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722: How to Hire and Get Hired Masterfully with Lou Adler

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Lou Adler says: "Don't make excuses. Get it done."

Seasoned recruiter Lou Adler shares insights from his decades of professional experience to help you hire and/or get hired.

You’ll Learn:

  1. What’s wrong with most job descriptions
  2. The real 30% increase you should be seeking
  3. Why you shouldn’t apply for a job directly

About Lou

Lou is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a consulting and training firm helping companies implement “Win-Win Hiring” programs using his Performance-based Hiring℠ system for finding and hiring exceptional talent. More than 40 thousand recruiters and hiring managers have attended his ground-breaking workshops over the past 20 years. 

Lou is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head and The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired. Lou has been featured on Fox News and his articles and posts can be found on Inc. Magazine, BusinessInsider, Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal

Prior to his executive search experience. Lou held senior operations and financial management positions at the Allen Group and at Rockwell International’s automotive and consumer electronics groups. He holds an MBA from UCLA and a BS Engineering from Clarkson University.

Resources Mentioned

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Lou Adler Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Lou, thanks for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Lou Adler
Hey, happy to be here, Pete, and thank you for inviting me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m so excited to get your wisdom on both sides of the hiring table, the hiring and the getting hired. And I have a feeling that in your work over the years, you’ve probably encountered some interesting stories. Anything particularly memorable or fun or touching or hilarious that leaps to mind as you reflect on your career here?

Lou Adler
Well, I don’t know if it would be fun or hilarious, but important is probably a dozen, but since you’ve only asked me that question 15 seconds ago, I have to scramble pretty quickly. But I do remember one and it was 30 years ago or maybe even longer. I was talking to a candidate, and I was a recruiter at the time, my background has been diverse, but certainly when I was a recruiter in the early days, I thought I was going to place this one candidate who’s a remarkable person as a plant manager.

And at the time I was a contingency recruiter, and I would get full fee, and the compensation today would’ve been 100,000. So, if you multiply 30% by that, that was the fee I would’ve gotten, so not insignificant fee. So I just listened to him, and say, “John, I was devastated literally.” You lose that money, I didn’t have it, but I lost it anyway because I already, in my mind, spent it.

I said, “Why are you taking the other offer?” and he listed his whole list of five or six, seven reasons why. And then, this is the important part, as I listened to it and I regained my composure, I said, “John, you’ve just made a long-term career decision using short-term information.” He said, “What are you talking about?” I said, “John, everything you just said, the compensation, the title, the location, has to do with what you get on the start date. Not one thing did you say is what you’re going to be doing and becoming as a result of taking that job. We’re talking about a 15-minute drive each way, so we’re talking about a half hour.”

“You’re talking about a slightly better title, you’re talking about slightly more money but the big thing you’re missing is you’re working in a company that’s going downhill, that’s in an old state electronics versus new state-of-the-art making displays. So, what you do in the next two to three years will affect the rest of your life. And if you take that offer, admittedly it’s a little bit more money, slightly better title, VP manufacturing instead of plant manager, but you’re putting yourself on a career deathtrap.” I might not have used those specific terms.

Then I said, “John, did you already accept the offer?” And he said, “No, but I want to call you first because I told you I was going to do it and I feel badly that I’m not going to take the offer.” I said, “Well, why don’t you think about it before you call the other company up?” And I thought, at that time, that I might’ve convinced him to at least think about it, but I didn’t think I was going to get the offer so I was pretty devastated.

He calls me up the next morning, he says, “Lou, I’m going to take your offer.”

Pete Mockaitis
There you go.

Lou Adler
He said, “Everything you said is 100% true. Working in old line manufacturing means two to three years from now, I’ll never get any better than this.” He took the offer, and nine months later he called, and said, “Lou, I’ve just been promoted to VP operations for six plants both in the United States, and we’re now building in China,” which was when the big Chinese movement took place, “and everything was absolutely the right decision.” And I still remember those words today, this is nine months later when I said, “You’re making a long-term decision using short-term.”

And, to me, that’s an important lesson that I tell all candidates, it’s in all the books I write, is too many candidates hire for what they get on the start date, or accept jobs what they’re getting on the start date, not the work they’re going to be doing and what they could become if they’re successful. So, to me, that’s the epitome of everything I train, I advocate, and I listen for, and I actually ask candidates, “Why did you take job A and go to job B? Why did you go from job B to job C?” And they always say, “Well, they promised me this, they promised me that.”

I said, “No, they don’t promise you. You have to do the due diligence yourself to get that information. And if you don’t get it, you’re making a long-term decision using superficial information.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, I love it and that’s very easy to overlook in terms of you see what’s right in front of you, and it feels pretty close, pretty visceral, pretty emotional, it’s like, “This is my livelihood, this is my experience of work, this is what’s going to happen when I get in the car on Monday morning. This is what I’m going to see on my business card. This is what I’m going to see in the cheques or direct deposits that appear in my bank.” So, yes, that makes a lot of sense that we can naturally fall into some short-term right-in-front-of-you myopic thinking and we need someone like Lou to point us into the long term. Very cool.

Lou Adler
As part of my most recent book, which is called Hire With Your Head, the theme of the book is called win-win hiring. And it’s the idea that hiring managers, recruiters, and candidates alike should think about success measured on the first-year anniversary date not the start date. Hiring success means, hey, the candidate on the anniversary date says, “Well, I’m glad I took this job and I’m still glad I have it.” And the hiring managers says, “I’m glad I hired that person.”

Achieving that win-win hiring outcome is hard to do but critical to do regardless of whether you’re a recruiter, a hiring manager, or the candidate accepting that offer or not. And very few people do it. But that’s the essence of what I’ve been advocating and what I’ve been teaching, that’s called win-win hiring, achieving those kinds of outcomes.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, that’s a great perspective, win-win hiring, one year. So, tell us, Lou, what are some of the core principles that make that the case, that one year later, folks say, “Yeah, I really am glad I hired that person and/or…”

Lou Adler
Now, I’ll give you another story. Now, my history is I didn’t start thinking I’m a recruiter but I became a recruiter before just about 99% of the people listening to your podcast were born. It was 1978.

And I remember my first search assignment was, again, a lot of the work I had done was in manufacturing. It was for a company in the automotive industry and I knew the president, and I knew that when I became a recruiter, this was going to be my first assignment, so I met him the second or third day as a recruiter. And Mike was the president of this company in southern California, and he said, “I’m looking for someone with ten years experience, has a degree in engineering, probably would be great if that person had an MBA, and results-oriented and good communicator,” and all the stuff that you always see on job descriptions.

And I looked at that job description, and I said, “Mike, this is not a job description. This is a person description. A job doesn’t have skills, experience, and competencies. A person has that. Let’s talk about the job before we’re about the person doing the job.” And I said, “Let’s put the job description or the person description in a parking lot. What do you want this person to do? What would this person need to do to be successful in the first year?” And he said, “Turn around the plant.” I said, “Fine. Let’s walk through the plant and figure out what that person needs to do.”

We spent an hour walking through the plant – labor performance issues, scrap issues, processing issues, layout issues, inventory, management. It was a crummy plant. I said, “We’ll find somebody who can turn this plant around.” I have never used a job description that defines skills, experience, and competencies. It always defines the work as a series of performance objectives – build a team to put together an international reporting process within six months; make quota; design a new circuit that can accomplish A, B, and C and would fit in this kind of parameters and meets these kinds of criteria. It’s always outcomes with the idea being if a person can accomplish that work, he or she is perfectly qualified.

What changes it is the mix of skills and experiences, and I tell my client, “They obviously have to do the work. That’s not compromising but give us some relief on the skills and experiences. Having the skills and experiences means the person can do the work or motivate to do it, but if you can find someone who’s competent and motivated to do that work, you’ve got the right person. You just opened a talent pool to everybody who can do the work. Black, white, old or young, green or yellow, physically-challenged or not, it doesn’t matter.” And I’ve talked to numbers of labor attorneys but the number one labor attorney in the world contends that’s the most accurate way to hire. That’s objective criteria.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, and I was thinking that if in the unfortunate world that it doesn’t work out a year later, that feels pretty bulletproof in a courtroom – I’m no lawyer – but in terms of, “Hey, this is what they were hired to do. It didn’t happen so we’re looking for someone else who can do it,” as opposed to, “If they were people…”

Lou Adler
Conversely, if you find that’s what you’re looking for, you just dig deep, and to, “Hey, Pete, we need someone who can turn around the plant. Tell me about the biggest turnaround operation you’ve ever been involved with,” and spend 20 minutes digging in and understanding that. Or, “Hey, we’re going to build a team of accountants to put an international reporting system,” “Hey, we’re going to develop a new interface that accomplishes A, B, C using this skill. Walk me through anything you’ve done that’s related to that.”

So, your question was, “How do you create a win-win opportunity?” Well, first, you got to define the work that person has to do over the course of the year that would result, at least from the hiring manager’s perspective, a win-win hire. Then you got to find candidates who are motivated and competent to do that work and find it the best career move up competing alternatives.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, I love it. Lou, you just break it down, the step-by-step. So, let’s hear about that next step in terms of how does one go about finding those folks once we’ve clearly defined what a win-win situation looks like?

Lou Adler
Well, that’s a great question. You must read the book. No, seriously, the next step in, first, define the job, a series of key performance objectives. Then find candidates, or I call them semifinalists. You don’t need a lot of people to hire a great person. You just need the right people. So, our high-touch process is spend more time with fewer people as long as they’re prequalified.

And I was with a hiring manager last week, and he was looking for a software developer to do some backend stuff. It was pretty complicated. And I just said, “What do you want this person to do, Harry? What do you want accomplished?” And he told me, “Well, a couple of tasks that were big.” So, I said to him, “If I can find someone who’s done comparable work, it won’t compromise on that ability to be performance qualified,” that’s one step, “and the candidate has been recognized for doing that work and in that top half or top quartile or top third of a peer group, or top 10%, would you at least talk to the person on the phone?” He said, “Absolutely.”

So, part of sourcing is you look for, “Who would a hiring manager want to talk with if they could do that work and they were recognized for being exceptional at it?” I said, “Even if the person had a different mix of skills and experience.” Hiring manager said, “I don’t care. If they could only do the work and motivated to do it, I’d want to see him.” Then I said, “But, now, we’ve got the other side, is we’re going to look for a discriminating candidate who would see that job as a career move.”

So, then we look for, as we find candidates, we look for candidates who see that job as a move, maybe going from a big company to a small company, working at better projects, someone whose growth has slowed down, go to a place where the growth is accelerating. So, there’s a lot of things you can do and there’s a lot of technology to get you to find candidates but you have to be kind of clever at it, but we look for performance qualifying, meaning they can do the work, some super skills; achiever terms, meaning they’re in the top half, top third, top quartile in a peer group; and, from the candidate-facing-decision, hey, the job is a clear career move.

Then you engage in a conversation, “Hey, Pete, would you be open to talk about a situation superior to what you’re doing today?” I tell recruiters, “Don’t sell the job. Sell the conversation. But if you’re dealing with the right person, they’ll engage in the conversation. You take the time pressure off and you discuss this is a career move so the candidates get the…” And I tell candidates, “We’re going to have a conversation to see if we can achieve a win-win hiring outcome. It’s going to take a little more time but let’s just engage in a conversation.” And most candidates are, “Of course. It makes logical sense.”

But you have to know the job to have credibility with the candidate. So, that’s where, taking the intake meeting, and I say, “Here’s the job, Pete. We’re looking for someone who can do A, B, and C and here’s the situation. Here’s the resource.” You really know what you’re talking about. So, recruiters who don’t know the job and just source active candidates who they find either through a job posting or an email, it’s just pure transactional and pure blind luck if they hire a good person. And in pure blind luck, if the person is going to be there a year from now.

Pete Mockaitis
So, I get what you’re saying with regard to, “Hey, find those semifinalists. It is going to take a little bit of more work up front, but the good news is we don’t need to look at hundreds of resumes. We can look at a handful.” Are we thinking five, ten? Is that what we’re talking about here roughly?

Lou Adler
Absolutely. Maybe 12 to 15 but you got to be persistent to talk to everybody because most candidates don’t think you’re different so you got to kind of prove that through the process of pestering, engaging.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. That feels a lot better as a candidate in terms of, “Oh, cool. So, at worse, I’ve got 14 contenders clamoring for this opportunity as opposed to hundreds. Okay. Well, yeah, Lou, that’s worth 10 minutes for me to just see what you’re thinking but maybe a lot more.”

Lou Adler
Sure, maybe just 10 minutes.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, okay. And so then, can we hear about how do you, on the recruiting side, go about finding these people and confirming that they’ve got the performance qualification, that they can do it, and that they’re in the top half, third, or fourth?

Lou Adler
Well, first off, there’s a lot of ways to do it. A lot of my books and interviewing, we train hiring managers on the whole process – defining the work, finding candidates, interviewing candidates, and closing the deal, and even the onboarding process. But from an interviewing standpoint, so if I was going to call you up, and say, “Hey, Pete, let’s just have a conversation.”

And I said, “Pete, part of this assessment is to make sure this job represents a career move. And to be a career move, it has to give you at least a 30% increase.” “Thirty percent, did you say?” “Well, yeah, but it’s not money. Thirty percent is a combination of job stretch, meaning a bigger job; faster growth, a job with more impact; and more satisfying work. And that’s a complicated decision to make but that’s what I want to go through. So, let me just review your background in general, see if there’s a fit, and if so, we can get serious.”

So, during that process, I dig deep into the candidate’s accomplishments to see if they’re comparable and see if the 30% opportunity exists, and I say, “Pete, this looks like it could be there with bigger team, faster growth. This is the kind of work you like to do. Let me get the hiring manager engaged in this process and we’ll move forward.” But I also say this from a closing standpoint, I say, “Pete, if you’re really the candidate, and you’re going to get an offer two or three weeks from now, it’s high probability you’ll get one, 20%-30% possible, I’m going to ask you a question.”

“I’m going to say forget the money. Forget all the day-one stuff. Do you really want this job? And if you do, tell me why. And if you can’t describe that 30% in your own words, because that’s the information you have to get over the interviewing process, I’m going to suggest you don’t take the offer even if it pays the most because that will not drive your satisfaction growth and lead to a win-win hiring outcome.” So, it’s incumbent upon you, the candidate, to get that information, and is incumbent upon the hiring manager and the hiring company, to give you that information. And if there’s a clash there, fine. Don’t move forward. That kind of has the whole pieces tied together.

Pete Mockaitis
As we have this conversation, Lou, it’s just I keep myself in the candidate shoes, and thinking, “Yes, I like that. Okay, that’s distinctive.” And 30%, that just feels right in the gut in terms of, “Hey, if it’s an 8% bump, is it really worth all the time and effort and hassle and change and disruption to your life and routines to go chasing after it? I don’t know. But 30% is like, well, yeah, that is…”

Lou Adler
But, again, it’s not in monetary. Money won’t be on top of that. But the idea is that if you really get 30% of the compensation will increase at the same rate year after year. So, if you look at, “Hey, what’s your compensation a year or two from now?” it’s going to blow if you really get the non-monetary increase. Your compensation will be there a year or two from now just like this fellow John. He called me up and said his compensation was far greater, title was far greater because we put him on a better career path.

Pete Mockaitis
And then how do you go about confirming whether, in fact, a candidate is in that top half, third, or fourth?

Lou Adler
Well, there’s a lot of ways to do it, basically. And I’m doing a training session so I had to do some recording, doing some recording on some online training on a Friday, no, excuse me, Thursday. So, I said one thing that I look for is a dozen techniques. One of them is, “What kind of recognition did you get for that project?” Well, one thing from a technical standpoint, which is pretty interesting, I call it the Sherlock Holmes deductive technique, is good candidates are always assigned stretch projects early in their career, “Hey, Pete, when you took on that job, what kind of projects did you get assigned?”

Now, if you were assigned, after three months, menial work or average work, consistent with your peer group, then you’re probably an okay person. But if you’re probably starting to get stretch assignments, assigned to more important teams, those teams started recognizing you and asked you to be on other teams, there’s a lot of evidence that you can use to determine if someone is a high achiever. The point is too many interviewers, or hiring managers in particular, judge a person and that person’s raw technical insight, and using a lot of subjective material, “A smart person should do this.” But that’s not…

I’m not technically competent in any of the jobs but I’m a great technical interviewer because I look at what other people thought of that candidate. If you’re a good person, if you’re a sales rep, you get assigned tougher clients. If you’re an accountant at a big accounting firm, the partners in your job don’t give you menial accounts. They give you important accounts and they expose you to important people. If you’re a marketing person, you get assigned bigger projects.

And as a result of being successful, you get assigned even bigger projects, more important product lines that are involved in the company. So, you look for those kinds of things that, “What would likely happen if this person was really good doing that work in that company?” And you start picking up the evidence. They got a president’s award, they got a nice letter, they got a bonus, they got a promotion more rapidly.

So, it’s those kinds of obvious things when you think about it, say, “Of course, that’s what would happen.” You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to do that. You just got to think logically of, Pete, you make a personal judgment. Other people have made a judgment about that person, and that person has made a judgment about him or herself. So, look for that kind of evidence that would be indicative of what a high achiever does.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Lou, I’m just going to put you on the spot and make it a little challenging. I think that it’s funny that what you say that sounds like, “But, of course, we should all do that,” and yet we don’t. And what’s common sense is often not common practice. I’m curious about if you’re hiring someone from an organization whose kind of processes and meritocracy is just kind of broken, and these deductive clues we’d like to lean on as Sherlock Holmes are not giving us the indicators we’d like, what are some other sources you’d use?

Lou Adler
Well, it depends. Maybe the candidate is not any good.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s one possibility. I guess I was just looking for what are some extra indicators or clever approaches that we can get that validation, that check mark.

Lou Adler
Yeah, I don’t know that there’s a clever approach. I think I’m pretty deductive. And I don’t want to say deductive in any kind of intellectual sense. I just look for evidence. If I don’t find the evidence, I pass. I can’t afford the risk.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Fair enough.

Lou Adler
When I ask a person, “Why do you change jobs?” and if they always change jobs for short-term reasons, that, to me, is the indicator the person is not really focused on career-oriented, a career-oriented focused person. So, there are things you can look at that would get you some insight and validate that the person is really an okay person but not a high achiever. High achievers want to progress. They self-develop. They work hard and they do get assigned projects. And even if once or twice, it was a screwup, so be it. That’s fine. So, there is evidence that you can look for.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Sure thing. Well, so let’s say we got our semifinalists, and then here we are in the interview phase, can you help us think through on both sides, what are some do’s and don’ts?

