was the learned helplessness, how to achieve a decision, or what success is and why it matters. And we picked actually that this one, zero percent of her decisions would include how to get there.

So, she took this sort of very bold sort of stance. And I often say to people, “If you want to re-learn, it actually means you have to do something uncomfortable,” and people mostly write down like simple things that they would try that they’re used to, like just be quiet for a moment, or don’t be the first to speak when someone offers a problem, or let all the team speak before she did.

But the one she chose was even more uncomfortable. She said she wasn’t going to make any more decisions. So, if someone came to her and asked her to make a decision, her immediate reaction would be, “What do you think?” So, introduce this tiny little new behavior. Now, you can imagine when you’re a Fortune 100 executive, and you sort of announced that you’re not going to make any more decisions. It would cause panic across the company.

But the way that we made it sort of safer, rather than just sort of never make a decision again, she was just going to try it for one day. So, for one day, make it sort of safe-to-fail, she’d think big but start small about trying to conduct this new behavior of not making decisions, and asking people what do they think.

And this is sort of the moment that we call a breakthrough. So, a breakthrough is literally when you start to get this new information, new behavior, new action, and the results that actually give you a feedback statement that you should keep doing what you’re doing or do something different. So, literally, she went into work, I think it was on a Tuesday. I think it was a Tuesday. And every time one of her team came in to ask or to make another decision on something, she sat there and said, “That’s interesting. What do you think?”

And what that did was something really magical. It allowed her to learn. It allowed her to learn about the people and what help they might need. Because some people, when she asked somebody, “What do you think?” would freeze, would be sort of “Ah, I don’t know. I really need you to make this decision. I don’t have enough confidence or control to do it.” So, she could realize straight away that person would need coaching.

But other people, when she asked, “What do you think?” would say, “Well, we’ve got three options. We can do option A, and here’s the pros and cons of that. We could do option B, here’s the pros and cons. Here’s C and pros and cons. I think we should do C, and here’s why.” So, instantly, she could go, “Great. Let’s do C,” because she could see the rigor and the thinking that her team had actually performed, and it gave her confidence to say, “Right, that’s the direction we should try. Let’s do it.”

So, this simple act of just not making a decision and asking people to sort of say what they think sort of revealed all these insights about who is able to make decisions and should be encouraged to make more, versus who was hesitant to make them and needed coaching and support to sort of get there. And instantly then, she just gets this uplift in performance because once she starts doing that, all her teams start replicating that. And then, suddenly, you’ve got this big performance improvement where you can start to eradicate decision-making problems.

So, that’s an example of a sort of unlearning statement and going through the diagnosis of decision-making, the re-learning of actually thinking big and starting small, defining outcomes, and taking a small new behavior, which was not to make decisions, and ask people what they think. And then the breakthrough was seeing this insight or learning from the team about who could respond well and who needed help. And that sort of informed her to keep doing, and that’s literally the cycle of unlearning.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, thank you for that story. That’s really cool. And I’m curious, as we zoom into individuals listening here, are there any key questions or prompts you find super useful to surface, to highlight, to assess, to diagnose, “Aha, I may have an outdated or suboptimal belief or practice or mentality that I would do well to unlearn”? Like, what’s sort of the canary and the coal miner, some key indicators that I should be on the lookout for?

Barry O’Reilly
Yes. And the simple question many people that ask is, “How do I know what I need to unlearn?” And to diagnose, there’s a set of questions that I ask people. It’s basically getting you to think, “Is there a situation where you’re not living up to the expectations of yourself? Maybe there’s somewhere you’re not achieving just sort of outcomes that you desire. Maybe you sort of tried all the things that you can think of and you’re not getting a breakthrough. Or, maybe there’s a situation that you’re avoiding altogether because you just can’t think, ‘How am I going to tackle that?’”

These are all the sort of signals that your existing behavior is not working. So, not living up to your expectations, not achieving the outcomes you’re aiming for, situations you’re avoiding or struggling with, or maybe you’ve tried everything that you can think and you’re still not getting a breakthrough. I’d even ask you that, Pete, and you probably can come up with four or five answers straight away. And these are all signals that our behavior is not actually helping us achieve the outcomes that we’re aiming for. And, therefore, we have to unlearn, we have to try something different.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And as you’ve seen a lot of workplaces, are there some common examples that pop up again and again and again in terms of, “Oh, these are some things that would be great to unlearn”?

Barry O’Reilly
Yes. So, I think like risk-taking is always a big one, like people’s risk aversion, getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, trying new things, being willing to fail. These are all decision-making. It actually comes up quite a lot. These are sort of like the commonalities, I guess, that I hear from a lot of people, is how to help them sort of get those breakthroughs, is trying new things that they’ve never done before.

A lot of it is about, I think, when people perceive that there’s risks for both personal and perception, that if they try something and it doesn’t work, how they’d be perceived. That one really comes up a lot, I think.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s juicy. And so then, if I was working on that, how might you help coach me through that emotional stuff?

Barry O’Reilly
Yeah. Well, first of all, it’s just a recognition, people diagnosing that that’s the heart of the issue. Most people sort of write it up as, “My boss won’t let me do something,” or, “We’re stuck in the status quo. We’re struggling to do new things. We don’t innovate in my business.” Like, a lot of people would sort of deflect it off to company not allowing them to do things.

And a lot of it is sort of then helping people recognize, well, first of all, you have agency and you can try. So, how do we make it safer for you to try? Or, you feel safer that if you fail, how you’ll be perceived? And one of the mantras in the book was this notion of thinking big, start small and learn fast. So, it’s important to have a big aspiration or big outcome that you’re aiming for because that allows you to sort of shift your thinking and your behavior, potentially, to get there.

But the way when you’re trying to make big changes is you don’t take big leaps. You take small steps and learn your way through. So, when somebody has a big idea to change their business, what I often say to them is, “Right. Well, write down that big idea.” Amazon has a famous practice where they get people to write press releases to describe what the world would be like if their product was in the market in two to three years’ time, what would be fantastic about it.

Now, with the way that they start is they don’t do a huge big project. They start small. They run some experiments with small customer bases to see what works and what doesn’t, and then sort of grow it from there. So, what I often say to people is if you have a big idea to change the way your company works, don’t expect that you can walk up to the CEO and get millions of dollars of funding and a new team, and then just sort of start working on it.

Do something small to start testing if that idea is going to work. Pick maybe one or two customers and sort of show them a very naïve version of the product that could work or could not, and get feedback and show that it’s working or not. And even if it doesn’t work, it’s okay. You will have learned something from those one or two customers about what success could be or what’s the right product that they’re looking for and iterate it.

So, these are the ways that you can think big and start small, to start tackling uncertainty and be successful as you try new ways of working new products, etc. And so, that’s what we do most of the time is just coaching people how to think bigger but start smaller so they can learn what works and what doesn’t in a safe-to-fail manner. And once they sort of get into that habit, then they’re able to take on these more audacious goals as they sort of see success moving towards it.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, tell me, Barry, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Barry O’Reilly
No, I think, like the message from me always with this is, like I experienced that I’ve got to unlearn stuff all the time. It’s tough sometimes to recognize the actual reason you’re not being successful is yourself, that you can’t get out of your own way. So, I think a bit of humility, a bit of not trying to beat yourself up too much when you’re not getting the success, I think, is quite important, and recognize that a lot of this is a sort of journey, a learning journey, if anything, a constant iteration and experimentation on yourself. And if you see it like that, it can be a fun journey to go on rather than beating yourself up along the way when things don’t work.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. Well, now could you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Barry O’Reilly
One of my favorite ones, and people will have to buy the book maybe to find out what chapter was this one, is that something always gives up. Either the problem gives up or the person gives up. But if the person doesn’t give up, ultimately, you’ll get the breakthrough that you’re looking for.

And that was really interesting for me as a notion to sort of think about. It is a little bit of a battle of wits between the problem you’re trying to tackle and the person, or yourself, trying to tackle it. And, really, half of the way to succeed is to keep showing up. If you just keep showing up, something will give. Either the problem will sort of give and you’ll get past it, and, hopefully, before the person gives up because then the problem wins. So, that’s always motivated me to keep being persistent and to keep showing up, and I really enjoyed that quote.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you. And how about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Barry O’Reilly
Well, I think my favorite example in the book is Serena Williams, and her story is just purely phenomenal. She’s sort of an against-the-odds story. And also, the success that she had and continues to have is sort of totally unheard of and a total outlier for the sport that she plays in. She actually is getting better as she gets older, which is sort of unheard of. Most tennis players retire at the age of 27. She’s 40 and she’s still competing at the highest level, getting to finals and being successful. So, yeah, really a fantastic story that I open the book with, and would highly recommend people check her out.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Barry O’Reilly
It’s called Maverick, and it was basically written about a small little factory in Brazil where the CEO, who took over, whose son who took over from his father, started using all these contrary methods to manage people that were much more about empowering people rather than the typical, let’s say, corporate institutional management techniques, and they had massive success. So, I highly recommend people check out that book. It’s one of my favorites.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?

Barry O’Reilly
I like the Shure SMB mic. Sounding good when we’re on podcasts, I think that’s one. One thing I learned, I think, through the pandemic especially, is that it’s really important to have good sound when you’re communicating because when the sound is bad, it makes it harder for people to listen. When you’ve got good sound, it makes it easier for people to listen and more of the information goes in. So, yeah, get a great mic. That would be my tip for people.

Pete Mockaitis
Agreed. And a favorite habit?

Barry O’Reilly
At the moment, well, there’s two. One is making a really nice coffee in the morning when I wake up. That’s definitely, that’s my special time. And then exercising as much as possible. I think one of the things I really learned as well, especially as I work in a venture studio called Nobody Studios, and I work with a bunch of biohackers. And this idea of like persistently improving your whole, both like mental activity, like doing exercises like this, reading, writing, etc. but also the physical aspect of how important it is to exercise and sleep.

We’re actually working on a sleep company at the moment, and it’s just been fascinating to me to realize and learn how important sleep is to our actual performance, in general. So, now I’m somebody who…I used to stay up and think I could get by on six hours of sleep at night, but now if I don’t get eight, I get angry at myself. So, it’s been really interesting to learn some of these habits.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Barry, now you got me curious about, if you’re allowed to disclose, what’s the sleep company and what transformational insights have you gleaned thus far?

Barry O’Reilly
Well, the first one is how important sleep is. I think most people sort of undervalue how important it is. It’s the most restorative process that we have, so no surgery or amounts of vitamins or supplements are going to improve your wellbeing as much as sleep. So, it’s actually one of the most important things that we have to do.

So, yeah, some of the habits that I have had to unlearn was like going to bed late, or a routine to actually optimize when you do go to lie down to sleep, that you get the maximum sleep, that you can get a high-quality sleep at that. And it’s everything from the triggers, simple things that people might say to you, like don’t drink coffee, or don’t have high amounts of sugar, or don’t let your body be in a stress state when you go to sleep because you actually can have negative sleep, which hurts you more.

So, all of these things have been really fascinating to sort of learn and discover. And, yeah, if you follow our venture studio, Nobody Studios, you’ll see the sleep company when we launch it to the public in the next couple of weeks. I’m pretty excited about what it’s going to do.

Pete Mockaitis
Alrighty. And is there a key nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate; folks quote back to you often?

Barry O’Reilly
Well, I think just even the word unlearn. It seems to be one of these provocative words that people go, “Yeah, that’s it. That’s exactly what we need to do. We don’t need to learn more things. We need to unlearn some things.” And I think it’s been a fascinating way to connect with people in terms of the interest area, or a way to describe something, or a notion that many people have felt but weren’t able to put word on it. So, yeah, I think unlearn, that’s it. It’s a fun one. Let go of past success to achieve extraordinary results. It’s all in the title.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Barry O’Reilly
Yes. So, I’m pretty much Barry O’Reilly on every social platform you can imagine, or BarryOReilly.com. And if you’re interested to follow our studio, we’re at NobodyStudios.com. Go check us out on the web and similarly on most social media platforms.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Barry O’Reilly
Yeah, just think big, have a big bold aspiration that you’re aiming for, that something you think could change, but start small. What’s the first small step you can do to start moving towards it? And you’ll learn fast what works and what doesn’t. So, that’s my message to everyone.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Barry, thank you. This has been a treat. I wish you much luck with Unlearn and all your adventures.

Barry O’Reilly
Thanks very much. Thanks for having me, Pete.

774: How to Make Yourself Promotable with Amii Barnard-Bahn

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Amii Barnard-Bahn shows you how to assess your unique strengths and opportunities to advance your career with her Promotability Index.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The five elements of the promotability index 
  2. The 4 steps to developing strategic thinking
  3. The one question to get the feedback that you need

About Amii

Amii is a former Fortune Global 50 executive and a current C-Suite consultant to global companies like Bank of the West, Adobe and The Gap. She’s been recognized by Forbes as one of the top coaches for legal and compliance executives. Amii also contributes to the Harvard Business Review, guest lectures at Stanford and UC Berkeley, and is a Fellow at the Harvard Institute of Coaching. She speaks regularly on workplace culture, leadership effectiveness and corporate governance. She is the creator of The Promotability Index® and author of the companion PI Guidebook. 

Amii earned her law degree from Georgetown University Law Center and her BA from Tufts. Amii is a lifelong diversity advocate who  testified for the successful passage of first laws in the U.S. requiring corporate boards to include women. 

Resources Mentioned

Amii Barnard-Bahn Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Amii, welcome to How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Amii Barnard-Bahn
Thank you. Thanks for inviting me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to talk about the promotability index but, first, I think we need to hear about your passion for opera.

Amii Barnard-Bahn
Yeah, I love it and it’s been something I’ve missed quite a bit, as you can imagine, over the last two years, and I think it’s kind of like heavy metal for grownups. So, I describe it for people who haven’t maybe been exposed. It’s a little bit of symphony. It’s a little bit of ballet. There’s a lot of singing. It’s costumes. It’s crazy plots and drama. It’s got a little bit of everything, and it’s usually over the top and has remarkable history for some of the older pieces but there’s a lot of new works that are being done. I’m on a board that specifically does a lot of really challenging, interesting cool stuff in really unusual locations. So, it’s bringing opera to the masses, so that’s been fun.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, fun. And I’ve always wondered, when it comes to opera, when they’re in other languages, you still love it? Or how does that work for you?

Amii Barnard-Bahn
Two ways. One is supertitles has changed everything. They came in in the ‘80s. and so, I was just talking to a friend of mine who works at the San Francisco Opera, I stayed with him this weekend, and he reminded me that when supertitles, which were fought vociferously by all true artists, or in the early days, and then fought equally by people who said, “No, people don’t understand what they’re saying. This is impacting the performance. We need to make this accessible.”

Supertitles won out at least in the United States, and it changed everything for the performers. People started laughing at jokes. People started crying when people died. It was an entirely…the singers were just blown away because they’ve been used to performing and then polite clapping at the end. So, it was remarkable in that sense.

Some small houses may not always be able to afford them all over the world, so that’s where I keep the caveat. Sometimes I’ve gone to the opera, or some opera houses who are purists, they don’t believe in them. And, for me, that’s almost like going to a foreign film and kind of checking one part of my brain out for a little while, and watching visually and just enjoying and figuring out what’s happening without words, and understanding you don’t actually always need words to know what’s going on.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. Well, now let’s talk about the promotability index. You are the creator. Tell us, what is it, who should use it, and how does it make things better?

Amii Barnard-Bahn
Well, one of the healthiest things I think anybody can do for their career is to work on what’s under your control. And so, I created the promotability index based on all of my work as a former Fortune Global 50 executive, chief human resources executive, and attorney, and personally just kind of worked my way up to the top, and saw how people got promoted or fired or stuck or let go, and reverse-engineered it into five key elements, which I’m happy to talk about.

And so, I created an assessment first, which anybody can take, and I made it free on my website. Accessibility to moving up the ladder is one of my values, and it’s an 82-question assessment that can let you know how you’re doing on the five key elements. And then the five key elements are things that decision-makers use when they look at promoting or elevating people to higher levels in the company, or who they’re going to invest in as potential leaders.

And so, in my experience, the five key elements are self-awareness, external awareness, strategic thinking, executive presence, and thought leadership.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, I’m excited to dig into each of these five. Maybe to start though, could you share is there a particular finding in your work and putting this together that has been particularly surprising to folks in terms of, “Huh, so that’s a big deal, eh?”

Amii Barnard-Bahn
I think people underestimate external awareness the most. I wrote a Harvard Business Review article on it, titled “Promotions Are Not Just About Your Credentials — They’re About Your Relationships,” because there comes a point in time in everyone’s career where their credentials, to a certain extent, become irrelevant, and I don’t think we’re told that very early on, certainly not when we’re paying grad student loans, potentially.

And it’s really a ticket to the game and it becomes about, “Can you work with people? Do they want to work with you?” You may ace your job but in terms of getting to the C suite, it’s going to depend on the mix of people, whether they trust and like and know you. And that can come as a real shock to some people around mid-career, and that’s often where people get stuck.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, yeah, I want to hear about this. Okay. So, can you share with us an example of someone who worked through some of the pieces of the promotability index and saw some really cool results from doing so?

Amii Barnard-Bahn
Sure. Well, we know that promotions aren’t always fair or rational. I’m sure you can think of a couple of examples in your own life and anyone on the call. And so, of course, you need to be good at what you do but it’s relationships and working with other people that are going to get you that promotion. So, one client that I had about a year ago was an absolute rock star in terms of their performance in sales, and they were the number one salesperson of the year, which is a pretty objective criteria, selling stuff. You can measure that. Some jobs are harder to measure in terms of what you accomplish and your goals but sales are pretty straightforward.

This person was not getting promoted and they had been there several years, and was getting very frustrated at this. And then after working together for about six months in coaching, part of what I found out was that, two levels up, my client was being blocked for promotion because of a perception that he was a lone wolf and that he needed to be the star.

And so, all of his hard work that he was always putting in every day, day after day just going out there getting the client, hitting the numbers, but that actually was getting to a point where it was working against him because he wasn’t demonstrating in terms of external awareness. People were not seeing the other side of him, that he was a good mentor, that he cared about people, that he could lead a team, that he could achieve through others.

