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640: Why Being Qualified Isn’t Enough: How to Overcome Your Fear of Selling Yourself with Jena Viviano

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Jena Viviano says: "You cannot network only when you need something."

Jena Viviano shares her three-step process for making more successful career transitions.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The three sources of career clarity
  2. Why networking doesn’t have to feel sleazy 
  3. The three things recruiters are always looking for 

About Jena

Jena Viviano is an ex-Wall Streeter turned career coach and entrepreneur who helps ambitious professionals articulate their personal branded career stories to land their dream jobs. 

Resources mentioned in the show:

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Jena Viviano Interview Transcript

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

Jena Viviano
Well, thank you for having me. I love your podcast. I’m a listener so it’s actually a huge honor to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. Well, we’re going to be talking about job stuff, and I need to hear I understand LinkedIn had a role in your engagement story. We love LinkedIn here. Tell us all about this.

Jena Viviano
I love LinkedIn for so many reasons. But, yes, so LinkedIn is a part of my engagement story. My sister was in a job transition and she said, “Hey, can you come over the house? I need you to help you with my LinkedIn profile.” So, she took me to lunch to do her LinkedIn profile. Meanwhile, my now husband, then soon-to-be fiancé, was like decorating my apartment and getting it ready, so he had to get out of the house, and the ploy was to help with her LinkedIn, so.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s clever. And they had your number too, it’s like, “Okay, this is something she’ll bite on, LinkedIn.”

Jena Viviano
Exactly. They’re like, “Oh, she’ll help with that. She loves LinkedIn. She’ll totally help you with that.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s fun. Very cool. Well, so I’m excited to dig into your wisdom here. Can you start us off by maybe sharing what’s one of the most surprising and fascinating discoveries you’ve made in terms of all your years of career coaching?

Jena Viviano
Yeah, gosh, I think the number one thing that I’ve realized with coaching hundreds, honestly, probably at this point, over a thousand people on a one-on-one basis and in groups and courses and whatnot, is that people don’t realize that in order to be successful in the job search process, it’s not enough to just be “qualified.” It’s not enough to just have a really solid resume. You really have to know how to sell yourself and to treat your own career almost as if it’s the brand. And a lot of people don’t even think like that.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, that’ll be fun to dig in. But when you say you are a brand, I’m thinking of a scene from the TV series Entourage.

Jena Viviano
Okay, I’ve never watched that show.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. It’s kind of trashy, so. Well, so anyway, I’m not going to go into too much detail here. But our star, Vincent Chase was considering going with a different agent, and as he was going to these different agencies, they all had the same video that they thought was really cool, and they’re like, “McDonald’s, Starbucks, Apple, Vincent Chase. Like, you are a brand.”

And so, maybe let’s just get that covered right away. What do you mean by “You’re a brand”? How is that different from a corporate brand and how is it similar? And how does it inform our thinking?

Jena Viviano
Yeah. So, I would say you have a brand whether you’re cultivating it or not. Most people, nowadays, have some type of online presence, some type of digital presence, right? So, our LinkedIn profile is a perfect example. We’re talking about LinkedIn. You have a brand, who you are, what you’re about, what you have to offer, the value that you bring. That’s all a part of your personal brand. What’s your value proposition? What are you bringing to the marketplace? Very similar to a corporate brand.

The problem is that people who are 9-to-5 jobs don’t think like that. We think, “Okay, I just have to have the qualifications, I should get the job,” when, really, we have to position ourselves as candidates for the job for our “audience,” or our ideal market, the employers. And too many people don’t think from that perspective which becomes a problem when you’re applying and trying to differentiate yourself from the hundreds of candidates that are all applying to the same job.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so then if having the qualifications isn’t enough, then what should we be doing? Like, kind of what are the key steps? You’ve got a program, Recruit the Employer? If someone is job-hunting now or will be soon, what’s their step one, step two, step three?

Jena Viviano
Start before you’re ready. I think that’s the first part is start thinking about it before you’re ready. A lot of people think that, “Once I’ve decided to make a career change, that’s going to happen immediately.” And that’s just not what we’re seeing pre-COVID times, post-COVID times. It’s just it takes a while especially if you’re at a more senior-level position and you’re trying to be strategic in your career move.

So, the first thing you really need to do is understand, “Where the heck am I going?” Clarity is a huge portion of the puzzle. A lot of people will first go to their resume, “Hey, I’m just going to read you my resume. That just needs to get done.” It feels like we’re doing and accomplishing something, but oftentimes it’s either, if we’re having somebody else do it, it’s a waste of money if we don’t know what we’re using it for.

So, the first step, really, in that process is understanding, “What do I actually want in my career?” And the second step is understanding, “What’s valuable? What do I have to offer? What’s the value that I can bring to the table?” And the third step would really be about marketing yourself to that job. So, understanding, “What does that employer care about? Those jobs that I’m targeting, what makes me different than every other candidate out there?” So, that would be the first three steps, is, first, getting clarity; second, really understanding the value that you bring; and, three, crafting a narrative to sell yourself in front of those employers.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, that’s very nicely organized. Three simple sections. Let’s dig into each of them. So, clarity, I think I’m a weird kid in that I knew I wanted to be doing people-development-y things when I was in high school.

Jena Viviano
That’s impressive. You are lucky.

Pete Mockaitis
And I’ve learned that most people are not that way and many people struggle with like, “Oh, what is it I really want?” So, how do we arrive at that clarity?

Jena Viviano
Gosh, there’s a zillion different ways to go about it, but I would say that we first need to think about it. I think a lot of people go to college. And, for myself, so I went to high school, I was told I should go get a finance degree and a marketing degree so I did both those things. I went in investment banking and realized I was really bad at finance on Wall Street. Not exactly the best place to figure that out, right?

And so, I had to start to ask questions about, “What are my actual skills and gifts? What are the things that light me up? What am I doing when I’m thriving?” And then understand, “Okay, now where does that fit into the marketplace? Where are people looking for skills like mine? And how can I reposition myself for the job?”

So, I was working at the New York Stock Exchange, and I realized, yeah, I wasn’t really good at finance, but I was really good at selling, I was really good at communicating with the CEOs of these companies that would come in, I had a marketing brain. And so, I started to move more in the sales direction, and it was only through the experience of reflecting and really asking questions to people around me, like, “What do you think I’m good at?” I would ask my coworkers that question. I was pretty bold. Like, “What do you think I’m good at? What do you think I’m not good at?” so I could understand for myself and get a little bit of clarity around, “Okay, where can I lean into my strengths instead of just trying to make up for my weaknesses?”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, you reflect, you ask people questions. Are there extra questions or extra ways to get answers that are really valuable?

Jena Viviano
Yeah, I think another piece of the puzzle is actually going into the marketplace and seeing what’s available. I did this experiment when I was trying to figure out what the heck I wanted to do in my next move knowing it was not finance. I started to explore companies that I thought were really interesting. And within those companies, I would actually dig into their careers page and see what jobs even looked fascinating to me. So, I was really lost, right?

So, I could actually dive into these job descriptions and say, “Yeah, I’m not qualified for that yet,” or, like, “That’s many years in the future but I could see that path and I’m interested in what that type of role would have.” So, I’d say from a very practical standpoint, it’s actually seeing what’s available nowadays. And then, apart from that, it’s actually having real conversations.

So, we’re talking about that, the reflecting piece, the really diving in and doing your own research, and then, finally, having conversations with people who do that actual job, asking for informational interviews, and having those conversations, wondering what’s in a day in the life look like, “Am I even going to like this thing that I want to get into?”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Certainly. And so then, it sounds like that’s actually, well, maybe I’m just a dork this way. That sounds like a lot of fun in terms of, “Well, let’s explore.”

Jena Viviano
I thought it was fun too.

Pete Mockaitis
“Let’s explore. Let’s see what’s there.” I remember, again, high school Pete, I was playing around the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Jena Viviano
Wow! You really were interested young.