Lou Adler
Well, the thing to me, over the years I developed what I call the hiring formula for success. And the hiring formula for success says, so it’s how you actually evaluate candidates. It’s ability to do the work in relationship to fit, drives motivation, and because motivation is so important, it’s squared. So, the do’s and don’t are, “Hey, if you want to achieve a win-win hiring outcome and hire someone in the top half, they better be motivated to do the work you want in the context of your job, the fit factors.”

Of that formula, ability to do the work, which is a combination of hard skills and soft skills, but most people only measure the technical skills, they ignore the soft skills – organization, planning, team collaboration, understanding. They just focus on the hard skills. But if you get at the hard and soft skills, the next one is the fit factors. Fit with the job. Does the candidate really want to do that work? Fit with the hiring manager style. In my mind, I was pretty independent and I had a hiring manager, the group president whom I worked for, was a micromanager, I said, “Fire me if I don’t do the work. Just leave me alone.”

There are other people who want a manager and subordinate who align better on what they need. So, one fit factor is the managerial fit. Another fit factor is the culture of the company. Another one is the pace of the organization. Another one is the sophistication of the organization. But those context issues are critical. There are a lot of confident people but if they don’t fit the fit factors and they’re not motivated to do the work, they’ll underperform.

So, that’s getting pretty complicated but the way we do that, we break the interview down in different pieces, we dig into the candidate’s accomplishments, and then we group around a formula around that hiring formula to make sure that we have all the components measured accurately. So, that’s the secret sauce of how you find candidates who are going to excel in that circumstance. Ignoring the fit factors, it’s, again, problematic if you want to achieve a win-win hiring outcome.

Pete Mockaitis
And you said motivation was squared?

Lou Adler
Yeah, ability to do the work in relation to fit times motivation squared. If you just kind of go through the basics of it, you’ll get some done. But if you’re motivated to do the work, you’ll get a lot more done.

Pete Mockaitis
And in the course of the interview, how do we assess whether one is, in fact, motivated, or, on the flipside, as a candidate, to reveal that you are motivated?

Lou Adler
Motivation to do the work, not get to work, and that’s a critical step here in this process.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, how do I assess whether, one, a candidate has motivation, or convey that I am a motivated as a candidate? You know, it’s funny, I remember I had a friend who was really into a consulting opportunity, and then he got some feedback from his interviewer, he’s like, “You know, you just didn’t really seem into it.” He’s like, “I’m very into it. This is my number one company that I really want to work for.” But, somehow, it didn’t get conveyed. So, how do we convey it? And how do we check for it?

Lou Adler
Well, see, that’s the issue. The fact that someone is quiet and low key has nothing to do with motivation to do the work. Unfortunately, candidates, or hiring managers and interviewers judge you by how motivated you are there during the interview and how extroverted you are. Totally inappropriate. The way I do it is I dig deep in the candidate’s accomplishments and ask many questions, “Hey, what did you do in this accomplishment? Where did you take the initiative? Where did you go the extra mile?”

And I ask that constantly as part of different accomplishments so I start seeing a pattern on the types of work that naturally motivates the person to excel. That’s how I get at it. And I see the pattern of, “Hey, this person always goes out of his or her way to build the team, always takes these architectural design issues, always does this without prompting.” Very few people do everything without prompting all the time. But I start seeing this pattern of activity.

Now, how does a candidate do that? And I don’t want candidates, and I tell candidates, me as a recruiter, unfortunately, my technique is not universal, I tell candidates, “I don’t care if you’re a good interview. I care if you’re a good performer. I’ll try to clean you up to make you the best interview possible. But I’m going to represent you if I think you’re good.” Then we have a course, and you can look on WinWinHiring.com. It’s how to prep for an interview where I tell candidates how to do the best job they can of presenting themselves for a specific job.

And the way to do that is if you feel you’re being superficially assessed, I say to candidates, time out very quickly, and say, “Would you mind telling me some of the major accomplishments related to this job because I’d like to give you examples of work that I’ve done that are most comparable?”

Pete Mockaitis
“Let me do your job for you, interviewer.” That’s funny and I’m laughing because it’s kind of sad but sometimes necessary. Like, as candidates, it’s like, “Let me do your job for you, interviewer. I think what you want to know is the following.”

Lou Adler
Yeah, but most of the time it is. But at least the fact that you just asked that question, indicates that you’re proactive, even if you ask in a low-key way, “Oh, that’s a pretty good question. What are the resources for that job? What’s the timeframe for that job?” And you start asking these questions that say, “Wow, this person…” Even the quality of your questions and proactively asking them, brand you as, “Hey, this person is pretty aggressive.” Your answers the other part, “No, I did some work that’s comparable. And what did you say the biggest problem was in that? You said that design issue to build the tool to do A, B, and C? Let me give you some examples of work that I’ve done related to that.”

So, the idea is, find out what the work is and proactively ask about it. Even if you ask in a low-key manner, it’ll, “Wow, this person is really competent. He really knows what he or she is talking about.” So, I think those are the issues. If you just wait, assume that you’re going to be assessed accurately, the chance of that is five-to-one against you’ll be judged on personality traits and your depth of hard skills.

Pete Mockaitis
And I like that question for getting after motivation. It’s like, “Where have you gone the extra mile here? Where have you gone the extra mile there?” because you’ll surface, I imagine, some patterns. And, hopefully, the answer is not, “Oh, uh, no, I don’t know.” And that can really get you thinking. As I reflect, as I’ve asked myself that question in different endeavors, it’s like, “Where have I gone the extra mile?” it really does reveal, “Oh, yeah, that’s where I was motivated.” And where have I not gone the extra mile is like, “Oh, that’s where I didn’t care and I did the minimum I had to do to comply with the law,” or whatever needs compliance rather than my proactive vigor.

Lou Adler
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, tell us, Lou, any other top tips you would suggest? I think let’s give the candidates a little bit more love in terms of if we want to stand out to become found, to dazzle our prospective employers, what are your top tips on that side?

Lou Adler
Well, first off, my big tip is do not, do not, do not apply for a job directly. Chances are 3% you’ll get interviewed; 1% you’ll get hired, so it’s just a waste of time. On the other hand, if you see a job that you like, I would find out, “Hey, is there any way I can get a referral into that specific job?” That would be great. And it could be a second- or third-degree connection, but you try to see if you can do it, “Okay, what’s this company doing? Do I know anybody? Do I know anybody in my school?” You start looking on LinkedIn.

And the beauty of LinkedIn, it’s a network of 700 million people, not a database of 700 million people. And I don’t think recruiters or candidates take advantage of that. So, now, let’s assume that’s probably going to happen that you’ll know somebody for that job 10%-20%. It’s not going to be high, but you never know. If you get a professional background with an accounting firm, or bigger company, you might be able to get some connection.

On the other hand, 50%-70% of the time, you’ll be able to find out who the vice president is for that department, or director for that department, even if it’s not over that specific job. And I remember talking to this fellow, this has to be five or six years ago now, or maybe ten years, but he was Italian, he had his MBA from some school in Milan, he wanted to work for a telecommunications company in Europe, and he named the top three or four, “I want to work a job here. How would I get it?”

And I said, “Well, it’s easy enough to find a VP of marketing in any of those jobs. Why don’t you do a little MBA-like case study, putting each of their telecommunication systems, if that’s the area you want, and some kind of little competitive matrix, company A, company B, company C, company D, and some of the key features by product line?” So, this person wants to be a product marketing person.

I said, “Then just do a little summary with one or two pages, and then send that off to the VP, and say, ‘I’d like to work in product marketing, and this is what I’ve done. And I’ve found some key weaknesses in some of your products. I’d like to have a chance to chat with you about them.’” He said, “That’s a good idea.” And he called me up once or twice over the next two weeks, and said, “I’m just starting to send out emails, and I think I’ve got one interview already.” I hadn’t heard from him again for like six months, said, “Lou, I got that job with that one company.”

So, there are ways you can find the names of people, do a mini-consulting project, and just arrange to have a conversation, and say, “Hey, I’d like to do this.” And on LinkedIn. There’s an article I call 15 Ways to Hack a Job. So, if you look up Lou Adler, Hack a Job on LinkedIn, you’ll see an article, and it talks about using the backdoor to get the interview, to get to the top of the resume heap. And if you want to apply, unless you’re a world-class person with exactly the skills, it’s a low probability event. I would rather spend more time with fewer postings rather than applying to hundreds of postings.

Same thing with candidates. Don’t spend a lot of times with hundreds of candidates. Get to the right candidates and spend more time with them per candidate. Spend time on jobs you want. And if you put some effort into it, you will get a conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you think that most people spend too much time fine tuning their resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and they can spend that time better elsewhere? Or, what’s your take there?

Lou Adler
That’s a good question. I would say the thing is, and I do look at resumes, so I guess here would be the advice. And this was like 30 years ago, I had a training for candidates. I don’t know how I did it, I figured I just wanted to train candidates on how to get a job, so this was pre-internet, pre-job boards too, so it had to be 1990-ish.

And I said, “Take your resume,” I had everyone bring a resume, and I said, “Give it somebody whom you don’t know.” And I said, “Turn it over and give it somebody whom you don’t know.” Then I said, “I’m going to give everybody 30 seconds to look at that resume.” Maybe it was 15 or 20 seconds. I said, “When I turn the clock on, I want to say turn the resume over and just circle the things that stand out,” maybe it was 10 or 15 seconds. “And then turn it back over and give it back to the person you got it from.”

So, I then said, look at the candidates, and said, “Now, look at what’s circled. Is that enough to get someone to read your resume because you only got five or 10 seconds or 15 seconds where somebody sees your resume and decides to read it?” So, now, I take that same advice, and a lot of people had their name in big bold letters, their address in big bold letters, the title of summary in big bold letters. I said, “Is that going to get someone to read your resume?”

So, now, you take that same advice, so, “Hey, you’ve got 10 or 15 seconds,” recruiters only get 10 or 15 seconds per name, maybe five or six, they got a whole list. Some machine is going to score it in priority order, but assume you get to the top of the list. Well, what’s going to stand out? It’s that first line, which is usually that description. So, if that description turns out, so that’s what I do. I don’t even look at the person’s name.

I just look at the title they give themselves, “Expert in a job of developing something or other.” If it’s kind of cool and interesting, “Oh, that’s kind of interesting, pretty clever.” I highlight something. “Coaching thousands of people on how to do A, B, and C.” “Oh, that’s pretty cool. I got to look at that.” So, I would say that’s probably the most important thing is the first line below your name on LinkedIn. I don’t exactly know how it turns out to look at but I just don’t remember how it does.

But I guess I don’t know if anybody can just look at LinkedIn and look what it looks like, but, to me, that would be the thing. And then I highlight one or two major accomplishments and probably the academics or the track record that somehow show the promotions very quickly, say, “Hey, this is an achiever.” So, some of those achiever terms quickly and some of the projects the person has worked on.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, how about a favorite quote?

Lou Adler
Stephen Covey who wrote The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is my favorite author of all time. He came up, and this was 30 years ago, seven habits that a team, like exceptional people, all have. One of them was “Begin with the end in mind,” “Think win-win.” And “Seek first to understand before you’re understood.” So, I’d say those three are critical, “Think win-win,” “Seek first to understand to be understood,” and then “Begin with the end in mind.”

But if you think about the comment I made, Pete, about, “How do you control the interview if you’re a candidate?” it’s to start asking questions, “Begin with the end in mind,” “Hey, Pete, what do you want done in this job? What will success look like? And I’d like to give you some examples of work that I’ve done.” That is proactive enough to force the interviewer to tell you, and they’ll be impressed by the fact you asked that kind of question. You have to give a decent answer, too, but, nonetheless, you’re in the game if you ask the question.

So, you’re beginning with the end. Why answer questions that aren’t relevant? Why not answer questions that are related to the real job. So, force the person to do it. But I use those quotes a lot and refer to Stephen Covey a lot, so maybe that is my favorite quote.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a study or experiment or bit of research?

Lou Adler
I went to a number of companies that process resumes, they’re called applicant-tracking systems, and I validated the number. And one company had all their users there, and they said, “Over the last five years, since we’ve been in business, we’ve processed 75 million resumes. And of that, 750,000 people got jobs.” And everybody clapped.

And I said to myself, “That’s 1%.” So, they’re spending 99% of all the people applied did not get a job. I then ultimately asked, and that’s what I got. The likelihood of applying is random chance. And then I validated that with two other applicant-tracking system companies. They weren’t as big as that one. But in 30 or 40 resumes, it was about 1% of people who applied get a job. Three to four percent get interviewed.

Then you say, “Where do these other 96% of the jobs get filled?” And most of it is referrals, or internal promotions, or through a trusted recruiter, or from a second-degree connection. So, then that’s a lot of that stuff evolves on, you just look at the statistics, it says, “Hey, the way to get a job is to do your own due diligence. Don’t assume that a posting on Indeed or a posting on ZipRecruiter is going to get it, get you that great opportunity, and applying to hundreds and hundreds of jobs a week. That’s not work. That’s a waste of time.”

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Lou Adler
Oh, that would be Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

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

Lou Adler
For me, a tool is LinkedIn. When I was a recruiter, I could find anybody on LinkedIn in 24 hours. It was easy. No, it’s another tool that I would actually say. I don’t know if you know this. It’s called a phone. You have to talk to people. And I think too many people try to make it impersonal, whether you’re on the company side or the candidate side.

Hiring is a serious personal business. It’s an important decision. And if you try to make it a technical role, you’re going to be unsuccessful. You try and make it a personal relationship; you’ll be very successful. That’s why I say spend, combine high tech with high touch. Don’t just rely exclusively on high tech to make important hiring decisions.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget that you share that people quote back to you often, or that you’re known for?

Lou Adler
Define the job. Or, “It’s what people do with what they have, not what they have that makes them successful.” It’s what people with what they have, not what they have that makes them successful. So, during the course of the interview, I understand, “What do you have in terms of skills and experiences and opportunities, and what have you accomplished with those?” And I’m looking for people who have accomplished more with less.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Lou Adler
And that really reveals a lot about that person’s capability.

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

Lou Adler
I would go to WinWinHiring.com. WinWinHiring.com is a training course, an online training course. But I’d also go to Amazon and search “Hire With Your Head.” The book just came out, fourth edition from Wiley. Whether you’re a candidate or a hiring manager or a recruiter, you’ll find it invaluable in terms of planning your life and your career.

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

Lou Adler
Well, to be awesome, yeah, I say don’t make excuses. Get it done. It doesn’t matter if you’re committed to do it. Don’t blame others. Just do it. And I see that all the time. And one thing I hate is people who make excuses. I like people who get the job done. And getting it done on time, even if it’s not perfect, is more important than saying or making excuses on why you didn’t make it perfect. Get it done in some level so people can use it. Meet your deadlines. Don’t make excuses. Get it done. That would be my motto for being awesome at your job.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Lou, this has been a treat. I wish you lots of luck and fun in all the ways you’re getting it done.

Lou Adler
Great. Thank you, Pete. Nice chatting with you.

720: Navigating the Great Resignation with Dr. David Rock

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Dr. David Rock shares strategies to help both employees and employers come out of the Great Resignation feeling more satisfied.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why so many professionals are now quitting 
  2. The small shifts that drastically improve satisfaction and productivity
  3. The telltale signs it’s time to quit your job 

About David

Dr. David Rock coined the term neuroleadership, and is the Co-founder and CEO of the NeuroLeadership Institute (NLI). The Institute is a 23-year-old cognitive science consultancy that has advised over 50% of the Fortune 100. With operations in 24 countries, the institute brings neuroscientists and leadership experts together to make organizations better for humans through science.

Dr. Rock has authored four successful books including Your Brain at Work, a business best-seller, and has written for and been quoted in hundreds of articles about leadership, organizational effectiveness, and the brain which can be found in Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insider, CNBC, Forbes, Fortune, Inc., USA Today, BBC, The Boston Globe and more.

Dr Rock is originally Australian, though based in the US since 2010. He holds a professional doctorate in the Neuroscience of Leadership from Middlesex University in the UK.

Resources Mentioned

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Dr. David Rock Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
David, thanks for joining us here on How to be Awesome at Your Job.

David Rock
It’s a pleasure. Good to be with you.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, I’m excited to be with you and I’m hoping you can give us some insight beyond the headlines. We’re hearing this term Great Resignation a lot. First, can you define it for us? And tell us, is this a really a big deal or is this overhyped?

David Rock
It’s a bit of both. Statistically, when you really look at the data, and I’m a scientist, I like data, it’s definitely bigger than other times but it’s also part of an ongoing trend where we’ve seen increasing numbers of people changing jobs every year. So, it’s definitely a bump but it’s really hard to say whether it’s a function of sort of no one quit last year, because we were so uncertain, and then kind of, suddenly, there was this big bump now making up for that. Statistically, it looks a little bit more than just that big bump but it feels bigger. And certainly, it is bigger, and you may notice it around you in certain industries, but it’s not kind of enormous thing necessarily from a statistic point of view.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so then, but is there something noteworthy and bigger there that’s worth exploring and digging into?

David Rock
Yeah, absolutely. There’s a really very specific experience that millions, if not billions, of people have had. It’s very unusual. The Great Depression, a hundred years ago, is probably the only thing in all and parallel that really left a mark on people. People who grew up through the Great Depression had certain habits, the horrors of their life till the end of their life. And I think, in a similar way, the folks who’ve lived through this pandemic are going to be affected by it for a long, long time.

And there’s a number of things that happened. Huge parts of the economy are built on devices to distract us from ourselves, whether it’s movies, books, television, apps, everything else. And for a lot of people, Netflix kind of ran out, and there was nothing left to distract them.

Pete Mockaitis
They finished it.

David Rock
They finished it, right? And so, they’re left having all this time with themselves, and sometimes what they saw they didn’t really like. So, there’s a percentage of the population who’s interested in self-reflection and kind of thinking about life, but there’s a lot of people who go through life, probably a majority, without much time really thinking about themselves. We don’t have 90% of people in therapy.

And so, a lot of people were kind of forced to take a good honest look at their life because there wasn’t much else to focus on, and they saw that they didn’t really love their job, that maybe they didn’t love their partner, maybe didn’t love where they lived, and those three things changed a lot when the pandemic finished. And the job is the easier one to change than a house or a partner. You’re probably more likely to trade up in the job, but the other two, it depends. So, a lot of people kind of coming out of this say, “I want to make big changes.”