So, once I found out that that was the perception of him, we started working on those things, and he showed up very, very differently. And it wasn’t easy for him because he’d worked really hard to get where he’d gotten. To quote Marshall here, “What got you here won’t get you there.” So, the same behaviors that made him fairly successful as an independent contributor were holding him back from moving forward.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. And I’m curious then, how does one get that gem of insight that, “Hey, a couple of levels above you, this is the perception of you”? I mean, did you just sort of go ask around? And what do you recommend for individuals who don’t have a coach to do that work for them?

Amii Barnard-Bahn
That’s a great question because I think he would’ve left. He’s very close to leaving and he was a superstar so that would’ve been a loss for the company. Three-sixty reviews are what they’re commonly called and it is going and asking around, is the casual way to put it. It’s confidential and coaches, or your internal HR department, may do it, and you get perceptions and themes together, and that is how I found that out for him, or he would not have known.

People don’t, unfortunately, feel comfortable giving people the feedback they need to improve most of the time. It’s very easy to say, “Oh, you did a great job, Pete, on that. That was awesome,” but it’s harder if it’s like, “Well, Pete, can I talk to you for a minute about how that meeting went? Got some feedback for you. You may or may not be open to that.”

If they may not want an argument, they may not have the time, they may fear conflict, they may not be very talented at giving feedback in a way that others can hear it. They may be too blunt. You may not trust them even if it’s true. There are so many things that can go wrong with feedback. So, having a trained coach or HR person can be great.

But I’ll tell you my number one tip if you don’t have a coach that you can get feedback that can help you if you think you’re stuck or if you just want to get better at your job. My number one tip is to ask your boss and/or a couple of other colleagues that are close to you that you trust, that will be direct with you, especially people that will be direct. Ask them, “What’s one thing I can do to be more effective in my job?” and just wait. The trick is to stay silent and not to say anything.

And 99% of the time, people will say, “Well, thank you for asking. Let me think for a minute.” They’ll say, “Well, one thing could be this.” You’re being very specific and you’re not asking them for the moon. That’s where people get in trouble, is they say, “Hey, how can I be better?” It’s too vague. So, if you’re really, really specific, usually people will pick one thing.

It might be a little thing, like, “In that meeting, you could’ve talked louder. I couldn’t hear you sometimes,” or, “You seem to not like X person and it’s stressful for the rest of us in the meeting. we don’t even know if it’s true that you don’t, but I don’t know if you’re aware, but you act a certain way with this,” and that can be helpful feedback.

The trick is not to get defensive, to thank the person for the feedback so that you can get it again, and then to act on it and circle back ideally, and say, “Hey, thanks so much for that feedback. I’ve been working on it, and I’d love to know if you’ve noticed. So, if you could catch me doing good, that’s great. If you catch me slipping back, privately tell me. That could really help me. I’d appreciate it.” So, that’s a great example if you’re a leader for your direct reports.

When my leaders have started doing this, it’s opened up more of a speak-up atmosphere where people feel more comfortable being vulnerable and getting better together. It could be a real bonding experience.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. That brings back memories at Bain. I remember we all had our professional development plans, and I go, “Hey, here’s what I’m working on, dah, dah, dah,” and I shared that with them. And then the manager said, “Okay, cool. And here’s what I’m working on,” and it was like, “What? This is eye-opening. Okay, cool. Thank you.” And it really does, it sets that vibe in a real positive way.

Amii Barnard-Bahn
Totally.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, so then can you tell us the genesis of the promotability index? And when I hear the word index, I started thinking about research and validity. Do you have any of that stuff to share as well?

Amii Barnard-Bahn
I wanted to engage the creative and the positive side of development. Having been forced to you, there’s many, many types of instruments as an HR person and an employee, I found that most of them sucked all the joy out of career development, which should be an exciting thing, “What do I want to create? Who do I want to be? What do I want to learn?”

Think of yourself as a five-year-old kid and getting excited about learning new skills, and, “Okay, I’m not so good at this but that’s okay. I’m not going to hang my entire ego on that. I’m going to work on this kind of thing.” So, I did not make it a psychometric Harvard-validated assessment because I think there are plenty out there and I use those in my practice.

I wanted something that was easy for anybody to use and that, simultaneously, simply by considering or contemplating the question, raise the consciousness of people reading it, that, “Oh, that’s something that should be on my radar.” That’s something that people grade you on even if they’re not telling you that.

A lot of promotions, and having been in the room where it happens, it’s not obvious always who and what, who gets promoted and why. And so, I wanted to create greater access. I wanted to create a language that managers who otherwise might have difficulty actually pinpointing what it is that’s holding the person back. Sometimes managers just don’t…they know it when they see it but they don’t know how to articulate it. And so, I wanted to help with that as well.

Pete Mockaitis
I find that’s often true when I’m looking at writing, it’s like, “This is good. This is bad. But why?” And I’d really have to think for a while, and say, “Oh, okay. Okay. Structure, elements of style. These sentences are just kind of too long. They don’t need to be like that. Just kind of clunky and less clear,” or, “We’re using some vague language. I’d like to make that a little bit more real in terms of…” or, “That’s not interesting or exciting. I don’t think anyone cares about that thing. We need to hook it into what people are really after, what they value.”

But you’re right, it takes a lot of time sometimes for me to articulate why is something good or bad, or why is someone promotable or not promotable. And I got a kick out of doing it, the five categories, and then up to 82-sort of yes or no responses. It’s like, “Oh, maybe I don’t actually read news associated with my industry all that regularly. Huh, how about that?”

I mean, I learn a lot of stuff from a lot of people but it’s somewhat rare that I pull out the Association of Talent Development’s report on such and such, and that’d probably be a good thing to do, and we’re free to be promoted. Although, I guess if I’m the owner, promotion more so looks like my listeners and customers say, “This guy is super awesome. We should pay him more or hire more, refer more,” or whatever.

Amii Barnard-Bahn
It’s written around Fortune 500 companies since that’s where I’ve cut my teeth, and I’ve heard in my pilot testing and thousands of people have taken it now, even independent contractors or people who don’t manage others, that’s another thing that’s assumed in there. Just ignore those questions. My whole point is don’t get caught up in the score, and that’s why I made it 82 and not 100.

I didn’t want our little weird brains from college to be like, “Is that an A? Is that a letter B?” Like, no, no, no. I did a little scoring just to hijack the part of ourselves that is competitive with ourselves, but the whole idea is to be competitive with yourself. And the guidebook, the companion guidebook to the assessment, which I only wrote after clients asked me to, they said, “This is great. Now what? What else do you have?”

And I said, “What do you mean? Just work on the stuff that you didn’t check, whatever. Move towards what brings you joy, like what’s exciting to you that you didn’t check, that you’re like, ‘Oh, maybe I should be doing others. Maybe I should speak at my professional association events. Maybe I have something to say or write about.’” And some people wanted a book, so I wrote the book and that’s been out now for exactly one year, and that’s been fun and that’s generated a number of conversations, and given a lot of companies and groups that have adopted it a common language for this.

The ideal way to do it, I think, because in the performance review process can be really painful because most of it is a backward look. Most of it is, “Do you get a raise? Am I getting a promotion? How much money are you giving me? And what did you think of the work that I did?” Well, that’s all backwards. This is all intended to be, again, the creative look forward around, “Who do I want to be? Where do I wish I was better? What jobs are exciting to me now?” I believe in a growth mindset and that we can continually be learning, and continually are changing in terms of what our priorities, desires, needs might be.

And so, this is designed to kind of be a choose your own adventure kind of a book with your managers as a powerful way to do it because you can sit down and say, “Hey, these are the five things I think I could work on.” They might say, “Actually, I think you’re really good at that.” That’s happened too. There’d been some amazing conversations I had.

A colleague who adapted her case study is on my website, for her credit union, and the young woman had taken it, and said, “I don’t want to get promoted.” And about a third of the people that have taken it so far don’t want to be promoted, which is another great thing to know because then you just need to say, “Okay, how do I give them lateral assignments? How do I keep them engaged?” As a manager, it’s really helpful to know that, as opposed to people who do want to get promoted and might leave if they don’t feel like they’re moving forward. Different needs, different people.

And this young woman came back a week later, and said, “You know, I thought about it and I decided, after taking the promotability index, that I never thought about it before. I’m the first one in my family to go to college, like I just already felt like I’ve made it. I’m so lucky to have this job. But if you think I can do better, I’d be interested.” And they got into this wonderful, beautiful conversation, and I said, “Yeah, we’d completely support you. You need to do this. You need to work on this. And let’s do it together. Let’s take off and bite off a chunk every year.”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Beautiful. All right. Well, let’s cover a big more depth here, the five elements. And could you give us perhaps a definition and maybe a top tip for boosting it? So, let’s roll through them.

Amii Barnard-Bahn
Yeah, okay. Well, so for self-awareness, it’s around knowing your why, knowing your how, knowing your what, really why you do what you do, how you show up, and what makes you special in terms of what you bring to the party in the organization. And so, it means knowing your values, motivators, and preferences would be a more technical way to describe it.

Usually, when a tip I would give you for self-awareness is if you’re unhappy or unsettled in your work, it’s often because your values are being challenged or are under stress. Now, big picture, that could mean a mismatch with the organization. Smaller picture, it could mean a conversation you had recently, a decision that’s been made by the company that you don’t agree with, but it’s helpful to know your values and think about it, in that way you can say, “Oh, okay, this is why I’m feeling the way I do,” and that’s just helpful because you may have the power to change it. You may realize it’s a really big deal, and it actually is a deal-breaker for you, and you might need to make some changes. So, that’s one on self-awareness, Pete, that I would share.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, any perspectives on the finest ways to zero in on what’s one’s core values are?

Amii Barnard-Bahn
Well, I use deep assessments that get to it really quickly. If you don’t have that, I would think about what brings you joy, what brings you pain, how do you make your decisions. There are plenty of lists actually on the internet around these things, which is about 33. StrengthFinders is a very common one that’s used by some companies. It can be very helpful, and I believe they have a free version where you can get your top 10, and that can be a really good start.

Pete Mockaitis
And tell us, if we do have the access or the budget, what are the deep assessments you love?

Amii Barnard-Bahn
The one that I like best is the Hogan assessment, and it’s work-related and it’s been around for a very, very long time, and we leverage it in coaching to, let’s say, there’s something we find that your boss is saying, “You need to work on this,” and it’s not something that you’re really that motivated to do, like public speaking. Let’s say, he says, “I want you to present the next board report,” and that’s just something you’d rather kill yourself than do that.

We would look at your motivators, and, for example, let’s say you had a motivator for great performance and you’re a high achiever, we’d say, “Okay, Pete, I know you don’t like this but this is something that you need to do to achieve high performance. Your boss just basically said that. Let’s leverage your value there, high performance, that you’re high performing, high achieving, and then we’ll figure out how we’re going to get there.” But that would be your motivator to get around “I don’t want to.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, how about executive presence?

Amii Barnard-Bahn
Executive presence has been thrown around a lot and I love a definition by Coqual that they created based on a study actually that divides executive presence up into three elements. The first element is gravitas, which is grace under pressure is one way of defining that. The second is presentation skills and communication. And the third is appearance. And they found that 70% of executive presence could be attributed to gravitas, meaning that you have some backbone, you take a stand when you need to, you’re calm in an emergency, people come to you for guidance and advice.

For presentation and communication skills, that was about 20%. So, being able to present well, to speak well, and enunciate, good eye contact, all those good things, no quirks or tics when you’re presenting, that kind of thing, ideally getting rid of those depending on your abilities. And then the last being appearance.

Appearances surprises people at being only 10%, and I would say appearance has a dwindling impact. I think when you first meet someone, appearance can be very impactful. It can either make or break a first impression. But as we know, appearances can also be deceiving. And so, over time, it fades, and I think gravitas and presentation skills and communication come to the forefront much more so.

Pete Mockaitis
And do you have a favorite approach to improving one’s gravitas?

Amii Barnard-Bahn
Well, we find out the triggers that are preventing people from staying calm and centered in the times that they need them to be. There’s usually a pattern, and so we keep an acknowledgement journal of what’s happened over the prior week or two weeks, what’s triggering it. Is it a person? Is it an issue?  There’s usually circumstances or things that are happening around that time that are making you stress that then trigger you to act a certain way, which could be withdrawal, could be aggression, could be a number of reactions, could be caving when you really need to be taking a stand, things that may not serve you in the long run as a leader, depending on what the situation is.

So, once we figure out what the triggers are and you’re aware of them, then you can start making an active choice to choose differently and to choose what you know is the right thing to do, and it just takes practice.

Pete Mockaitis
So, I’m thinking about gravitas. If someone, so caving or freaking out, could you maybe give us a demonstration of a high gravitas and low gravitas response to, let’s say, that I am requesting budget for an important initiative, and they told me no, and I want it bad and it’s genuinely important, and I’m going to take a stand for it? So, low gravitas, that sounds like you’re craving, like, “Oh, okay,” or flipping out, like, “This is ridiculous. What are you thinking?” So, what would be a high gravitas response?

Amii Barnard-Bahn
You have your facts together because you already have your business case to begin with to make the request but you would say, “I appreciate costs are at an all-time high. I appreciate that we’re looking at everything. I’d like to reiterate that the reason for this request is X, and the benefits to the organization are Y. And it’s very important, because if we don’t do this, then the costs will be Z, and we’ll be actually paying more next year for the same thing if we don’t make that choice now.”

Pete Mockaitis
There you go.

Amii Barnard-Bahn
That would be an example. You stay in your rational brain. You’ve done your homework, I’m assuming that already, which wasn’t in this hypo, and you go back to your facts and, especially for a cost, an ask of a cost for money or raise. I have some videos on this. It’s very important how you ask, and you need to have your ducks in a row, and you need to have your data. You need to have thought it through and you need to have thought it through from the perspective of the person that you’re asking if you want the highest likelihood of getting a yes.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, then the thinking then is, in terms of promotability, that sort of persistence is not an annoyance; that would be a knock on promotability, like, “Oh, Amii is just not a team player. She just won’t let it go,” but rather it is a pro in terms of, “Hmm, Amii has really got this gravitas.”

Amii Barnard-Bahn
Right. And you just don’t make it a no, but you just hit on exactly you want to be thinking about what feeling…I always tell people this. For critical conversation, start with, the meeting is over, you’re walking out of the room, what do people think of you, what perception are you leaving behind because that’s what’s critical as a leader and will determine your future success as much as anything. And there’s a perception as, “Ugh, what a hothead!” or, “Oh, they don’t understand how this business works. They have no idea how we are just losing money hand-over-fist right now. Have they heard of the war? Have they heard of COVID?”

There are so many things that can go on in the room after you leave. You want them to say, “Okay. Well, that was a well-measured request. They did their research. They understand the financial situation and the crunch that we’re in. I’ll give them some snaps because they still went for it even though we said no, and they handled it with grace, and I won’t mind having that conversation with them the next time.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, now let’s hear about the next area – strategic thinking.

Amii Barnard-Bahn
Strategic thinking is an interesting one because I found, through my career, that it’s the hardest one to get without getting experience. It’s like when I first tried to get my first retail job, and they said, “Well, you’d have to have experience in retail,” and I was like, “But no one will give me that first job.” Strategic thinking is the same way. You need to have a certain amount of responsibility before an access to all the pieces of the puzzle in the business, to be able to think strategically, to understand how if you take this piece out, how that affects these other pieces, almost like a puzzle.

So, what I advise people for promotability is to, what’s really critical and what I’ve seen, is you need to be able to demonstrate to decision-makers that you are a strategic thinker. And the ways that you do that are visibly asking questions that are smart but not obnoxious questions. No one wants a show-off. But show that you’ve done your research.

There’s a way to ask a question, and there’s a way to ask a question that demonstrates that you’ve been thinking, that you’ve been reading up on your industry, that you have been maybe talking to others in your field, and that you know what is important and kind what’s hot now. That’s why I always advise people, as well as it gets into thought leadership, or some of the other ones, but thought leadership can help you with strategic thinking.

And I don’t know if you want to jump to that one, too, but strategic thinking, some people ask questions and they’re face-palm questions in a room. We used to all be in a room together, and they’d ask a question that, just by asking the question on its own, you could tell they’ve not done their research.

Pete Mockaitis
“Why don’t we just go viral?”

Amii Barnard-Bahn
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
Could you give us some examples?

Amii Barnard-Bahn
Yeah, that they haven’t been talking to their peers, that they only care about their little silo, that they’re asking for X, and it’s clear it’s going to affect IT or HR or supply chain, and they didn’t have the meeting before the meeting to say, “Hey, is this cool with you? I’m going to propose this. I know this impacts you guys. Do you have the resources to help us? Or, what are you seeing? Is this a good idea? This is what we’d like to do in marketing. We’d like to market this. Is this okay? Have you checked it with legal before bringing it to the board?” That’s a classic one for like a new drug or clinical trial stuff, that kind of thing in some of the bio firms that I worked with.

So, checking in and demonstrating that you have seen the whole system, you’ve talked to the system, or you’re aware of the system and anything that could go sideways or impact it or that needs to be considered before you make a proposal or make a comment, question a colleague. That can make or break also not only how you’re viewed as a strategic thinker but relationships, which overly everything that you and I have been talking about today.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, then I guess if you’re just getting started with strategic thinking, what do you recommend as some of the first steps? Like, “I don’t even know what I don’t know. Like, it would not have occurred to me…”

Amii Barnard-Bahn
And that is where everybody starts.

Pete Mockaitis
“It would not have occurred to me to ask about the legal stuff.” And so, I don’t know, is there like a book, like Strategy 101, or just sort of like a process, like, “Okay, here’s the org chart, let’s think about finance, let’s think about marketing, let’s think about legal”? Or, how do you recommend we get started?

Amii Barnard-Bahn
There are books. There are ten million books on every business topic out there. But in terms of just how to start in a grassroots way, number one, just know how you make your money, how your business makes you money. Number two, understand how your function fits into that greater whole so that you know what piece of that makes the engine run. Third, read up on your industry. Fourth, join professional associations, get involved, educate yourself, steep yourself in the issues of the day for your business, for your organization.

Be ahead of the curve in terms of what’s coming down. Many businesses are being impacted by AI. If yours is one of them, you should know that and you should know whether that’s a positive or negative, and what chain reaction that’s expected to have five, ten years from now. Talk to your boss, find out what they read, how do they stay up to date.