Pete Mockaitis
A fun time. As well as I was just reading books about success goals, studying teamwork, whatever, and like, “Those guys seem like they have cool jobs. They get to coach and speak and write and talk about this cool stuff.” So, yeah, what are some of the best resources there? So, one, I just dropped the governmental one. And then there’s actually the job postings that are up and out there. Are there any other particular books, websites, tools that are handy in exploring the whole wide world there?

Jena Viviano
Yeah, you know, I have not found one that I’ve loved, so I don’t feel comfortable necessarily sharing, “Hey, this is the one to see. This is the one you should take to read up on and figure out all the different careers that are out there.” I really think that having conversations and actually utilizing LinkedIn to your advantage and seeing who to network with, to understand what do other people do in really cool companies that you’re interested in.

Here’s the thing, I worked with a lot of people, and the majority of people leave jobs not necessarily because of their job function but because of the people that they are working with or the cultures that they’re a part of. So, I’m actually a huge proponent of making people first look at the company and really diving into companies that they love to find opportunities.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, can you tell us some pro tips there in terms of using LinkedIn and connecting with people, how do we play that game in terms of finding the people and crafting a message that won’t get blown off and having them show up and asking useful things of them when we have them?

Jena Viviano
Yeah. So, can I ask you a question?

Pete Mockaitis
Take it away.

Jena Viviano
Like, tell me what you think of when you think of the word networking.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it’s so funny. I’ve been reprogrammed on this.

Jena Viviano
Yeah, you’re like, “It’s fun.”

Pete Mockaitis
On this very specific point. So, I’ll tell you what I used to think and what I think now.

Jena Viviano
How about that? Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
So, we’ll go with both answers. So, I used to think networking is like, “Hey, I got business cards in both hands, and I’m dropping them left and right. I say let’s do lunch. And I’m at a mixer or a cocktail party, and I’m kind of working the room and kind of moving…”

Jena Viviano
It’s uncomfortable. It feels sleazy, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. So, anyway, that was my old vision. And now I think of networking as just building relationships, like you meet people, you see what’s interesting about them, what they’re into, you see how you could be helpful to them, maybe send them a link or a resource or a joke or a something that will tickle them in their particular way of being, and their needs. And then, over time, it’s like, “Hmm, I can reach out to a ton of people to get some advice or guidance or direction. No problem.”

Jena Viviano
Yeah. And I would say that a lot of people still think the former of what you thought. It’s sleazy. It’s uncomfortable. I always tell people networking should not be awkward. Networking should not be uncomfortable. It should not be sleazy. It should be pushing you outside your comfort zone, sure. But, really, at the end of the day, networking is just what you described. It is mutually beneficial, professional relationships that are developed over time. You cannot network only when you need something. And that’s where people get it wrong with networking where they think, “Oh, I need a new job. I need to be networking. Yes, networking feels uncomfortable then.”

But if you’re nurturing and cultivating a group of contacts that you are building into relationships and being in relationship with, it’s not going to be uncomfortable when you say, “Hey, I’m looking for an XYZ opportunity at XYZ company. Could you introduce me? I know you know someone there.” Like, that becomes easier. So, actually, networking really needs to be looked at as a way of life and not like a one-hit wonder that we often treat it like.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, certainly. Okay. So, that’s the mindset that we’ve adapted. So, check, we got it. And then how do we start finding these people?

Jena Viviano
Yes. So, I said there’s usually four levels of networking. They’re actually your friends and family. A lot of people forget that your personal networking can still be a part of your professional network, especially if you’re a career-changer. And I actually did this in my own career when I was working at the New York Stock Exchange, and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I would tap my friend network, and I said, “Hey, I know you guys aren’t in sales or finance or fashion,” or whatever else I was interested in, “but do you happen to know somebody who is that I could talk to about their career, and what they’ve done, and pros and cons, and what to look out for?”

And there are people that I grew up with that I forgot that they’re parents, were like head of sales at a company. So, we forget sometimes that our own network, our personal relationships, while they themselves may not have a contact, they may know somebody. So, that is the first level.

The second level is potentially current and past colleagues. Depending on your relationship with people that you work with, maybe you feel comfortable asking questions with your current coworkers, but also people who have moved on from your company, especially if you’re looking to change positions or you’re looking to stay within the industry but change to a different company. Those people probably went into a different company and are doing something similar, so they’re a great people to tap and to keep those relationships flourishing.

I know, for myself, on a quarterly basis, still, I’ve been out of corporate for a while now, I still reach out to people that I worked with in corporate because I want to keep those relationships fresh, I value those relationships, and I find them really beneficial. So, that’s the second level. The third level is actually alumni networks. A lot of people forget that your universities still want you to stay connected, and there’s actually a really easy way to search for people that went to your college. You can actually go onto LinkedIn, you can find your school’s page, you can click on a button that says alumni, and you can actually search for someone at your ideal company to talk to them a little bit about what they’ve been doing. You have that easy kind of in because you both went to the same university. So, that’s a little hack.

And then I would say the fourth level of networking is cold outreach. It’s the most uncomfortable but I have actually used it in most of my personal job transitions and where I really encourage people to step out of their comfort zone and reach out to people that they don’t know.

Pete Mockaitis
And I’ve been pleasantly surprised a few times when I kind of pushed people for benchmarks, statistics on cold outreach effectiveness. It’s way better than I expected.

Jena Viviano
Why do you think that is? I see the same thing, for me, personally. Do you think it’s just practice?

Pete Mockaitis
I think it’s…and I want to hear your numbers, roughly to the extent you have them. I think it’s just because it’s something human in terms of it’s like, we’ve all been there in terms of trying to figure out what’s next and get in there, those opportunities, and not quite knowing what to do. And so, I think there’s just a little bit of a karmic obligation that is in us, our psyches, and it just feels pretty good to help in terms of it’s like, “Wow, if I can have a 15-minute conversation with somebody and that’s going to either help them avoid a job they’re going to hate or get closer to a job they’re going to love, that’s going to impact the years of their life and thousands of hours of their life, and it’s just going to take me 15 minutes, that feels like a pretty good return on my philanthropic time.” So, I like it.

Jena Viviano
Yeah, you have a good attitude about it.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, it doesn’t mean I’m a saint. I don’t always take them but, you know, I do, frequently. And so, that’s just my raw speculation. What do you think?

Jena Viviano
Yeah, no, I totally agree. I think there’s a couple of things. It’s a matter of how the candidate or the individual reaches out to the contact, so I think it’s never what you say, it’s how you say it. You could say the same thing, “Hey, I want your time,” and, “Hey, I want your time,” but say it in two different ways and get two different responses.

So, what I recommend for people is if you’re reaching out to somebody, customize it. Don’t send them a copy-paste whatever. Send them something that’s customized that’s going to show that you paid attention to them. Maybe you’ve listened to their podcast, or you love what their company is doing, or you see that their teams have worked on something, maybe it’s something on their LinkedIn profile you can relate to. Just customize it a little bit actually goes a long way.

And then having a very clear specific ask. Here’s the problem with a lot of networking messages. I get them all the time. I’ll get somebody who reaches out to me, and they’ll say, “Hey, I would love to chat with you. Let me know if you’re available next week.” I have no idea what their goal is, I have no idea how long they want, none of those things. So, what you want to do is you want to be very clear on, “Hey, I’m looking to explore a career in sales,” I’m just going to use that example. “I’m looking to explore a career in sales. I see that you’ve made some job transitions in your life. Would you be open to chatting for 15 to 30 minutes? I have three questions I wanted to ask you. No pressure if not.” So, it’s being very specific and also giving them an out. You’re not backing them into a corner. If they can’t do it, they’re actually probably more likely to tell you, “Hey, I can’t do it,” or, “Actually, I’ll help on the phone with you.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, certainly. I dig it. And three questions, I like it because, one, that’s short and doable, manageable so I can handle three questions. And, two, it’s a little intriguing, like, “Oh, what are the three questions?”