And, also, there’s this really big lack of control that we all have experienced and are still experiencing. There’s a really big lack of control, so think of autonomy. And so, by kind of changing jobs, in particular, you’re reasserting your feeling of control in your life, in a way that’s probably the least disruptive as well. So, I think that’s another reason. In summary, people kind of had time to think and got to see a lot of their life wasn’t great. And then they found a way to regain control, which is the easiest way is changing jobs.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, autonomy, status, control, things that folks want or maybe not getting as much as they’d like in their jobs, and so a switch is one way to accomplish that. Do you have any interesting research insights on can we get more of that while staying where we are?

David Rock
Yeah, absolutely. So, autonomy is this really interesting construct in the brain. It’s a feeling of being in control or having choices. The two are quite similar. When you press a button to cross the street, you expect it to change in a certain amount of time. If nothing happens after a few minutes, you get frustrated. You thought you had control over crossing the road and you discover it’s broken and now you feel better. You’ve regained control and you cross another way. But our feeling of kind of being in control is something that goes up and down through the day but, generally, within a certain limit. And the pandemic really drops that sense. We felt completely out of control. We just didn’t know what to do in a huge way. And it’s such an interesting phenomenon – control.

In animal studies, it’s the difference between life and death. So, in animal studies, essentially, you can give animals a certain stress, and some will have this perception of being in control of it and some will feel out of control, and it literally is the difference between life and death. There are studies with humans, in retirement homes, in aged homes, where they give a control group no change, and another group, they give them three choices. This was done in about the ‘70s. But they give them three choices of like a plant, or an art, or where to put the bed. It actually halved the death rate for people who were given control.

And then a third study that always blows my head off, people given the control over how they laid out their cubicle. So, same job, same company, same cubicle, still had the same computer, but they were allowed to bring in like personal things in their cubicle versus not. And the people allowed to bring in personal things, who felt in control of their cubicle, are 25% more productive. It’s like a day a week more productive. It’s crazy.

So, autonomy has this outsized effect on many, many functions in the brain. And, essentially, it puts us in more of an approach state or towards state when we have a sense of control. And when we reduce that sense of control, it activates more of a threat state or avoidance state. And, generally, we’re far more creative in an approach state. We literally have greater cognitive resources for holding big ideas in mind. We collaborate better. Just about everything is better in more of an approach state, what happens when we feel like we’re in control.

A little bit of an avoidance or threat state is okay for focusing for short bursts but you won’t be very creative but you’ll be able to execute well. So, there’s a whole lot of science to this but, essentially, the pandemic kind of reduced our feeling of control but a lot of clever people worked out hacks to that, and said, “Actually, you know what, I can control my diet now better than any other time in my life,” and decided to really monitor their diet and track it, do experiments, and people said, “You know what, I can control my sleep properly for the first time ever. I can even control the people I meet.” And the introvert, germophobes, had a field day. But we could suddenly control a lot more things because we were in a home environment.

And so, while you can sort of focus on being out of control, there were other ways that you could focus on. Actually, your control had increased in a local way. And we even had more control over when we worked versus when we had breaks and all of this stuff. And that was one of the silver linings of the pandemic is that we had this increased sense of control about kind of workflow because our manager wasn’t standing over us. So, it gives you a clue to sort of what we can do. But the science of this is really fascinating.

Pete Mockaitis
Indeed. And what a powerful impact there by having even minor amounts of control. You’re allowed to decorate your cubicle as you see fit. And so, boy, that just gets me thinking, there’s probably so much autonomy that, we guess, we just sort of leave on the table, if you will. It’s like we don’t even consider that we have that control in order to exercise it and enjoy the benefits of controlling our work, break time, or our food choices, or our sleep. Any other categories you think are just sort of like overlooked, like, “Hey, this is in your control. Seize it and reap the benefits”?

David Rock
Yeah, absolutely. If you’re at home a lot of the time, you’re in control of who you socialize with. And now you don’t have to socialize with people who are in a 20-mile radius. You can socialize with people anywhere in the world. And I’ve been part of a poker school, or poker club, for over a decade, and most of my buddies I played with are in Australia where I’m originally from, and I kind of miss them.

And what I found is that there was a great app where we could literally play poker online and see each other and hear each other perfectly. It was just like being there. And we started playing monthly and enjoyed it so much, we started playing weekly. And now I’m getting together with some of my favorite humans literally every week for a couple of hours and just hanging out. It’s a wonderful thing.

So, you gain this control over who you interact with, and whether it’s family or friends or people you really want to learn from, that’s another upside to this time. And I think the people’s willingness to sort of try things on platforms is always going to be with us. We’ve all learned that there are things we can do on platforms, like Zoom, that we never imagined were possible, and actually they can work. And so, I think that’s going to stay with us for some time.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely. Okay. Well, so then what are some other ways you recommend folks can upgrade their satisfaction with where they are? They can look for opportunities to exercise their autonomy. What else?

David Rock
Another thing that you want to play with is your sense of certainty.

So, we have this drive for our feeling of control that’s always relative, so you have a little more, a little less than where you were. But we also have this drive for a sense of certainty, and they’re similar but quite different things. And a sense of certainty is literally, “How much do you feel you’re able to predict what’s about to happen?”

Let me give you an example. Normal times, you’re at work, you’re at the office, and you live a little far away, and your partner borrows your car. And during the day, they say, “Hey, I think I’m going to be back in time but I’m not sure, and if not, you’ll need to get public transport.” You know that’s like an extra hour and a hassle. The whole afternoon, your brain is going to go back and forward, back and forward between, “Do I have to leave at 5:00? Do I need to leave at 4:00? Am I going to have to deal with that?”

While that ambiguity is there, a big piece of your brain is trying to solve for two different realities, and it’s trying to do all the sort of what-if questions about if you have to take the subway and the bus, or if you’re going to have the car, and it’s debilitating. You’re actually using some of your limited working memory. So, that’s a small bit of uncertainty where you just got, “Do I take transport or am I having a car?”

And so, your brain is constantly mapping out into the future trying to kind of plan ahead unconsciously. When the world is really certain, as it sort of was before the pandemic, things were kind of in a flow and you knew how you’re getting home, and what you’re doing next week, and where you’re going for vacation, and when you would next see your parents, and all of these kinds of things. Then certainty plummeted during the pandemic. And one of the interesting phenomena was our temporal focus, or how far out we could think, really shrank.

Normally, we think like, it’s not uncommon to think a year out and plan a vacation in a year, or some education in a year, or two years, you’re working towards, or be saving for something a few years out. We went from a year to not a quarter or even a month, and not even a week. Many of us, during the pandemic, could barely think a few days ahead. We were very much in the now. And it was because of the amount of uncertainty, there were so many variables that were uncertain that it just hurt to think even a week out at some points. There was just so much that was changing all the time.

And so, we became much more focused kind of in the moment. And part of it is that uncertainty, like a lack of control, increases the threat response in the brain, which literally reduces resources for prefrontal or working memory. And so, you had this issue where lack of control actually made it harder to just hold things in your mind, and so you just focus on the now. Then there was this whole kind of complexity of just trying to calculate further out and how exhausting that was, and we just kind of gave up.

And so, that issue happened. And interestingly, again, this is one of those situations where you can kind of hack your perception of control just like you can autonomy. And the interesting thing about the brain is things that are local are valued more highly than things that are farther away. So, feeling certain about your office where you spend a lot of time will actually give you a whole lot of benefits because it’s right in front of you all the time.

And so, you can hack your brain’s need for certainty by…and a lot of people did this, like organizing your office like crazy, organizing your bookshelf, organizing your filing, re-setting up your systems, getting your computer better than ever, getting the stand you’ve always wanted, and the camera and eyesight. Just getting super organized, so literally you didn’t have to use working memory for lots of little things anymore.

Steve Jobs was famous for this, always wearing the same things where he didn’t have to make decisions in the morning, and could focus on other things. It’s a bit like that. You just create this huge amount of certainty, and your brain has to make fewer decisions, and it’s less taxed overall. So, there’s a local effect with things that are physically close to you and also things that are close in time, and that’s one of the ways of hacking this.

So, you end up organizing your calendar, your schedule. You end up just kind of getting really disciplined and structured, and that hacks your sense of certainty even if the outside world is completely crazy. And so, there’s always kind of hacks like this, particularly around autonomy and certainty you can do even when the world is really crazy, to locally feel a lot better and be able to think well.

Pete Mockaitis
That really resonates and what’s coming to mind for me is I’ve got a buddy, Ronnie, and he said to me, boy, decades ago, he said, “Laundry is power.” I said, “What are you even saying?” And then, sure enough, this was before I was doing my laundry regularly, we’re like teenagers. And then when I got in the groove and I understood, it’s like, “Ah, yes, when you have a drawer of perfectly folded and organized and clean and ready-to-go laundry, that is power.” Because whatever tiny bit of your RAM was spent wondering, “Do I have clean underwear or shirt or dress, socks?” whatever item you might need or want. It’s like the answer is, “Yes. Why, I’m certain my clothing is handled.”

Likewise, I’ve got a bunch of high-protein snacks on my shelf, and that feels great in terms of like, “I don’t need to worry. If a schedule gets all choppy or weird, I’m not going to go hungry. there’s reassurance there that feels good.” So, organizing in terms of, “I know I’ve got my pens or my stand or whatever, my apps,” lay it on us, what are some other ways we can remove uncertainty from our lives and reap those psychological benefits?

David Rock
I have to tell you a funny relevant story before we go into some other ones. I just had a birthday recently, and my partner said, “What do you really want?” And I said, “I want to never think about socks again.” Like, I work out every single day. I’m just spending like five minutes pointlessly searching for socks and pairing them and stuff. I said, “I want you to really care about the perfect socks, and go test them, find out and see if you can work out. I like XYZ, and then that’s the thing I most want for my birthday.”

And they did it, they went out and she like worked out the exact one and threw out all my other socks, and gave me just dozens and dozens and dozens of the exact same socks, so I just never have to think about matching socks ever again. And it’s kind of something I’ve always wanted. I always felt too indulgent. But it’s like that stuff adds up because it’s attention you can’t put elsewhere in all those little places.

Pete Mockaitis
David, I love that so much. And the problem with socks is that they have all these different styles. Like, if you get pack of five, it might be five different designs, like, “That doesn’t help me because if I lose one, then the pair ends, whereas I’ve got redundancies, they could replace each other.” And so, it’s harder to match and pair. So, I’ve actually had the same fantasy but I, too, have not taken the time to realize it.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. All right. So, socks, that’s one thing you cannot think about ever again.

David Rock
Well, it’s a good metaphor. And then if you take that and say, “Look, what else do you regularly, like at least once a week, find you waste attention on?” Because attention is actually a limited resource. If you’re having to pair socks, that’s attention you can’t put onto something else. So, what else do you regularly, like at least weekly, maybe daily, put attention on so that you really don’t need to, you really shouldn’t have to? And how can you replace those things so that you really don’t have to actually give that any focus anymore?

You’ll start to see a lot of things where you could create a lot more certainty in these areas, whether it’s bulk buying food so that you know you’ve always got three months’ worth of things that you never have to worry, or shop four times a year, or it could be around planning your exercise routine a month out at a time, or planning your diet a whole way out. So, there’s different ways to think about it. It’s kind of whatever you’re interested in but, essentially, the fewer decisions you have to make that are kind of pointless, the better off you’ll be. That’s the tip overall.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. And so, it’s not so much, “Oh, I’m at the gym. What am I going to do here now?” but rather, “I’ve taken some time, I’ve done some research in advance based on my goals and the equipment that’s available and the time I have, this is what I’m doing.” And so, you’ve made one decision to rule dozens or hundreds of subsequent things.

David Rock
Right. One of the things I did is I realized I was terrible at going to the gym, and it just was the time sucked till I get there and deal with things, and get back, and I didn’t like the environment at the gym, and I needed to work out fairly regularly. I felt there were benefits. The research was really saying there were benefits.

And as I looked into the research, it became clear that actually a small amount of exercise, if you do it every day, is fantastic. And by small amount, I mean like five minutes, even five to ten minutes. And I realized I’m overcomplicating this thing. What if I could do something that I could do absolutely anywhere, it doesn’t matter what hotel I’m in, what part of the world I’m in, what mental state I’m in, I can just, anywhere, do some exercises and do them absolutely daily?

When I simplified it down to that, I had all this certainty, and now I could just weave in exercise into part of my day. And so, pushups and sit-ups go a long way plus some stretching. If you could do that regularly, daily, you’ve got an amazing set of health benefits and strength and confidence. And add some cardio from most days from a walking meeting so that you’re getting that cardio in as well while you’re in a meeting, and you’ve got a fantastic exercise routine without ever going to the gym. So, again, you’re kind of creating, I guess, it’s not just certainty. Also, you’re just creating more ease with your attention and with having to achieve your goals.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Like, “Oh, when and where and how am I going to get this workout in?” It’s like, “Oh, that’s just five minutes. It can be anywhere. And for the time being, I’ve chosen to schedule it at this time recurring, and now there it is.” Cool. All right. Well, so then let’s talk about if we do want to make a change in the job, how do we know it’s time and how do you go about thinking through and deciding that?

David Rock
Companies are really good at trying to keep people, and I think that it’s really good, and I speak as an employer as well, I guess, in this, but it’s really good to explore the options because sometimes we just think that the job we’re in is the only opportunity, but a lot of companies are good at being flexible, and you might find there’s a completely different career path in the same company.

I remember we did a lot of work with Intel for quite some years, the chip maker, and I remember a dinner a few years ago with maybe a dozen of the Intel executives, and they were introducing themselves, and I said, “How long have you been here? And what do you do?” to a person. Everyone had been there 20 plus years. And they weren’t necessarily that senior, they were mid-career, I was like, “How does the company keep you so long?”

And everyone just laughed and said, “Well, every two or three years, I get a knock on my door, and someone offers me a ridiculously big job that I could never imagine I would ever be chosen for and throws me in the deep end in this incredibly challenging opportunity that I get to really sink my teeth into. And they just keep doing that every few years. I’ve never gone more than five years without that happening.” And everyone to a person agreed.

So, Intel, in the background, who worked that out, and kept really, really good people by stretching them a lot. And so, a lot of clever organizations want to give you different kinds of roles, and I think the first step is to explore, “Is it the company or is it the role?” If you’re an extrovert and you’re stuck in accounting filling in forms, you may find that joining the sales team might make you intrinsically happier. That’s an obvious one.

So, I think the first thing is, “Is it the company, or is it the role, or is it the team?” Maybe you’re in a team where the chemistry isn’t right. And I’ve got a team of 200 plus people, and magic happens sometimes when you move someone to a different team. Someone can be an underperformer and not happy. You put them in a whole different team, they do incredible work. So, there’s a definite chemistry thing. So, I think it depends. Is it the company? Is it the team? Is it the work? It’s good to think about those things and explore ideas.

If it’s all three, you might want to consider your options. And sometimes people just want to really shake things up. They want to really, really shake up their kind of whole world and kind of challenge themselves to learn new things, especially if they’re maybe mid-career, they’ve done a few years kind of in their first five to ten years of working. They’ve kind of really learned a lot of skills in one environment, they’re like, “I want to challenge myself and learn something completely different.”

I was talking to a colleague who’s been in pharma for a long, long time, and she’s like, “You know what, I want to go and be in media now. Pharma has been great but I want an entirely different ecosystem. I want to learn entirely different things about the world, and that’s something I’m passionate about.” So, that’s a person that probably will leave because it’s the entire industry they want to shift, so getting a new job in there won’t be helpful.

So, I think you got to think about also the industry, the company, the team, and the job itself. What really is it? And if it is time to leave, it’s always really great, and I guess I say this as an employer, but it’s always really great to let people know really early and minimize the surprise elements so your colleagues, not just your managers, but your colleagues also have time to set things up so they’re not drowning.

I know in many organizations right at the moment, everyone is struggling for talent. I don’t know how the math of that works but I think just a lot of people are not working. And it’s not just restaurants and bars. Like, everyone, everywhere is really short staffed somehow. Just about every industry I talk to, people are saying, “We just don’t have enough people for the work.” So, I’m a fan of giving folks lots of warnings so you’re not throwing anyone in the deep end.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, we’ve talked about some tiny interventions in terms of just like your own mindset and what’s in your sphere of control, what you can do there. We talked about some big changes in terms of, “I’m out of here.” And so, maybe about some in-between size changes, do you have any pro tips on how we go about communicating with managers, leaders, others in terms of, “Hey, you know what, this job isn’t working for me,” or, “Hey, I really appreciate if we can make this shift or accommodation”? Any magical scripts or words or phrases or approaches that really work well here?

David Rock
Yeah, there’s no magic in that stuff. It creates a lot of anxiety for people, so I think being clear is really helpful, being really clear about whether you’ve made a decision or not, whether you’re talking to other organizations already or not, where you are in your process. If you’re really early in your thinking, let people know you’re early in your thinking and you’re not planning to do anything for a few months. If you’ve kind of already decided to leave and you’ve already done interviews, you got to be kind of upfront about that.

So, I think there’s a lack of transparency in both directions, employer and employee in these things, and I think everyone wins when there’s more transparency around this stuff. So, I think just be really clear about where you are in your process and it’s just really nice to give people a little bit of a time to find that replacement as well, especially in this environment.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Flipping the perspective a little bit, when you are the employer and you are looking to retain the talent, you mentioned some of the best practices of Intel, what are some of the other things that you find are really great things to do to help get people to stick around?

David Rock
One of the biggest motivators is feeling you’re making progress. There’s a whole book on that called The Progress Principle by Teresa Amabile. But it’s this feeling like you’re actually able to really do your best work, not just make progress but you’re able to really be proud of the work that you do, and know it really is your best work. There’s sort of nothing worse than getting home and saying, “I tried my best but, really, there are all these roadblocks in the way, and I did half the job I could’ve done,” or, “If only my colleagues had my back,” or, “If only I had this technology,” or, “I just didn’t get to look as good or hit it out of the park.” It’s frustrating.

So, I think helping people do their best work is really important. And the challenge with that is it’s very individual so managers will have to learn to ask questions about it. So, some really interesting data out recently, like there’s a whole conundrum about, “Where do you let people work now that the offices are opening up a bit?” But it turns out, there’s no one answer to that. About a third of people are saying there are productive places at home full time. It’s not just that they want to goof off. It’s actually where they work hardest to get the most done.

Now, some of them might also appreciate having more time with their kids and less pointless time driving and all sorts of things. But, literally, a third of people say they’re more productive working at home than anything else. About a third of people say they’re actually more productive working in the office, and that’s where they get the most done. Now, they might be extroverts, or they might not have conditions at home that are good, or they just might not have the discipline that they just end up distracted too much at home. So, you’ve got really different polarities there.