Reach your 10-K if you’re a publicly traded company. 10-Ks have amazing information in there. If you’re required to disclose to the SEC in terms of the litigation that is pending, in terms of any other disclosures that are required, super helpful. Before I joined a company, that was always proud of my due diligence and I’m amazed at employees and execs that don’t necessarily always do that.

Pete Mockaitis
Or listen to the earnings calls if they’re publicly traded.

Amii Barnard-Bahn
Right. Oh, yeah, amazing.

Pete Mockaitis
Sometimes, even when I’m an investor, sometimes there is a unique level of boredom that I’d get from listening to earnings calls, and I think maybe it’s because that’s just the medium in terms of it’s not flashy TED Talks.

Amii Barnard-Bahn
They try. I think that they’re quite dry, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Nonetheless, dry but informative, like, “Okay, this is what’s really on the CEO’s mind and the CFO’s mind, and the stuff that they’re worried about, and that the investors are caring about, so now you know.” All right. And so, then we talked a bit about the external awareness. Anything else you want to add there?

Amii Barnard-Bahn
Gosh, the question I gave earlier is a good one for external awareness, that “What one thing could I do that would make me more effective in my job?” Because when you’re asking someone else that, then you’re getting their perception of what would make you more effective at your job. You may not agree. You may think, “That’s a terrible idea,” but you don’t show it. There’s your opportunity to show gravitas and executive presence, and you say, “Thank you.”

And at least you know that that’s the perception they have of you. You may get some really great information from that, Pete. You might get information like, “Oh, my gosh, they think my job is this, but it’s really this. I need to step it up. And how am I going to do that? What data do I give to them? Where could they have gotten that impression? How often do I see them? Do I have enough time with them? Was it just one event? Did they hear it from someone else?”

The advantage to a lot of this is if you understand perceptions and, as one of my heroes, Carla Harris, says, “Perception is the co-pilot to reality.” If you know perception, you have an opportunity to change it. If you don’t know, it’s sitting out there as a potential blind spot, and those could be landmines that can kill your career over the long term if there are enough of them.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. Let’s hear about thought leadership now.

Amii Barnard-Bahn
Thought leadership is usually the last. If I had to put them in order, they’re overlapping and they’re each of the five key elements. But I would say that when people are the most senior in their careers is when they have, number one, the most to say, that’s particularly unique and interesting, and they have a little bit more time and more pressure to be unique, especially if they want to, say, go to a corporate board, do a lot of work with corporate boards and board governance. And often, after you finish an executive career, a great way to leverage your expertise is to serve on corporate boards after there’s no conflict of interests potentially for your industry.

So, thought leadership, you can start with baby steps. So, you can start again by being involved in your associations, your organizations. They always need content, Pete, so writing for a journal, I’ve got five of them back here that I write for on various legal and compliance and ethics and HR spheres. You can speak, they always need free content and speakers. You make great relationships that way, which are beneficial in terms of having a powerful network on so many levels. You can gain a mentor, you can gain a sponsor, you might find your next job, you might just find a great friend that loves what you do. So, thought leadership is around being known for your expertise both inside and outside your organization.

Some organizations are restrictive and conservative with how much they will let you share outside the organizations. If you’re in one of them, and those tend to be highly regulated organizations, like healthcare, pharma companies, things like that, then look for opportunities inside to lead a project that’s maybe outside your area, or to write for the intranet, or to be part of a white paper project on a potential initiative that’s being proposed. Those are ways.

But outside, if you don’t have a lot of restrictions, there are so much you can do. As you know, it’s never been easier to publish content. It costs nothing. You publish for free on the internet. And many, many people have become famous and known for that, and that increases your promotability because others know of you. You build an audience. You build a following. More information comes to you. It’s a generous terrarium, basically, that you’re creating of information. If you’re giving, inevitably you’re also getting. That’s what I found with contributing to organizations like that.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s great. And we had a podcast guest, Kirstin Berndt, who, she was in a completely different industry but she had a passion for airline baggage, which is a unique passion. And she just started a blog and I don’t think there were very many on the subject. And so, sure enough, she’s like, “Hey, here’s the latest lost baggage statistics from the airlines. This airline has really made some improvements probably based on their initiatives with X, Y, Z, dah, dah, dah.”

And so, sure enough, that made her very distinctive when the opportunity finally arose for her to interview for such a role, they’re like, “Okay. Well, nobody has this. Okay, yeah, you got the job.” So, it’s powerful.

Amii Barnard-Bahn
That’s great. That’s a great story.

Pete Mockaitis
Even for more junior levels. Okay. Cool. Well, tell me, anything else you really want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Amii Barnard-Bahn
Just that I think everyone has the potential, if they’re willing to put in the work, to learn a new role, to get better at their existing role, to move ahead, and I hope that the promotability index has, in some small way, helped that, and there are a lot of other great resources out there as well. Not everyone has a mentor. Not everyone has a coach. Not everyone has a great boss or someone that’s helped them along the way.

And so, I would just encourage people to go for it regardless and to never assume that simply because you don’t have a strong start, that you can’t get there. We can think of many, many amazing entrepreneurs and successful people out there who have done it with nothing. And so, I would just want to be really positive and optimistic for all of your listeners out there.

Pete Mockaitis
And not to squash positivity and your optimism, but this does trigger something. If we’re in an environment where it seems like our manager is toxic or severely dislikes us, or the forces of meritocracy aren’t really operational, and that might be perception, that might be reality as their co-pilots, what do you recommend then? It’s like, “Hey, I’m doing the work. I’m making progress. No one seems to care or notice,” how do you think about when it’s time to exit versus persevere?

Amii Barnard-Bahn
I think that’s a great question and I’ve talked about it on several shows as well recently with the Great Resignation, and I think that’s when you decide whether you have the talk. And the talk, to me, depends on how financially comfortable you are with either taking a big risk or what your savings looks like. But having the talk is going to your manager and saying, or your leader and saying, “Hey, I’d really like this promotion. What are the chances? Or, what do I need to do? This is what I’ve been doing. I feel like I’m in sync but I’m still not there yet. What would the timeline be?”

And if they can’t really give you a committed answer, then you have to decide whether it’s time to leave. Now, sometimes people may say, “Okay, I don’t have quite so much money in the bank so I’m going to eat crow for a year, and I’m going to job search while I’m doing this.” Right now, over the past year at least, I don’t know if the window is closing a bit with return to work, but there has been an unprecedented opportunity to have those conversations and to negotiate with the powers that be around what the timeline looks like, what the job looks like.

If you love half your job and you don’t love the other half, can you trade? Can you morph it? There’s been a lot of great conversations that have been going on over the past year, I would say.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, now could you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Amii Barnard-Bahn
Sure. My favorite quote would be from Peter Drucker, which is, “You should not change yourself but create yourself.” That means build around your strengths and remove your bad habits.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. And a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Amii Barnard-Bahn
One recently, I’m always getting caught up in stuff that I then enjoy writing about, and one that I’ve been focused on lately is a study that we don’t like people who deliver bad news. We all know it as just “Shoot the messenger” implicitly. But for someone like me who works in corporate governance, corporate ethics, healthy workplace cultures, the implications of that are pretty severe.

And so, I’m fascinated how to reverse-engineer delivering bad news so to equip people who frequently have to deliver it so that they can be heard, that better decisions can be made so that people aren’t afraid of speaking up because, unfortunately, the universe is rife with situations and huge costs when people don’t speak up when they need to, when they know something important. And so, I’d like to try to help change that dynamic.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Amii Barnard-Bahn
The two that I’m sticking with right now are, one called BS Leadership by my friend and colleague and Stanford professor Jeffrey Pfeffer, which is just fascinating. I wished I had read it 20 years ago. And my fiction, I’m reading my favorite, one I think is by the greatest living author, Joyce Carol Oates, it’s The Accursed, based in Princeton at the turn of the 19th century.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?

Amii Barnard-Bahn
I dictate constantly both on my Mac and on my iPhone, and I have probably a thousand draft emails right now sitting in my computer. They’re snippets of ideas, ideas for articles, conversations, things I need to do, prep for you, for your podcast, prep for clients next week, or a really cool article I read that I want to share. I love that. And then in terms of literally a tool-tool, I use ClickUp with my assistant and my team to manage all the different projects and things that we have going on all the time in the cloud, so that’s been super helpful. That’s been a game changer.

Pete Mockaitis
And when you say dictation, is there a software you’re using?

Amii Barnard-Bahn
No, it’s literally Apple. I’m just pushing the button on the Mac. It’s the control button. You hit it twice, it starts typing out everything you say.

Pete Mockaitis
And is that sufficiently accurate?

Amii Barnard-Bahn
Enough. I go back and I have to watch sometimes. I can’t speak too fast. It’s forced me to slow down a little. I can talk really fast, so it’s punished me for that. So, I’ve had to slow down and be like, “Okay, I’m dictating now. I need to speak more slowly so it gets handled correctly.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a favorite habit?

Amii Barnard-Bahn
Let’s see. Work or life?

Pete Mockaitis
Work.

Amii Barnard-Bahn
For work, I would say, at the end of each day, writing down my intention for the following morning, and then closing my door and having the ritual of being finished with work.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And is there a key nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; they quote it back to you often?

Amii Barnard-Bahn
The one that we talked about already a little bit was that at a certain point your credentials are irrelevant, and that it’s all about your relationships. That’s been a gamechanger for a lot of people. And then the other one that I’ll tell people that I think is important to keep in mind is that every job is temporary. And that if you think about it that way, you’ll think about your career. It really opens up a different way of thinking, I think, about what you’re doing day to day and what you want to be doing and where you want to be getting better and where you want to be focusing your precious attention.

Pete Mockaitis
And if folks want to get in touch or learn more, where would you point them?

Amii Barnard-Bahn
They are welcome to find me on my website, which is BarnardBahn.com. And also, to connect with me on LinkedIn, and I’m on Twitter @amiibb.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Amii Barnard-Bahn
Yeah, I’d say get really good at receiving, giving, and acting on feedback.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Amii, thank you. This has been a treat. I wish you much luck and fun.

Amii Barnard-Bahn
Thank you. You, too, Pete.

771: How to Own Your Career and Build Your Dream Job with Ann Hiatt

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Ann Hiatt shares valuable lessons learned on career development from her 15 years working alongside Silicon Valley’s top CEOs.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The top three things you can do to develop your career 
  2. How to deal with the pressures of big-impact opportunities
  3. How to carve out your path to promotion when there is none 

About Ann

Ann Hiatt is a best selling author, executive consultant, speaker, and investor. She is a Silicon Valley veteran with 15 years experience reporting directly to CEOs Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and Eric Schmidt (Google/Alphabet). 

She has published articles in publications such as Harvard Business Review, Fast Company and CNBC. She has also contributed to articles in The New York Times, Economic Times, The Financial Times and Forbes. Her first book, Bet On Yourself, was published by HarperCollins in 2021. 

Resources Mentioned

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Ann Hiatt Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Ann, welcome to How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Ann Hiatt
Thanks very much. I’m excited to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I’m excited to hear your wisdom. And I’d love it if you could kick us off by sharing a story or two that was particularly instructive for you and career and being awesome at your job working with Jeff Bezos, Eric Schmidt, Marissa Mayer. Give us something that’s inside scoop.

Ann Hiatt
Absolutely it’s been the greatest privilege of my life to have been able to work so intimately and closely with some of the greatest business minds of our generation. I would say that that story actually started a little bit before my very first job working for Jeff Bezos.

So, my very first job at 16 years old, when my friends were working at Burger King and the library, I worked at a five-person startup founded by two brothers who had just graduated from Harvard Business School. So, that was my first taste of entrepreneurism and gave me some of my instincts. I made all of my very novice mistakes with them. And, yeah, my very first job after university was working directly for Jeff Bezos.

And we could talk literally for days and days and I wouldn’t run out of stories of the stories of these entrepreneurs. But I think the foundation really was set there in the beginning. Each of these environments taught me to be a bold risk-taker. Even though my nature is not bold and fearless, I was nurtured into that very much by this entrepreneurial environment that I found myself in.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, yeah, I bet there’s many, many stories but I’m going to put you on the spot for one. Are there words that reverberate in your head frequently as you’re making decisions, navigating your career, wondering which way to go, and you hear Jeff or Marissa or Eric in your mind’s ear, and say, “You know what, okay, yeah, we’ll do this thing”?

Ann Hiatt
That happens constantly, actually. Even though I left Google, let’s see, almost four years ago and Amazon much longer than that, more than a decade ago, but I can still very much hear them in my head. I think from Jeff, if I had to pick a single word, it is relentless. He is relentless in the pursuit of his passions. He’s relentless in his enthusiasm for his vision of where he wants to take the company. And, in fact, this is a little-known fact, if you go to Relentless.com, it redirects to Amazon. That is how much of a core value that is for the way he approaches his work and what he is doing or was doing at Amazon.

From Marissa, I really learned to focus on the people. It’s much more about the who than the what and the how. You need to be laser focused on exactly who your clients or your customers or users are, and understand not only the needs under their feet today but really anticipate the needs of the future. And understanding those needs of the people you’re trying to serve is important, but, equally, if not more important, is the people you have on the team. I really learned to hire the best possible talented team that you can find.

And from Eric, I really learned the value of insatiable curiosity. He is somebody who will ask about a hundred more questions than a normal person would about any given topic. And so that relentless pursuit of curiosity in new information and expanding his knowledge, those are key attributes that I call upon now as an entrepreneur myself and trying to instill in my CEO clients as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. That’s beautiful. And so then, I imagine there are times when something seems harder than it should be.

Ann Hiatt
So many.

Pete Mockaitis
Can I just get a real-time cortisol monitor? Apparently, there is but they’re not commercially available for the public, so I’m going to have to hunt down some people who wrote some papers. So be it. There’s some relentlessness and curiosity at work as opposed to, “Oh, I guess I’ll just wait three years. Maybe it’ll be around them. Okay.”

Well, then let’s hear about your book. What’s the big idea or main message here Bet on Yourself: Recognize, Own, and Implement Breakthrough Opportunities? What’s the core idea here?

Ann Hiatt
So, this book is my attempt at creating a playlist, taking the best practices of these seemingly super performers that I’ve worked for and translating it for us “normal people.” I have felt such a privilege of working with these incredible minds and not only learning their best practices but experiencing things, moments in time that probably will never happen again.

The dawn of the internet will never happen again, Jeff inventing the gold standard of e-commerce will never happen again, the constant innovation cycles of Google. I really saw some things that were very privileged to experience and I felt a responsibility to pay that forward. So, my book Bet on Yourself is my attempt to give you that playbook of best practices that I think are applicable regardless of your growth stage, whether you’re an intrapreneur or an entrepreneur, regardless of industry, these are some of those gold standard best practices that everyone can benefit from.

And I use my career as a case study in the book to show you that anyone with some ambition and clear goals in their mind can engineer serendipity and create opportunities for themselves. So, I kind of walked through some of these crazy moments in time and reverse-engineer a little bit of some of the luck and very, very hard work that went into those moments.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s cool. Well, I’m excited to dig into the particulars. But maybe to inspire the ordinary people like myself, is there a cool story you could share of maybe a client or a reader who took action on a particular principle and saw a pretty amazing breakthrough from it?

Ann Hiatt
I have a client now who’s working in the food tech space, he is incredibly talented. He was doing a PhD in chemistry and material sciences and discovered mycelium-based protein structure and learned to manipulate in a really unique way, so he’s creating this alternative meat product.

So, when I first met him and worked with him, it was a referral from a common friend of ours, and it was a very, very early growth-stage company of about 30 people. And now, today, he’s just close to Series C, and he’s got contracts literally all over the world for this incredible product that he’s invented. I think he is among my star examples of doing some big, bold risk-taking. He’s doing something that no one’s ever done before.

So, when you’re doing that, you don’t even have the dashboards or the metrics, you don’t even know what you should be measuring quite yet. He’d never produced a product like that before but he really has adopted these principles of insatiable curiosity, of humble leadership, of not only tolerating the demanding pushback and peer review from his employees, and he’s really been very focused on not only hiring the best talent he can find but hiring for passion and mission alignment above all else.

If you get really smart people in the door who are driven and determined to see your vision through, you can teach those people to do anything. And so, I think hiring for that value and mission alignment has been essential. I’m just incredibly proud of what he’s doing.

Pete Mockaitis
Ooh, I like that there. You can teach them to do anything. I think that resonates. And I guess, there’s just a little bit of what you said in terms of like aptitude and different…I would not be the guy you want to hire to be your contractor even if I’m super fired up about building your dream home, Ann. I was like, “I’ll just learn drywall and plumbing and electrical. No problem, I’ll just learn it.”

Ann Hiatt
I don’t know, I believe you know. I think you can figure it out.

Pete Mockaitis
I would need maybe four draft homes before I did the real one. But that said, people generally have strengths with, I don’t know, people or things or, what’s that world of work, or data or ideas. But within that, sure, that totally resonates. Okay. Well, let’s dig in then. So, us ordinary folks, can you lay it on us a few do’s and don’ts in terms of, as we’re kind of maybe in the middle of, say, medium to large organization, not at the top and not at the bottom, we’re just sort of making our way in terms of career, what are the top things you recommend people do and don’t do to really develop and move quickly?

Ann Hiatt
I love this question. I think three things come to mind. If you’re mid in your organization, there can be a really important mindset shift that you can make, and this is the way that you put yourself back in the driver seat of your career. A lot of us feel very disrupted coming out of the pandemic, opportunities might seem to have disappeared, everything got turned upside down, so these steps are particularly relevant for this moment in time.

And the first is to be very clear with yourself. What do you want out of this next stage in your career? What do you want to learn? What expertise do you want to become known for? What teams do you want to learn how to lead, or projects? What is your specialization? How are people going to recommend you for jobs in the future? And so, first, you have to have that conversation with yourself and be very clear on that.

And then, second is then share that with your mentors and sponsors within work. So, have that conversation with your manager, of, “This is where my skillset lies. My interests, my goals, my talents are here. I would love your idea of ways that I can utilize that or expand my influence on this team.” The way you get a yes to that is, one, expressing your interests and helping them know how you’re trying to evolve. And second is what I call creating a win-win-win.