Jena Viviano
Yeah. And, to your point, like people want to help and also people love talking about themselves. So, if you’re giving them an opportunity to talk about themselves, they’re going to be into that.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, so let’s fast forward a little bit. So, we’ve got clarity, “So, this is what I’m about. This is what I want.” We’ve got opportunity. That sounds really juicy and that’s just what I’m shooting for specifically. We’ve got a great networking mindset and we’ve got some folks who have given us some insight, so that really does sound like a great place to be. So, now what? We’ve got it in our crosshairs. What do we do now?

Jena Viviano
Yeah, I think part of it is still leveraging your networking connections. Seventy percent of jobs are placed through connections. And so, whether you’re having that soft ask, you’re just asking somebody for a connection time, or you’re realizing, “Hey, this hiring manager is on LinkedIn. I’m going to reach out to them and proactively tell them how I can bring value.”

So, I think the next step really is understanding, “What is the value that I can bring? What does that person really care about, that hiring manager care about?” And I kind of distill it down to when you’re reading a job description, or when somebody is hiring you, you got to be thinking about it from their perspective. They’re not just hiring you to hire a body, right? They’re having you be hired for a specific purpose. And I have never found a reason, not one of these three things basically. You’re either going to save a company money, make a company money, or make someone’s life easier. Whether you’re a janitor or the CEO, you’re doing one or multiple of those three things.

So, when you’re positioning yourself for a job, if you’re having trouble understanding, like, “What is the value I can bring?” figure out which one of those three buckets you’re sitting in so you can tell your story in a way that’s going to be compelling to that employer.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Excellent.

Jena Viviano
Yeah. So, I would say that most of it comes down to you’re understanding your story, and then, very specifically, you are either reaching out to people for a networking capacity, you’re having those conversations and telling them where you can provide value, or you’re applying online. I usually say about 80% of your time should be networking and about 20% of your time should be applying online. And then from there, once you’re given the opportunity to actually get in the door, you’re going to be able to tell that story.

I’ve worked with people who have not had any experience maybe with interviewing well, and don’t know how to tell their story, and they’re kind of all over the place, and then you bring it some structure and you actually understand the psychological implications of why someone would want to hire you, it actually becomes a piece of cake.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, tell us about that structure and how we execute that well.

Jena Viviano
Yeah, I think the best way to describe it is with the number one question everybody hates, “Tell me about yourself.” Right?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, they say that.

Jena Viviano
The first question we all get is, “Tell me about yourself.” It’s kind of that first impression, it’s that do or die moment, and a lot of people muddy it up. We think, “Should I talk about my whole career? Do I talk about my dog? Do I tell you about my spouse? Like, what do I talk about in that question?” And I usually say break it up into three parts.

You talk a little bit about what you’re doing right now and how that’s making an impact for the company that you’re currently a part of. You tell a brief story, very brief, about how you got there, highlighting the key pieces that are relevant to the job description and any information that you gleaned before that interview. And, finally, landing on why you’re excited to be talking to that individual and why you’re excited about the organization.

So, it’s very simple. It does not need to be overcomplicated: where you are now, how you got there, what you’re excited about for the future.

Pete Mockaitis
And is that 30 seconds, one minute, two minutes?

Jena Viviano
I’d say don’t go farther than two minutes. It should be anywhere between one to two.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, that is nice to demystify. So, we don’t talk about the dog or the spouse.

Jena Viviano
You can but my personal opinion is that’s kind of in the rapport-building whether you’re having a conversation in the sidelines, but when you’re actually asked an interview question, they want to cut to the chase. They want to know, ‘How are you going to help us? How are you going to help us reach our goals? How are you going to make my life easier? And I want to know that first.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, hey, that was awesome, so a tricky question, “Tell me about yourself,” and a simple approach. I like that.

Jena Viviano
Simple. Don’t complicate it.

Pete Mockaitis
Give us more of those. What are common tricky questions and then the right way to answer them.

Jena Viviano
Yeah. We can talk about interview questions from strengths and weaknesses, that’s a big one. Everyone is like, “I don’t know what my strengths are. I don’t know what my weaknesses are.” And I think we look at this question wrong. We think that an employer is out to get us, like they’re going to take us and they’re going to be like, “Jeez, we just want to make sure that you’re answering the questions wrong. We don’t want to hire you.” No, they want you to succeed. They want to see if you’re self-aware.

So, when asked that question, I would pick up a very specific strength that you have, that you have an applicable story to tell, “So, I’m good at this. Here’s an example of how I’ve exemplified that in the past.” And then for a weakness, just make sure it’s not like the key thing you need to do the job well. Like, if your core function within your role is to be in Excel, and you tell them you’re bad at Excel, you probably shouldn’t be applying to the job.

So, it’s more about a weakness that’s relevant to the job, it’s not a fake thing, it’s not like perfectionism – I hate that weakness – but a real weakness that you have, and then what you’re doing to overcome it, and what you’re doing to put steps in place to make sure that that weakness doesn’t detract from your quality of work.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m just thinking right now, like, “What are my weaknesses?” Sometimes I think I’m lazy.

Jena Viviano
Oh, really?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, but what it really is I’m profoundly demotivated by pointless stuff that’s not truly value-added and leveraged. And it’s like, “I want no part of that.” Although, I can get really jazzed about figuring out how to outsource it, “What’s the process and system by which I can make this disappear from my life forever? Ooh, let’s spend hours on that. That’s a juicy problem.”

Jena Viviano
I’d say mine is procrastination. Like, that is always, ever since I was a little girl, procrastination is definitely not a positive thing and I’ve always struggled with procrastination. It was always my example, I procrastinate. But this is how I try to make sure that it doesn’t happen in the future. So, you can have real weaknesses and still get a job.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, totally. All right. Well, hey, give us another one. A common tricky question and the best way to approach it.

Jena Viviano
Yeah. “Why should we hire you for this job?” I think that goes back to selling yourself, right? A lot of people do think that they just need to be qualified on paper, 2D, but you really have to bring that story to life. So, when you’re thinking about preparing for the answer of, “Why should we hire you?” and even if they don’t ask that question directly, you should be answering that question throughout the entirety of your interview. That’s what they want to know, “Why should we hire you?”

And, really, what you want to be thinking about are, “What are the three main functions of that job and how can you do that better than anybody else?” And expressing that, we’re breaking it up into three, I’m using threes a lot on purpose, it’s easy for us to remember, it’s easy for people to listen to. So, you just break it up into three parts, “What are the three main functions of the job that the person who does this job has to do really well?” And then explaining the story around how you’ve done that in the past.

Now, let’s say, for instance, you have a glaring objection, like you have a glaring thing you have not done. Maybe you haven’t been capable of, for myself, I was in sales and I never had a sales job. I was applying for a sales position. And so, I actually brought up the elephant in the room, I said, “You should hire me because I don’t actually have that traditional sales experience. But if you’re looking for somebody that’s able to come to the table, that’s going to be able to talk to seniors, C-suite leaders, and help your company get to the next round of funding, I’m going to be the person for the job.”

So, make sure you have confidence of declaring and acknowledging the elephant in the room but also expressing how you’re going to be able to work around it.

Pete Mockaitis
And, in that example, I don’t know if I picked up on how you not having sales experience is an asset.

Jena Viviano
Yes, true. So, I didn’t go fully into all the details around that but mostly the position that I was speaking about, that individual was asking, “Why should we hire you?” and they had had the question, “Hey, you don’t necessarily have that sales experience,” and I said, “I don’t have that sales experience but here are three other ways that I do have experience that’s similar to sales, and how I would plan on bringing that market to life basically.” So, I was expressing to them the plan that I had in place to actually make that happen.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Right on. Okay. Well, so then let’s keep it rolling. Any other tough questions, simple answers?

Jena Viviano
Yeah, tough questions. What do you feel like is a tough interview question that you’ve experienced?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it’s sort of tricky because I kind of know the answers, but let’s just go with it, “Tell me about a time you failed.”

Jena Viviano
Yeah, “Tell me about a time you failed.” That’s a really big one that I feel like a lot of people get scared about and think that they can’t fail. And I actually gave a really bad answer to this in an interview, and the interviewer called me out on it, “That’s not a real failure.” So, you should always express a failure that you own but also what you learned from it. It’s all about the learning. It’s a self-awareness question, it’s a behavioral question where you’re getting asked, “What is that failure but then how did you overcome it?” That’s really what they want to know.