And so, as a manager, you want to help people work out where they do their best work but even when they do their best work. Some people, like their routine is such whether they have kids maybe, but they just do amazing work if they can start at 5:00 a.m., work through 8:00, take four hours off, and then do three hours in the afternoon. And they’ll do stellar work if they do that, and be healthy, and a good parent, and all these other things.

Other people, they’ll do stellar work if they start at lunchtime and go straight through till 8:00 p.m., That’s just how they work. They’re night owls. So, there’s the where you work, there’s the when you work, there’s, our research show, that who you work with and what you work on is even more important, even more motivating. Like, you can give people, this is back to autonomy, give people a little more control than they thought they might have over what they work on and who they work with, you actually get an even greater sense of engagement.

So, we’re coming back to autonomy a lot, but giving people more control over where they work, and when they work, and what they work on, and who they work with, these things are very intrinsically motivating. And, at the same time, how can you, as a manager, kind of remove roadblocks and give people the tools they need to really feel like they can do their best work? Those are a couple of the really big things we think.

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

David Rock
I think this is an incredible time to make big changes in how we work individually and for organizations. I think it’s a really interesting time because all our systems kind of that were very frozen forever are being kind of unfrozen, everything is sort of bit in flux. And as we start to open offices again and go back, before we fall on bad habits again, I think it’s a great time for companies and individuals to think about the habits they want to have, think about the kind of culture they want to have, think about the kind of team they want to be part of, all of this.

So, I think it’s a great time to be really intentional as we kind of transition into 2022. Let’s be really intentional about the kind of life we want to live as individuals, or the kind of culture we want to have as a company. And, for me, it’s really important to say this. Follow the science because the science is often different to our gut instinct. Follow the science and then experiment, and then follow the data. Follow the science, experiment, and follow the data, are three really important things as we move forward. Don’t just follow gut instinct.

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

David Rock
Theodore Zeldin, a philosopher at Oxford, one of my favorite authors, he often said, “When will we make the same breakthroughs in the way we relate to each other as we’ve made in technology?” So, that’s something that inspires me really often.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

David Rock
I really like the study by Dan Gilbert. Dan is a professor at Harvard. He wrote the book Stumbling on Happiness, which is about the way we mis-predict what will make us happy in the future. We think that a big car, an hour in the suburbs will make us happy than a small apartment in the city. And it turns out, the ten hours a week of driving makes us miserable much more so than the space makes us happy.

So, anyway, he wrote this great book Stumbling on Happiness and he did this study a few years back, looking at kind of, “What are the different activities that make people happy?” And what he discovered was really surprising, was that about half the time people are literally not there mentally. The lights are on but no one’s home. They’re like in a meeting but they’re mentally in lunch tomorrow. Or, they’re supposedly working on a document but their mind is off on something else altogether.

So, about half, it’s about 48% of our waking hours, we are literally not present in what we’re doing. It’s such a fascinating finding and tells you why we need to kind of be reminded to have more of a growth mindset and kind of experiment a lot more because we’re just not present a lot of the time.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

David Rock
A book that kind of changed my life a lot and sort of set me down the neuroscience path a lot was John Ratey’s book. It’s an old book now but it’s called A User’s Guide to the Brain. And I read that and read that and read that, and thumbed through that, for years and years and years. And it gave me like the first kind of really good dose of language about what was happening inside my head. And at some point, I said, “You know what, I really wish there was a version of this for doing work.” And there wasn’t, and I kind of ended up writing that book. That’s my book Your Brain at Work.

And, as self-serving as this is, I just re-read it and re-edited it, and ten years later, after I kind of originally read it, I actually got a lot out of it. So, that’s my second most favorite book, it’s my own book. It really helped me understand my brain, writing it. And even ten years later, even if it’s very late, I had to do it to kind of improve it. So, anything that sort of gives you language for what’s going on moment to moment in your brain, gives you an ability to be more mindful in a way because you’re paying attention to internal experiences and states so you’re literally more full of your mind. Your attention is on your mental process.

And these kinds of things end up having a similar effect as actual mindfulness training in that it reduces stress and gives you greater cognitive control and all these other things. So, I’m a big fan of learning about your brain as a way of being more adaptive in life and more effective in your career or as a manager.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite tool?

David Rock
I think my favorite tool is the hot tub, the jacuzzi. It’s a communication tool, and I’ve probably had one consistently for the last 20 years in everywhere that I’ve lived. I’ve made sure of it. And what I find is you get this unusual window of time where you’re super comfortable, super relaxed, where you can really have long deeper conversations, usually with my partner or with a close friend. It’s this kind of non-obvious conversation tool for having really good quality downtime. And I find, when I don’t have a hot tub around, we just don’t spend that kind of time really going deeper on things, whereas with the hot tub, you do. So, there you go, an unexpected tool.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a key nugget you share that people seem to quote back to you often?

David Rock
“We tend to think about what’s easiest to think about rather than what’s right to think about.” Something I said in Your Brain at Work, and a lot of people quote that. We tend to think about whatever is easy to think about rather than what we actually should be focused on. And so, a lot of the intangible things don’t get enough attention over things that are just more tangible by kind of accident.

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

David Rock
A couple of places of work that I do with organizations, NeuroLeadership.com. Personally, DavidRock.net. My book, my most recent book is Your Brain at Work. You just look that up. You’ll find it everywhere. And easy to find me through DavidRock.net if you’re interested in all the different things I’m involved with.

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

David Rock
I think this is a great time to think about the next decade or so for yourself. The decisions you make right now about your career will last you five to ten years. So, I think this is a good time to think deeply about what inspires you, what motivates you, what you want to really spend your time and your attention on. A bit like the socks. Do you want to spend your attention on something that annoys you or do you want to spend your attention on something that really inspires you? So, I think it’s a great time to be thoughtful about how you want to spend the next decade or so.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. David, this has been a treat. Thank you and I wish you much luck and fun in your adventures.

David Rock
Thank you so much. Appreciate the opportunity.

716: How to Save Your Career without Leaving Your Job with Darcy Eikenberg

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Darcy Eikenberg says: "Have we actually used all of our control to try to get more of what we want?"

Darcy Eikenberg offers solutions for turning your job around when you feel like quitting.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The three shifts you can always make to improve any job 
  2. How to to ask for and get what you want
  3. How to reset your relationships and boundaries at work 

About Darcy

Darcy Eikenberg is on a mission to help us change our lives at work without changing everything in our lives. She’s the author of Red Cape Rescue: Save Your Career Without Leaving Your Job which shows how to get more of what you want without changing careers or finding a new job—and without sacrificing yourself. She’s coached leaders at companies such as The Coca-Cola Company, State Farm, and Deloitte, and offers encouraging ways to change work for the better, for good.

Resources Mentioned

Thank you Sponsors

  • University of California Irvine. Chart your course to career success at ce.uci.edu/learnnow

Darcy Eikenberg Interview Transcript

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

Darcy Eikenberg
Thanks, Pete. I’m so glad to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to talk about your latest work, let’s hear it, Red Cape Rescue. What’s the story here?

Darcy Eikenberg
Yeah, the tagline is “Save Your Career Without Leaving Your Job.” And the story really came out of working with a lot of my clients where I would hear these conversations going on where they’d say, “You know, I’m smart and I should be able to figure out what I want next, but something is not quite right at work. Something is just bugging me or something is just changed for me but I can’t put my finger on it.”

And recognizing so often that the conventional wisdom was telling them, “Well, if something is not right at work, you better go find another job.” And then maybe they’d try that, and it didn’t really work well, or maybe they found another job, and in six months, they’re asking the same question again. And I realized that the conventional wisdom is just wrong, that often there are so many things we can do right where we are to change our life at work without having to change everything in our life.

And so, that’s really the core of the book, the kind of strategies that you can use right now, wherever you are, to take back control.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely. Okay. Well, so maybe could you start us off with a cool story of someone who did see a nifty transformation while staying right there?

Darcy Eikenberg
Yeah. So, I have a client who was a leader in an advertising agency, but thought she was up for the next promotion and didn’t get it. How many times has that happened to folks, right? And the reason she didn’t get it, she didn’t get a good explanation, and she really just got angry and frustrated, and then she got really down on herself.

And someone introduced her to me, and we started really teasing apart what did she want and what was going on with this rejection for this promotion. And she realized that she was feeling like she had to go find another job, kind of out of just out frustration. But, in truth, she loved a lot of the things about the company, about the people, and about the work.

And so, we found ways for her to have better conversations, to get clear about what she wanted, to be able to be more direct with the folks who were making decisions, about what was getting in her way, and also to reshape her own story so that the things they weren’t seeing in her for this particular promotion, that she could tell different stories to bring that out.

And so, that person who could’ve just left, she could’ve found another job, but she didn’t. And now, a couple years later, she’s actually second in line to the next president of the whole agency. So, I think there’s a lot of us who might like to not throw away everything that we have in our lives at work and be able to make more of it, but we need some different skills. We need some different strategies.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. Okay. So, then in this particular instance, it was more about sort of sharing, “Hey, this is what it did,” kinds of things.

Darcy Eikenberg
So, two things in this particular instance. One was getting clear on what she really wanted at that phase. So, did the promotion represent something? But what did she really want? And, really, what she wanted in many ways was the opportunity to make a bigger impact but she hadn’t been able to express that. No one had pulled that out of her, and she hadn’t even recognized that. So, that clarity first is often a step when something is happening.

You’ve hit a road bump at work, it’s like, “What is it that I really care about here? What does this really mean?” So, that was one of the first steps that she took to get really, really clear about what she wanted.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, first step was getting clarity. And after the clarity came, what was the second step?

Darcy Eikenberg
After the clarity, really comes the confidence to be able to have better conversations. So, being able to ask for what you need, to be able to not feel like this illusion of transparency, that, “Well, they should know, right? People should know that if I didn’t get the promotion, then I’m upset or I’m getting a negative message.”

We make so many assumptions in our life at work because we’re so close to it. But she had to learn how to have a different conversation and be able to talk to the decision-makers, in this case, the CEO of her company, and be able to say, “So, this is what I observed that happened. Here’s the decision you made. Here’s how it made me feel and here’s what I’m interpreting from that. But is that accurate?”

And without having that conversation, she had made up a story in her head about what not getting the promotion meant. And it actually meant something very different, something that the CEO hadn’t even really articulated yet.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. All right. Well, so then tell us, what are perhaps the key insights that folks need to be aware of if they want to have a rescue of their career without leaving their jobs?

Darcy Eikenberg
Yeah, a rescue, a reboot, a reset. So many of us are in this reflection mode right now, and I think the key learning is to recognize that we only control three things. We control what we think, we control what we say, and we control what we do. No matter how hard we try, we can’t control anything else. So, recognizing that that’s all is in our control, then being able to go through and say, “So, in this situation, when I’ve hit this road bump, this speed bump, this thing that’s happening at work that is not making me love my work anymore, can I change something that I think? Is there an assumption I’m making? Can I change something that I’m going to say? Like, can I speak up more, or speak out, or have a different conversation than the one I’ve been having? Or, is there actually something to do differently?”

Or, in some cases, it may be something to not do. One of the chapters in the book that’s getting a lot of attention is the chapter called Drop Some Balls. It’s like, “Are there things I’m doing that’s too much, that’s actually distracting people from understanding what I do and how I create value in this organization?”

Pete Mockaitis
That is intriguing. Well, can we talk about some key things that we might wish to drop and under what circumstances?

Darcy Eikenberg
Yeah, we often accumulate, especially smart people, people who want to be awesome at their job, we accumulate things on our to-do list. We have good ideas and we might propose a good idea, and then the good idea becomes our responsibility. But we also have things that add up, like meetings, reports, different check-ins with stakeholders, and we don’t often take a step back, and say, “Are these things still valuable and important for what I care about…” back to that clarity point, “…for what I really want to do?”

And being able to take a hard look at that list, and recognize that, “You know, we may have needed that team meeting a year ago, but do we still need it in its same format now?” or, “The report that takes me half a day every month, maybe we don’t need that anymore because now we have the system where anybody can get the data anytime.”

So, when I do this exercise with my clients, we’ll often find 20% to 30% of things that they are doing, that they are spending time on, and most of the time it’s things that are not in their superpower space, they’re not the places where they are at their best and high issues. But that 20% to 30% that if they just stopped doing it, nobody would notice. It’s amazing exercise to go through to really say, “What could I drop and nobody might care?”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s pretty wild, 20% to 30% is not just suboptimal but rather totally inconsequential. It’s wild.

Darcy Eikenberg
It’s a huge chunk for somebody. And I don’t think we intentionally make up more things to do. But I think in our effort to want to be good, to think through things at a bigger level, those are excellent behaviors, and those are behaviors that continue to get you moving forward and help you learn. And, at the same time, if you’re somebody who has been saying, “I’m overwhelmed. My workload has grown. I’m not spending time in the place where I am the best in high issues, in the place where my company really needs me and values me,” taking a hard look at what balls we can drop is a way to take back control.

And maybe if you don’t think that you can just stop doing them without permission, which I would whisper in someone’s ear that there’s a lot of things you don’t need permission for in today’s workplace, that you could just do or stop doing, but you could also have a better conversation with people around the costs and the impact of that time that you’re spending. And today, at such a time of change, there is so much more opportunity for creativity than the chaos. And for people to make suggestions about how we can do less but create more value.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. Well, so could you give us a few examples then of, “Hey, here are some things that people stopped doing and nobody noticed and it was all good”?

Darcy Eikenberg
Yeah. So, reports or big PowerPoint presentations, those are things that, tactically, for a lot of people that I work with, a lot of people that I talk to when I’m out speaking, that there’s just something. And the strategy I’ll offer listeners and anybody wanting to experiment with this is to find that thing on your list that you dread. Like, that thing that just keeps moving maybe from day to day on your list that you procrastinate, that just is not the thing that really lights you up. Because that stuff that lights us up, that feels easy. But it’s the stuff that drags you down.

So, I have a client who, at one point, was responsible for putting together what turned out to be like a 50-page PowerPoint presentation every month. Now, there’s maybe half of it was the same month to month but she had to go through it to check. But what she realized is that there was only two pieces of data that anybody cared about in that entire deck, she ended up doing a one-minute video that was put on their share space and be able to be distributed to everybody, that said, “Hey, here’s the change from one month to the last month. If you have any questions, let me know.” And that took her maybe 20 minutes compared to the hours that she would put in trying to develop the PowerPoint.

So, there are ways that we can think differently about what we’re doing so that we’re not spending so much time on the things that don’t matter. And that’s what I mean by taking back control of what you do.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s really interesting, those reports, because I can see how there may well have been a time in which is like, “Hey, we really need a broad overview picture of all that’s going on with this thing.” It’s like, “Okay, sure. Okay, we made the PowerPoint and there it is.” “Okay, cool. Well, hey, now, we need the up-to-date information.” “So, I guess I have to update the whole thing.” And then it’s just sort of like lands that way as opposed to, like, “Oh, wait. Well, actually, now that we already know the broad strokes of everything, just tell us the new stuff that’s going on right now.”

Darcy Eikenberg
And we don’t often revisit it. It’s like the old story of the fish in the fishbowl. Like, the fish goes around and around and around in the fishbowl and learns the edges. But then you go to clean the fishbowl and you put the fishbowl in a tub full of water, but the fish now has all of this space to swim but still swims in that little tight circle that they’re used to.

I think we get into those habits in our workplaces where we think, “Oh, well, we have to do the XYZ report,” but we don’t stop and say, “Who says?” or, “Is this still relevant now?” I have a client who has probably had three to four different managers in the past year and a half. This is a theme I’m hearing quite a bit as we restructure and people move on and lots of things happen, and she caught herself doing something that manager number one had as a priority. But managers two and three never understood it but they weren’t going to question it because it was just what she did. So, when she really did that analysis to say, “Okay, what can I drop? What’s draining me? What are the things that are making my job not as awesome as I would like it to be?” she realized, “Hey, this boss doesn’t have those same needs, so I don’t need to do it in the same way.”

We just don’t stop and realize everything we do is very organic, and it’s all made up, so why don’t we take control to make up what we want?

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, that’s some pieces on the do’s side of things. Now, when it comes to the thinking, you got a chapter called Conquer the Battle of the Brain, which sounds very helpful. What do you mean by this?

Darcy Eikenberg
Yeah, so there is the part of the brain, and you’ve had some awesome guests on who are much more into the neuroscience than I will ever be able to be, but the brain is programmed to protect us in many ways. It’s that little lizard brain, as Seth Godin says, that is that voice that’s holding us back, that’s saying, “No, don’t speak up. No, don’t go there,” or, “Be careful if you’re going to ask for that because there could be this consequence.”

We’ve got to learn to talk back to that part of our brain. We’ve got to learn to be able to not realize that part of our brain is not ourselves. It’s not our heroic self. It is just trying to keep us small. And it triggers the same biological feelings that it did in our ancestors when they would hear a tiger roar. The same part of our brain triggers our hormones when we hear our project manager roar. It’s the same kind of feeling today.

But we can learn to separate that from ourselves and be able to talk back to that. And one of the strategies that I’ll always use is to give it a name. I have a client who calls her little negative voice by her second-grade teacher’s name. This teacher was always on her for talking too much, now she makes her living talking. So, being able to say, “Be quiet, Mrs. Washington. I’m in charge here.” So, we can find these strategies to not let the negative brain that’s trying to hold us back keep us back.

And negative emotions pull us back but positive emotions pull us forward. We need to be magnifying the positive emotions.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And then in practice, what are some of the key things we can do to magnify the positive emotions and prevent the negative pieces from hijacking us?

Darcy Eikenberg
Yeah. So, giving it the name, personifying that voice is one thing. Also, giving the other voice, that heroic voice, I call this listening to the whispers, giving that voice more space, giving that voice more volume, trusting it even more, but we can actually change how we listen to that voice in an instant. The beauty of realizing that you control what you think is that we can choose our thoughts in the same way that we choose what we’re putting on each day.

So, if you’re faced with two different thoughts, they both could be true. It could be true that my job is on the rocks, and it could be true that there’s more possibility here. But why not choose the thought that’s going to move you forward? Why not choose the thought that’s going to be helpful to you? Because staying in that place of, “My job is on the rocks. Everything is hard. Everything is awful,” only triggers all the hormones and emotions that make you feel bad. Why not choose that thought that make you feel good? And that’s not fooling yourself. That’s actually really understanding that your brain is going to send these different signals to hold you back, but you get to override that. You get to choose your thoughts.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, talking about some things to do or not do, and some ways to think better. How about what are some key things we should say, some critical conversations that you think need to be had that make a world of difference for a rescue?