The first part of that conversation you have with yourself of what you want in exchange for your very hard work every day. Two is look at your manager’s responsibilities and see what she or he has been tasked to do within the team on the big bet of the company. If you can allow her to delegate something to you, that frees her up to have bigger impact and look good in front of her boss, and that gives you an opportunity to grow into that area.

And the third element of that win-win-win is understanding “What are the primary goals and objectives of the company right now? And how can I align myself with where the company, the skillset, the reputation, the energy, the relentlessness that they might need? And how can I exemplify that?” When those three things are in place, you’re going to get yes every time. Even if the project you want to work on is outside your job description or your current seniority, that’s a great way to open the door for yourself.

So, that’s, I think, element number one for my fellow intrapreneurs out there. Number two, I think is seeking out leaders that you not only like but you want to become like. Now, not every manager is worthy of this. I can appreciate it, especially in your career, you might be working for someone whose leadership style you don’t want to emulate in the future. If that’s true, maybe look for an opportunity to have a cross-functional project or work on something outside your team.

Or, if that’s not even available to you within your organization, maybe volunteering in the community and seeking out a leader who is exemplifying the way you want to manage a team, or is really good under pressure, or is able to exemplify some of those habits that you hope to have in the future. So, surrounding yourself with the best people possible, especially among the leaders you’re working for.

And then I would say the third that comes to mind is proactively disrupting yourself. Now, this probably is not something that many people are seeking out right now because we feel like we’ve had enough disruption, and I can definitely sympathize with that feeling. But what I mean by this is create a checklist for yourself where you’re expanding your skills, your expertise, and you’re up-leveling very consistently before the market or your team or your manager can do it for you.

And that goes back to point number one, which is knowing exactly what you want out of this phase in your career, and finding a place where your team, your company’s goals are in aligned with that. If you think of those three things are in place, intrapreneurs can feel extremely empowered rather than passive and reactive to these items I’ve given, and that feels really, really good, especially in this moment in time when we’re all craving that feeling again.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, I’d love it if you could give us some example articulations of being precise with what you want because I’m imagining, “I want to kind of be better at Excel,” may not be quite what you’re imagining or suggesting when you say, “Be really clear on what you want.” Can we hear some sample articulations?

Ann Hiatt
So true. So, I actually did this exercise for myself when I left Google after 12 years, and decided to found my own company. I sat down to write my mission, vision, and value statements, as many do, as part of your business planning. And I found that exercise to be a little bit exhausting. In fact, I created a free download on my website, on the book’s website BetonYourselfBook.com, to download it because I found it so hard to do myself. I think it’s a 14-page download but I walk you through how to create meaningful value statements.

I learned this from Jeff Bezos, actually. I started working for Jeff in 2002 in the very early years of the company. He’d officially founded it in 1994 but he was just getting traction right about the time that I started. If you can imagine a time when Amazon was not yet profitable, they had had a single profitable quarter but not yet a profitable year, so that’s the moment in time I’m talking about. I know it feels like a wild money-printing machine right now.

But Jeff really doubled down on creating very clear leadership principles for his entire team because really important decisions were being made in rooms that he no longer could be in. He just had to replicate his thought process across the company as fast as possible. So, I saw him work with three of his SVPs to draft the now-famous Amazon leadership principles. At the time there were 10, then it became 14, and now there are 16 with Andy Jassy as the CEO.

And I encourage you to do that even as an intrapreneur. You don’t have to be in your garage starting something with your computer or going to Silicon Valley and looking for venture capital funds. I really encourage you to do this for your own life and career. And first, it starts with that mission statement, “What is the reputation or the living legacy I want to be leaving right now?” Now, whenever I propose that to a client, they feel a little overwhelmed, especially if they’re early in their career, thinking about legacy, but I think it’s a nice clarifying question, to be like, “What do I want in exchange for this?”

My career in tech has been intense. I’ve definitely worked really long days. There were periods of time I was working 18 hours a day and every weekend, and I didn’t burn out because one thing was true. I knew exactly what I wanted in exchange for my very hard work. I was willing to have that be a very high bar. I worked incredibly hard but I knew what I wanted in return. So, that’s what I wanted to learn, who I wanted to become, and the stages on which I wanted to stand in the future.

And so, I think, in writing your mission statement, think about that. Who do you want to be serving? Why is that you? What about your background, your talents, your desires, your drive makes you uniquely qualified to get there? And then surround yourself with the very best people who can supplement any weaknesses or lack of experience that you might have. Does that answer it?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I hear the importance, like, “Yeah, that makes sense.” If you got that kind of clarity there, then you can have that sense of purpose, that mojo, that motivation, that inspiration to persist in those intense times. So, that totally checks out. I guess, so the articulation then is not merely one sentence but rather pretty detailed in terms of we got a mission, we got a vision, we got some values. Can you give us some examples of what those could sound like?

Ann Hiatt
Sure. So, mine has taken me quite a while to put together, and I am allowing to be a living, breathing thing that will evolve with me and my work. So, at the moment, my mission statement is that I am here to discover and empower underrepresented entrepreneurs through actionable education and mentorship.

Now, the first word in that statement was the last one I added because, at first, it was just to empower underrepresented entrepreneurs through actionable education and mentorship. But I realized that a lot of people were not yet self-identifying as an entrepreneur. They’re like, “Well, I’m early in my career,” or, “I’m a mid-level manager,” and so I really wanted to wake that up in people and help them discover it. I wanted to seek them out where they were right now as someone trying to get that big first promotion or own the dream client. I wanted to wake that up in them.

Now, the reason that mission statement was important for me to evolve, it really took quite a lot of like heads-down work and testing it, but it’s important because it helps me know what projects to say yes to now. It helps me if I have a limited number of time. I know I’m going to prioritize an underrepresented entrepreneur over someone that I feel is already well served. If it’s an opportunity to help someone discover their inner entrepreneur, I’m going to say yes to that, for example. Maybe university that has a lower-speaking fee than somewhere else, I’m going to prioritize that over maybe people who are already in a privileged position as an entrepreneur, for example.

So, what you really want is your mission statement to be specific and time-bound, like, “What do I want to deliver right now?” And I think that’s really helped me show up in the right way. When I first started my company, I had to try on a bunch of things and learned the hard way of what I was and wasn’t good at, what excited me, who I was best suited to serve, what did that look like, what stage in their growth are they. So, it took a lot of experimentation.

So, don’t think that just sitting down for 30 minutes is going to be one and done with this mission statement. But you know you have an effective one when it allows you to make much clearer decisions and show up in the right way that is rewarding and exciting to you rather than draining and diminishing.

Pete Mockaitis
So, that’s the mission piece. How about vision?

Ann Hiatt
So, my vision is more about “What am I putting into the world? Am I going to say yes to just the highest-paying project?” For me, I really want to be mission-aligned with you. I want to be working with, for me and my consulting business, I want to work for entrepreneurs who are making a change, I, too, want to see in the world. I’m very attracted to anything around climate change, anything about empowering new generations of entrepreneurs, or expanding education opportunities.

So, that gives me kind of a checklist in my head. There’s just a lot of places you can show up in the world, and I really am value-aligned with that, and I find it if I’m working on a project. For example, I have a friend who started an incredible SaaS company, software-as-a-service company, and I think he’s amazing, and I’ve done a little bit of like helpful advice and coffee chats with him, but it doesn’t wake me up. I’m much more excited to be working on mycelium-based protein alternatives because I think that’s important for the future world that I want to create.

So, it’s often the decisions choosing between good and good are, I think, a lot harder than the good and bad, and having a really clear purpose statement helps me show up in ways that are most meaningful to me.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And let’s hear some values.

Ann Hiatt
So, my values are who I want to be and who I want to surround myself with. So, for me, especially coming out of Silicon Valley, I really drank the Kool-Aid. I am excited by people who are big thinkers and big dreamers. My values are people who want to live up to what is now a cliché of Silicon Valley, of making the world a better place.

I value being around people who are insatiably curious and smart and collaborative and kind, who aren’t competitive in the negative sense but showing up in a very resilient passionate way. And so, my values really come around…circle around the types of people I want to surround myself with through my work and through my consulting.

Pete Mockaitis
You said the word resilient, and I did want to zoom in on this a little bit. I had a podcast guest, I love it, Liz Fosslien is her name. She had a few great posts about “Just be resilient.” It’s really a cop-out when organizations throw that your way. But I guess, as I’m imagining a world in which you are zeroing in on sort of big-impact opportunities and going after them, there’s a lot of fun and excitement associated with that but then there’s also going to be a lot of pressure and expectation that comes with that, and potentially long hours and some exhaustion.

So, tell us, is there anything in the realm of resilience or self-care or support systems that you recommend that can make all the difference when you’re playing a bigger game with bigger set of pressures on you?

Ann Hiatt
I’m going to answer that in two different ways but I promise they’re connected. So, in order for me, as a, by nature, a timid, cautious, perfectionist person, that is the nature with which I was born, I am a perfectionist, all the negative definitions of that. Like, I’m afraid of starting something without being 100% sure that I can do it perfectly. That would’ve led to a very small life had I not been nurtured out of that by this crazy environment I found myself in in tech.

One of the most pivotal moments in my life, a sliding door moment for me was discovering Carol Dweck’s book called Mindset, and even if you only read the introduction, I think it could change a lot of people’s lives. In the introduction, she introduces the premise that there are two different mindsets. There’s the learning mindset and there’s the performance mindset.

As a perfectionist, I was in the performance mindset. I was not consciously thinking this but I was assuming that I was born with a certain set of skills and abilities, and anything that went beyond that would just discover and out me for all my imperfections. That’s a performance mindset. You want to know you can get a 100% on everything you tried.

Now, if you’re in a learning mindset, you have the mindset that you, with extra effort and time and practice, can increase your abilities, that if you try something, the first time you get 80 out of a 100, then the next time you’ll be better informed and learned from your mistakes, you’ll get 85 and progressively can increase your skills.

I don’t know, that was such a lightbulb moment for me, to be like, “Oh, if I am uncovered…” this is where impostor syndrome comes from, and you hold yourself back if you’re aware that, “If they discovered that I can’t yet do this, that means I never can and they won’t trust me anymore.” So, being nurtured out of that, really helped me with that resilience of, because I failed now, I am equipped with tools that I did not have in my toolbelt before and I want to be able to show up smarter, stronger, and better for it after that.

And so, I think resilience is much more is first about your internal mindset. And then the second way I’m going to answer this is in seeking out those teams. I was very privileged to work in companies that not only rewarded that behavior; they demanded it. So, I want to acknowledge that not all families, not all communities, not all companies are embracing of this. But if you can seek out a community of like-minded people where you have that psychological safety to experiment and to try some things and learn to trust yourself, that’s when work gets really, really fun.

In fact, I’m training for a half marathon right now. I’ve ran a few before but that was pre-pandemic and I’m not the same person I was then. So, I’ve got this Peloton trainer I listen to while I’m running, and she just said on my run yesterday something that super resonates around this resilience. She said, “You can’t push yourself until you trust yourself.”

So, start with that internal work first and know, like, “I can do that one more step. I will be stronger tomorrow than I was today because I showed up in this way.” And so, I think those two elements need to be there. Trusting yourself and then being in an environment that rewards, supports, and encourages that.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And then, it sounds like a lot of the work is kind of just foundational in establishing, okay, the mission, the vision, the values, what strengths, what am I good at, what am I going for, what specifically do I want in this role. And then, thinking about some of like the daily habits and practices, what do you recommend when we zoom in at that level to be some key do’s and don’ts for professionals?

Ann Hiatt
I think my first thought is around this element of curiosity. So, all of the incredible super performing CEOs I worked for displayed this in kind of Olympic levels of curiosity. For Jeff Bezos, he did a quarterly thinking retreat. Not all of us have the freedom to do what I’m about to describe but I will translate this for us normal people.

But what he did was, for one week every single quarter, he would lock himself into a hotel room away from his family, from work, from everything, and removed all external stimulus – no newspapers, no phone, no conversations, no nothing – and he would just starve himself of external influences. And then the second half of the week, the only thing he brought with him was a blank Moleskine notebook, and those notebooks are full of ideas. I literally see them launching today. That’s how forward-thinking he was in those moments.

Now, most of us don’t have the freedom to take an entire week off just to think and sit in a room and dream of the future. So, the way that I’ve tried to adapt that for myself is, in the middle of my career, when I was already working very, very long days, I realized that I needed to take good care of my mental and my physical health, to be able to not only survive. But thrive in those very intense environments, it was important to prioritize that.

So, I started having non-negotiables with my teams or with my boss. And so, for example, I started working out with a trainer for the first time in my whole life. It was so hard in the beginning but I had this protected hour from 7:00 to 8:00 a.m. every single day, my phone was not with me. Now, I was working at Google at the time so my gym was literally in the first floor of the building that I worked in.

And so, I said, “Okay, if you actually need me, send my assistant down to get me.” And in the nine years that I kept that practice of taking care of my physical health first before I got to my desk, there were only three times when my assistant had to come down and ask me to come up. So, that really showed me that I can give myself permission to do this hour. The world is not going to fall apart if I take care of myself first.

And I think building in that type of resilience and prioritizing, and especially now, as an entrepreneur, I’m really trying to focus also on my mental health, of giving myself that space to think. And that’s another way I’ve translated what Jeff’s practice of this thinking retreats and being really curious, is now I have these protected hours every day where I’m just reading, reflecting, writing, consuming, because so much of consulting is give, give, giving and I need to replenish my expertise and my knowledge, and just give my brain that space to be creative and to be a connector. So, that’s one of many, many, like Olympic practices that I’ve tried to translate into my work and life.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, whether we are spending an hour or a week in this rampant ideation – this sounds like a blast to me, I like it – creative zone, well, one practice is blocking out stuff, although it sounds like, in your world, you are letting in particular things. So, maybe zoom in a little bit, like what are we doing? Are we just sort of sitting there, like, “Hmm” write, write, write? Are there any key question prompts or initial fodder or reading materials that get things going here?

Ann Hiatt
I think your instinct is right. This absolutely needs to be dialed in for each individual. So, the way in which you kind of fill yourself back up in order to give, give, and give, what’s required at home and like your family and at work, I think that’s unique to the individual. So, for me, because my work is in giving advice, and also having this international breadth of understanding of where tech is moving in the world right now, my clients really need me to have that kind of global perspective.

I can’t do that without having time to consume all the information. So, one for me is just, personally, I love to read, I love to listen to podcasts, I love hearing and being exposed to some of the greatest thinkers in the world. So, in and of itself, even if that wasn’t directly demanded of me for my job, I would be doing that anyway.

So, that’s something that fills me up. Even if I’m not reading something for work, I just know that makes me happy. The second thing is I know I need sunshine.

I grew up in Seattle. Most of my life, I did not have that daily dose of sunshine. The second I moved to California for grad school, and now I live in Spain, I know that it’s just like instant happiness for me. So, if I get outside in fresh air and get some sunshine on my face, that’s an instant mood boost for me. Each person is going to be a little bit different. I know I’ll have a good day if I’ve moved my body, if I filled my mind, and if I go outside in nature.

For each person, that’s different. Like, maybe it’s playing with your kids or your dog. Maybe it is in a creative pursuit. You need to paint or create something with your hands. So, ask yourself, “What, for me, even when I am working on it really, really hard and I remain far away from the finish line of whatever goal it is I’m working on, I finish the day feeling like I have been filled up rather than drained?”

So, I think those types of pursuits are always things you want to be seeking out. Like, even if you’re not perfect at it, maybe you’re training for a marathon like I am right now, and trust me, I’m horrible. I’m not doing this because I have any hope of winning anything. Hopefully, maybe hope you are. But just think about that, of what fills you up and fills you with joy regardless of the outcome, that you don’t want to be measuring those rejuvenation periods on the same scale as you are with your work or performance.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And then I’m curious, so let’s say you’re doing all these things and you’re just rocking and rolling, delivering value all over the place, and it seems like, unfortunately, the meritocratic forces in your organization are broken. It’s like, “Oh, you can’t be promoted until someone dies or moves to another role, and they’re probably not going to do that for six years.” How do you think about that when you’re there?

Ann Hiatt
Been there, done that. I absolutely know that struggle intimately. As I mentioned, I worked at Google for 12 years so it was really on me to have to reinvent myself, and I tended to do it in kind of three-year cycles. I would be challenged in the beginning and learning a lot, then I get into my zone of genius and start doing it really well, and then, after that, I would start to get the itch of like, “What’s next?”

And nobody, even at a company as innovative and driven as Google, nobody ever came to me once and said, “Oh, Ann, I’ve noticed you’ve had this untapped talent or interest, and I’ve been thinking about how to apply it.” That just doesn’t happen. That’s your job. So, I think it comes back to having that conversation with yourself and knowing exactly what you want to go for.

So, after about, let’s see, six years at Google, so halfway through my tenure there, I had this idea for a role that I think would really elevate not only my work but the work of my manager who, at the time, was Eric Schmidt, the CEO. And I had seen, we were doing a lot of policy work at the time, and I had seen this role of chief of staff in government, at the White House, in military, for example, and I thought, “That is what he needs.”

I had been this business partner for him, I’d been kind of a thought leader with him, I was kind of that safe space for him to debate ideas, and I thought, “If I could take my job to the next level, it would look like chief of staff.” Eric thought it was a good idea, had me brainstorm, write the job description. I took it to HR and it literally took me three years to fully realize what I wanted in that job.

And so, in the end, I was the very first chief of staff at Google ever, and now it’s pervasive throughout tech and now moving beyond that. But I can tell you right now, I had a conversation, in fact, with my HR rep the day I left for Christmas holidays and it made cry because she, basically, just squashed it and said, “If you want that type of thing, you might want to consider looking elsewhere,” and I wasn’t ready to do that yet but then, eventually, I moved on.

So, I’ve had those really hard conversations but I think it comes back to that knowing what you want, seeing how that solves a problem for your manager, and proving how that’s best for the company. In the end, either you’re going to get it, which I did after a couple of year’s fight, and then, eventually, I needed to move on in order to have the kind of growth that I wanted. So, you can feel both of that. Sometimes it’s wait and work really and prove yourself, and then eventually, sometimes, the answer is that growth opportunity might lay elsewhere.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And not to dig too much into the minutiae of your story, but I think it will be resonant for folks who encounter resistance. Okay, so the CEO wants it, you want it, what’s HR’s problem?