Pete Mockaitis
And what about, I love it when…so, there’s the get-real precise, like, “Tell me about a time in which…” and so then there’s like several very specific layers. And it’s just like, “I don’t think there’s ever been a time that that’s happened to me.” What do you do there?

Jena Viviano
Yeah, I think, again, we have to think about why are they asking that question. They’re wanting to see, “Can you think on your feet?” They’re wanting to see, “How would you approach a situation should that situation ever come up?” And you could literally say, “I’ve never had that situation come up but this is how I’d approach it.” I’m never encouraging people to lie in their interviews, but if you’ve never had that experience, say that you’ve never had it, but then explain “If that was happening in real time, this is how I would approach it. And here’s like the three steps that I would do to solve that issue.”

Pete Mockaitis
And what’s your take on, I think, for me, Sethi is going to be on the show soon. Woohoo. Talk about the briefcase technique or providing more or less in your interview unveiling your plan. Like, “I’ve already thought a lot about the challenges facing this team, this organization, in this role, and here’s how I would go about getting after it.” What do you think about that approach? Pros? Cons? Suggestions?

Jena Viviano
Yeah, I think there’s pros and cons to it. I think if you’re really early on in the process, I’m not a fan of it just because I feel like you’re giving a lot away. And I think a lot of people get stressed out about that, like, “I’m giving away my information. What if they don’t hire me? They’ll just take my information and then they go on their merry way.”

I think it’s really effective though, especially if you’re a career-changer and you don’t have a lot of experience proof, but to explain how you would actually come to their company and fix some things and what your plan of action would be, your 30-, 60-, 90-plan. I think it’s really effective to prove that you’re capable of doing the job. So, I think it depends on your own situation, but I’m a fan of it later on in the interview process.

Pete Mockaitis
And anything you recommend that we don’t do? Anything that’s just old, bad, misguided advice that’s out there?

Jena Viviano
I see a lot of people actually come into the interviews too early. I know that sounds crazy but they come to the interviews too early, and especially when we were in person. People would come to those interviews and you’re actually detracting from whoever is trying to host you or whatnot. It becomes really, really uncomfortable. So, that would be the first thing. So, just come on time or about 10 minutes before. You don’t need to be showing up like hours beforehand.

I would say, also with the interview process, is not following up or not knowing what next steps look like. I see that happen a lot with people where they don’t ask those very specific questions of, “What do next steps look like? I’m really excited about this organization,” and providing that follow-up, asking, “What’s going on next?” and asking them to be transparent.

Jena Viviano
I would say another thing outside of just the interview, just in general in the job search process, we forget how important mindset and confidence is in this entire process. Like, work is not transactional. It’s actually highly emotional. And so, there’s a lot of emotions that go into the job search process. And sometimes we think we just need a really solid strategy when, really, we need to probably change our mindsets. We probably do need to change our strategy, but we also need to think about ourselves different in the application process.

If we don’t believe that we deserve to be in the room, and I see this with women all the time, if we don’t believe that we deserve to be in the room, if we don’t believe we deserve to be interviewing there, we’re not going to do really well throughout the entire process. So, I think that there’s a huge mindset component that a lot of career coaches and just in the career space we don’t really talk about because it feels fluffy. We like strategy because it feels very practical, but I think you need both things married together to be successful in the job application process.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, hey, let’s say you don’t feel like you deserve to be interviewed, what do you do about that?

Jena Viviano
Yeah, I would say part of it comes down to, “What lies are you believing about yourself? And who told you that?” I see it with women all the time. I see women, I’ll be talking to a man on the phone, and I’ll be talking to a woman on the phone who’s interested in our services, and this literally just happened recently. I had a man on the phone who said, “I got let go from my job but in my next job, I want to be making $50,000 more.” And I have my female who says the complete opposite, “I got let go from my job. I’m okay if I’m only making $30,000 less than before.” This is the common narrative.

So, I think, first, part of it is for us as women, and men, to be unlearning the lies that we have believed that we’re not good enough, that we don’t have something to bring to the table because we haven’t spent the time to actually write through what is the value that we can bring and to reflect on our key accomplishments that we’ve had over the past year, five years, ten years, however long we’ve been in the industry for. So, that’s a very practical thing, is to actually sit down and reflect on your key accomplishments and what you’ve done.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And then, in so doing, I suppose you take a step back and go, “Hotdog! A lot of good stuff. Check it out.”

Jena Viviano
That’s part of it but I think part of it is acting, too. So, we’re talking about networking, we were talking about actually taking steps. Where a lot of people sit in the mind space of, “I’m not good enough.” Instead, we really need to be having conversations with people. We really need to be putting ourselves out there. And the more that you do that, the more comfortable you get with rejection. The more comfortable you get with rejection, the easier it becomes to continue to actually move forward. So, resilience is one of the top things I talk about a lot in my programs with my women, is, “You’ve got to be resilient throughout the process and know that there’s going to be rejection that happens. That means you’re doing something and you just got to keep pushing forward.”

Pete Mockaitis
Boy, I love that. And I’ll tell you I think one of the best experiences of my life was…so, I wrote a book in college, and I ended up self-publishing it. But before I chose that route, I reached out to all these publishers. And so, this is a little old-school, you know. So, I sent them the one-page query letter, just like the books told me to, and so I sent like 200 something of these out. And so then, to have that daily experience where day after day after day, I opened the physical mailbox and there’s, I don’t know, two, three, six letters back to me, and almost all of them say no again and again and again was just so valuable because it’s kind of like, for the hundredth time I’ve been rejected, and for the hundredth time I’m not dead. So, I highly recommend it. Getting rejected a ton. How else do we get over it?

Jena Viviano
I think a lot of people, we try to avoid it as much as possible. And so, then when it does happen, we really think we’re the worst things ever. But if you’re just used to getting rejected or just used to putting yourself out there and not getting the exact result that you wanted, it’s actually going to build that resilience and make you more confident. What I personally found in my own career and with other people that I’ve worked with, the more at that you get, the better opportunities that you have in the future.

I’ve seen this happen with one of our clients. She came to us and she didn’t really know what she had to offer. She literally couldn’t tell you. I asked her, “What do you do?” And she’s like, “I really have nothing.” And after our time working together, she really went through this mental transformation of realizing, “Oh, I’m actually good at what I do. Actually, what I do is differentiated from other people, and this is valuable to organizations.” She ended up getting an offer at another company, was going to be working for a leader that she really admired, was going to be making more money, and she, at that point, felt confident she was like, “No, I’m actually going to turn that down because I want to launch my business.” Like, that’s a level of confidence that I want to see most women have.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s cool.

Jena Viviano
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so we kind of skipped past the resume because that’s not the first thing to do and it’s not the end-all be-all, although it’s very concrete and specific. It feels like you did a thing when you’re done. But lay it on us a couple of do’s and don’ts for the resume to make it awesome.

Jena Viviano
I’d say the first don’t is don’t spend all your time doing it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Ooh, that’s a nice don’t.

Jena Viviano
Just don’t do it. Here’s the thing, your LinkedIn profile is like passive income, it works for you while you sleep. Your resume is only going to work for you when you submit it. So, we have all these people that are spending all this time tweaking their resume and updating it when a recruiter only looks at it for six seconds. So, yes, you need a solid resume. Does it need to share your accomplishments? Do you need to quantify as many things as possible to make it easier for that recruiter or hiring manager to understand how you’ve been able to bring value? Yes, yes, and yes. But the hours that I hear people are spending on their resume makes me nuts. I go nuts. So, I think the main thing would be just stop spending so much time and I would rather you spend more time engaging on LinkedIn, which is actually going to work in your favor.