Darcy Eikenberg
One of the things to say, I think, it’s sort of a combination of how you think and say, is to assume positive intent, that very often when we’re listening to that little lizard brain, when we’re listening to that negative brain, we’re going to assume the worst. We go right to the worst-case scenario, “Oh, I can’t possibly have that conversation with my boss or my leader or my team to tell them that we need to realign the workload because they’ll get mad at me, they’ll fire me, they’ll put me on the layoff list,” whatever the things we make up in our heads.

But when we assume positive intent, when we assume that the other person we’re talking to wants what’s best for the group, wants maybe even what’s best for us, we get to go into these conversations with a lot more relaxed, also with more of a posture of like arms open and having an open conversation as opposed to like being all tight and in fight mode.

So, assuming positive intent, and being able to even say that, say, “I know you and I want to make sure that the work gets done on time and on budget. So, to be able to do that, here’s the thing that I’m going to ask of you. Here’s the thing I need from you.” So, we can use those skills to be able to say things differently in a way that keep people listening to us, and also make sure that we’re not coming at it solely from a position of fear, of, “I’m not sure what I need so I’m hoping you do it all for me.” We can assume positive intent first.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And then, I’m curious, that’s a really great frame to put around any number of requests up front in terms of as opposed to just sort of like being whiny, like, “Give me, give me, give me,” so that’s great. And then tell me, what are some key requests that you’ve seen people make that have been transformational in terms of high leverage, all the difference, when a couple smaller shifts or accommodations have been made?

Darcy Eikenberg
This goes back to getting clear about what you want. One of the things I worry about in this great reshuffle, great resignation, they know something is not right where they are, but they’re not clear about what they would want to change, and so there’s a question I always ask, is, “If you had a magic wand and could change one thing, what would it be?”

And, often, that can get you centered in on the conversation. And even on the not only just what the ask is, but who is the ask of. Because, sometimes, you need to reset the relationship. You need to say, “Hey, Pete, we’ve been working together for a while now, and our relationship isn’t as smooth as I’d like it to be. So, could we do something to fix that? What would be helpful from your point of view?”

And being able to approach those kinds of conversations so you can reset a relationship, you can reset a process, similar to what we’re talking about before about changing from doing a long PowerPoint or a detailed report to maybe something that’s just a quick update. We can reset our boundaries. This is a conversation I’m having with a lot of people right now where they’ve recognized they’ve let their boundaries slip.

We went in the beginning of COVID from being like a sprint, all-hands on deck, everybody, we’re all on this together, to now we’re in a marathon. And things that people have gotten accustomed to doing need to be revisited and recreated. So, asking for a different boundary, saying, “Hey, I know you’ve been calling me after 8:00 at night because I know that works better for your family, but here’s my ask. I’m going to ask you that we stop any phone calls by 6:00 o’clock, or leave me a voicemail. I’m turning my phone off. I’ll get back to you at 8:00 in the morning.”

Whatever the thing is for you, you have to be able to get clear about what it is, but to know that you can ask for the reset, you can ask for the reboot. And, often, people aren’t even aware of some of the things that they may be doing, or that the process could be fixed. We take so much for granted that the things are the way they are for a reason. Often, they’re not. They’re all made up.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I think that is, boy, a master key to life and career right there. We assume things are the way they are for a reason, and the answer may be 50/50, on whether or not there is but don’t just assume it is.

Darcy Eikenberg
Right. There was always a reason at one point, right? There’s another parable that I love about a monk who had a young cat, a kitten, and they would go into meditation with his followers. And the cat would come in and annoy everybody and distract from the meditation. So, they started to chain the cat to a tree during meditation. And over the years, that got to be an ingrained habit, “Well, we’d chain the cat to the tree before we meditate.” Then the cat died and the followers were distraught, “How can we meditate now that there’s no cat?” but the two were never linked.

And we confine these kinds of examples in our workplace all the time of were. We make these assumptions based on what has been or what we might assume is important. We see these with leaders all the time, “Well, the CEO says everybody is going back to the office.” Let me tell you a secret. Even in the companies where the CEO has said that, those decisions are changing every day, and the exceptions, the individual negotiations, the accommodations that are being made are so much more than ever that blanket statement. So, it’s all made up, so why not make up, or at least be clear about what you need to be at your best and high issues in the organization that you want to work with and doing the work you know is making the biggest difference?

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

Darcy Eikenberg
Yeah, I think the biggest thing is that when you’re feeling like, “Oh, I need to quit,” and all the noise around you is, “I have to leave.” But if there’s some hesitation, “But there’s some good here.” Certainly, there are plenty of opportunities where we should get out of bad situations. But so often, have we actually used all of our control to try to get more of what we want? And that’s just the little be, just that little moment between reaction and response that I invite people to do to say, “If you are on that fence and you think there’s something good there, try some of these strategies and take back control and see if it doesn’t change things for you, and at least help you make the most of where you are right now without having to change everything in your life.”

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

Darcy Eikenberg
So, for me, from a quote, I think the Gandhi quote of “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” always is a good quote to be aligned to, because if we’re not willing to take the effort to make the change, then who’s going to?

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And do you have a key study or experiment or a piece of research you like?

Darcy Eikenberg
I am a huge fan, i.e., groupie of Amy Edmondson and a lot of the work that she’s done on psychological safety. And so, the idea of psychological safety, I think, is one that still isn’t talked about enough, and it is so critical today to make our workplaces work. So, that would be any of her work on psychological safety, I’m all over it.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Darcy Eikenberg
A favorite book is probably The Art of Possibility by the Zanders. It’s an oldie but a goodie. But there’s a chapter in there that talks about starting with an A, so always giving people an A right off the bat. And it’s so powerful, and I’d encourage anybody to pick it up, The Art of Possibility.

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

Darcy Eikenberg
Probably, from a tool perspective, it’s just cheap pens. That’s not very sexy but I write a lot, I take a lot of different notes, and I’m always looking for a pen. And so, just having a stash of cheap pens around keeps me able to just record whatever is going on in my head when my thumbs get all thumbs and I can’t put it into my phone, so.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Darcy Eikenberg
Favorite habit, I don’t have any TVs in my house, no. So, when I moved to the house that I’m in now, I didn’t install any TVs, I don’t have cable hook up, and it was sort of a macho experiment because I loved TV. I used to have six in the house I was in before but it makes me read more, it makes me go to sleep earlier, and I think I have a little more peace of mind because if it’s there, I’m going to turn it on. So, when it’s not there, I just don’t turn it on.

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

Darcy Eikenberg
They key nugget is probably what I consider my mantra, which is, “Somebody out there needs you.” I think, so often, we get stuck because when we’re making changes in our life at work, we think it’s about us, we think, “Well, I want more. I want different.” But I think that one of the things that can keep us going, and I know it does for me personally, is to recognize that I might not know who is going to be the person that I’m going to impact today, but somebody out there needs me. And I think that’s true for every single one of us.

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

Darcy Eikenberg
Go to RedCapeRescue.com. That has all the information on the new book as well as ways to contact me, and also get a companion toolkit that goes with the book that’s free and allows people to follow along in different ways.

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

Darcy Eikenberg
I guess I’ll go back to that remember that somebody out there needs you. You matter. And no matter what you’re feeling in your life at work, you will be awesome. You are awesome. And you need to show up that way so that those people who need you can get what you have to bring.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, Darcy, thank you. This has been a treat. I wish you lots of luck and keep up the great work.

Darcy Eikenberg
Thank you, Pete, so much. Appreciate it.

703: How to Find the Work that Sparks You and Makes You Come Alive with Jonathan Fields (Host of Good Life Project Podcast)

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Jonathan Fields says: "I think we always have to be guided by our own inner wisdom, by our own intelligence."

Jonathan Fields discusses how to spark meaning, fulfillment, and joy in your work by aligning with your Sparketype.

You’ll Learn:

  1. A (free!) assessment that identifies what makes you come alive 
  2. The ten impulses that describe how we work
  3. The fundamental questions that create career fit 

About Jonathan

Jonathan Fields hosts one of the top-ranked podcasts in the world, Good Life Project®, where he shares powerful stories, conversations, and resources, on a mission to help listeners live more meaningful and inspired lives. Fields is also the founder and CEO of Spark Endeavors, a research initiative focused on helping individuals and organizations reclaim work as a source of purpose, energy, meaning, and possibility. His new book, SPARKED: Discover Your Unique Imprint for Work That Makes You Come Alive delivers an important message in a time when many people are emerging from the pandemic and seeking out new work that will both challenge and fulfill them. 

Resources Mentioned

Thank you Sponsors!

Jonathan Fields Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Jonathan, thanks for joining us on How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Jonathan Fields
It’s my pleasure. Thanks for inviting me.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Well, I’m so excited to dig into your wisdom here. And, first, let’s talk, boy, with the Good Life Project, you’ve been at it for a good long time. So, kudos. My hat is off to you. Can you tell me about one or two of the most fascinatingly useful discoveries you’ve made along the way as you’ve hosted the podcast?

Jonathan Fields
There’s one that I’ve been really thinking on for a while now but it’s not from a recent conversation. It’s from a conversation that is probably six or seven years old. So, we’ve been producing since 2012. And I had the opportunity to sit down with a guy named Milton Glaser. Milton died two years ago at the age of 91 on his birthday.

He kind of had a magical life. He was one of the most iconic designers in history. A lot of people outside of the design world wouldn’t know his name but everybody actually knows at least some of his work. For example, the most ripped off logo in the history of iconography iHeartNY, that was Milton. He sketched it out on a napkin in the back of a taxi in the ‘70s as a way to try and give something back to the city that he loved, which was then on the verge of bankruptcy, and rally people to a place of hope and aspiration.

And I sat down in a conversation with him, and as we were talking, he shared with me that he knew what he was there to do since the age he was six, which was to make things, and I kind of lit up because I thought to myself, “Me, too.” I’ve known from the earliest days I’m obsessed with the process of creation. I just see things that don’t exist, that need to exist all around me. But then he dropped this other bit of wisdom further into the conversation, and this is what I’ve been circling back to lately.

And he said to me, “The impulse to make and the impulse to create beauty are related but not the same.” And what I’ve realized later in life is that I’m not just driven by the impulse to make and to create. There’s something around the impulse to create beauty, which is deeply compelling to me as well. So, when I make something, I don’t want to just create something that’s cool or interesting or different or valuable. Something inside me says, “I want it to be beautiful.”

And, granted, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but there’s an impulse in me towards beauty, towards the creative process that births in some way, shape, or form where it moves people emotionally, there’s an elegance to it. I don’t often hit my metric for that aspiration but I’d realized that it actually matters to me on a level that’s super important that I started to center it more in my work.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And I like that definition of beauty then. So, it need not necessarily be a visual aesthetic beauty but say it again in terms of what it does. Beauty is beauty when it does what again?

Jonathan Fields
To me, beauty is something that, in some way, shape, or form, it bypasses your cognitive processes, your filters, and lands in a deeply emotional way and moves you. It evokes something in you. Now, granted, a lot of things can evoke something emotionally, but it evokes a sense of awe in you, and it evokes a sense of wonder, it evokes a sense of appreciation in elegance. It just makes you feel good, like things are as they should be. Not everything in life, but for that moment, when you interact with whatever this thing is, you have that feeling. And, to me, to be on the receiving end of that feeling is so powerful. It’s why I’ve been a fan of art for my entire life. But, also, I’ve realized that I want to be on the creation end of that as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. Well, that’s how to do a powerful conversation. That’s really resonated for quite some time. That’s awesome. I want to hear about your book Sparked: Discover Your Unique Imprint for Work that Makes You Come Alive. That sounds fantastic. How does one go about doing just that?

Jonathan Fields
Yeah. Well, there are probably a lot of contributors. For probably my entire adult life, I’ve been fascinated with the question of, “How do we find a work that gives us this feeling like we’re doing the thing we’re here to do?” Like, we’re filled with meaning, a sense of purpose. We’re excited and engaged to wake up in the morning and do this thing. We feel like our fullest potential is being leveraged and we got a bigger sense of purpose.

And I started to dig into the question of whether there are some set of identifiable, mappable impulses for work or for effort that would give us this feeling. Could we tease them out from all the tens of thousands of jobs, roles, titles, and distill them down to a simple set of things? And then help people figure out what those are.

Because if we could, then that would give a pretty important nugget of insight to somebody and help them understand what to say yes or no to, whether that’s a project, a role, a position on a team, a job, an industry, an organization, and spend a lot more time in that state – I call it spark or coming alive – rather than fumbling and wondering why they never had the feeling that they want to feel.

So, I spend a lot of time doing the research to map out these 10 different impulses or imprints. I call them sparketypes. And they are the source that then around them we build entire archetypes. So, there’s an impulse for work, and then around each of these impulses, there are certain tendencies, preferences, and behaviors that are pretty common across a lot of different people. And then we built a tool to help us validate the research or invalidate it, equally validate it, and then for people to use and interact with so they could discover theirs. And those are the sparketypes and the spark assessment.

And that is now been completed by over 500,000 people generating over 25 million datapoints that have been just astonishingly insightful and helpful in helping people understand what to say yes and no to. And that became the sort of source fuel for the book that has now become Sparked.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I would like to hear a bit of a rundown of the 10 different sparketypes and then sort of like the core impulse and preference and behavior that illuminates or exemplifies that sparketype. I suppose, maybe before we get into that, let’s hear about the research and the validation just because if someone is about to give me, you name it, Myers-Briggs, Enneagram, Big Five, StrengthsFinder, any assessment. It’s sort of like, if they say, “Hey, there’s four key preferences or there are seven key types,” it’s like, “Says who based on what and why?” Like, my skeptic gets fired up.

So, for those in the audience, before they take your word for it that these are, in fact, a pretty good way to slice up the universe of different flavors of unique imprints that makes you come alive, can you satisfy the skeptic and say, “What research and how do I know you didn’t just make this up as opposed to it has genuine validity as to what is in the hearts of humanity?”

Jonathan Fields
Yeah, I love that question. So, a couple of things. One, don’t take my word for it. Please don’t take my word for it. Use your own experience to validate whether it is the sparketypes, whether it’s any number of other tools or assessments that are out there right now. I agree with you. I think we always have to be guided by our own inner wisdom, by our own intelligence. Like, use the tool, see what it tells you, see if it lands as valid or not. What we know is not that 500,000 people have done this and thousands more doing it every day, is we’ve done our follow-on study that showed us that 93% of the people who complete this tell us that it’s anywhere from very true to extremely accurate. But we’ve also gone beyond that.

In that same study, we wanted to know. So, first threshold is accuracy, “Do people feel this is accurate?” And the only way to actually know whether something like this is accurate, there’s no objective measure. If I ask you…there’s no objective measure of meaningfulness for every person on the planet. It’s completely individual and subjective. So, I’ve got to ask you, “When you do this particular thing, does it give you the sense that it’s meaningful to you, that it matters?”

And so, we will ask those questions, we’re like, “Do you have a sense of purpose when you’re doing it? Are you able to easily lose yourself in a state of absorption where time seems to pass in the blink of an eye and you vanish into the experience?” And when we ask these questions, what we actually find is really strong statistical correlation.

So, for people who are literally wrapped in the data, the R value, or the correlation coefficients between doing the work of your sparketype and saying that you feel a sense of meaningfulness, that you are easily able to access flow, that you’re excited and energized by your work, that you’re able to access the fullest amount of your potential and perform at your highest level, and that you have a sense of purpose in life. There are really strong correlations that we see in the data.

But, again, I can give you numbers, I can give you R values, I can give you correlations. Why would you listen to me? We’ve got a tool that is out there and available in the form of assessment. You can take it. One of the reasons that we actually have it publicly available for anyone to take for free is because I want you to actually interact with the tool yourself and see how valid it feels for you. So, the skeptic in me, because I have that same skeptic, I look at everything that comes out there, and I’m like, “Well, how do I know that matters to me?”

So, I also wanted to make sure that whatever we created was brought to market in a way where anyone could interact with a fundamental tool, and get the basic wisdom from it, and decide from their own whether it actually was valid for them or not without having to actually invest anything beyond a little bit of their time.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. And just to triple confirm, because I think we have had some guests who have had some really cool tools, but as a listener, if it’s sort of like, “I don’t know if I’m going to spend 20, 30, 40 bucks on that, and this conversation is boring to me if I’m not,” so it doesn’t go perfectly well even though I think the tool is really cool. So, that’s awesome. So, for the record, this is not a temporary book promotion. This is free for the world forever. Hooray! Is that what’s up here?

Jonathan Fields
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool.

Jonathan Fields
So, this is not a sort of marketing quiz that was put together for a marketing campaign. This has been…took about a year to develop it through beta. We rolled it out publicly at the end of 2018. We’ve since continued to develop it and refine the algorithm. We rolled out a 2.0 version of the assessment that added one particular metric to it, I believe it was earlier this year. In the entire time, it has been freely available to anybody.

Pete Mockaitis
Very cool. All right. Well, so then the benefits sound pretty handy in terms of meaningfulness, flow, energy, so that’s a nice lineup of goodies that happen when we’re doing work that is in alignment with the sparketype. Any other key benefits that you’d highlight front and center for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Jonathan Fields
Yeah, there’s something that I didn’t see coming, which is so we tend to hear two things when people interact with the body of work. One is that there’s something inside of them that feels validated. So, very rarely do we hear someone say, “Oh, this was so surprising to me. I never knew or realized that.” What we hear people say is, “There’s something in me that I’ve known that this impulse is in there. I have always felt this way about when I do this particular type of thing. It gives me this feeling. But, for a variety of reasons, maybe I didn’t think I could earn a living doing it, maybe I didn’t think I could figure out how to build a career, or maybe I was socially told that it’s not an appropriate pursuit for me. I’ve stepped away from it, or I’ve stifled it.”

And what this does is it sort of reflects back to someone, “Oh, this is real, and this matters.” So, that’s one thing. But there’s a second thing that we’ve really started to see, which is that people start to realize that they’re feeling seen on a level that they hadn’t before, that they feel like the language when we describe what these types are and how they tend to interact with people around them in the world, they feel understood, they feel seen, and they now have language to then turn around and tell other people, “This is me. Like, now you can see and understand me on a deeper level.” And that other person may be a partner in life, it may be a family member, or it may be a leader on a team or a teammate in the context of work. But it helps them understand themselves, feel seen by themselves, to themselves, and also give them language to help others see them more clearly.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Beautiful. Well, so lay it on us here. We got 10 different sparketypes and we have like a key impulse or call, and then some preferences and behaviors that go with it. Could you maybe give us the 20- to 60-second rundown on each of the ten? I’m a maven, if you wanted to start there, or maybe there’s a sequence that makes good sense that you’d like to run through.