Ann Hiatt
Thank you. I literally said that to him after I got the “No, no, no,” and he kind of…he shrugged, and he’s like, “Gosh, we’re truly a big company now.” But what it was, the part that made sense to me, a lot of it did not, but the part that made sense to me was Google, by then, had had to operationalize, stream-wise, and make sure everything was done with ultimate efficiency. That means that everything was done now on a specific job ladder.

I was trying to create a brand-new job ladder. So, I was trying to kind of merge a lot of this support structure, this skillset in communications and policy and project management, and create this hybrid role, and HR did not want to create a whole new job ladder or this hybrid role that they thought would be really nebulous, hard to write job descriptions, how do you measure for that, how would I be evaluated, how would you be compensated for that.

And so, it took years, and, rightfully, probably in the first year, I didn’t have a clear enough understanding of what the delegated authority level of that job would be, what are the delegated tasks, how would we measure and quantify the success and impact of that work. It’s a very, very data-driven company I did need to dig into the hard work and really make the case. And, eventually, I did but much slower than I had anticipated.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, that’s a nice perspective. It may take some time or it may be hopeless. Any tips on how we can tell the difference sooner rather than later?

Ann Hiatt
I think I pursued it for three years because I did see progress and I became more and more convinced of the value of it. What I ended up doing that sealed the deal in the end was I said, “How about we do an experiment? Let’s not make it official but of the job description that I’d outlined, with this delegated authority level, with this type of responsibilities, with this skillset, I’m going to act like I already have this title and this job,” which took a bit of buy-in from my peers because a big part of being chief of staff is acting as a surrogate, as a delegate of your executive.

And for me to represent Eric Schmidt in rooms he wasn’t in is a big deal and I needed his senior reports to kind of treat me accordingly even without formal title authority. Luckily, I had worked with all of them for more than a decade and I had that trust factor with them already. They knew that time with me would make their jobs better, and so I got that kind of peer buy-in that was essential. Had I not had that, those relationships of trust already established, I don’t think I could’ve converted on it.

But agreeing to do that six-month trial and then inviting extreme critique from all of those people I had worked for and got a 360-performance evaluation from them was the proof that they needed that this actually did, I think one of them described, 10x-ing our output by having me be able to represent him in more rooms.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. Well, Ann, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Ann Hiatt
No, I am so excited for your listeners to really create this playlist for themselves, and then to be brave enough to say it out loud. Honestly, I think that’s the hardest part is just the first time you have that conversation with your manager, it’s awkward. I remember trying to expand the confines of my job description when I was working with Marissa Mayer, who was my first manager at Google.

She was employee number 20, first female engineer ever hired at Google, tough as nails, insanely smart. And I remember suggesting a couple of projects that were far outside the confines of my job description, and it was met with awkward silence at first. She literally did not respond. She didn’t even acknowledge she’d heard the words coming out of my mouth. But it was processing, that was kind of her thing.

So, I just wanted to put it out there. Sometimes it does, at first, be met with that silence because you’re trying to teach people to treat you and think of you in a different way so don’t let that deter you but be very clear and show the value of not only for yourself but for your manager and your team as a whole. I found it works pretty consistently.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Now, could you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Ann Hiatt
So, there’s two that come to mind, if I can cheat and choose two. One is from Maya Angelou. It is very apropos to what we were just discussing, where she says, “People may forget what you said, they might forget what you did, but they’ll never forget the way you made them feel.” And I think that absolutely resonates for me in my life, in general, and definitely in my career. I have worked for very driven dedicated sometimes terrifying people but they made me feel valued, they made me feel like they wanted to invest in me, and I’ve really tried to pay that forward now in this next part of my career.

And that leads into the second quote that I really liked that’s by Diane von Furstenberg, one of the first self-made female billionaires. And Diane said, “I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I knew the woman I wanted to become.” And I think a lot of people who have natural ambition and just feel like they were made for more sometimes can opt out because they don’t know what that looks like yet.

And I don’t want people to be deterred. That quote has inspired me because the woman I want to be has always been very clear to me. How I accomplished that came in very unexpected packages, and so I find that very inspiring.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Ann Hiatt
There’s two I find myself constantly quoting to my clients and to just my friends that we talk about careers is. There’s one by Ben Horowitz called The Hard Thing About Hard Things. My favorite line in that book is full of so much wisdom. My favorite line is saying that, “As an entrepreneur, there are only two emotions: terror and euphoria.” And I find that to be very true in my work.

And another one that I find myself recommending nearly on a daily basis is one that’s written by John Doerr called Measure What Matters. It’s about the goal-setting moonshot system that is used both at Amazon and at Google for innovative thinking, and it’s very applicable to individual careers, not just those trying to become the next Amazon and Google, but it’s really about leading an ambitious life and pushing through the boundaries of your capabilities.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And can you share a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?

Ann Hiatt
Well, the first response that comes to mind is just all the things I’ve used to stay connected across the pandemic, especially since I moved to Spain and started my own company just before the pandemic happened, so I’d already set myself up for a bit of a learning curve. To be connected with global entrepreneurs while not face to face with them is tricky.

So, if I really had to choose something, it’ll probably be this little green light here on my laptop, like being able to be connected on these different platforms, these video platforms is 100% how I do my job now. So, if I had to pick one, it would be Zoom or Zoom-like features is how I’ve really stayed connected.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And is there a key nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with clients; they quote it back to you frequently?

Ann Hiatt
Probably the most quoted line from my book that people send me on Twitter or Instagram or otherwise, is “No life is too small and no dream is too big to be worthy of investment.” I really believe in that.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, thank you. I’m going to chew on that for a while. And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Ann Hiatt
So, the best single stop is the book’s website, which is BetonYourselfBook.com. There you got links to all my social media and all the places you can buy it. I’ve got some nice free downloads there. And very active on LinkedIn. I post articles three or four times a week, and so you get little bite-size pieces of the wisdom from the book and things that I’m sharing consistently with my clients there, so you can find me there.

Pete Mockaitis
And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Ann Hiatt
My call to action is start today. As you’ve been listening to this episode, an idea that you’ve been afraid to say out loud has come to mind. Take one little baby step towards that today. And if I could pick one for you, it would be say it out loud to somebody that is a nice sponsor for you that will keep you accountable and support you in taking those first brave baby steps forward. So, start today.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Ann, thank you. This has been a treat. I wish you much luck in all your bets.

Ann Hiatt
Thank you very much to you, too.

759: How to Make the Most of LinkedIn and Get Hired with Jeremy Schifeling

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Jeremy Schifeling walks you through the ins and outs of LinkedIn and how you can make it work for you and your career.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The top thing on your profile that you need to focus on
  2. How to get a ton of LinkedIn connections fast
  3. The simple thing that boosts your odds of getting hired by 10x 

About Jeremy

Jeremy Schifeling has devoted his career to helping students succeed in theirs. From recruiting top students at Teach For America to leading student marketing for LinkedIn, he’s touched the lives of millions of people just starting their journeys. Along the way, he’s published a top-selling book on job applications, served as the University of Michigan’s tech career coach, and produced the most-viewed video in LinkedIn’s history. He currently leads teacher outreach efforts at Khan Academy and shares his thoughts on Break into Tech, a site for anyone who wants to launch a tech career. 

Resources Mentioned

Jeremy Schifeling Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Jeremy, welcome to How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Jeremy Schifeling
Oh, thanks for having me, Pete. So glad to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to talk LinkedIn with you, and you have a pretty special achievement when it comes to LinkedIn. Tell us, what’s the story here?

Jeremy Schifeling
Yes, so I actually used to work there. I was lucky enough to go to work for the company right after they IPO’ed about a decade ago. I got to lead education marketing there, so helping students and recent grads make the most of the site. And, actually, ever since I’ve left LinkedIn, I’ve still been on that same mission to unlock the potential of the site for thousands and thousands of professionals around the world, including lots of top universities as well, because I think there’s so much power there but it’s buried deep beneath the surface that someone has got to excavate it.

Pete Mockaitis
And so then, you, in fact, created the most watched video on LinkedIn. What’s the story? What’s the video? How many views? What are we talking here?

Jeremy Schifeling
Yeah, it’s a funny story because, basically, this was still in the wild west days of YouTube marketing and things like that, but we were trying to bring LinkedIn from the C-suite to college campuses. And students back in the day were like, “Wait a second. Isn’t LinkedIn like Facebook for old people before Facebook became Facebook for old people?” and they were kind of suspicious of why they would want another social network in their lives.

And so, we had to convince them, “Hey, it is relevant whether you want to find your tenth job or your first job, LinkedIn is there for you.” And so, we made this kind of irreverent video talking about how LinkedIn is not just for old guys with heavy briefcases, and it actually got us in trouble with our CEO because he was like, “Those old guys with heavy briefcases, they pay your salary.”

But we won out in the end because the video did get about five million views and was well liked by our audience and helped to get over that suspicious hump that was in our way. So, definitely still up on YouTube. People should check it out. It’s called Your Career Starts Here.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s cool. Well, congrats. And it’s so funny, like everyone wants to go viral, and I don’t know if anyone is really…isn’t there like a legendary business school contest for like, “Hey, make a viral video.” And it’s sort of like, “It’s out of your hands. It’s just some things kind of take off.” And so, do you know what made this such a hit or is it just another one of those mysteries of the viral video?

Jeremy Schifeling
Yeah, definitely a big joke in the marketing circles. Like, you’ll see these memes where it says, the boss comes into the marketer’s office, and says, “Hey, make me one of those viral videos, will you?” And I wish we had the ability to snap our fingers and make it happen. I do think, in our case, we’ve sort of hit on that surprised theme of, “Wait a second. LinkedIn is actually funny? LinkedIn is actually poking fun at itself and at corporate America?” And so, I think, at least for the time, it kind of spoke to that zeitgeist.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. All right.

Pete Mockaitis
We’re talking about your work Linked: Conquer LinkedIn. Get Your Dream Job. Own Your Future. Good stuff. I know there’s a whole lot to discuss, but could you name us one particularly surprising, mind-blowing LinkedIn feature or trick you share that’s like, underappreciated but so powerful?

Jeremy Schifeling
Oh, absolutely. I apologize in advance if I geek out about this stuff. I know I love LinkedIn more than the average person. But I think that LinkedIn is not just useful for finding jobs. It’s really useful for getting jobs. And one perfect example of that is just in the last year or so, LinkedIn has rolled out a new video interview tool.

So, you know we’re all interviewing on Zoom for the first time these days, there’s the Great Resignation going on with people quitting jobs and trying to find new ones, and if you suffer from Zoom stage fright, where you’ve got there on the camera and a little light on your webcam goes off and you freeze up, LinkedIn can help you prepare ahead of time by recording yourself giving answers, getting feedback from people in your network, and it’s all for free.

And so, for your listeners out there, if you just head over to LinkedIn, head into the video interview tool, you can get ready for primetime without paying a cent.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Okay. Cool. Well, there’s one great feature right there. And so, tell us, your book Linked what’s sort of the main idea, the big thesis here?

Jeremy Schifeling
Yeah, I think the number one thing is that even though LinkedIn can often seem like yet another boring social network in this constellation of too many social networks, it’s actually much more of a tool for savvy job seekers, people who want to sort of upgrade their careers. If you’ve got a hunger to get to wherever you want to be going, LinkedIn is the tool to get you there.

You can’t waste time the way you might waste time on other social networks just posting random stuff, consuming content. Instead, you’ve got to use it like a heat-seeking missile where you’re really focused on what’s most important to you in achieving your own goals. That’s what we talk about in the book, how to get exactly where you want to go.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so tell us then, when it comes to the goals, what would you say would be sort of like the main segmentation of goals people have when they go on LinkedIn? So, they’re not there for the cat videos, they’re not there for the sassy little dance video tidbits. What are sort of the top goals that people go to LinkedIn for?

Jeremy Schifeling
Yeah, absolutely. And I think it’s definitely a couple of things. So, obviously, job seekers whether, again, you’re looking for an entry-level job, a career change, LinkedIn has all the companies, all the recruiters, all the opportunities. But if you’re looking to maybe power up your career in a couple different ways as an entrepreneur, well, guess what, all your clients are all on LinkedIn.

If you’re looking to grow within your organization, all of your fellow colleagues and the people who are higher up than you are on there to network with. And so, whether you want to get a completely new job or just upgrade the one that you have today, LinkedIn is really powerful for all those use cases.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, let’s talk about those who are doing some job seeking. Do you have sort of like a step-by-step in terms of, “Okay, looking for a new opportunity, LinkedIn is apparently awesome says Jeremy”? What would be sort of like the step-by-step to making it work for you?

Jeremy Schifeling
Yeah, and I think there are really three steps to focus on. The first one, this is so important, even though a lot of job seekers skip over it, is you’ve got to know where you belong. LinkedIn, like anything out there in the internet, is driven by algorithms and keywords. And so, if you just say, “Hey, I want a new job. I’m looking for a job,” that’s not good enough because, on LinkedIn, the recruiters who are looking for you need to know whether you match their job descriptions.

So, you’ve got to have focus to the point where you’re like, “I’m a project manager, a product manager, a producer. Here’s what I can do for you.” And if you don’t know where you belong yet, no worries, you can actually go on LinkedIn, look up your school on the site, and, basically, find tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of alumni who have majored in the same thing you did, and are now doing all sorts of fascinating work, from government work, to nonprofits, to tech, to finance, everything in between.

And you can reach out and learn about their experiences to find the right path for you. So, that’s step one.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah. You know, that’s really cool. I hadn’t thought about that from a sort of like of like a first-job kind of perspective in terms of it’s like, “Ah, I’ll do anything. I don’t know. I studied this because I liked this but what do people from high school who studied finance or whatever end up doing?” You can sort of go that way.

I think what I’ve also found really fun is if I’ve met someone who’s doing a cool thing, I can look up that individual person, and then it says, “Oh, people have also looked for this,” or they can see where they worked, and then I see the other folks, other organizations in the industry, so I know it’s not addictive in the same way that maybe Facebook or Instagram can be for folks but, at times, for me, it has been, in terms of, “Oh, wow, that’s fascinating and that’s really cool, too, and that’s really cool too,” in terms of discovering sort of new people and organizations, and as it suggests another and another and another. So, again, start by your school and field of study if you’re in the earlier years of your career or discover all kinds of new stuff if you’re in the mid-game there.

Jeremy Schifeling
Yeah, I love that idea, Pete, because I do think that so often, job seekers have the scarcity mentality, “Oh, there are only so many jobs out there and so competitive to work at the top places. I’m never going to find the perfect opportunity.” But if you take that sort of surplus or bounty perspective that you talked about, kind of like a kid in a candy shop, what you’re going to discover is there are so many cool people doing so much cool stuff out there.

And if you just expose yourself to it, all of a sudden, you’re going to start to see, “Hey, I could be doing that, or that, or that.” And the question is sort of editing it down to find that north star that you can really hone in on.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, we first, step one, know where you belong, and in so doing, or in doing so, we’re going to check out a bunch of related people and organizations that come from our field of study or something else that we already know that we’re interested in. Okay, so what’s the next step?

Jeremy Schifeling
Okay. And so then, once you know where you belong, you’ve got to get it out of your mind and into the digital ether, into the LinkedIn platform. And the reason for that is within this massive sea chain in the last two decades where recruiters who were once placing classified ads or going on Monster.com, now just say, “Hey, I don’t want to waste any time with that. I’m going to go right to LinkedIn and search for the top talent there,” because LinkedIn has 700 million plus profiles so there’s no reason to go anywhere else.

And that means you’ve got to signal to those recruiters, “Hey, I’m in the game. I’m interested.” And so, that starts with your headline. So, I know it may seem a little weird because it’s not necessarily an equivalent on a resume, but that little piece of text right beneath your name, so right where it says Pete, you need to put in, “I’m a project manager,” or an accountant, or a digital strategist, or whatever you’re focused on because that single piece of text is limited to just 160 characters, fewer even than a tweet.

And, therefore, it has been given the most weight in LinkedIn’s algorithm because it’s the least gameable. LinkedIn knows that people can stuff all sorts of keywords all over their profile except for the headline. That’s the truest, most authentic signal of who you are and what you can do, and that’s why you’ve got to start there by signaling your focus.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And can you give us some examples of great headlines? You mentioned accountant, project manager. Is that it? Just accountant, project manager, or would you expand upon that, and how so?

Jeremy Schifeling
Yeah, I do think this is where it goes back to that homework piece we’re just talking, of really doing your due diligence, understanding the career path. If you don’t want to be just an accountant, but you want to be an accountant focused on sustainability or cryptocurrency or whatever, then, absolutely, include that as well because, again, always put yourself in the recruiter’s shoes.

If you are looking for an accountant at Coinbase, say, and you want to hire someone with a passion for the space, yeah, you could hire a regular old accountant who knows nothing about it, or you could hire someone who really gets it and is already an insider. And so, you really want to signal, “Here’s my functional interests, and also here’s the industry, here’s the kind of company I want to work for.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Perfect. Okay, so step one, know where you belong. Step two, show that you’re in the game and we start with your headline. Any other key things you want to fill out?

Jeremy Schifeling
Yeah. So, again, if you imagine yourself as a recruiter, recruiters actually have the access to this behind-the-scenes called LinkedIn Recruiter. I know, not a very exciting name, but it’s actually the most powerful screen that controls careers around the globe that no one even knows exists except for the recruiters.

And, basically, the reason it’s so powerful is it allows any recruiter who has this license, and it’s about $10,000 per year per seat, so not cheap, but it allows them to go in and search through all those profiles and find the best talent right away. And so, one thing they’re going to search for beyond just, “Hey, I need an accountant,” is, “I need an accountant with specific skills, maybe with expertise in this technology or that platform.”

And so, it’s really critical that you figure out what those keywords are and get those into your profile. So, for example, if A/B testing were an important thing for your career path and you’ve noticed that in all of these job listings that you’re going after, you would want to have it in your About section, you’d want to have it in your skill section, your experience section, so that way LinkedIn Recruiter sees that skillset that you have and gives you as a recommended match to the recruiter.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so, even if you haven’t done A/B testing, you can just mention that you’re interested in A/B testing? We talked about gaming, I don’t know. So, I think, well, one, step one, or maybe step 2B maybe in our numbering here is we’ll just have a good sense for what are the opportunities that you want, what are those postings sound like, what are the words that show up again and again. So, it’s just like, “Okay, this is what you’re into, I’m going to see how I can incorporate them.”