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

Jena Viviano
No, I would say the big things is that if you’re thinking about making a job transition, start before you’re ready, start before you’re like, “I need to leave now.” And then I would say get yourself a plan. Don’t walk into this and try the do it yourself route. Really create a plan for yourself. Either get help from somebody or create a plan because no one ever taught you actually how to find a job. Our colleges, unfortunately, didn’t teach us how to do that. And so, by creating a plan and knowing the story that you want to tell about your own career, those are the two most important pieces to the puzzle.

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

Jena Viviano
Yeah, it’s actually from my dad. He said this to me when I was leaving investment banking and I was really upset, I felt like I was failing everybody, including myself and my boss, and he said, “You know, Jena, a company is only going to be as loyal to you as what makes financial sense for them. So, if you need to leave for health reasons or personal reasons, it’s okay.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that is very true. There may be some rare exceptions with small family-owned closely-held whatever organizations but for the most part it’s kind of like, “Oh, hey, the market dipped. Okay, 3,000 heads got to go, and you’re one of them.”

Jena Viviano
Yeah. And I think that we take it very personally because it is very personal but I think when we adopt that mindset, it also allows us as individuals to make choices and be strategic and take back our careers and quit waiting for an employer to tell us what’s next. We actually dare to take ownership of that.

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

Jena Viviano
Yeah, I would say right now I’ve done a lot this past year around rest and there is one book by a gentleman Alex, I’m going totally butcher his name, but it’s a blue book. I can picture it in my brain. And he talks about the rhythms of the most creative people and how rest is a huge part of that. And I took a two-month sabbatical this year and so I’ve just been really studying how rest can actually benefit us in our work.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. And, well, I was going to ask about a favorite book. It sounds it might be the resting book. But any others?

Jena Viviano
Yeah, I would say this is such a cheesy entrepreneurship one. The first one that got me introduced to entrepreneurship was The 4-Hour Workweek. I think that everybody’s but I love me some old-school Tim Ferris.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite tool?

Jena Viviano
Yeah, I love Loom.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, me too.

Jena Viviano
It’s fantastic. We use it for training videos. I’ll send a client something. We use it all the time. I love it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a favorite habit?

Jena Viviano
Yeah, morning routine. So, for me, it looks like getting up around 6:00 o’clock, it’s making my coffee, it’s having some quiet time with Morning Pages. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that. It’s basically writing freehand three pages of whatever is in my head, dumping it down. And then I’m a Christian so I read my Bible in the morning, and then I’m getting in the shower and getting ready to go to work.

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

Jena Viviano
Probably the “Don’t network when you need something.”

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

Jena Viviano
Yeah, RecruitTheEmployer.com is the best place to find all things me and Recruit the Employer.

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

Jena Viviano
Yes, I would say to take action today. So, pick one thing that we talked about, whether it’s figuring out your strategy, or you’re writing down an answer to an interview question, you’re networking with one person. Take one of the things that we talked about and start taking action today.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Jena, this has been a treat. Thank you. I wish you lots of luck in your adventures.

Jena Viviano
Thank you so much.

633: How to Get Unstuck, and Find Your Perfect Career Fit with Ashley Stahl

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Ashley Stahl says: "Clarity comes from engagement an it's never going to be from thought. You really can't think your way into clarity."

Ashley Stahl discusses how to find your dream career by getting clear on your core skills, values, and motivators.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The #1 reason why people end up exhausted in their careers
  2. How to identify your 3 core skillsets
  3. How to turn a bland job into a grand job

PLUS, we’re giving away copies of Ashley’s book to celebrate the new year! We’ll send copies to the first 24 listeners who share a link to this post on LinkedIn, along with their favorite nugget of wisdom from the episode. Don’t forget to tag both Pete and Ashley in your post!

About Ashley

Ashley Stahl is counter-terrorism professional turned career coach and author of the book You Turn: Get Unstuck, Discover Your Direction, Design Your Dream Career, and she’s on a mission to help you step into a career you’re excited about and aligned with. Through her two viral TEDx speeches, her online courses, her email list of 500,000 and her show, You Turn Podcast, she’s been able to support clients in 31 countries in discovering their best career path, upgrading their confidence and landing more job offers. 

She maintains a monthly career column in Forbes, and her work has been also featured in outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, CBS, SELF, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and more.

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you Sponsors!

Ashley Stahl Interview Transcript

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

Ashley Stahl
Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to spend this time with you.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, me too. Well, I’m excited to get into what you’ve got to say but, first, I want to hear a smidge about your background. Now, I noticed in your LinkedIn that you have experiences both working for the Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, California, as well as fighting terrorism, although separately. It’s not fighting terrorism with Arnold Schwarzenegger, which I’m sure he’s done in a number of movies. I couldn’t list them. So, do you have any pretty wild stories from either of these encounters?

Ashley Stahl
Oh, my gosh. I’m so excited you asked me this. Nobody’s ever asked me about this.

Pete Mockaitis
I love it when people say that.

Ashley Stahl
Well, first of all, I used to answer Arnold Schwarzenegger’s government phone calls and so I would always be that intern that’s like, “Office of the Governor,” and then you would get all sorts of people across the rainbow that would be calling in. And one of my most common calls were people who would kind of sound normal at the beginning, “Hi, I’m looking for Arnold Schwarzenegger,” I’m like, “Oh, I’m his intern. I can help you.” And then suddenly they would go straight into emulating him, and they go, “Get down, we have to get out of here.”

And I was in charge of the FBI logs to basically report people who are going crazy to make sure that they weren’t an actual threat to national security. So, I was constantly having to fill out my little log every day, like, “Irene called again from Florida, David from Venice Beach,” so I was reporting all sorts of people, and that was a crazy job.

As far as counterterrorism goes, working at the Pentagon at Washington, D.C., I wouldn’t say that I had funny experiences. I feel like the experience even getting into the Pentagon was a lot of failure for me, learning how to job hunt, which informed my entire career path, mastering the job hunt. But I think that was more of a serious time. And I came into the Pentagon when NATO was trying in Afghanistan in 2011, so it was much more of a tense environment at that time and a lot of heaviness.

Ashley Stahl
Even though the Pentagon was very serious, I will say that I was caught sitting at Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk asking another intern to take a picture of me to send to my mom, and I got in trouble by the head of the office and a couple of political appointees walked in right as I was doing that, so I definitely learned my lesson on respecting the situation at a young age.

Pete Mockaitis
Like, they haven’t done it.

Ashley Stahl
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
I mean, I couldn’t resist myself. I would, first, maybe. Okay. So, then these people who were just quoting Arnold Schwarzenegger, they had to be logged as threats, like, “Get down,” because that is…

Ashley Stahl
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Wow. So, by that standard he might have more threats than any other governor around because nobody else is going to call the governor of Illinois and say, “Get down.”

Ashley Stahl
Oh, look. Listen, one thing I’ve learned working in the government is that there will always be something else weird. Everybody is a special little snowflake working in government offices and they will get their share of weird constituent phone calls. I also went down to the bottom of the California building, downtown L.A., during my internship, and I would answer all of the protester grievances, so that was where I learned how to handle a lot of angry energy and kind of neutralized it and keep my people skills at bay, and those are just a couple of things.

Also, I used to get his mail, and that was the time when anthrax was a full-on trend, and so people would put baby powder in his mail to pretend that it was anthrax, which was terrifying. So, I was like the sacrificial lamb on the frontlines of the baby powder wanna-be-anthrax situation.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, man. Well, that’s a wild cross section of experience, so that just sort of sets the stage for you know a thing or two about careers, discovering direction, designing your dream career, and more. So, I was intrigued, so as we were emailing back and forth, you said, “I’ve got some stuff that your people have never heard before,” so, I’m intrigued.

Lay it on us. How do you think about career, strategy, job hunting, getting unstuck stuff differently than other career coaches out there?

Ashley Stahl
Yeah, I’m pretty unconventional. There’s so much content out around how to get a job, and how to master an interview, but there’s not a lot of people out there who are going against the grain.