Jonathan Fields
So, the maven is actually a great starting place. The maven is the most process-fulfilled of all of these impulses, all of these sparketypes. The fundamental impulse for the maven is learning. It’s all about knowledge acquisition. This can show up in a really narrow and deep way. So, you may find a topic there where you just, for some reason, you probably don’t even understand why. Maybe it’s 15th century history and something particular about it and there’s something about it that just fascinates you, and you have to know absolutely everything about it, and you would literally devote all of your energy. You’ll spend money, if you need to, to gain access to people or classes or resources, to know everything you can about this one topic.

It also shows up broadly on almost more of a trait level where you open your eyes in the morning, and all you want to do is learn anything you can about everything and everyone. A friend of mine basically never takes a cab ride without knowing the entire life story of the person who is driving them. He’s just absolutely fascinated by people, anybody, all walks of life, and what their stories are. So, the fundamental impulse there is knowledge acquisition.

You may actually gain knowledge that is incredibly valuable to other people, but that’s not actually why you do it. You do it simply because of the feeling that it gives you. So, that’s the maven. The maven also can get lost in a bit of a learning dark hole. So, you can become so obsessed with learning something. And if it is a big and vast complex deep body of knowledge, then you can essentially just stop all of your relationships, stop exercising, stop eating well, and just completely devote yourself to the pursuit of knowledge. So, there’s a bit of a risk there to become obsessive about the quest for learning.

Next up, we have what I call the maker. So, the maker’s fundamental impulse is creation. That also happens to be my impulse. I wake up in the morning and it’s all about the process of creation. I look around and I’m like, “What can I make today?” That has been my impulse from the earliest days in my life.

When I was a kid, I used to create pretty much anything that you could imagine creatable. I would cobble together old bike parts to create Frankenbikes. I would draw album covers on jean jackets. I would renovate houses. As an adult, that’s more of into building companies, creating books, brands, experiences, media, anything you can imagine. It’s the process of creation that completely lights me up. Because the maker is also very process-fulfilled, similar to the maven, there’s a risk of really losing yourself in the black hole of creation and ignoring all the other amazing things in your life by doing that.

So, next up, we have what I call the scientist. The fundamental impulse for the scientist is to figure things out. It’s all about problem-solving, figuring out pieces of a puzzle and burning questions. You wake up in the morning, you say, “What can I figure out?” This impulse tends to really be highly valued in industry. There’s literally a job called scientist or researcher where you can spend your entire life researching big, broad, complex, deep questions.
One of the interesting quirks about the scientist is that you could devote, say, five years and figure out the answer to something. Maybe you figure out something in the context of medicine or cancer that has a profound impact on millions of people’s lives. You really like that. You appreciate it. You enjoy it. But the interesting thing about the scientist is it’s not actually the reason you do it. The reason you do it is because of the feeling that it gives you. It’s because the quest for an answer makes you feel alive. So, when you finally find that answer, as happy as you may be that you’ve discovered something incredibly valuable to others, it’s not unusual for you to wake up the next day with a sense of melancholy because, now, you’re not waking up with a burning question anymore, and it becomes your job to go and find the next one.

So, behind that, we have the impulse that I would call the performer. Now, when you hear performer, a lot of people immediately think performing arts, “Well, it’s a singer, it’s a dancer, it’s the theater.” And, in fact, oftentimes that impulse does get channeled into those things because it’s kind of the logical place for it to go. But what we see in adulthood is this impulse which is always to enliven, energize, and activate an experience or interaction or moment. This impulse has incredible value in nearly every domain. You could exercise that in a meeting, in a boardroom, in a sales interaction, behind a bar, as a parent with children, in local community organizing. It has really, really broad and amazing applicability.

Behind the performer, we have what I call the essentialist. Now, the impulse for the essentialist is to create order out of chaos. You see complex things, you see mess, you see all sorts of chaotic things around you, and all you want to do is create clarity and utility from it. What we’ve discovered about this is that this tends to show up really early in life also. The producer for our podcast, for Good Life Project, is actually an essentialist. And when she was a little kid, she used to line up her stuffed animals in height and order, or height and color in her bedroom. So, this tends to show up really early in life, and be praised because parents like when kids are orderly.

Later in life, what you start to see is it is an indispensable trait because so many people who are not the essentialist not only are not interested in doing that work, they outright loath doing that work. So, when they find somebody who is an essentialist, they will happily hand that work off to them, and that essentialist very often, in an organization, becomes really quickly overloaded once they become discovered because everybody wants to give them that work, and they’re good at it and they like it but, at some point, you have to create boundaries in the work.

There’s another interesting part around the essentialist, which is if you’re really getting more nuance, it goes beyond creating order, clarity, and utility. Essentialists tend to see a certain amount of elegance and beauty in order and clarity, and so there’s almost an artistic aesthetic to the work that they do.

After the essentialist, we have what I would call the warrior. Now, the fundamental impulse for the warrior is to gather, organize, and lead. And many people would look at that, and say, “Well, leadership, sure. Well, that’s a skill.” And I would say, “Yes, there are skills for leadership the same way,” but there are skills for all of these different impulses that I’ve talked about that we can acquire. But leadership in particular tends to be treated exclusively just as a set of skills that you can acquire. What we’ve seen is that, in fact, there is an underlying impulse that some people have.

They wake up in the morning and all they want to do is bring people together and take them on an adventure, a journey, from point A to point B. This often shows up early in life as a kid on the playground, who’s like, “Hey, everybody, let’s go gather around. Let’s go on an adventure in the woods,” or the team captain in school. It shows up in literally every domain of life. The warrior is a really, really powerful impulse. It can also be lonely.

So, you tend to be somebody who leads the way and you’re not always the person where people want to step alongside of you and go with you. And sometimes, bringing people together, especially disparate groups of people with different intentions, different personalities, can be a really frenetic and chaotic social dynamic. So, part of what you do is have to learn how to be really good managing social dynamics with people.

So, next after the warrior, we have what I would call the sage, the fundamental impulse of the sage is to awaken an insight. It’s about illumination. So, you know something and all you want to do is tell other people what you know. You want to share it with them. And seeing the lights of insight go on in their minds is a thing that is kind of magical to you. So, the maven devours information purely for the sake of knowing. The sage may also devour information but for them, the impulse is not just to learn. It’s to turn around and have something really powerful and new and valuable to share with other people.

So, next behind that, we have the advisor. The advisor is all about guiding others, it can be an individual, a group, a team, an organization, through a process of growth. So, they tend to walk alongside someone, whereas a warrior very often is one of the people that they organize and lead, they’re among those. The advisor most often is somebody who is not within the group. They walk alongside that individual or group, and they create a container of safety and trust, and it’s a very relational impulse.

A big part of the reward for the advisor is the depth and quality and the sustained nature of the relationship that happens with other people as they guide them through a process of growth. It may not necessarily be, “I’m going to get you from point A to point B,” but it’s some sort of evolutionary process that person or group goes through.

And that leaves us with two remaining sparketypes. We have the advocate. So, the fundamental impulse of the advocate is to champion, it’s to shine the light on an idea, ideal, individual or community. And this isn’t so much giving voice to other people, because with individuals, as a general, I don’t believe that you give anybody else voice. You may give voice to nature, or to an ecosystem, or to animals.

But with other people, it’s generally, it’s championing them. It is you see something that, in some way, shape, or form, lands with you as unfair, inequitable, unjust, and the impulse is, “I need to, in some way, shape, or form, shine the light on what’s going on here. I need to advocate for, or on behalf of, or alongside of, or with, so that we can create some sort of change.”

The final impulse is what I call the nurturer. The nurturer is all about elevation. It’s all about lifting others up. It’s about giving care and taking care. The nurturer impulse, the person then, and one of the primary tendencies around that is, usually, has a very strong sense of empathy. So, that is the empath, that is the person who walks into a room and very likely feels other people’s emotions, feels their states, feels other people’s suffering, struggle, and pain, and they’re compelled to do something about it. They move to that person and they will do anything they can to lift them up.

One of the challenges of the nurturer is that they tend to feel so much of other people’s experiences and emotions that it can leave them pretty empty and gutted themselves. So, there’s a deep need for self-care if you’re one of those people. So, those are the ten different sparketypes and the ten, sort of on a very basic level, the fundamental impulses that drive them to actually take action.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And can we contrast the sage with the advisor? The sage shares the knowledge. They want folks to have the light of insight. And the advisor, make that a clearer distinction for me.

Jonathan Fields
Yup. The sage basically says, “I know something. I want you to know it. Once you know it, I’m out.” The advisor says, “I have ideas, frameworks, and experience. You want to move through some sort of process, and I’m going to walk alongside of you and be a sounding board, be a mentor, be a confidant, as you move through this process.” And so, it’s less about, “Hey, I’m going to tell you something really cool or valuable,” and then tap out. It’s more about, “I’m going to walk alongside of you. I’m going to be with you in a relational way, in a safe way, and help you navigate this particular moment or experience or process.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, to recap, we got the maven, all about knowledge acquisition; we got the maker, about creation; the scientist, about figuring things out; the performer, likes to sing, dance, or put it out there; the essentialist, finding order out of chaos; the warrior, gathering, organizing, leading folks; the sage, sharing knowledge; the advisor, mentoring alongside for the duration; the advocate, championing something; and the nurturer, providing care.

And so, there we go, there’s ten. We did it. Hooray! And so, the idea is when you’re doing work that fits into one of those that is yours, you are feeling that meaningfulness, that flow, that purpose, that energy, the good stuff. And when you’re working on something that is not it, you feel the opposite of that. Is that the short hand there?

Jonathan Fields
Yeah. Fundamentally, the more that you can align what you do with this basic impulse, the more you have those feelings, the more likely you are to access them, and the more intense those feelings can become, and the more sustained they can become. And the more what you do conflicts with those impulses, the less likely you are to feel them. You may still feel the glow of accomplishment. You may still revel in the sense of camaraderie with people who you just really enjoy being around.

So, this is not the only thing that gives us a feeling that we want to feel in the context of work but it’s really important. And I think a lot of us look at the external things, and we say, “Let’s look at culture, let’s look at team dynamics, let’s look at the motivational things, let’s look at the carrot and the stick, let’s look at leadership and growth opportunities.” All of those things matter but none of them does a whole lot if the fundamental nature of what you do when you show up and spend your seven to 12 hours a day working is misaligned with the impulse for work that makes you come alive.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And I’d love to get your perspective in terms of once you know this, what are some of the top things you recommend people do or not do in terms of they’re kind of like, “Okay, I took the quiz. It was cool. I got my sparketype. That sounds about right. Thank you, Jonathan. Now what?”

Jonathan Fields
Let’s start with what not to do because this tends to be a really big impulse for people. Once they discover this thing, they’ll immediately tend to look at the work that they’re doing and say, “Huh, like, am I doing, like is this impulse that is so central to me? Am I actually expressing this in the work that I’m currently doing?” And if they’re not, there’s very often this impulse to say, “Oh, wow, I need to just blow everything up. I need to walk away. I need to start over. I need to find something entirely different.” And what I’m going to invite you to do is not do that.

There may be people for whom that is an intelligent, that is a reasoned step, but, generally, that’s the last step that you want to take, not the first, especially once you’re a little bit further into life and you’ve got responsibilities, and there are a lot of things hanging on the fact that your job may be sustaining a family in a particular way. It’s not so easy to do that.

We tend to dramatically overestimate the giddiness and the joy, the elation, that we’ll feel when we blow things up and we have this freedom, and then we dive into something that we absolutely are drawn to, and we underestimate the time that it will take to actually get there, and the pain of the disruption that will be caused through that process. That doesn’t mean that it’s wrong for everyone but it means that, in my mind, it’s the last thing that you consider doing, not the first.

What I would consider doing as the first part of the exploration, to say, “Okay, let me look at the work that I’m doing right now,” and then do that same analysis, “How aligned is what I’m doing with this fundamental impulse forever?” If I’m a maker, “How much of my time, how much opportunity do I have to actually immerse myself in a process of creation?”

And then if you start to see, “Well, actually, there’s a whole bunch of this that is really well-aligned but there’s 30% of the work that’s completely misaligned,” or maybe there’s 50% where you just have no opportunity to express this. Then you start to ask the question, “How can I reimagine what I’m doing now? How can I do it in different ways? How can I look for ways to try different tasks, use different tools, dip into different processes, that may allow me to express this impulse without having to make these really big disruptive changes?”

And then start to run little experiments, “Well, what if I do a little more of this and a little less of this?” And what you’ll find over time, for most people, is that you have a lot more ability to do that. And as you start to do that, the way that you feel in your work starts to change. You start to show up differently and people actually start to respond to you differently because your state is essentially different and better and improved and more energized and more alive.

And a lot of people can actually get a lot closer to the feeling that they imagined by reimagining what they’re doing, even doing things that were not squarely within your job description but they’re available to you to actually start doing, simply because of the way that it makes you feel.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. Well, anything else you want to make sure to share before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Jonathan Fields
Just, I think we’re in a moment right now where really big questioning has become normalized in a way that has not in generations. There’s a lot of judgment if you’re sort of working in your 30s, 40s, or 50s, “You know what, I want to think about what got me here and is it the thing that’s going to get me there? And maybe I’m going to do some really big reimagining.” That kind of questioning was sort of not welcomed socially in a lot of contexts.

What’s happening in the world right now has shaken people so much and on a scale that that kind of questioning has actually been normalized now. So, we have this rare window of opportunity to step into it, to really examine, and to not hide it, to be public, to have conversations and discourse and seek help, in a way that would’ve been a lot more difficult just a few years ago. And what I would invite people to do is to not waste this window.

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

Jonathan Fields
There’s a classic script or book or poem, really, called the Bhagavadgita, and it’s not written in English. It’s written in Sanskrit. But one of the translations, there’s a line in it that translates roughly to, “Far better to live your life imperfectly than to live another’s life perfectly.” And that has always landed really powerfully with me.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Jonathan Fields
I think I was fascinated for a long time with a bunch of the research around self-regulation and that positioned it as a depletable resource. And what I’ve been probably equally fascinated by recently is that the sort of emerging, the follow-on research around that shows that actually whether willpower or self-regulation is a depletable resource or not, is largely determined by whether you believe it is or not, and that the original research wasn’t entirely correct, which means that we have a lot more control over our self-control.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. And a favorite book?

Jonathan Fields
One that comes to mind is an oldie but a goodie. It was originally published as a short story in Life magazine in 1951, Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. I’m a huge fan of Hemingway’s writing because of how much he can convey, how much he can leave you with so few words. His efficiency in language is astounding, and then the story of this old man, Santiago, it starts as what you would think on the surface is a battle between him and this great fish. But what he’s really doing is a deep meditation on how we interact with the things that we see as struggle and how we reframe them as partnership in life.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with listeners and others, and say, “Wow, that was good,” and they say, “Jonathan, I love it when you said this”?

Jonathan Fields
Yeah, there’s something that I’ve been talking about recently, and I haven’t shared it with a lot but I’ll share it here with you. It’s what I call the principle of maximum sustainable generosity. It’s the way that I look at building businesses but it’s also the way I look at building relationships, just the way that I look at moving into life, which is basically asking the question, “How can I be as generous as humanly possible in the way that I move into the world, in the way that I offer things to others, in the way that I build relationships, and do it in a way that is sustainable over time, financially, emotionally, physically, and spiritually?”

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

Jonathan Fields
I would point them either to the Good Life Project Podcast. And if you want to learn more about the sparketypes, at Sparketype.com, and the book Sparked is just available at booksellers everywhere.

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

Jonathan Fields
Yeah. My call to action really bridges off of what I shared earlier about this being a unique moment in time. A lot of people, I think, have not been entirely satisfied with the way that they work. It may be taking care of them financially, it may be giving them a certain amount of security, but life is short. I think we’ve been all reminded how tender it can be most recently. I got a huge wakeup call around that during 9/11 when I was in New York City, and that shifted the way that I look at the world, the way that I look at work.

I think we’re in a moment right now where there’s a similar disruption happening. And my invitation would be to not take this feeling, not take this questioning, and just bury it, just stifle it, and just kind of keep on keeping on, and keep your head down. Whether you make a bigger change or not, it doesn’t really matter. But take this window as an invitation to discover more about who you are, about what fills you up, about what empties you out, and then use that information to try and make better decisions.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Jonathan, this has been a treat. I wish you all the best as you keep on putting your imprint on cool stuff that makes you come alive.

Jonathan Fields
Thanks so much. Appreciate you having me.

674: Nailing Your Interview, Resume, and Negotiation FAST with Steve Dalton

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Steve Dalton says: "The hard part of the job search isn't getting your resume right. It's getting your resume seen"

Steve Dalton breaks down the most efficient path to landing your dream career.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to answer the dreaded “Tell me about yourself” question 
  2. Just how much time and effort you should put into your resume
  3. The simple trick to negotiating a better job offer 

 

About Steve

Steve Dalton is a senior career consultant and program director for Duke University’s full-time MBA program. He holds his own MBA from the same institution and a chemical engineering degree from Case Western Reserve. 

Steve is also the founder of Contact2Colleague, a corporate training firm that helps organizations increase retention, drive sales, and develop internal expertise by teaching their employees to proactively and systematically build better professional relationships. 

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you, sponsors!

Steve Dalton Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Steve, welcome back to the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Steve Dalton
It is great to be back.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m so glad to have you. And I realized one thing that I neglected to mention last time and ask about was you have done, is this true, 87 Escape Rooms?

Steve Dalton
It is. It is true. Absolutely. I traveled around a bunch to talk about my books and it’s a great way to meet people in whatever city you’re going to, and to just have a really interesting time, find a good part of town.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s cool. I’ve had some really fun adventures and memories there. And so, do you have a favorite room or company?

Steve Dalton
I really got my start with Escape Rooms in Nashville, and so my heart goes out to The Escape Game. I’ve done almost all of their games, and Gold Rush is my absolute favorite. So, all my friends out at The Escape Game, thank you so much for the wonderful times. You’re my favorite. All-time favorite out of all 87.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s where I went in Chicago again and again, and each time was a blast whether it’s with all people I know or a blend. I’ve had it fun both ways.

Steve Dalton
I think I’ve accidentally joined a team girls birthday party in the past, and it still was an excellent time. But it’s really random and incredibly fun.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That’s cool. Well, we’re not talking about Escape Games. We’re talking about your latest The Job Closer: Time-Saving Techniques for Acing Resumes, Interviews, Negotiations, and More. So, could you maybe distinguish between this book and your previous that we talked about last time for us?