But I’m curious, if you haven’t done A/B testing, but you want to show up for A/B testing, do you just mention, “Hey, I’m interested in A/B testing,” or, “I’ve learned several tools and I want to learn more, like A/B testing”?

Jeremy Schifeling
Yeah, I’m glad you brought that question. So, first of all, a little bonus hack for your listeners. If you want to quickly figure out what these most important keywords are, obviously, you can look manually one job description at a time, or you could go to a tool like Jobscan.co, which is also free for a limited number of uses, and basically say, “Hey, show me all the most important keywords for all my favorite job descriptions,” and it’ll immediately pull out, “These are the most critical keywords, and here’s the ones you’re missing.”

Now, for your ethical question. If you do not have that skill, should you list it? Probably not, and here’s why. Because even if a recruiter chooses you on LinkedIn, and says, “Hey, Pete looks awesome. Let me bring him in for an interview,” if they test you on that A/B testing skill on the interview…

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Oh, you saw I’ve done that, Jeremy.

Jeremy Schifeling
…that could ultimately be an unsatisfactory experience for both sides.

Pete Mockaitis
Indeed, that’s true. And, at the same time though, I don’t know why I’m so fixated on this poor person who has not yet done A/B testing. I think at the same time though, you could pick up some skills without necessarily having done it on the job in terms of you could take a LinkedIn Learning. This is a huge LinkedIn commercial, apparently.

Jeremy Schifeling
That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
A LinkedIn Learning course about the matter, which actually does show up on your profile as having taken, you can get those badges, certifications, completions using LinkedIn Learning, or just really dork out. Back in the day, I think they might have taken down this website, it’s called WhichTestOne.com. You just look at all these A/B tests and sort of sharpen your skills and read about the comments. Anyway, this is not about A/B testing. This is about using…

Jeremy Schifeling
Well, let me just point out one thing there, Pete, because this is important, especially for career changers out there. So often there’s that Catch-22 where you say, “Hey, in order to get the new job, I have to have experience with it, but in order to get experience, I have to get the job, so how do I break through?”

Well, I want to be really clear, you don’t have to have formal big company experience doing something to list on your profile. If you’ve done A/B testing for your own pet project, for your volunteer work, even extracurricular as a student, all that counts because you can still talk about it in the context of an interview. So, absolutely, get credit for what you’ve done no matter the context.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. Okay. Well, so then anything else you want to talk about in step two, showing them that you’re in the game with regard to your headlines and your keywords? Anything else?

Jeremy Schifeling
Yeah, I think those are the most important ones. I think the next step, and this is really critical, is you got to get the recruiter to pick you because, so far, we’ve been talking mostly about the algorithm, “How does this algorithm that powers LinkedIn find you based on your headline, find you based on your keywords?”

But then imagine I’m that recruiter, and I’ve put in all my parameters and I still have 50,000 candidates. Well, one of the tricky things is that LinkedIn limits recruiters to a certain number of InMails a month, messages to new candidates.

Pete Mockaitis
Even with 10,000 bucks a year, heh?

Jeremy Schifeling
That’s right. It’s a pretty good time to be LinkedIn, right? Pretty good business.

Pete Mockaitis
So, we have…there’s a cap, which makes sense because that’s better for everybody. We don’t want to be spammed hundreds of times over. By having some forced scarcity, we have some control there. Okay. So, fair point. You’re showing up in the keywords and the searches, but so are thousands of others. So, now what?

Jeremy Schifeling
Yes. So, now how do you make yourself InMail worthy? In other words, if I’ve got 30 InMails or three InMails left for the rest of the month, how do I decide if you’re worth it, Pete? And so, obviously, it’s about having all the stuff we’ve talked about, the keywords, and the nice photo, and stuff like that, but LinkedIn also has extra bonus filters built into this Recruiter platform that allows recruiters to figure out, “Hey, are you a serious candidate? Are you worth my time and my energy?”

And so, those are things like you may have noticed on the profile, there’s now this thing called Open to Work. And, basically, what that is is a bat signal to recruiters, saying, “Hey, don’t waste that last InMail of the month on someone who’s not even going to respond to you because they’re so content on their current job. Instead, know that I’m in the game and specifically looking for roles at companies like yours.” And, by the way, I know you’re going to ask, you’re going to say, “Jeremy, that sounds great. What if my current boss finds out?”

Pete Mockaitis
Yup.

Jeremy Schifeling
That’s a problem, right? Well, the nice thing is that LinkedIn allows you to basically go into stealth mode with that where you can share your signal with only recruiters who are paying all this money for this product, and specifically only recruiters who don’t work in your current company so you don’t have to worry about the HR department gnarking you out to your boss.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. And so, you would have to have almost like a very motivated HR department to have a buddy working elsewhere, taking a look and then sharing. And I would hope they’ve got maybe better things to do with their time and life, than say, “Who’s thinking about leaving?” Maybe just make a more engaging, rewarding work environment. That’s my own editorial icing on the matter. Okay, cool. So, that’s nifty.

Okay. So then other than the Open to Work piece, what else can we do to stand out amongst the thousands?

Jeremy Schifeling
Yeah, great question. So, the next filter that’s available on LinkedIn Recruiter is called, “Do you have a company connection?” In other words, “Is there someone on the inside that you know that plugs you into the company?” And the reason that’s there is that LinkedIn’s own research has shown that recruiters are much more likely to select you as a candidate if you happen to know someone on the inside already.

If you’re thinking, like, “Hey, why does that matter at all?” But the reality is it’s for the recruiter, that human connection, that sort of connective tissue between you and the organization makes a huge difference. They’re able to reach out to get an introduction, they’re able to reach out and do a background check on you later in the process, and so you’re just a more desirable candidate, an easier candidate to manage, and that makes them more likely to use their InMails on you.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, then I suppose the implication then is have a bigger network so it’s more likely that you’re there.

Jeremy Schifeling
Absolutely, yeah. You nailed it, Pete, because, really, mathematically, if you think about the way that networks are, like if you just have a larger more diverse network, you’re more likely to know someone on the inside at more companies around the globe. So, building a large network on LinkedIn isn’t just a vanity project to say, “Hey, I’m 500 plus.” It actually matters to your chances of success.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. Certainly. And any pro tips on how we can grow that number quickly?

Jeremy Schifeling
Yeah. Oh, this is an important one. So, the number one mistake that I see people making with LinkedIn networks is they go onto LinkedIn and they try to basically reinvent the wheel, go out there and build new connections one by one, and that’s great. It’s great to meet new people. But they haven’t gone and credited yet for all the people they already know in the real world. So, let me ask you this question, Pete. How many people would you say that you’ve met or corresponded with over the course of your entire lifetime?

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. Well, I don’t know precisely but it is more than 3,000.

Jeremy Schifeling
Okay. I have research that suggests you’re absolutely right, that the average person knows about 5,000 people over the course of a lifetime. So, you’re somewhere on that journey.

Pete Mockaitis
Alrighty.

Jeremy Schifeling
And so, what that means is when you see people on LinkedIn who have 10 connections or 20 connections, they are literally missing out on thousands of actual connections they’ve built out there in the real world. And because LinkedIn doesn’t know about them, they can’t give you credit for it at the algorithmic level, at the recruiter level. You’re not being plugged into all those opportunities that you deserve.

So, to catch up as quickly as possible, what I want all of your listeners to do is to go to the My Network tab at the top of the screen, and instead of just connecting with people one at a time, scroll down to the lower left hand side, and actually import your address books. I know what you’re thinking, you’re like, “Whoa, this is going against every social media training I’ve ever gotten. I’ve got keep that stuff locked down.” But the reality is that your address book, like your Gmail address book, is a digital archive of everyone you’ve corresponded with, all those relationships you’ve built.

And so, when LinkedIn matches those with the email addresses and the profiles, they can instantly give you credit for all the people you already know because, unlike a Facebook, unlike the TikTok or an Instagram, there’s not much of a dark side on LinkedIn because the nice thing about LinkedIn being the boring social network that we talked about is that you don’t have all this crazy stuff happening on there. It’s more about opportunity and accessing it.

Pete Mockaitis
And then nothing nefarious is happening in terms of people being hit with like marketing messages, like, “Hey, you joined LinkedIn,” because, one, they’re probably on LinkedIn, and then, two, that’s just not what happens when you’re adding contacts, right?

Jeremy Schifeling
That’s right. It’s basically saying, “Hey, you already know Pete. Why don’t you actually acknowledge that connection on LinkedIn?” And then it works out well for both of you for the reasons we talked about.

Pete Mockaitis
And you can choose them individually. And what I found is really fun is once you do that, and let’s say you get a couple hundred going through there in a jiffy, is that now LinkedIn’s algorithms have a lot more to work with. So, then you can just request to connect a whole bunch of people. And then, a week later, many of them have already said yes, and your network is much larger. And now, the recommended connections make a lot more of them are new and relevant, like, “Oh, yeah, that person, too. And, yeah, that person, too. And that person, too.”

And so then, there’s sort of a nice little virtuous cycle in terms of, “Add a bunch of connections. Come back a week. Better recommendations. Add a bunch of those connections. Come back a week. More good recommendations,” and then you just keep sort of scaling really quick in terms of, like, “Okay, I guess now I’ve got everybody I know connected on LinkedIn. Cool.”

Jeremy Schifeling
That’s absolutely right. And I think that one of the things your listeners will find if they embraced some of these strategies is that we often have been taught, “Oh, my goodness, I don’t want these algorithms processing me and my behavior.” But, again, the upside here is so massive. We’re getting exposed to companies you didn’t know about, jobs you didn’t know about, recruiters you didn’t know about who all are seeking your talent, and that’s all for the good.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Those are so great. Well, tell me, Jeremy, what are some other must-dos and must-don’ts associated with LinkedIn? Is that it? that’s the three steps? Is there more?

Jeremy Schifeling
I will mention one more thing, if you wouldn’t mind.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, then we’ll say, okay, so we got three steps. And what else?

Jeremy Schifeling
Yeah. And so, the last piece, and this really goes to that networking and relationship-building piece we just talked about, is if you do nothing else on LinkedIn, if you skipped the profile, you skipped all the career exploration, and if you invest in only a single step, it’s got to be reaching out and getting a referral for the jobs you want because, on this point, the data is so clear, which is that job seekers who are referred to jobs, so basically someone inside the company is saying, “Hey, I know Pete. He’s awesome. He should have a job here,” gives you a 10X advantage over candidates who only apply online.

Think about that. We spend probably more time working than we do with our families, for better or worse, and if we’re going to have so much time and so much of our personal meaning invested in work, shouldn’t it be the work that we love doing, with colleagues we like working with? So, give yourself the best shot at that, find someone on the inside who can go to bat for you to give you that referral, and use that to get the best chance of doing work you love.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And when we’re asking for that referral, any pro tips in terms of best/worst practices, like, “Hey, man, I want to work here. Make it happen”? What shall I say? What shall I not say?

Jeremy Schifeling
Definitely starts with finding the right people, this kind of this Venn diagram overlap that you’re looking for where it’s someone who wants to help you and someone who can help you. So, for example, if you searched for a company at LinkedIn, say, Google, for instance. And then you click on the Google company page, and you say, “Hey, there are 200,000 employees at Google, those are 200,000 potential referrers.” And if you click on that number, you’ll see all those people listed on LinkedIn as well as their backgrounds, where they went to school, etc.

So, you can take that list and you can filter it for “People I already know. People who are friends of friends. People who went to the same school.” And now they’ve got some incentive to want to help you. You can also search by title, to say, “Show me people on the product management team or on the marketing team,” and now you’re finding people who can help you because they’re plugged into the team you want to work for. And so, if you can find that perfect overlap, that person is going to be really well-placed to help you out.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, we find the right person. And then any do’s and don’ts with regard to what we say to that person?

Jeremy Schifeling
Yeah, and I think it all comes down to what’s the relationship so far. If it’s someone who’s been your best friend for 20 years, ask for the referral right away because, honestly, it’s a win-win. Sure, you’re going to get a great opportunity, but in exchange, Google is going to pay them a $1,000 or $5,000 or $10,000 in referral bonus once you’re hired. So, never doubt the power of the referral to help you as well as your friend.

But if you don’t know them that well already, no worries, you can always reach out and say, “Hey, I just want to pick your brain about this opportunity in this organization.” You can get their story, hear their journey, and then, after you’ve built a bit of a rapport with that person, then you could start to pivot, and say, “Hey, I would love nothing less but to follow in your footsteps and get to sort of go on this journey that you’ve gone on. I understand from this amazing podcast I was listening to that Google really values referrals. Any chance you’d be willing to put one in for me?” And now that you’ve broken the ice, you’ve established the rapport, it’s much more natural to make that ask than right off the top of the bat.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, certainly. And so, when you say referrals, this can happen…this is not a particular LinkedIn thing so much as just sort of humans doing humans have always done with regard to recommending in people.

Jeremy Schifeling
That’s right. But think about this, referrals have always happened but always through the old boys’ network, right, “Oh, ho, ho, ho, you went to Harvard Business School, I went to Harvard Business School, let’s help each other out.” But what if you didn’t go to Harvard Business School? What if you didn’t go to business school or even college?

Well, LinkedIn now enables you to find people who are at all these organizations who might have other things in common with you, and you could go on there and say, “Show me all the Google employees who volunteered for Habitat for Humanity because that’s my particular passion.” You could connect on that basis. And so, ultimately, this is democratizing access to referrals, not just the old boys’ network.

I want to hear, when it comes to getting endorsements, that seems like a good thing that would work for us. What’s your take there?

Jeremy Schifeling
Yeah, so let’s come back to the source of truth here. Ultimately, everything boils down to that LinkedIn Recruiter screen we were talking about where the recruiters around the world are finding top talent. And, ultimately, what you’ll see if you look at that, and you can look at screenshots online, is that LinkedIn, even almost 10 years after endorsements have launched, has never built that as a filter into LinkedIn Recruiter.

Pete Mockaitis
No kidding.

Jeremy Schifeling
And the reason for that is sort of simple data science, which is if you recall the heyday of LinkedIn endorsements, when they first launched, there was all this virality. People were going around endorsing each other for everything. My own mom endorsed me for astronomy and geology and all the stuff I knew nothing about.

And that, ultimately, watered down the signal and created all this noise so much so that just because I had 99 plus endorsements for something didn’t actually make me an expert at it, wouldn’t stand up in the interview room. And because it wasn’t a strong enough signal that they could actually hang their hat on, they’ve never baked it into their flagship product. LinkedIn Recruiter is what makes LinkedIn its most money. If you look at their last 10K and then, ultimately, if it’s not going to be successful for recruiters and effective for that key audience, they’re not going to put it into their flagship.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, that’s not a filter that appears in that piece of software that recruiters are using. I guess you may argue, it may or may not be interesting or compelling when you look at something. Well, I guess there’s…I got to go in my LinkedIn. So, there’s endorsements and then recommendations, there’s one where it’s, “Hey, Pete is good at leadership,” so there’s that. And then there’s also a kind of like a letter of endorsement, like, “I worked with Jeremy, and I thought he was super brilliant.” So, am I using my words correctly, which is which?

Jeremy Schifeling
Yeah, absolutely. And so, this is a really important distinction, and I’m glad you brought it up. So, endorsements are kind of like the fast food of social proof.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, okay, endorsements.

Jeremy Schifeling
It’s like, “Yeah, Pete is great,” I click the button. No big deal. And, obviously, that’s watered down for all the reasons we’ve talked about. Recommendations, however, are like digital gold because, think about your typical resume. Your resume is, “All Pete is saying that Pete is awesome, and Pete might be a little bit biased on that topic,” versus this is a rare chance for a recruiter to get some third-party validation that you are who you claim to be.

And so, what you’ll see in the recruiter product is that, very quickly, upon choosing a profile, the recruiter will be shown those recommendations as a way of confirming that, “Hey, this actually is a rockstar candidate.” So, those definitely do matter much more than endorsements.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Endorsements, 99 people saying I’m great at leadership development doesn’t so much matter. Recommendations, human beings saying, “Whoa, worked with this guy, and they were so great,” matter a lot.

Jeremy Schifeling
Absolutely. And don’t stress out about it. You don’t need to have 99 of those but one or two well-placed ones from people who are either a client or a boss and can objectively speak to your skillset, that definitely matters.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Very cool. Well, so then, tell me, anything else we need to know to do or not do with our LinkedIn?

Jeremy Schifeling
Yeah. Honestly, those are the big ones. We can talk all day about other bells and whistles and new features and stuff like that, but I think if people are going to say, “Hey, I only have 10 minutes realistically to spend on my job search this week or think about career exploration,” that’s where I’d spend my time. That’s where you’re going to get the biggest Pareto principle kind of bang for your buck by focusing on, “Hey, what do I want to do? How do I signal that to the world? And how do I get recruiters to pick me?”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, now could you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Jeremy Schifeling
Yeah, absolutely. So, one of my favorite quotes of all time has to be from Yogi Bear, of course, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” And the reason I love that one so much is that I think it kind of speaks to where we are right now in our world of career discovery, which is so often we get this message as kids that we have to choose a path, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” when, in fact, we discovered during this Great Resignation that you can be lots of different things.

You can run your own business. You can work for someone else’s business. You can try different career paths. And I hope that Yogi is in there, gives people the sense that many possibilities are available to them, especially at this moment.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And could you share a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Jeremy Schifeling
Yeah. So, this is one that actually goes beyond LinkedIn but is still in the world of job searching. So, a company called ResumeGo, basically, tested one of the key axioms of the entire job seeker’s handbook, which is, “You’ve got to have a one-page resume.” And we’ve all heard that ever since we applied for our first jobs.

Well, it turned out, when ResumeGo actually tested this out in the real world, and showed two different versions of resumes to actual recruiters, a one-page version and a two-page version, the actual real-world recruiters were 2.3 times more likely to choose the two-page version over the one-page version. So, as a job seeker, we always have to be questioning dogma, “Is this actually the way the world works or just the conventional wisdom?” because if it’s not working for us, we got to skip it.

Pete Mockaitis
Wow, that is fascinating and I have told many people to have a one-page resume myself. And so, well, yeah, I want to dig into that study in terms of…and so, they didn’t know it’s the same person or there’s sort of they had a pile?