Like, for example, one of the things I learned early on in my career in my 20s was don’t follow your passion. Passion is interesting. It’s valuable. It’s something to consider, but it will never be as important for your career path as your core skillset. Really taking a look at what are your natural talents, what are your natural gifts, and how does that inform your career. So, that belief system is just the basis of what I write about in my book or what I do on my podcast.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, okay. Well, then you talk about some core pieces in terms of core nature, core skillsets, core values, core motivations. How about we start with skillset? You’ve got a nice little listing. Tell us about it.

Ashley Stahl
Yeah, I have a list of 10 core skillsets because I think the answer for anybody who is feeling stuck, or unsure of what their next move is, or something is missing at work, is coming back home to who you really are. That’s the concept of making a you turn is reconnecting to yourself. And that comes back down to noticing where you’re innately talented.

And one of the things about your core skillset that can be kind of challenging is that it’s so obvious to you, it’s so natural to you, that it’s almost hard to notice that you have whatever that thing is as a skillset. So, one question I tell people to ask the people in their life, whether it’s their parents or their close friends or their colleagues…

So, when you ask somebody, “When have you see me at my best?” and I always tell people that it’s not going to be easy to tell that for yourself. It’s so much more helpful when you can collect that information from someone else so you can really take that in. And so that’s why I ask people to write their responses so that I can read them. And instead of asking them in a verbal conversation, I’ll have them text me back or something like that so I can have that information.

And then the question from there to ask yourself is, “What skillset am I using when people see me at my best?” Because here’s the truth of the matter, according to research both in dating and also with job hunting, oftentimes other people have a better sense of who you are than you do. And it’s not because we don’t know ourselves. It’s because it’s easy for someone else to neutrally see where we stand out. That might be obvious for us and not so obvious to the rest of the world, and we might not even realize that.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, that’s powerful. I think it really rings true in terms of when I’ve been amazed at the work of others, and I’ve said, “Oh, my gosh, this is so great.” They’ll say, “Well, it’s not a big deal. I just kind of cranked this out in like 20 minutes.” Often, it’s sort of like a design task because I’m not great at that, it’s like, “Oh, this is amazing. This is so gorgeous. How did you do it? It must’ve taken you forever.” They’re like, “No, just 20 minutes. I mean, it’s really no big deal.”

And so, I think that’s really true and that it comes so naturally to you that it doesn’t seem…you don’t feel victorious because it wasn’t hard, and so it doesn’t register and trigger like, “Oh, wow, I’m so proud of that thing I just did. I’m awesome at this,” because it was just that easy.

Ashley Stahl
Oh, yes. And I also think a lot of people kind of get stuck on this idea of clarity. Like, if I had a penny for everybody that said, “I need clarity,” you and I would just be on a private jet with your family right now living on an island or something, because the ultimate truth for me is that you don’t need clarity. You just need to reconnect to yourself. Hence, this concept of making a you turn.

So, the 10-core skillset—I’ll go through these for any of our note-takers—I think, really kind of bring you back to the question at the root of “Who are you really?” and then the realization that there are so many different versions and ways for you to truly harness that core skillset and use it in the world. So for example, right now on this podcast, if you notice, my core skillset is words.

And what’s really interesting to consider, as you look at your core skillset, is how many different ways there are to express your core skillset. So, in my case, words can look like many things. It can look like me being a speaker, an author. It could also look like me being a salesperson or a business development professional in the workforce. It could look like me being a real estate agent, a talent agent, because it’s all about I am turning words into money.

Another thing to really look through when you’re considering these 10 core skillsets, words just being one out of the 10, is asking yourself, “Am I introverted or am I extroverted?” because if you take at take a look at the words skillset alone, there are many different ways or versions to express that. The internal way of expressing it is as a writer, or a content creator, I mean, there are so many different ways, as an editorial strategist, whatever have you. But the external way of expressing the words core skillset is more of a speaker, a spokesperson. So I saddle both sides of the fence as a writer and also as a speaker, a podcaster with my own show, all of those things.

And so, it’s really key through that people ask themselves, first and foremost, as they’re looking at the core skillsets, “Am I an introvert or am I an extrovert?” And I know there’s a lot of research on being an ambivert, but I do think people tend to lean one way or the other.

So, would it be helpful for me to go through all 10?

Pete Mockaitis
Yes let’s do that.

Ashley Stahl
So, I can kind of just go through them for anybody who’s taking notes, kind of think about where they fit, and really start asking themselves, “Am I an introvert? Am I an extrovert? How do I want to express this?” So, the first one, other than words, which I already gave you, guys, is innovation. And you kind of want to think about this as an energy, not just a tactical skillset.

So, the innovation person is the intrapreneur, it’s the entrepreneur, it’s the creative self-starter, it’s the person who maybe maintains their own book of business throughout a company. It is somebody who is coming up with solutions for different problems. So, it’s really important if you think about innovation, you are probably the entrepreneur at heart or the highly-creative person.

The second core skillset is building. This one is very much so on energy. So, one way it can look is being a mechanic, a construction worker, a little bit more tactical. Another way it could look is a little bit more conceptual and concrete like a web developer or somebody who’s building out a website. So, there’s many different ways that you can harness these skills.

The third one is words, which was mine, and I talked to you guys about that one. And then the fourth one is motion. Motion, as a core skillset, is all about using your body, using your physical energy throughout the day. So, this could be as literal as a fitness professional, this could be like a masseuse, a tour guide, anybody who’s using their energy and their body throughout the day and being in a state of movement is the motion core skillset.

And then the fifth one is service. And there’s a lot that I have to say about this core skillset. The service core skillset is the humanitarian, the helper, the social worker, but the big challenge that I have with the service core skillset is a lot of people have different childhood wounds or upbringing challenges that kind of result in them thinking that they have a core skillset, when really all it is is a coping mechanism that they developed throughout their life.

And so, anybody who’s a service person, I always kind of pause and say, “Are you really a helper or is that just something you’ve learned? Are you just a people pleaser? Is this a coping mechanism?” So, it’s important with that particular one to ask yourself, and even any of them, to say, “Does this skillset come from a wounded place or an inspired place in my career?”

And the sixth one is coordination. God knows the world needs these people. These are the detail-oriented operations people, project managers, event coordinators. They make the world go around, make sure that we’re not dropping the ball. And then the seventh one is analysis. These are the people who have a gift for research, academia, the economists, even intelligence analysts, anything that involves you going deep and having that natural affinity to do that.

And then number eight is numbers. So, holler out to my number crunchers. This is kind of what it sounds, the bookkeeper, the accountant, the investment banker, the financial modeler. And then number nine is technology. This is the IT genius, the artificial intelligence visionary. And then the tenth one is beauty, and I love this one. These are the people who make art of the world around them whether they’re an interior designer, a jewelry designer. They have an eye for aesthetics and they have a capability of creating that.

So, like I said, all of these are expressed differently if you’re introverted or extroverted, and they also are just their own energy fields, and it really helps to kind of look at these when you ask, “When have you seen me at my best?” so that you can kind of take a look and say, “Oh, wow, everybody who’s seen me at my best is noticing that I’m in service when I’m at my best.” And kind of asking yourself, “Is that a default setting for you? Is that a natural place for you? Is that where you have a gift?” and not taking your gifts for granted because, far too often, we think where we’re great is just easy for everybody else.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s intriguing. As I run through this, I think I see three contenders for me. It could be innovation, it could be words, it could be analysis but I’m pretty sure it’s not any of the others.

Ashley Stahl
Yes. Well, you’re hitting on a really good point. Everybody tends to identify with three. Like, three is the magic number.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, all right. How about that?

Ashley Stahl
Yeah, anytime I’ve done this, the client, or somebody, the courses, or whatever have you, I hear somebody saying, “Oh, I think a few of these feel like me.” So, here’s a thing to know, your primary core skillset is what matters the most. That’s what you’re building your career off of. And this becomes really relevant when people say, “Should I stay? Should I go? Am I in the right job?” What I always say to that is, “Are you honing the core skillset that you want to carry with you throughout your career? Or, have you exhausted opportunity to grow?”