Steve Dalton
Absolutely. So, last time we talked about The 2-Hour Job Search which provided an extended recipe for the squishy middle of the job search. And by squishy middle, I mean that period after you figure out what you want to do, but before you get into that first interview because that’s where people seem to get stuck most frequently. With the The Job Closer, my follow-up book, it gives similar style recipes. It’s more in a cookbook style for all the steps that precede that and follow that. So, it skips over network and networking and focuses on choosing what you want to do, getting your resume together, getting a cover letter drafted on the frontend, and how to interview well, and negotiate, and get off to the best possible start on the backend of the process.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. And recipe is the word. That interview, it’s really memorable for me. If you haven’t checked it out, and if you are seeking interviews to appear in your life, like I’ve never seen a more clear, prescriptive, detailed, like, “This is roughly the word count you’re shooting for. This is when you follow up.” It was excellent. So, no pressure, Steve, but I want more of that from you.

Steve Dalton
It only took me nine years to write a follow-up book so I’ve had plenty of time to think about it and I’m really excited to have these concepts out of my head and onto paper finally so other people can discuss them and give them a test themselves.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Well, I’m tempted to dig, to jump right into the particulars. But, maybe, if you can kick us off with an inspiring story who used some of these approaches and had some transformative results?

Steve Dalton
Honestly, I see this on a daily basis during my busy season and on a weekly basis, but it’s every time I see somebody embrace the FIT model for answering “Tell me about yourself.” I think, historically, we’ve all been bludgeoned with this concept of selling yourself. And what I’ll see is my job seekers will come in to do a mock interview, and you’ll ask them, “Tell me about yourself,” and you’ll have been talking, you’ll warm up any interview with a small talk, the, “How is your day going so far?” “How is your day going so far?” “Where are you from?” “Oh, I was up watching the basketball game. Did you catch it?”

And then they’ll say, “Tell me about yourself” signaling the interview is about to start, and people will go from that fun person who has hobbies directly into a robot who is like, “Okay, I’ve got the next two minutes memorized completely word for word,” and it’s very jarring when it goes from, “Here are the three reasons why you should hire me.” It’s all the goodwill and rapport that you’ve built during the first three minutes of small talk is suddenly wiped out. Like, “Now, I’m uncomfortable. You’re a completely different person.” And that’s how I see so many of my job seekers that I start to work with.

But when they embrace this FIT model, which is FIT. F is for your favorite part, I is for the insight that you gained, and T is for the transition you made. It’s just a pattern, a lather-rinse-repeat pattern that you take through each stage of your career. So, “My favorite part about being a chemical engineer was breaking difficult problems down in smaller pieces, but the insight that I had was that I wanted to apply that rigorous logic to a wider variety of challenges, so upon graduation, I made the transition to strategy consulting.”

So, the nice thing about that is it’s completely authentic. You’re just saying what your favorite part was. The funny thing about saying the word favorite though, it’s so powerful because I can give you three statements, only one is true. Can you guess which one? “I really enjoy cleaning the toilet.” “I’m passionate about cleaning the toilet.” “My favorite chore is cleaning the toilet.” Only one of those is true. Which one is it?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I guess it’s the favorite because among the less competitive arena of chores. And if you’ve got some of those tools, it’s actually quite satisfying. It’s called the pumice, I think. Boy, you really scrape that stuff off. I’m in an Escape Room game, we’re getting shoutouts already.

Steve Dalton
For me, it is absolutely my favorite chore because minimal time investment, maximum impact of cleanliness. But to say I enjoy cleaning the toilet, that’s a lie. To say I’m passionate about cleaning the toilet, that’s definitely a lie. So, I can say something is my favorite, have it be an absolutely true statement so it’s authentic, deliver a neutral energy which is accurate, and not lose the goodwill of my interviewer who thinks I’m lying to them.

But I see so many people, it’s actually a safer statement than saying that you’re passionate about something, to say that something is your favorite and you don’t laundry list that way so it focuses attention. But when I see people, like the light switch goes off and they actually try FIT, and for each promotion that they’ve had through their career, each stage of their life, they go from this memorized robot into a person who’s just helping you catch up on their life like you would help a long-lost uncle you never knew you had catch up on your life. Being authentic and real and meaningful, and seeing that light bulb go off never gets old for me.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, that FIT model sounds perfect for “Tell me about yourself” because you’re telling them about yourself and in a professional context and “Why are we here?” which is kind of sometimes the subtext really of “Tell me about yourself.” So, is that FIT model primarily for that question or for a broader array of questions?

Steve Dalton
It’s to a job seeker’s advantage to treat “Tell me about yourself” or “Walk me through your resume” in identical fashion. I consider those to be identical simply because the job seeker, you want to provide novel content. And where people go wrong with “Tell me about yourself” or “Walk me through your resume” is they do what I call the transcript where they basically read their resume out loud to you.

Pete Mockaitis
“I know that. I read this.”

Steve Dalton
Yeah, it doesn’t add value. You’re just saying these words out loud that they’ve hopefully already glanced at, but probably haven’t. Either way, it’s not interesting. It doesn’t help me get to know you any better. The why, why you did what you did, why you made the career change when you made that. That’s not in your resume. That’s far more interesting. It makes you a stickier candidate in terms of memorability.

So, getting away from what you did and more into why you did what you did, that’s really helpful. The nice thing about favorite is it’s a great humble-brag. If you say something is your favorite, you’re going to get credit for being good at it. If you say you did it a bunch, you don’t get credit at it the same way from an interviewer.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. And it really is true. As I think about my own transition from strategy consulting to, I guess, podcasting is that my favorite part of strategy consulting really was making a discovery in terms of it’s like my heart would start thumping. It’s like, “Okay, we finally got all the data. We got it all cleaned. I’m about to push the button that pastes it into the chart, which will reveal ‘What is the primary reason for customer loss?’ or whatever the question is.”

Like, I would get fired up, like an adrenaline rush in that moment before discovery. And then I could say, “Oh, it’s really fun to dig in.” And so, as a podcaster, it’s like I get to do that in rapid fire. It’s just like new guests, new questions, new discoveries. I didn’t have to spend three weeks cleaning the data before I got there.

Steve Dalton
Cleaning data. Your energy for it is palpable though. I absolutely 100% believe you. And that’s so critical, is maintaining that authenticity and trust with your interviewer because so much of interviewing is back-solving, “Do I like this person or not?” and then finding the data that justifies why I do or don’t like you. So, keeping their goodwill is huge. So, “Tell me about yourself” to me is like a spoon when every other interview question is like a fork. It serves to transition you away from small talk into the content of your interviewer. So, it’s a general transition question away from chitchat to sell yourself. It’s a nice easy introduction to you making an argument for yourself.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Okay. Well, we jumped right into the “Tell me about yourself” question. Maybe let’s rewind a bit to let’s hear resumes.

Steve Dalton
Oh, my gosh.

Pete Mockaitis
How do we think about them? How much time should we put into the resume, and the cover letter? And let’s just start from square one.

Steve Dalton
If you’ve read the book, you’re familiar with Ed’s 3-hour rule and I can’t stress this enough. It’s so neat and tidy. So, Ed’s 3-hour rule is this, and this is after my boss, Ed Bernier, he says that, “Assume your job search is going to take you a hundred hours of time. Don’t spend any more than three of them on your resume. Any more is too much. Any less is probably not enough,” but it signals how unimportant in the grand scheme your resume is. People so badly want to believe that if they put in enough work on their resume, they may not have to do this networking thing, which is really what I wrote The Job Closer to do, to help people get back to the more meaningful activity, which is networking as quickly as possible.

But Ed’s 3-hour rule, basically, in three hours, you can get to what I call good resume status, error-free and have some accomplishments. Basically, bullet points that serve as a cheat sheet for your interview. These are the stories you’re prepared to tell because they are your greatest hits. And if it’s intuitive to you, you can add results and quantify them. But if not, error-free is going to be okay.

The Ladders did a study where they found that, on average, hiring managers were spending six seconds per resume. They hook their eyes up to eye-tracking software, and the shocking thing was when they looked at what these hiring managers were looking at, they found what they were looking at were where you went to school, where you worked, what your job titles were, what your dates of employment were.

The unifying theme between all those items, they are things you can’t change but that’s not the stuff that people stress about when they do their resumes. They stress over the bullet points, they need a wordsmith, “Should it be managed or supervised?”, and that doesn’t really matter. They only spend 1.2 seconds, on average, reading all of your bullet points combined. So, really focusing on getting it error-free and objectively correct is going to be good enough for most job seekers most of the time and save you hours and hours of anguish, and hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars of hiring coaches to disagree on what a perfect resume looks like.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Certainly. So, let’s just say we’re spending three hours there, and so that’s enough to collect the facts and make it true and accurate and error-free. Anything else we should be doing with those three hours in particular for our focus?

Steve Dalton
I think the best way to look at it, again, is as these greatest hits or a cheat sheet for your interview. In your interview, you’ll be asked a lot of what I call behavioral interview questions, which tend to begin with “Tell me about a time when you did something, led a team, failed, collaborated with others.” And you’ll need to have a two-minute story, a CAR story, for challenge-action-results. There are a few different formulations of that. I like CAR, it’s the simplest one.

So, each of these bullet points should represent one of those CAR stories, those two-minutes stories you’re ready to tell that demonstrate why you were better at the job than the person who had that job before you were. It’s not about listing responsibilities. It’s about talking, it’s about highlighting what you did with those responsibilities, and why it was uniquely good. That’s really the bright way. You’re going to have to do that before an interview anyway, come up with those stories.

My recommendation for maximum efficiency is think of those stories while you’re writing your resume so it is a cheat sheet for you. You don’t have to do double work. If you make special bullet points just for your resume, usually people list out their responsibilities, “I’m responsible for…” is a giveaway sign that it’s a terrible bullet point that anyone else who had that job could list, so it’s not a differentiator.

But you’re going to have to go back and think of those two-minute stories later. If you just put responsibilities in your resume, might as well get that work done upfront. Think about those kernels of experience, that one week, or that one month, where you did something excellent, and that should be your bullet point, not your overall responsibilities.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, that’s the resume. And cover letters, do they matter? And how should we do them?

Steve Dalton
Oh, cover letters sometimes matter a lot and they sometimes don’t matter at all, and you never know for whom they matter. So, my recommendation is acquire that skill, learn to write them well, that way you don’t have to worry about what a particular employer considers their importance. So, the technique that I recommend for this one is called RAC, for reason-anecdote-connection. It’s the same technique I actually recommend for answering the why questions that you’ll get in your interview, “Why do you want to work for our company? Why do you want this role? Why do you want to work in our sector?”

That same technique can be ported over to a cover letter because, ultimately, that why question is, “Why should we interview you?” So, the best way to treat that cover letter is to keep it short. So, I demonstrate that it can be done easily and under 300 words. What they’re looking for is a candidate that is authentic, specific, and informed. So, you can quickly convey that with this RAC model.

You have an introductory paragraph about the role you’re applying for, any referrals that you might have from current employees, and then you say, “I think I’d make a great candidate for the following three reasons.” Then you list reason number one. You cite a personal anecdote. It could be an experience you had, a conversation that you had with a current employee, an article that you read, something personal that can’t be used by any other person that’s applying. So, unique to you is always authentic and meaningful to you, that’s what counts.

But then, to finish that bullet point, connect it back to why the company should care. So, a lot of people will say, “I’m a great communicator. Here’s an example of when I communicated well,” as their reason. But then to connect it back to the employer, “This communication ability will help me quickly align my cross-functional teams towards a common goal to get my work done on time and effectively.” So, you’re demonstrating, “Okay, I understand this role. It involves managing cross-functional teams.” So, that’s where you get that informed piece.

A lot of people will forget that connection piece, connecting it back to why the employer should care. So, demonstrate an understanding. It’s a missed opportunity if you don’t do that, and you’ve done some networking and you actually understand what the role is. But the idea is we want to keep these minimalist, 300 words. So, know what each sentence is trying to accomplish. If you are repeating a sentence, or you don’t know where it’s headed, it can probably be cut. But I love cover letters. Personally, it gives me a preview of what this person will be, what getting an update email will be like if I hire this person. Are they going to tell me what I need to know or are they going to tell me all the work they took to get there? And I’d much rather the first option and not the second.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. Okay. Well, so then you mentioned that much of the heart of it is networking, and we talked a lot about that last time. Is there more that we should talk about here and now?

Steve Dalton
I think, in the book, one of the topics that I cover is the weekly manager meeting. So, this is after you get the job, you’re just starting out, or maybe you’ve gotten an internship because a lot of my students are looking for internships. I think people think that the networking stops. And, in reality, the networking is what gets you the full-time offer, or it’s what gets you promoted at the head of your class, so the networking shouldn’t stop. And the first person whose allegiance you need is your manager. You need to give them the tools required to advocate for you at promotion time. You need to let them know that you’ve taken their feedback, you’ve made progress this past week, and here’s what you’re going to be working on in the coming week so that you don’t make any mistakes or you don’t have misaligned priorities.

So, the networking never really stops. It’s just a matter of keeping people’s trust in you. So, the weekly manager meeting is just a simple format when you meet your manager. Walk them through the updates you have since your last meeting, so key accomplishments that you’ve hit, any progress that you’ve made, and then give them in order, your top priorities for the coming week, and list out any additional priorities that you have that you aren’t going to get to this week so they know they’re still captured.

And then, my assistant, Dave Soloway, he highlighted this wonderful piece, ask some questions that help you deepen your understanding of the role, or maybe the help of how to handle a tricky situation at work, or maybe just different approaches that you’ve identified for tackling a problem to get your manager’s feedback on which they think the best approach is.

Asking for mentorship is an incredibly likable behavior, when you want people to give you advice, it’s back to that Ben Franklin effect. You can build a relationship more quickly if you’ll allow people to help you multiple times instead of if you try to repay favors. And the weekly manager meeting is just a different spin on the networking that we focused on so deeply last time.

Pete Mockaitis
And so then, I think part of it is then is making sure that you get that weekly manager meeting and that it appears that it’s on the calendar and it doesn’t get pushed, pushed, pushed. So, any pro tips there?

Steve Dalton
Absolutely. And I’ll see this a lot with my interns because, often, it’ll be new managers that take them on for the summer, so they aren’t getting necessarily great managers and you still are responsible for making that relationship work. If they’re going to go on vacation, ask them to pair you with a peer manager to kind of help you in the ensuing week so you can at least broaden your network. My intern manager, when I was in business school, he actually left the company shortly after I finished my internship, so he’s kind of looking for his way out and I still had to find a way to get enough people to say my name in that room when they made decisions on who got offers at the end of the summer.

Thankfully it worked out, but it’s terrifying when you think that your manager knows what you’re working on and is engaged. And if they are canceling your weekly manager meetings, that’s a reason to sit them down, ask them, “Are these meetings too frequent? Would you like to meet less frequently? Is there another way I can keep in touch, keep you up to date on what I’m working on?” but, really, you want to start broadening your network outside of just your immediate manager so you’re not beholden to a single person to advocate for you when you can’t be ever be certain that anyone will.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that makes a lot of great sense. So, then any pro tips on how to have those conversations with other folks within the organization?

Steve Dalton
Absolutely. That ties back to one of the topics we discussed last time called the tiara framework. So, setting up coffee chats and getting to know them. These are going to be a little bit more personal, whereas tiara framework informational meetings were a bit more rigorous and methodical. These will be a little bit more casual. But invite people who are peers to your manager. Let your manager knows you’re going to meet some other people in the organization, you’ll get their blessing. That way, they won’t think you’re doing anything weird. You’re just trying to learn more about your role in the group and the broader team.

And then extend that to any other people that you meet whose work impresses you or whose work you find interesting. Not everybody will take you up on your offer and that’s totally fine, but the people who do take you up on the offer will appreciate your proactivity. It’s just so hard to demonize someone that you’ve shared a meal with or you’ve shared a coffee with. It’s hard to kind of not look out for that person who humanize yourself in their eyes. You learn from them. You use that time not to sell yourself but to extract as much knowledge out of them as you can while also establishing that rapport.

But the only thing you need to do, really, is loop your manager in that you’re going to be setting up coffee chats for other people. Usually, they’ll be happy to hear that because it’ll only make you smarter at your job.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. All right. Well, let’s talk about interviews then. We’ve hit the first question nicely, “Tell me about yourself,” and we’ve got a bit of a framework with the CAR, the challenge, the action, and the results. So, can you share with us, are there some nuances, extra tips, or key questions that you could demonstrate this in action?

Steve Dalton
I mentioned that the same template that I use for cover letters is the one that I recommend for answering “Why this company?” So, let’s jump into that one because I call a subset of questions the big four. Those are “Tell me about yourself” or “Walk me through your resume,” same question in my opinion. They’ll only ask you one or the other.

That usually comes first in most interviews. It’s usually followed immediately by, “Why do you want to work for us?” or, “Why do you want this particular role?” The other flavor of that that you might receive is “Why do you want to work in consulting?” or, “Why do you find the autonomous vehicle space interesting?” So, “Why this sector?” is the fourth question of the big four.

You can use the same RAC model for any of those three variances of the why question. And where I see it helps people is, typically when I am interviewing job seekers and I’ll ask them, “Why do you want to work for this company that you’re about to interview with?” one of the reasons they’ll invariably bring up will be, “You’re the market leader in blank, and everybody looks up to you. You’re the most well-regarded company,” and they’ll just kind of restate that point three or four different ways, and then move on to their next point without actually saying anything of value, and without actually helping me understand, like, “What do I get out of this?” I’m, as the company and the ultimate customer in the room, so is this a win-win? It sounds like it’s just really good for you, the job seeker.

So, the way that I would recommend attacking this would be have a reason, “You are market leadership position.” So, now we need an anecdote to substantiate why that’s a true statement or why it’s meaningful. So, for me, it might be, “I’ve worked at a variety of companies from tiny startups to larger Fortune 100 organizations. And I found, when I was working at larger Fortune 100 organizations, I loved taking advantage of their infrastructure for professional development, for mentorship, for programming to help me to get to know my start class so I could just deepen my bonds with the organization easily. I thrive when there’s infrastructure provided so I could bring this appreciation of all the great world-class infrastructure that you have for developing excellent people to your organization, meaning that I’ll grow faster and add value to your organization more quickly.”

So, taking that kind of clichéd point of, “You’re the market leader,” which tends not to lead anywhere, and if you’re going to use a point like that that could be perceived as cliché, add an anecdote to it, “My best work has come when I have the resources of a large company,” connect it back to why it’s a win-win, “This means I’ll get up to speed faster and grow more quickly.”