Jeremy Schifeling
Exactly, that’s right. So, all randomized. And I think what they actually hypothesized in terms of why that was happening, what was driving this phenomenon, was that, yeah, recruiters actually say the same thing, “Oh, I’ve got too many resumes. Keep it short.” But when actually given more information, and probably a little more white spaces as well, the recruiter was like, “Ah, I can actually look at this person, get a sense of what they really can do,” versus eight-point font with everything crammed in, trying to make it work in this 8.5×11 space.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that does make sense in terms of we say that’s what we want because it’s like, “No, too much work. Too many pages. Keep it down,” and yet when you really sit down, it’s like, “Oh, well, this is lovely to look at with my eyes. Hmm, I enjoy having multiple segments that make a lot of sense as opposed to things shoved in all the more.”

Jeremy Schifeling
That’s right. So, we talked about A/B testing before, and here it comes again. It matters.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Jeremy Schifeling
Yes, so my favorite book, and, again, specifically in the job-searching space, has to be from my own personal job search guru, Steve Dalton. Have you actually interviewed Steve?

Pete Mockaitis
Twice. He’s so good.

Jeremy Schifeling
Oh, yeah. So, Steve, for those who don’t know already, has written a book called The 2-Hour Job Search. And the reason I love it, as an introvert myself, is I often thought of networking and LinkedIn as only a space for extroverts, super type A MBAs. When, in fact, as you’ve probably gotten a sense from our conversation so far, even if you’re super introverted and maybe networking doesn’t come naturally to you at all, you absolutely have access to this incredible opportunity to find the right people, build the right relationships, get access to the best opportunities. And Steve really breaks down how to do that in his book The 2-Hour Job Search.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite tool?

Jeremy Schifeling
Favorite tool, I would say, is actually something that I use quite a bit when I do my own job searches, which is a site called FollowUpThen.com. Have you heard of it?

Pete Mockaitis
I think so. Keep talking.

Jeremy Schifeling
Okay. So, basically, what FollowUpThen is a second brain. So, one thing that I’ve learned that humans are not good at all about is remembering to stay engaged with people. We’ve talked a lot about networking, reaching out. Well, the reality is that when you’re building relationships with a new person, most likely it’s going to take multiple conversations or multiple correspondences over time before you really win them over to your side.

The problem is there are so many wannabe networkers dropped the ball because they have a great first contact and then never bothered to follow up. Whereas, if I send a message to you, Pete, thanking you for our first conversation, and then I BCC every one month at FollowUpThen.com it will bounce it back to my inbox on a monthly basis. So, even though my brain has been distracted by boba tea and the things I see on my window and everything else happening on my screen, FollowUpThen.com forgets nothing and always reminds me to keep that relationship healthy and alive and helps it build towards success. And, by the way, it’s actually all free at FollowUpThen.com.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. And then I imagine, it bounces it to your email such that I can just push reply to…

Jeremy Schifeling
That’s right, exactly. It keeps the thread intact, so you can say, “Hey, Pete, remember that great advice you gave me last month? I actually acted upon it. Here’s what I learned. Any chance I could get an introduction to this person who might be able to unlock the next opportunity?”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so cool. As opposed to, I mean, I love me some OmniFocus Task Management Software, but this is just easier in terms of, “Hey, we’re talking about an email, it’s going to come back as an email. When that email comes back, I just have to push R, reply, and then, bam, away we go.” Cool.

Jeremy Schifeling
That’s right. Not to geek out too much but it’s all in your workflow and that’s where it stays.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Jeremy Schifeling
Yeah, you know, this is an interesting one because I was just talking about this with some colleagues who were geeking out with me about the best way to learn. And one of the things that I’ve done way too much over the pandemic, and I hate to say this thing on a podcast, is I’ve indulged in podcasts during almost every waking hour, during my walks, during my almost practically before I go to bed.

And what I’ve realized is I’ve kind of crowded out all the silence, all the white noise in my life with actual noise, with actual content. And when I think that the human brain was designed to do originally, if you think about evolution and how we’ve come about as a species, is we had all this free time, all the space to think about things. And that’s why our brain is so good at being creative in a shower or while we’re sleeping. That insolvable challenge that is daunting us today gets solved while we’re asleep.

And so, I think carving out more space to have that time to process and to think, even if it’s subconscious, has actually been really powerful.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a key nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate and gets retweeted a lot?

Jeremy Schifeling
Yeah, I think I’ll come back to that piece about referrals. I think we’ve shared a lot about process today in terms of, “Hey, here are the steps that a recruiter goes through. Here are all the tools that they use.” But, at the end of the day, results matter, getting that ROI. And so, if people want to focus on, “Hey, how do I actually cut to the chase and get that dream job, that 10X advantage that referrals provide?” That’s gold.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Jeremy Schifeling
Yes, so we actually built a website sort of a companion to the book called LinkedInGuys.com. And it basically is an insider’s guide to LinkedIn from LinkedIn insiders, conveniently enough. So, if people want to learn all these tips and tricks, they’re all for free at LinkedInGuys.com.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Jeremy Schifeling
Yeah, absolutely. I think this one is especially topical given where we are in our society, in our economy.

Okay. So, the thing that I think is really incumbent upon job seekers today is to embrace this unique moment in our economy. With this Great Resignation going on all around us, it can often seem like things are chaotic, things are a little bit crazy, but think about what the Great Resignation really represents.

Every single time someone walks off the job, walks out that door, that door is opening up for you, in turn. So, if you’ve ever wanted to change careers, or find a new path, or do that thing that you really love to do but thought it was closed off to you, now is the time, now is your moment. And I hope folks embrace that.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Jeremy, this has been a treat. I wish you much conquering and fun on LinkedIn and elsewhere.

Jeremy Schifeling
Thank you so much, Pete, and good luck to all your listeners out there.

755: How to Market Yourself to Maximize Career Opportunities with Diana Chan

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Diana Chan outlines best practices for improving your career prospects by marketing yourself well.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The biggest networking mistakes professionals make  
  2. The real first step to any successful job hunt
  3. The right way to answer, “Tell me more about yourself”

About Diana

Diana YK Chan is a former Recruiter turned Executive Career Coach, Speaker and Trainer at My Marketability. Her mission is to empower you to own your greatness with confidence to shine and thrive in your career. She’s recognized as LinkedIn Top Voice in 2022 for Job Search & Careers, where she’s known for differentiating your personal brand, building strong relationships, and communicating with confidence. Diana is the Creator of Top Talent Academy, where she’s coached thousands of clients globally on how to stand out, get hired and earn more. She’s the host of the “Dare to Differentiate” live show on LinkedIn and YouTube.

Resources Mentioned

Diana Chan Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Diana, welcome to How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Diana Chan
Hey, Pete, I’m so delighted to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you. Well, I’m delighted to have you and I thought it was really fun that you mentioned that you were a listener in 2018 and my producers found you now, and I think that’s pretty cool.

Diana Chan
Yeah, I’m super excited to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely. Well, so we’re talking about job search stuff. Could you maybe kick us off with maybe a particularly surprising or counterintuitive or extra fascinating discovery you’ve made over the years about just what does it take to win in this job search world?

Diana Chan
Yeah, absolutely. Well, I’ve been helping thousands of job seekers, and since the pandemic, I’ve been seeing a lot of people pivoting. And one of the things that I really noticed is that it’s not about being the most qualified candidate, it’s about how you connect and communicate with the interviewer to convince them why you’re the ideal candidate with confidence. So, it’s not just about your qualifications but how do you show up to showcase that you are the one and how you can help them?

Pete Mockaitis
And so, that makes sense in terms of many people have probably had the experience of, “Oh, I’ve got all the right stuff. I’m checking the boxes, the skills, the experience, the knowledge,” and they may even be angry at the injustice, like, “I should have been selected but I wasn’t.” So, connection, we’re going to dig into that. But, while we’re here, anything, any top do’s or don’ts when it comes to connecting well?

Diana Chan
Yeah, I love that question. So, one of my networking tips I love to share is always my ABC’s. Always be connecting, always be curious, always be cultivating. And the way I look at the connection piece is that a lot of times, people neglect the networking piece until they need to look for a job, but you really want to look at connecting with people anytime because you just never know what opportunities may unfold along the way.

So, some of my best tips is really asking questions, getting curious, showcasing the curiosity that you’re really interested in them, showcase warmth as well, like this sincerity and authenticity to really connect, finding common interests. It really helps as well to build that trust and rapport instantly there.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. And I guess I’d also love your take in terms of maybe zooming out a bit. Right now, allegedly, The Great Resignation is upon us, and we’re recording this in March of 2022, and it seems as though it is the employee’s market or more so than it has been before. First of all, is that a fair assessment or am I just repeating talking points that are false?

Diana Chan
You’re absolutely correct because millions of people have quit their jobs which means that employers are having a hard time to fill the vacant roles and the new roles there, so it is a candidate’s market right now. However, it’s also a very competitive market, meaning that not only, yes, there are these vacancies but this is where the whole personal branding comes in, that you need to really elevate your personal brand to differentiate and stand out and showcase not just your qualifications but what it is that you can really do for the employer.

How can you help them solve their problems? How can you really help them achieve their goals? One of the biggest or I guess newer things that I’ve been seeing right now, because I tend to work with a lot more seasonal professionals who have at least 10 to 20 years of experience and they’ve been in the same company for a long time. And what I’m seeing right now is that there are more new jobs being created that never existed before.

So, it is so important to be able to diversify your skillset to showcase the potential that you have to offer. So, for example, I’ve seen people, like I had a client who was a director in operations at a hospital in the ICU, and she made a pivot to work in long-term care. And she had a newly created role for her from the CEO where it was a combination of operations, strategic partnerships, and quality. So, it’s leveraging her background but also the need of the business of working for heading of how she can add value there.

Pete Mockaitis
What do we call that title?

Diana Chan
It’s like a combination of multiple traits.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, okay. Cool.

Diana Chan
It’s a newly created role. And I think when we look at it, there’s this need of your ability to be able to think strategically and work cross-functionally, understand multiple different areas of the businesses there.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I love it. We’re already getting into some juicy how’s and tips and tricks. Maybe to kick us off though, could you share a why in terms of why do we want to always be connecting if we feel like, “Hey, this job is working out okay”? Could you give us a story or some research, some inspiration that can get us in the mode of, indeed, always be connecting and branding and doing this stuff?

Diana Chan
Yeah, absolutely. So, the way I like to think about it, and I’ll tie this connecting and branding together, I talk about the importance of personal branding. It’s really going to help. It’s all about who you are, how you’re perceived, and what’s your promise in terms of your value proposition. When you have a strong brand and you also add that with connecting with people, it’s going to add more credibility. And when you have more credibility, it’s also going to increase your marketability which is a result that’s going to help you get more opportunities as well.

And so, when you connect with more people, and when I think of connecting with people, it’s not just about you getting something from them, but I talk a lot about give, give, give before you get. So, the more you add value and help others, people are going to remember you. So, I’ll just give an example is I used to work as a former recruiter. And one of the things I love that not a lot of people do that stand out is when the candidates I reached out to that are not the right fit but they refer other people in their network to me, and I always remember these people because not a lot of people do that.

And it’s this whole pay it forward where the more you do it, the more people are going to remember you. So, for me, in my instances, I love also referring all sorts of people in my network. If I know a client that’s a good fit for a role, or someone I know, an employer that’s filling this role, I’ll make an introduction. And the least I can do is maybe open some doors. I can’t guarantee the job but at least it opens doors to opportunities. And by doing that, you’re going to build this trust, essentially, so when it comes to asking for a favor down the road, people are more likely to say yes because you have built this credibility there.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s powerful. And so, you’re saying you were the recruiter, you interviewed candidates, you told the candidates no, and they still brought you…

Diana Chan
No, no, they said no to me. Yeah, both ways. I’ve done that, too. I have rejected candidates. Actually, when I was at Google, I’ve rejected more people than accepted. And some people are just really good at relationship building that they referred me other people. And there’s the other way around where they didn’t…it was not a right fit for them that they rejected me but then they recommended others in their network to me. And I always remember these people because we’re talking like probably just 1% or 2% of the people who actually do that.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s true. It’s rare and it’s special and you remember. And so, you’ve got a broad network of people who are looking to help you out, you increase your opportunities. And then I guess I’m thinking specifically because I’ve learned that most of my listeners, go figure, like their jobs, and I’m not trying to say, “Quit your job.” But I think that it can be quite possible to get comfortable, which is not always a bad thing, sometimes you just really want to be in that groove, and yet I think that it’s in our interests to be connecting and to have an eye open.

And I’m curious, like I heard some stat, and maybe you’ll know it better than I, that most of us…maybe I heard it from Ramit Sethi, it’s like most of us are being underpaid by, I don’t know, 10% or some amount. And, I don’t know, first of all, do you think that’s true or just how much opportunity do you think we leave on the table by not keeping our eyes open?

Diana Chan
I think you leave a lot, and this is because we don’t manage our brand or manage our network, you’re not being known, you’re not being seen, so the marketability and feasibility and credibility is lacking there, so people may forget about you if you don’t have that. So, you mentioned like your listeners here, like they love their job.

And one of the common things I see, because I work with a lot of people who either have been at the same company, say, a decade or 20 years, and they face a restructuring, or they got a package, and they need to start fresh. A lot of times they don’t know where to start. And the common thing I hear is that they have not worked on building their external network, which is understandable because they put all their time and effort in their internal company here.

But one thing I talk about is you don’t want to wait till the time when you need to look for a job to start networking. You can start even networking with people internally or people you know who made a jump externally to stay in touch with them because if you have this relationship and they’re hiring down the road, they are going to keep you in mind.

And as you move up in the company, let’s just imagine you get to this VP level or SVP level, there’s going to be less and less of those openings. And oftentimes, and I see this a lot with my clients, is a lot of times they find an opportunity to uncover new opportunities a lot faster because of networking or they are referred by other people.

Study shows that you’re five times more likely to get hired through a referral. And when you have these relationships, doors just open. I have seen where clients, the difference between an executive-level client where they have a strong external network that normally takes at least six months maybe to a year to find a VP level and above, to someone landing in couple of months, two to three months, because they were able to tap into their network there.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I thought that’s a really compelling argument right there in terms of it seems obvious but I guess I haven’t really thought about it until you’ve really said it just now that if just imagine an organizational chart, I got an org chart and the boxes and they’re cascading down, like there are far more individual contributor roles than there are manager roles; and there are far more manager roles than there are director roles; and there are far more director roles than there are VP roles; and far more VP roles than there are C-suite roles; and far more C-suite roles than there are CEO roles.

So, that’s just sort of the basics of spans and layers and mathematics and how that works out. And, thusly, if you are on a cool trajectory, you’re learning, you’re growing, you’re being promoted, indeed, there will come a day in which it’s like, “Oh, shoot, there’s not very many spots left.

So, there are not many opportunities left, and it’s like, I don’t know, someone needs to die or retire, and that might be years before that happens kind of a situation. And so, if you are ahead of the game with your networks and your people, your connections, then you’ll have a much easier time making the leap into the upper echelons when there aren’t as many spots available for you. That makes good sense. Thank you.

Diana Chan
Yeah, and I think that there’s going to be a time where people will hit either a plateau in their career where they either feel like they hit their ceiling or there aren’t really that many opportunities, or things are not just as challenging anymore and they want to consider something new. One thing I can say to your listeners, from my experience, is that if you are either looking to make that bigger leap of either greater responsibilities or greater income, I should talk about the tangible results of the greater income, I know from experience you’re more likely to get a five to six-figure jump of salary by making an external jump than internally.

Pete Mockaitis
A five to six what?

Diana Chan
Five to six figures more than before by making an external jump than an internal promotion.

Pete Mockaitis
More? So, you were thinking, “Okay. Hey, I’m a manager at,” we’ll just say a cola company, “and maybe I could be promoted to a director of a cola company.” You’re saying that if I were to go become a director at a competitive cola company, I would expect to get not just an increase in compensation, which I should get, I’m being promoted anyway, but rather $10,000 to $100,000 extra on top of bigger bump just because I went external.

Diana Chan
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s huge. Okay.

Diana Chan
It is huge. Like, internally, when you think about it, the typical pay raise is between 3%, 5% maybe 7%.

Pete Mockaitis
Like, an annual, like I’m sticking around doing the same thing.

Diana Chan
An annual increase, right. That’s like the typical type there. Like, I’ll give an example. I had a client, even not at a senior manager level, senior manager client in product management at a telecommunications company. He made a jump to fintech, a financial technology company, and it’s like a growing startup. His salary increased by 40% and received a five-figure signing bonus.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Diana Chan
At the similar level, the senior manager level.

Pete Mockaitis
Alrighty. There you go.

Diana Chan
And so, if you can imagine for those who are making the next-level jump, even a title jump, what the possibility. Now, I can’t say this is a guarantee, but right now, because it’s a candidate’s market, and if you are really good at what you do, you have a great reputation, you have a great track record of success, you have really great skillsets that’s in demand right now, you have higher negotiation power.

I’ll give you another great example, like literally just happened to my other client, a more junior-level client, a senior business system analyst. So, a more technical role and a Salesforce type of a role there. The employer offered a number but he also had another offer elsewhere that was paying more. And so, he went back to negotiate, and say like, “Hey, they’re offering like a 100K and you’re offering me 75K. What can you do?” That’s a 25K difference, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Diana Chan
Within a couple of hours, this employer got back with him with a $25,000 more plus another 10K signing bonus.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. That’ll do it. Cool. Well, that’s exciting, the opportunities. Thank you. So, I think we’ve built a nice strong why there with regard to whether you want to, and whether it’s in the future by years, you get ahead of it, or you might be surprised to learn that there’s a big opportunity that you’re just not even aware of available to you right now. By doing the stuff, you increase the odds of you being able to seize that and benefit.

So, let’s talk about some of the goods here when it comes to connecting. Can you share with us a few of your best and worst practices when it comes to growing a large and meaningful professional network?

Diana Chan
Yeah. So, one of the things with networking is, first, we ought to really focus on give, give, give before we get. So, I think that’s the first thing in terms of building your network, is think about, “How can I add value to other people?” And this is where you can really think about, like, “What expertise do I have? What am I passionate about? Who do I like to support there when I think from that perspective?”