That’s the top consideration because you’re really carrying a skillset with you for your life. And you might express it in different ways and you use it in different ways, but when you really get that, you’re able to make career pivots or changes, and make sense of them when you go back to your skillset and really sync in to the next move you’re making, whether you’re talking to job interviews or hiring managers, being able to talk about how your core skillset relates to the next job you want, for example.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, I really love that that’s a very clear acid test in terms of, “Am I continuing to grow this or am I not?” And I think it’s kind of like the Golden Goose in terms of the long arch of a career, that’s what you go to have going. Otherwise, if your skills are atrophying then you may very well be less valuable three, five years from now than when you started, which is not the direction you want to go in. Ideally, you’ll be increasingly super valuable, indispensable with the associated compensation and fun responsibilities growing all the way until your retirement part.

Ashley Stahl
You know what’s so amazing about what you’re sharing is I recently read some data that was saying every five years, one of your skills becomes completely obsolete in the workforce. And I’m aware that by 2025, about 16% of job titles don’t even exist yet. So, that’s been really relevant especially for Generation Z who’s transitioning into the workforce now to know that there’s a lot of jobs that are about to become available that we haven’t even heard of, and it’s so important to stay aware of that. And, yet, our core skillset has many different ways of expressing itself when you know what that is.

And kind of going back to you saying you have three core skillsets, it’s about deciding which one are you uniquely brilliant in, how do you want to lead with it. And I will say that they all kind of do come up with this cocktail where it’s like let’s say motion and innovation are your core skillset, you can kind of think, “Okay, innovation and motion, maybe we’re going to get a fitness influencer, somebody who creates a business and kind of honors motion throughout the business with their fitness side of thing.”

So, it is kind of fun to play with that and do the combinations with yourself, but it’s still important to know. And that’s one of the number one reasons people are exhausted in their work is because they’re not working within their core skillset or most of their days in a different skillset.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I’m curious, if you’re frequently working with clients, folks identify three, how do you push forward to zero in on the one?

Ashley Stahl
I think intuition is a really big deal and just your body, like, really tuning into your body. So, for example. I gave a TED Talk recently. I was talking about how there’s 200 million, if not more, neurons in your gut, which is why it’s called the second brain right now. And when you think about that, that’s the size of a cat or dog’s brain. And so, there’s an intelligence to you having a sinking feeling in your stomach. There’s an intelligence to having butterflies in your stomach.

So, one thing that I really ask people is about what experiences they’ve had at work even if they hate their job that they didn’t mind or that they kind of likes, and I pay attention to their body language and how their energy frees up or their voice to see where they’re getting energy. Because one of the slippery slopes I think people take in their career is they work in a zone of goodness and not in their zone of genius. And when they do that, maybe they’re working in their secondary or third core skillset, they’re really missing that juice of who they really can be in their work.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, that’s handy as I think about it. For me, innovation is leaping forward because I just think about the podcast, you know. The analysis and research is a means to an end of we’re evaluating you, Ashley, and seeing, “Okay, does she have good stuff?” and so we’re using deep research in terms of like the verdicts, “Do we invite Ashley and do we pass?” And then the words, in terms of, “How do we…? What’s the title? What’s the teaser?” I mean, that just sort of we need to do that to make it kind of compelling. But what I’m loving most is the discovery, like, “Holy crap, what you say is true and I didn’t know it before. I love this,” and it lights me up, and the research and the words are kind of a means to that end.

Ashley Stahl
Yeah. Well, you know what’s so amazing about the truth is I don’t necessarily think the truth is something that people learn. I think it’s something you kind of recognize. Like, how many times has somebody said something, and all of you is like, “Yes.” It’s almost like they put words to what you knew and you couldn’t express.

And I think that’s what so powerful for me about being an author is that it’s kind of like that person that has an autoimmune condition and they’re shopping for doctors trying to get an answer, and they have this illness, and they just want to know what it is, and even if they finally get the news and it’s horrible news, there’s still such a relief to knowing what it is and knowing what you’re working with. And I think that’s the gift that we, as authors or podcast hosts, get to give the world, if words are our core skillset, as we get to put words to things that people haven’t been able to vocalize, and there’s such a healing and a harmony that we can create for people with that.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s true. Yeah. You know, I remember, what’s coming to mind is there’s I think it’s an audiobook publisher, Sounds True, and it’s like, “That’s just the best brand.” If I will start an audiobook publishing house, that’s the name I would’ve wanted but they already took it, because it sounds true. And that’s often how it feels when you’re engaged in a conversation. It’s like something lights up inside you, it’s like, “I don’t have the hard data but that sounds very right and true and, yes, internally.”

Ashley Stahl
Yeah. And, you know, what you’re sharing, also it’s really important for anybody listening to realize, like some of us are kind of cut off from our bodies. We don’t feel our feelings. We don’t feel what feels good. And so, anybody who’s kind of going through that as they’re listening to you and I talk about the truth, it’s like your only assignment, if you can’t feel where you’re expanding or contracting inside and where you’re feeling pulled to in those breadcrumb moments where you’re getting little nudges is just to start paying attention to what feels good. Start paying attention to where your energy is good. Start asking people where they’ve noticed your energy get really good. I think that’s just a starting point is leaning on the people around you that you can count on to educate you on when they’re noticing you really shine because it’s tough.

And, yet, one of the biggest barriers to figuring out what you want to do is listening to everybody and not even listening to yourself anymore. So, I think walking that line is a big deal.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, hey, that’s awesome. We talk about core skillsets. We’ve also got core nature, core values, core motivations. Can you give us just maybe your favorite tactic to get a good kernel of insight into each of these?

Ashley Stahl
Yeah, I would say your core nature is really about the energy you bring to the room. And I actually talk about this in the first chapter of my book before I get to core skillset because I think it’s the foundation. So, one question to ask people who know you is, “How does the room change when I walk in? How would you describe my presence in the room?” When you’re able to ask that question and start to kind of collect the adjectives that you get from people around you, you’ll start to see a trend.

For anybody who knows me really well, they’re going to say the room gets lighter because I have a sense of humor and I’m a joker, and so people start to kind of laugh when I walk in because I’m kind of a goofball, stuff like that. And when you start to notice that, you can ask yourself, “Okay, here’s the top three, or four, or five adjectives I’m seeing people describe me as. This is my essence. This is my nature. This is me when I’m me.” And when you look at that, it’s like, “Who do you know in your life that has a similar nature or energy to you?” And from there, you can kind of look at different career paths that people in your life have or that you’re aware of, and you can start to say, “Okay, these are my different career options. Now, let me get clear on what my core skillset so I don’t go into a career that demands my energy but isn’t using my core skill.” So, I think your skillset is really a filter for your options.

And, from there, I would say your core values are a really big deal, and that’s something I wrote about in another chapter because there’s two dynamics in people’s career at any given moment. The first dynamic is the what of what they’re doing. That comes down to their core skillset, their job title, how they’re bringing their energy into work and what their responsibilities look like. The other side is the how of how your job looks. Given that 50% of people leave their job because they don’t like their boss, the research is in, how your job looks matters just as much as what your job is, and that comes back to your core values.

So, I think everybody has maybe five core values. And I try to tell people don’t go for much more than that, don’t choose many more than that because it’s hard to juggle that in your career. But I hold core values as foundational, fundamental, non-negotiable principles by which you live your life. And when you can start to tune into what your core values are, you can see those as a filter for what companies or people that you want to work with.

You know, I had a client who was a lawyer, and a lot of her core skillset and core nature pointed to being a lawyer, and there are many options that I pointed to but lawyer made sense. And when we got down to it, we realized that it was really a core values issue because balance was one of her core values, and she was a mergers and acquisitions lawyer, which means that when there’s a deal that’s live, you don’t go to bed, and she doesn’t see her kid or her family. And so, we ended up making the decision for her to change over to family law, and that completely changed her life. There’s a process for her to do that. Now, she’s very 9:00 to 5:00. She loves being a lawyer again and she has that balance.