Pete Mockaitis
And maybe, as you’ve done your research, that you’ve got something even more compelling than, “You’re the market leader,” because being a market leader tends to correlate with a lot of other good things in terms of if you’re growing, then you’re exploring new cool opportunities, or you’re innovating, or just fill in the blank. There’s profit available to fund great things as opposed to we’re pinching every penny.

Steve Dalton
Exactly right. I think another kind of sibling answer I’ll hear a lot is, “It’s the people. Your people are amazing,” but then that never gets developed, “Who specifically did you talk to?” or that’s such a clichéd point. If you’re going to say a clichéd point like that, put it into the words of someone specific, “I was talking to Rachel Franklin, and she mentioned that she worked for a lot of companies who called themselves family but, at your company, she actually believed it. That was the first time she actually felt that family vibe. That really resonated with me because I’ve had the pleasure of working with an organization where we weren’t focused on our individual goals. We’re focused more on the company’s overall goals. We’re in it together. So, this will allow me to more quickly develop the trust with my cross-functional teammates or my immediate work team so that I can be integrated more quickly.”

As long as you make an attempt to frame it as a win-win instead of just why it’s good for you, and demonstrate that you’ve done a little research, you know who Rachel Franklin is, you’ve chatted with her, it differentiates the serious candidates from the ones who just prepped for this at 11:00 p.m. last night.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Okay. Well, any other thoughts then on the interview? It seems like we’ve kind of got that covered?

Steve Dalton
If I could add one more, the CAR matrix. A lot of people really like the CAR matrix. So, where the CAR matrix is on the Y-axis, on the vertical, you list all the stories that you’re prepared to tell in the interview, and on the X-axis, the horizontal, you list all of the questions that you expect to be asked or the genres of questions that you expect to be asked, and you match up which stories would apply to which questions. You’ll have some favorite stories that you want to tell, so just knowing what variance of popular interview questions you can use your favorite stories for, helps you deploy them in the most effective way because a lot of interviews aren’t longer than 30 or 45 minutes. It’s really important to get your best stories out there as quickly as you can, having a strategy.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, that’s wise because you want to share your greatest hits, and sometimes they ask questions that aren’t quite a bullseye. It’s like a politician in a debate. They’re not answering the question that’s posted. They’re answering what they want to. And as an interviewer, when I hear that, it’s off-putting. So, yeah, having that prep stage right there is useful in that you’re not making too much of a stretch at any point but you’re still getting to share your greatest hits.

Steve Dalton
Absolutely right. Just a little bit of planning because most often you’re going to tell the same three to five stories in every interview because they’re just your best stories, and that’s absolutely desirable. But you want to make sure that you have a story ready for, “What’s your biggest weakness?” or a story ready for, “Have you ever faced an ethical dilemma?” And sometimes those are stories you only use when you get that particular question. But having the matrix in front of you really helps you identify any blind spots you may have of questions that you don’t really have a story that you’re comfortable so that you can develop one.

Pete Mockaitis
And so then, are there any particular variance you’d recommend for particular questions or is that challenge-action-results kind of the way to go for just about all of them?

Steve Dalton
Yeah, that’s a great question. So, I actually recommend for different formulas of questions, you will sometimes add a component to the start of the CAR story, or sometimes at the end. Sometimes you’ll get the question of, “Tell me about a time where you failed.” So, this is weird because they’re asking you to talk negatively about yourself, at least that’s what the question states. What they really want to see is, “How did you become a better candidate as a result of a setback?”

So, a lot of novice job seekers will focus for two minutes on the failure and, in reality, we want to bury that failure at the beginning of your story so that we can talk about something that’s more flattering or appealing to you. So, I recommend converting your CAR story into a scar story or as a setback, “So, early in my career, I did not verify my data before I started working on a project, and I realized that the data was faulty, so I lost weeks of work and had to deliver my product late. Thankfully, I learned from this occasion on my next project.” And now you’ve transitioned to a positive CAR story about where you analyze data effectively or handle data effectively.

You’re not getting paid a premium or they’re not concerned whether or not to hire you based on how great your mistakes were but how you developed from them.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s like, “Wow, that was very impressive how much you blew it.”

Steve Dalton
Right, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
“My hats off to you, sir.”

Steve Dalton
“You get the job, yes.” And, similarly, on the backend, sometimes you’ll be asked a superlative question you may not know how to answer, like, “What’s your best accomplishment? What’s your biggest weakness, especially?” So, you may want to add a T at the end, so a scar-t, or a cart story, where you end with a takeaway.

I like these for superlative questions, “What’s your proudest accomplishment?” because it allows you to put a bow on your story. Maybe you talk about the marathon that you ran, or the patented product that you invented, but at the end you can say, you include a takeaway which just finishes on a nice note, “The reason this is my favorite accomplishment is because…” and that revisits, as you said, the questions they asked in the first place.

So, even if you’re not sure if the story truly answered their question, you can find a nugget. You had a minute and 45 seconds to refresh your memory on that story. Find a little nugget in that story that applies directly to the question they stated, and you can add a takeaway at the end. Like, it rewords their question and states how your story is applicable, or it just highlights, “Here’s the reason why this is such a superlative experience for me.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, now let’s talk about negotiation.

Steve Dalton
Oh, absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, first of all, should we negotiate or is that rude?

Steve Dalton
Absolutely. If I hire 10 people and only one of them tries to negotiate, that person is getting my most important project. If I can’t trust a new hire to advocate for themselves, I certainly can’t trust them to advocate on behalf of the company because it’s going to be awkward. Some people find that deeply awkward. I have to hope that the person who advocates for themselves is going to be best able to handle the negotiation on behalf of the company as well. So, absolutely, yes.

There’s a great research study I’ve just dug up that shows that when you accept the first offer you receive, you make the person who extended the offer doubt whether it was a decent offer so they feel like a sucker, “Maybe I overpaid you,” or, “Why did I do that?”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s true.

Steve Dalton
So, negotiation actually helps reassure them that they’ve made an appropriate offer so it makes both parties happier. A lot of people don’t realize that by negotiating, you’re actually making yourself and your counterpart feel better about the decision to hire you.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I guess that’s true. Like, if they say, “Hey, this job pays 120 grand.” You say, “Awesome!” They’d say, “Wait, maybe I should’ve…”

Steve Dalton
Yeah, “Oh, I feel dumb. Oh, gosh.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s cool. Although, I will say that, I guess as the employer, I feel great that I’ve pleased people but I guess it’s something about my personality, in terms of, “Oh, cool. I’m so glad that you feel gratitude and appreciation.” But then, also, it makes me think, “Although I probably could’ve gotten away with paying you less.”

Steve Dalton
Absolutely. It’s terrifying. Nobody likes to think they’ve been taken. And, yeah, you think you’re trying to be, like, “I want to minimize conflict and minimize waves by accepting whatever they give me. I don’t want to take that 0.5% chance that they’ll rescind the offer.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, has that ever happened in the history of mankind? I don’t know. Maybe somewhere but I don’t know.

Steve Dalton
It is kind of an urban legend more than it is a reality. Typically, when I hear about it in reality, the very rare case where I hear about it in reality, there were extenuating circumstances. It was the negotiation was presented in a very unprofessional way. It’s typically the most common reason you would hear that. So, as long as you’re not…

Pete Mockaitis
“Steve, you’re going to have to pony up a heck of a lot more cash for me to even…”

Steve Dalton
“This offer is ridiculous.” Yeah, that’s where I hear that urban legend come to life. It’s something generally pretty deeply inappropriate. But if you’re just asking, and so I tee something called the pre-negotiation call in The Job Closer. I’m kind of amazed nobody else has kind of come up with the concept or named it, but it’s made life so much easier for my job seekers at Duke. Basically, don’t negotiate in your first call to talk about the offer. The pre-negotiation call is a non-negotiation call.

It’s a free information gathering call for you if you’ve just received an offer. And it consists solely of you going line by line through the offer asking this question over and over, “Do you have any flexibility around blank, salary?” “Do you have any flexibility around signing bonus?” “Do you have any flexibility around vacation time?” And if they say no, that means no. If they say, “Ah, we don’t have that much,” that means yes. So, make a note as you go through line by line on the offer where there’s apparent flexibility.

When they’re hiring a big star class, you often see a lot of reservation about negotiating starting salary but there won’t be that same reservation for vacation time or relocation bonuses, or those other non-salary-based assets. But the nice thing about this is when you actually, “Okay, thank you so much for this information. This is very helpful. I’m going to take the weekend to reflect and we can chat next week about the offer after I’ve had a chance to process everything.” And, now, you can negotiate on only the items that you know are in play so that you don’t run into that brick wall of trying to negotiate on salary when this company can’t negotiate on salary with you. That helps you kind of take the awkwardness of hitting a brick wall out of the equation and you can focus on a more productive conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s good. And maybe in that same conversation, it could be interesting to ask about all the benefits not listed just to kind of make…because, I don’t know, if I’m in that position, they say, “Oh, do you do this, do you do this, do you do this,” and sometimes the answer is, “Oh, I actually didn’t quite think about that,” such that I kind of feel like I should have that in there. And the fact that I didn’t makes me think, well, maybe we can add that, like, “Okay, that’s not a big deal to have…” I don’t know, fill in the blank, a relocation stipend. But I hadn’t considered that and they brought it up.

But then if they say, “Oh, no, you’re bringing up lots of good things that maybe should have been in the offer that are not, and I’m saying probably no to all of them. I feel a little bit of a tug like I should probably make a concession elsewhere if I keep stiff-arming no, no, no, no on all these pretty reasonable requests that are found in many other offers.”

Steve Dalton
Yes. So, one of the books that I took great inspiration from was Getting to Yes for writing the negotiation piece. It was the first negotiation book I’d read and it’s considered a classic in the genre. It really focuses around principles-based negotiation or basically to share your motivation, don’t hide it. Have a because is how I refer to it in shorthand. So, don’t just ask for more money. Ask for more money because you’ve created a budget, you’re looking to path your educational debt with a certain number of years. This will really help you accomplish that with more certainty. Or ask for a larger signing bonus because you’re looking to really lay down roots to make this a long-term commitment so this would help you to put a down payment on a house.

But, as long as you bring them into that bigger factor, and then they may say, “We can’t give you a bigger signing bonus but what we can do is cover your closing costs or we can cost-share your first down payment or something like that. We can loan you money at zero interest.” Like, there are ways they can help you that you won’t know to ask for, but if you bring them into that deeper concern, they become your partner in solving this problem of, “How can I make buying a house when I first move there more attainable?”

That’s much more attackable than, “I want $25,000 more,” without backing it up with any sort of underlying desire or need or data. If you don’t have a comp to show, “Actually, it looks like people from top schools are making this range. It looks like people at top companies, your competitors, are making this range. Could you meet me at that range instead of the lower range that you offered?” So, it’s important to either have some data however applicable as long it’s favorable to your case but then have reasons why. Have a because for everything that you plan on asking for, how is this point going to unlock a win-win.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, any other choice tips or phrases that you love in negotiation?

Steve Dalton
“Can you help me? Can you help me do this?” I think that’s a very unthreatening way to ask for more. Like, “Can you help me close this gap on our salary difference?” Again, it constantly frames your negotiating partner as a partner, you’re on the same team so it engages them creatively instead of getting focused on position, positional bargaining, which is, “I want this number. You’re saying that number. How do we save face and not hate each other in the process?”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And I’m really thinking back to what you said with regard to if only one negotiates, that’s the one you’re going to entrust with a big project because I think that really reframes the whole thing. Like, negotiation is not rude or inappropriate or ungrateful, but rather it is a further demonstration of what you’re going to be bringing to the table. And not only might you be hurting yourself financially, because you don’t ask, you could be hurting yourself professionally because of the impressions that sends.

And I don’t think, yeah, I keep thinking about the urban legend, I just don’t think that the fear is real and it might just be like, “No, hey, seriously. Compensation is standardized across all of North America.” It’s like, “Okay. Well, I asked, and you answered, and I guess that’s it. And maybe there’s a couple little areas that we can go after, but I’m not going to ask about the sunny bonus, or the salary, or the 401(k) match, or the target year-end bonus, because I guess it’s standardized across North America. But here’s a couple exceptional situations, and we can go there instead.”

Steve Dalton
And you still won even if you asked and get shut down 100% across the board. You still tried. You still advocated for yourself so that makes me more confident that you’ll advocate for the company. So, it’s a brand preservation, it’s a brand protection measure, and that’s a certain loss if you don’t negotiate or at least even attempt. That’s a certain ding on your reputation that you didn’t even try to advocate for yourself. Whereas, this urban legend, “I’m afraid of the offer getting rescinded,” that is an uncertain very, very rare occasion that usually has extenuating circumstances around it. So, make the less common mistake is always my guidance.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Steve, any final things you want to share before we hear about a couple more of your favorite things?

Steve Dalton
No, what’s up next?

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, sure. Can you give us favorite quote?

Steve Dalton
I am going to give a shoutout to my late mother, Dorothy Dalton. She has one of my all-time favorite quotes, and I found myself, while I was writing The Job Closer, saying it more and more. Her quote, and I don’t know where she got this, this is it, “The difference between a good meal and a bad meal is about an hour.”

I just love that quote because sometimes you have the right technique but you’re not in the right mental space for it. You just need to get a little bit hungrier. And so, I liken The Job Closer to a cookbook a lot, and so having that quote in mind, “The difference between a good meal and a bad meal is about an hour,” is just very top of mind right now. I will always treasure that bit of wisdom from her.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. Okay, it took me a second. It’s an hour of extra hunger as opposed to an hour of cook prep time.

Steve Dalton
Yeah, that’s a thinker. It’s a thinker, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m with you now, Steve. And a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Steve Dalton
I talk about this one in the book too. There is a study by Frieder, Van Iddekinge, and Raymark about how quickly decisions are made in interviews that I’ve just been all about lately. So, they showed that 5% of decisions are made within the first minute which is crazy. That’s just small talk and first impressions. They showed that 30% of decisions have been made in the first five minutes. So, I talk about the importance of small talk and especially “Tell me about yourself,” 30% of decisions are made based on small talk and maybe “Tell me about yourself.”

They further say that 60% of interview decisions are made within the first 15 minutes, and what’s covered there, small talk, plus “Tell me about yourself,” plus the remaining questions of the big four, the why questions. So, I think so many people go into their resume or their interview worried about their CAR stories when they should really be worrying about getting those big four to be super compelling because over half of decisions are made then. Only 18% of decisions are made after the 15 minutes in the interview, and the balance, the remaining 22%, are made after the interview is over.

So, don’t stress about the CAR stories as much. I try to make it as easy as possible to kind of make them memorable for you but, really, if you’re going to worry about anything, worry about the big four. That study is amazing.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Steve Dalton
I’m loving Unwinding Anxiety by Jud Brewer right now. It’s brand new. It just came out a couple months ago. He does a lot of research on habit formation, breaking bad habits, essentially, whether it’s substances or any other kind of detrimental behavior. But he really marries it with mindfulness and he does it in such a simple applied way.

I reduce anxiety for a living, that’s how I view my role. I take away people’s anxiety around this job search. Don’t take on yourself the stress of curating job search tips. Let me give you the first draft. Follow it, try it this way first, and don’t indulge the decision anxiety. But I still struggle with anxiety myself, so it’s really helped me kind of break those patterns, those habits of bringing irrational anxiety upon myself, and then blaming myself for indulging that feeling. So, can’t recommend it highly enough to anyone else out there who’s feeling anxiety about their job search or any other topic.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite tool?

Steve Dalton
My favorite tool is, honestly, it’s the concept of the least bad option. So, in The Job Closer there are some controversial stuff, I mean, I disagree with the concept of selling yourself, which may be jarring to a lot of the listeners out there right now because, “How can something I’ve heard so many times possibly be false?” So, everything that I put forth in The Job Closer is about the least bad option. Maybe it’s not a great option but it is the least bad option available so it’s going to be better than the other ones that are out there even though nothing is great.

Really embracing the concept of the least bad option, trying the recipe, and then seeing if you can improve that recipe after you’ve tried it, the original way the first time, or seeking out a different approach that will be better than the one that you’re currently employing, that’s really just a mindset that helps guide people through a rather unpleasant activity.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Steve Dalton
Honestly, my favorite habit is asking for directions before you’re lost. I’ve done this all my life. I’ve seen so many people get into fights over not wanting to ask for directions, and I’ve always gone the other route. Whenever I sense I’m about to get lost, I don’t want to have any ego on this. Let me pull over and ask for directions, that way there’s no personal stress on the line there.

So, when you’re feeling like you’re spinning your wheels, you’re not getting a great return on effort, don’t allow yourself to get too dug in. Instead, just seek out an expert, seek out a recipe that you trust. Ask for directions before you get lost because it’s so much harder to do after.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a key nugget – that kind of sounds like it right there, I mean – that you share that is frequently quoted back to you?

Steve Dalton
One that I’ve gotten a lot of traction with lately, “The hard part isn’t getting your resume right. The hard part of the job search isn’t getting your resume right. It’s getting your resume seen.” And that takes networking effort, and networking effort is scary, but don’t be scared of it. It’s like being scared of playing the violin. If you’ve never played the violin before, it’s not scary. You just haven’t been trained. You haven’t practiced. It’s going to sound terrible the first time you try it, but you can get better at it quickly. So, don’t worry about hyper-engineering your resume because it’s not how you get interviews.

For every one person who’s hired through an online job posting application, we talked about the New York Fed study the last time, the Brown, Setren, and Topa one, 12 people are hired through internal referrals. So, get internal referrals, that’s the modern challenge of the job search. And everybody’s on equal playing field. We’re all terrible at asking strangers for help, for their advocacy. So, the quicker you learn this brand-new skill, the better off you’ll be.

Even those people who come in and you think they have perfect networks for this, very rarely are they exactly relevant. And if they are relevant, great, they have an advantage, but that’s a small minority of people. Most people don’t. Embrace networking earlier because the hard part isn’t getting your resume right, it’s getting it seen.

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

Steve Dalton
The fastest way on Twitter @Dalton_Steve. You can also find me at TheJobCloser.com for the new book. And the place that I’m most active is “The 2-Hour Job Search – Q&A Forum” LinkedIn group. So, if you’re active on LinkedIn, look up the LinkedIn group “The 2-Hour Job Search – Q&A Forum” and you’ll find me there. There’s about 7,000 of us currently. I’m on there several times a week answering questions, trading ideas. It’s a good time so please join me.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, Steve, this has been a treat. I wish you much luck, and your students as well, as they’re closing bunches of jobs.

Steve Dalton
Thank you so much for having me back. It’s a pleasure as always.