And then from there, if we’re thinking of, “Well, what type of network do I want to build?” This is where you want to map out the qualities or people that you want to learn. One of the tools I love using to build my network is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a fantastic tool to build your network, stay in touch with people, and it’s also a great way for you to share your expertise, to build your credibility, and authority as well.

So, over time, the more you start, essentially, giving back or helping each other out, your network is just going to increase. So, for example, like I’m connected to hundreds of recruiters on my LinkedIn and because I started off also working as a recruiter, and over time, you just meet other recruiters as well to learn about best practices. A great way to meet other people is find other people who are doing similar work as you but in a different industry to share best practices. That is a great strategy.

I have some of my very senior-level clients where they spend a lot of time in the same company, and the way they approach networking is think of how they can share best practices to help each other out there. So, that’s another great way to build a network.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s super. Okay. And so, when it comes to sharing, you can share with people that you already know in terms of give, give, give and so that they, “Boy, Diana is so swell. She always has all kinds of insightful great things that I’m so glad to know about.” So, you can do give, give give. And then when it comes to meeting them new people, how do you recommend we do that?

Diana Chan
Yeah, I love this. So, this all starts with really building the trust and rapport. And the way I like to think about it, even if we dropped careers and job search aside. Let’s just imagine we’re meeting someone new, how do you go about doing that? The key here is really finding the mutual common interests that you have.

I’ll give you a very simple example. This was a couple of years ago when I went on a cruise, so this was pre-pandemic. Pre-pandemic, you meet a lot of strangers on a cruise, and I met this family where my kid was playing with their child, and we were just standing there beside each other, and I tried to spark a conversation. And I noticed the father was wearing the Raptors T-shirt, the basketball shirt, and I could tell that he was from Canada, being from Toronto.

And that’s how I started a conversation, I was like, “Oh, I see that you’re wearing a Raptors shirt,” and we were able to start talking about a little bit of basketball, a little bit of where we’re from, what we do and all that. And just from that, we were able to actually exchange contacts at the end of the very short, like a 15, 20-minute conversation that we would like to connect further there. So, that’s one example of connecting, is building that trust and rapport by finding a common interest.

Another, let’s just imagine, like going to, let’s say, a wedding, going to a wedding there. One of the common things is that we all know the couple, so that’s a great way to bond with each other. I also believe that the way to connect a big part is really showcasing warmth and curiosity. And you just never know by just doing this, just by being genuine yourself, what opportunities may open up.

One of the examples that I love sharing is actually this was many years ago at a wedding. The emcee which was a sibling of the groom, she had fantastic energy and warmth and enthusiasm that it was just very captivating. Like, she got the entire crowd going there. And I knew that she was a new grad, I knew from my friend that she was a new grad, that she was graduating and she’s looking for a job.

And I remember, like she made this instant impression on me that I actually said to my husband that, “She would be fantastic for your new-grad leadership program at your company.” And long story short, I referred her to the company, and she got hired. And to this day, she’s still at the company.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That’s cool. Just working on the microphone at a wedding.

Diana Chan
Like, this is what I call opportunities that you don’t even think about that you can actually land a job by really showcasing your best self.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s beautiful. Okay, cool. So, that’s some of the connecting piece. Can you dig a bit more into some of our personal brand, professional story, unique value proposition, kinds of self-knowledge and representation pieces? How do we, I guess, get that clarity first of all? And then how do you recommend we write it up or what do we do with that?

Diana Chan
Yeah, that’s a big question and I’m going to break it down. I’m going to break it down from the clarity piece and then I’ll move into the branding piece. So, that’s part of a lot of work I do is really helping people get clear of who they are, what they want, what’s important to you. When you have clarity, you have more courage and confidence to pursue whatever you want and you come across as a much more compelling communicator.

So, the first step is really knowing, like, “What are my core strengths? What are my interests? What are my core values?” When you can even get clear on strengths, interests, and values, it becomes your guiding compass of what kind of opportunities that you want to pursue, and it becomes your selection criteria as well in evaluating opportunities.

So, the first step is always soul searching before job searching. I find the common mistake people make is that they jump right into job searching, updating their resume and LinkedIn profile before even getting clear on what their target is. And I have found that when you’re not clear on what you’re targeting, your messages, your brand, the way you communicate, it’s not compelling or convincing enough. So, that’s really the first step. It really pays off by doing that soul-searching work.

And I have found by doing that, for those who want to, say, make a pivot, pivot into a different industry, a different profession, it’s really going to help them with updating and finetuning the next stage which is the personal branding. I’m really passionate about personal branding because my belief is that when you elevate your personal brand, you, essentially, increase your marketability, which is ability to attract more opportunities, and your ability to increase your earning potential. So, the greater your brand, the greater your market value, which is aka your earning potential there.

And so, this whole personal branding piece is really what I love to do as a coach, is essentially identifying what differentiates you. What differentiates you? What your unique selling points? So, I have my five P’s that I guide my clients through when it comes to defining their personal brand. And so, the first, and I’ll walk your audience through here, the five P’s here.

The first is the product, which is seeing yourself as a product. So, you want to think about your features. What are your strengths? What are your skills? What’s your personality, your expertise, your interests? All those things that you want to identify, like really just getting clarity on that. If you’re not clear on what your strengths are, you can take a test called the Gallup Assessment, which is a StrengthsFinder in identifying your top five strengths.

The second P is the potential, which is really your performance and results. So, this is what I call the track record of success. This is like the proof point. Employers love to see your track record of success there. So, really mapping out all these accomplishments of yours and all these performance reviews and results is really going to help you tell a compelling story.

And then the third P is the perception, which is how others see you. This is your reputation. And what you can do if you’re not sure is to send out a survey to your friends, your colleagues, your boss, and at least 25 to 30 people. Ask them questions, like, what words will they use to describe you, what are your core strengths, what value do you bring, how do they describe your leadership style or communication style.

And I find that when my clients do this exercise, it’s always very eye opening because it helps them see, like, “Oh, this is how I’m perceived, and these are the things that I want to amplify,” if that’s really true to you. So, an example, one of the core words people always tell me is that I’m always very high energy, very passionate with what I do, so the way I show up, I want to reflect that as well.

And the fourth one is positioning. So, this is around the messaging, which is really how you craft out your unique value proposition. This is where you want to think of, essentially, like your personal branding statement, your top three unique selling points. I believe in selling yourself in three points because that’s how you become more memorable. This is where you can come up with the benefits of hiring you, like, what are the benefits are there. So, really thinking of it from the employer question point.

And then lastly, the last P, which is packaging. So, this is the whole how you present yourself, how you want to show up online, on camera, the whole in terms of your brand, style, your tone of voice, all those things tied to the five P’s. So, when you walk through these five steps of the five P’s of personal branding, it’s really going to help you then elevate all your other marketing materials. Like, you think of the resume, the LinkedIn profile, your elevator pitch, everything is going to tie back to your personal brand.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s fun. It’s funny, when you said the P’s, I was like, “Oh, product, place, price, promotion.” Then we started with product, I was like, “Really?” So, then, okay, I got you now. So, packaging, that’s interesting. So, that could very much be the things like what you’re wearing, your resume design. And I like that in that what I like about your framework is, one, it’s alliterative so I can remember it. So, thank you. Five P’s.

And, two, it’s like resume formatting and clothing stuff is not the end-all-be-all but it matters. It is one of the five. And so, I like that because, as you said, it’s tempting to go right for the, “Ahh, let’s jump right to the job hunting.” And you said, we want to do soul searching before job searching. Nice turn of a phrase. Thank you. So, that’s excellent.

So, now, I’m curious, with regard to packaging, I think there are some easy things with regard, “Don’t have crazy fonts in your resume. Look professional. Don’t have your LinkedIn photo be shirtless or bikini, unless you’re a model.” That’s what you’re trying to represent specifically, like, “Look how I’m beautiful. You should hire me to promote your products.”

But I guess where I’m thinking most about is positioning, with the personal branding statement, the three steps, the benefits. Please, let’s dig deep into this.

Diana Chan
Sure. This takes time. This is an exercise where it takes a lot of time for people to do. Maybe we can go into the branding statement because that’s usually the arc of the rest of the things, the benefit statements there.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure. Let’s do it.

Diana Chan
So, I can share, when we think of personal branding statement, essentially, it’s a short and sweet sound bite that is the anchor of defining who you are, what you bring to the table. That’s what it really is. And I see that as like an arc that helps set the tone and stage of the rest of your content. It can also be used as like a very simple one-liner intro when you’re introducing yourself. You can have it at the top of your LinkedIn bio statement or the tagline. It can also be part of like your top statement in your resume as well. So, you can come up with that and then just tweak it accordingly.

So, I’ll share with you, I guess, some of the guiding principles, say, like if you ask, like what are some things you want to avoid is you want to avoid being fluffy in terms of just having descriptive words that is being fluffy. You really want to focus on, essentially, impact. Like, what is the value that you really bring to the table?

So, I’ll give you an example for myself, what I’ve created is I’ll say something like, “I’m a personal branding marketer for corporate leaders and executives in career transition. I’m known for identifying your unique value, mastering your messages, and communicating with confidence to stand out, get hired, and earn more.”

So, you see what I created here is you have the title, the title of what you do in terms of your profession, and then who I serve, I’m serving those corporate leaders in transition which is like the specific scenario that they’re in, and then you can use, “I’m known for,” “I have a track record of success in,” and you either identify like one to three of these value prop statements that is, essentially, more employer-focused or what someone wants to achieve.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Now, so this can land in the summary of our resume. It can land as the top…well, let’s see. I guess we have a character limit in the LinkedIn…

Diana Chan
Tagline? Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
…tagline. So, that could be the personal branding marketing bit.

Diana Chan
What you can do shorten it is I can help you here. If you think of LinkedIn, yes, the tagline is short. So, what I can say is, “I help you stand out, get hired, and earn more.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, that’s there. But then in your description, you can go into the whole bit.

Diana Chan
Exactly. Exactly. So, you can shorten it in the tagline that way.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so that was great. I’m thinking more, more, more. Could you give us some more great examples and then maybe some disappointing examples, and tell us, “Hmm, what’s a little bit off here?”

Diana Chan
I’ll give another one. How about if I have a poor example one right now? I have another one, it’s a marketing person as well, “I’m an analytical marketing leader with a proven track record of managing successful marketing campaigns, and deriving insights from data to drive business growth.” So, in this example, we described this person as an analytical marketing leader.

In some instances, they like to have people who are analytical type of roles. In this case, we talked about managing successful marketing campaigns and deriving insights from data to drive business growth. So, we know that this someone is a good data-driven marketer, essentially, in simple terms. A data-driven marketer.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, that was fun when it comes to recruiting or marketing or coaching. How about something in like project management?

Diana Chan
That’s a great question. So, one of the tips I want to offer the audience, because I know many of you have different professions, different area of expertise, the way I want to coach you to really think about it is, one, think about the words that will describe you, and, second is really thinking back about what’s the main mandate of what you do and what’s the significance or the importance of the work that you do.

So, if you can just ask yourself those questions, it’s like, “I help drive…” Is it revenue, if you work in sales? Or, if I’m in accounting, “I help ensure things are accurate.” Or, if I’m marketing, that, “I help drive market share.” You want to just get clear on what are those metrics there. So, let me give you an example around project management.

An example could be, “I’m a strategic project manager with proven success, driving multifaceted software implementation projects that spark incredible results and ROI for my clients.” So, this is like something short and sweet. You can go deeper if you like to have more numbers, but at least, at a very high level, you’re going getting clear on, okay, you worked on software projects that help with driving an ROI for your clients. So, that already gives a hint to someone that you could be maybe in a role that you worked with clients in a consulting role but in a project management capacity.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s handy. And then that gets you thinking in terms of…I guess there’s always this delicate dance between we want more detail versus being succinct because it’s sort of like, “Oh, incredible results and ROI. I’m thinking was it more on the cost-reduction side or more on the revenue-generation side?” And then you can sort of…I guess that’s why people hire you is to really get into the, “Oh, the tradeoffs associated with…is it going to take me 20 words to describe the cool what incredible result means in my world or is it so varied that we’re going to have to leave it at that?”

Diana Chan
Yeah, yeah. Well, so one of the things I want to point out for the listeners who are listening to this is this is a sound bite, so meaning it’s like short and sweet and punchy. It’s a little different when you’re supposed to talk, come up with your elevator pitch, that common question of, “Tell me about yourself.” It’s a build-on to that. So, if you get a question in an interview, “Tell me about yourself,” don’t just use this one-liner sound bite. Make sure that you go more in depth, and this is where I guide people through another form of helping them crack out their two-minute elevator pitch there.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, tell us about that.

Diana Chan
I knew that was coming. Yeah, the elevator pitch is something I love working with people. I have a course called Master Your Glowing Introduction, and it’s my popular six P’s. I have another six P’s that I guide clients through there. And so, it’s broken down into three paragraphs. The first is, essentially, the who you are piece. So, think of your passion, that’s where the first P is your passion. What do you care about?

And the second P is, essentially, the potential. What are you known for? Think of your strengths. So, that gives a really good sense of who you are. Most people tend to just start off with a chronological order of when they finished school and throughout their entire career history. But if you start with this of what you care about and what you’re good at, it’s going to pique interests.

And then second paragraph, essentially, is your credibility, which is the third P of your past experience and your proud accomplishments. So, this is going to give credibility because you’re going to share with them a summary of your experience. So, instead of just listing out every single job that you had, you really want to think of a summary of years of experience in this industry, in these functional areas that you’ve worked in, and then highlight some of the problems or projects that you’ve worked, that you’ve done.

And then come up with a good story because no one else is going to have this proud accomplishment story the same as you so you want to think of something that you’re really proud of that’s going to become more memorable.

And then to close, which is the third paragraph, is the fifth P is present. You want to bring it back to the present of, “What are you looking for now? What’s next? Why are you looking for a change?” Or, bring it back if you’re going for an interview, like, “Why are we talking here?” And the other P is purpose. If you’re trying to sell yourself, you want to talk about why you, “Why do you believe you’re the best candidate for this opportunity? Or, why do you believe you’re going to be successful for this job?”

So, just by following this formula, it’s going to give you, essentially, when you think about it, a bit of who you are, what’s your track record of success, your motivation of what you want, and why you want it. And I can tell you from experience, every time I do this exercise with people, without them having any knowledge of the six P’s, all they talk about is what they’ve done since they’ve finished school.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, so that sounds nice. So, that’s about two minutes altogether?

Diana Chan
Yes, two minutes.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, Diana, tell us, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Diana Chan
Now, one thing I do want though, since we’re on this topic, is we can maybe talk about is for those who are looking to pivot or looking to make a change, how they can go about doing that, what are some of the things they can do to help them with that. So, for those who are really feeling either stuck or at a crossroads, how to go about figuring out what’s next, there are a few pieces of advice I would offer.

One is I talked about the soul searching before job searching. That’s the first piece, it’s really gaining that career clarity. Second is go conduct informational interviews, go talk to people to find out, “What does that day-to-day look like? What does it take to be successful? What are the challenges in that job?” When you get more intel and insight, it’s going to help you have better conversations there.

Third is, once you know what you want, create a reverse-engineer roadmap to figure out, “What are the steps it takes for me to get there?” So, may you want to even identify what are those options. Like, if you’re not clear on what you want yet, identifying, brainstorm these options out, and assess the pros and cons. You can talk to people, you can do research, whatever that is, it’s really going to help you gain more clarity there.

Once you have all this information and you’re really clear on what you’re going after next, this really all the steps that I do is like about repositioning. Repositioning your brand, figuring out what really differentiates you, what’s going to resonate with the audience, and then think about, “How am I going to update my LinkedIn profile, my elevator pitch, my resume?” to really tie it back to your brand that’s really going to make you stand out there.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. Well, now, Diana, could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Diana Chan
Well, one of my favorite quotes I love to say, a lot of my listeners like they do know, is, “Own your greatness with confidence to shine and thrive.” And what I mean by that is when you own your greatness and believe you have something valuable to offer, and you own it with your confidence, you’re more likely to shine, stand out, and reach your full potential and make a difference.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Now, could you share a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Diana Chan
Yeah. So, Vanessa Van Edwards, her book on Cues. Their research that was really fascinating was around how they studied 495 pitches on Shark Tank. And what they discovered, those who actually win or pitch or get the money from the Sharks are those who’ve demonstrated that high confidence and the high charisma, the warmth. I find that very, very fascinating.

And so, this is where it ties into the work I do, of what I said earlier of this podcast, is it’s not just about being the most qualified candidate. It’s about how you say what you say that’s going to win you as the ideal candidate to hire.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Diana Chan
My favorite book is Designing Your Life which is a great book for those who are not sure what they want to do next. That’s a great book to check out.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?

Diana Chan
LinkedIn, hands down. I love using LinkedIn on a daily basis to share content, share my expertise, connect with people, make new friends. I love doing that. And I also love just having my own show to connect with my audience.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Diana Chan
Well, one thing I’ve been doing is actually having this morning ritual right now, is really making sure I’m taking care of myself, whether it’s taking my vitamins, taking all these healthy drinks, or having this quiet moment of meditation before I take my kids to school. Those are some things that I really want to feel grounded and start my day strong and fresh there.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a key nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; they quote it back to you often?

Diana Chan
It’s the own your greatness. Own your greatness with confidence because you know why, Pete, is oftentimes when people come to me, they lack that confidence in selling themselves effectively. In order for you to reach that next-level role or get promoted, you really have to own your greatness with confidence to really reach those next-level opportunities.

Pete Mockaitis
And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Diana Chan
Yeah. So, what I would say is start tracking your accomplishments and results. If this is something you haven’t been doing, create a success file, start tracking your accomplishments that you’re proud of. And then I would encourage, for those who are not active yet on LinkedIn or have a bare bones profile on LinkedIn, I encourage you to create an awesome LinkedIn profile and to connect with me as well because that’s how you’re going to start building your network and attract more great opportunities there.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, on LinkedIn, they just type Diana Chan, C-H-A-N, and there you are?

Diana Chan
They type in Diana YK Chan because there’s a ton of Diana Chan. Diana YK Chan, you’ll certainly find me there.

Pete Mockaitis
Perfect. Well, Diana, this has been a treat. I wish you all the best and keep up the great work.

Diana Chan
Thank you so much, Pete.