And so, I think for anybody who feels like something is missing in their career, often what’s missing is a core value or you’re not working within your core skillset. Those are two things to consider. And when people are radically unhappy in their career, viscerally unhappy, usually what’s happening is a core value is not just missing but it’s being violated or trespassed upon. So, getting clear on those core values and your core nature, your core skillsets, those are three steps in my 11-step roadmap to making a you turn.

And I could go on about this stuff forever but, hopefully, everybody listening can kind of take that time to look at their core values. And those are words like family, balance, authenticity, love, connection, self-expression. These are all core values as possibilities.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, core values have come up a few times on the show. And what’s your pro tip in terms of if folks kind of have an idea, like, “Ah, this is probably one and that’s probably another. But then, beyond that, who knows?” How do you recommend you go get those clear?

Ashley Stahl
We get this advice in dating. Pick somebody that has…and I love comparing job hunting to dating because there’s so many parallels it’s crazy. But we get the advice of pick somebody who shares the same values as you. But here’s the truth of the matter. Everybody’s value can look different.

I had a client who told me that her core value was adventure. And I had another client, he told me it was adventure. When I asked the woman, who lived in New York City, I said, “What does adventure look like for you?” she said, “It means trying new restaurants in New York.” Okay, great. That’s adventure for her. When I asked the other guy, “What does adventure mean for you?” he said, “Skydiving.” So, we’ve got completely different ways of expressing the core values. So, I think that’s really important, not just to write down a word that means something for you but asking yourself, “How am I showing up in this word? What does it look like for me?”

And I think one of the most slippery slopes of core values is people are too aspirational when they’re choosing their core values. So, you’re saying that this comes up a lot on the show, but I think one thing that I don’t hear often is the phenomenon that people think that something is a core value when, really, it’s just something they want more of in their life, and that’s really valuable to know what you want more of but it’s not a core value. A core value is what is the non-negotiable ingredient to who you are, and you know you have a core value when if you remove that word, you’re not you.

Pete Mockaitis
So, yes, core value, non-negotiable. So, we reflect on it. And what else in terms of arriving at it? It’s not just something you want more of, but it’s something that is a non-negotiable must-have.

Ashley Stahl
Yes. So, the thing about core values is that, far too often, people are picking words that they want to be more of and not words that they are. You know something is a core value where if you take away that word, you’re not you anymore. So, humor is a core value for me. If you remove humor, I’m not here anymore. I’m not me. That’s when you know you’ve hit a core value.

I had a client who wrote peace as one of her core values, and I’m like, “Hmm, you’re not the most peaceful. I don’t know if this is a core value for you.” And she ended up totally agreeing with me. So, I think it’s important to be really honest with yourself when you’re choosing your words. Look at what they actually mean for you. Get curious for the opportunities in your life, how those core values are manifesting for the other person or for a company, let’s say, if you’re not. Maybe in your love life, you look at what it means for your partner. Maybe in your career, you look at what that looks like for the company you’re at and how your job is going to play a role in that.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, I guess to distinguish, core value is a fundamental non-negotiable thing that you got to have in life or a thing. And your core nature is just sort of like your essence, your you-ness, your “What do I feel when you enter the room?”

Ashley Stahl
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
Any further distinction?

Ashley Stahl
No, I think you’ve got it. Your core nature is your vibes, how the vibe is you bring to the room. Your core values are your principles, and your core skillset is your gift. And if you can really take a look at those three things, you are so much further ahead than so many people in your career. And I think a lot of people are in careers right now that maybe aren’t working for them. And if that’s the case, there’s this really cool field called job crafting, and it’s all about taking a bland job and turning it into a grand job. I love saying that because it’s so ridiculous.

[33:28]

But, really, that’s what it is. It’s taking a look at your core skillset, and saying, “How do I ask my manager…?” or if you’re a business owner, “How do I carry this into my business and initiate a project that allows me to kind of morph what I’m doing in that direction?” So, let’s say you’re working in tech but you want to be a writer. How can you ask your boss for the permission to take initiative on a project that allows you to be a little bit more of a writer but still provide extraordinary value to your company? So, I think job crafting is a really big deal if you’re not currently working in your core skillset. And I do think that people who aren’t working in their core skillset, or honoring their core values, is an explanation for why so many people are unhappy at work.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, you got one more. Core motivations. What’s the story here?

Ashley Stahl
Yeah, there is so much to core motivator. And one of the things that I’ve learned as I was writing the book is that everybody, obviously, is motivated by something else. So, one way to kind of tune in to your core motivator is in your job interviews, really asking yourself, “How does this manifest for me?” So, I’ll go through, there’s ten just like the core skillset, if it’s helpful for me to go through all ten.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure.

Ashley Stahl
Okay, cool. So, number one is meaning. This is about people doing work that really aligns with a spiritual purpose. So, this could look like aligning your core skillset and your core values with a very deep sense of personal mission. Number two is about optimal health. So, this is about work that supports your health or your physical wellness. This is why you see certain people who are probably the motion core skillset. They’re motivated by doing something every day that comes with their health. The third core motivator is time. So, this is work that allows you time freedom or flexibility. This is a career that gives you a sense of control over how you’re spending your time, and it’s a huge motivator for people whether you’re in a job interview. You want to take these motivators and ask questions that allow you to get insight on whether that need will be met.

Number four is impact. This is work you know is changing the world or making a difference. I think what’s really interesting about the impact people is that impact might not show up in how their day-to-day job looks. It’s a conceptual backdrop to their job. And what’s so important about that is that their responsibilities and what they’re doing might not be tied to the actual impact it’s having, but just knowing that they’re doing something that’s making the world better, they’re a little tiny cog in a much bigger important wheel, is enough for them. That’s what motivates them.

And the fifth one is visibility. So, in the influencer space, I’m sure you’ve interviewed plenty of us where it’s work that grants you prestige or recognition. This is a career that gives you validation. And, obviously, if you’re not checking yourself, it’s really a wounded motivator unless you kind of take care of yourself and just know this about yourself.

And then the sixth one is accomplishment. So, this is for the people who are very motivated by checking things off a list. They like to feel a sense of completion. This is the career person that loves deadlines, they love that dopamine hit when they get an achievement. It gives them a sense of motion and completion and gratification.

And then number seven is training. So, this is work that actually allows you to learn as you do it. I would say that you’re probably somewhat motivated by that just being a podcast host, and same with me with my podcast. I love to learn. And then number eight is ease. And, actually, I love the ease people, like they crack me up because the person who can own that as a motivator, there’s something very refreshing about how honest they are that they want work that allows them comfort, which means it helps them avoid shame, or fear, or failure, anxiety, whatever it is. It’s a career based on simplicity. Doing work that you feel competent doing without much challenge to your growth. So, this is for the person who’s very motivated by easy times and just getting by without much thought on their career.

And then number nine is spending. So, this is work that you’re motivated to spend money in your work or save it or keep it. Some people are literally just motivated by the pursuit of money, and I think there’s a lot of judgment on those people, but I think there’s something really amazing and inspiring about someone that can say, “I just want to make a lot of money, and that’s what I’m motivated to do.”

In personal development, I think there’s a lot of challenges to that statement that there’s something below the desire for money and what is that really about. But I actually have found in my work as a career expert the past decade, and that’s really what I’ve put into the book that I wrote was just all of the interviews and surveys I’ve done. Some people naturally just enjoy what money brings to their life to a level where they’re not needing much else. This is what motivates them.

And then number ten is self-expression. So, this is work that grants you the freedom to channel your emotions and ideas, and bring them to light. So, this is a career that really leads with creating through your feelings and through your ideas. This is definitely something that motivates me.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, can you contrast, for me, meaning versus impact?

Ashley Stahl
Yes. So, meaning, when you really look at that one, what’s different about it from impact is that it’s something that is more aligned with a spiritual purpose. It’s your own sense of mission. It’s more self-focused. So, somebody who’s seeking meaning, it’s about them. Somebody who’s seeking impact, it’s about the world.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And what’s interesting about ease is I was thinking about David Allen, Getting Things Done. He’s been on the show a couple of times and he said, “If you ever had a crank widget job in which you got a bunch that needed cranking, a widget crank, a widget cranker, that’s a job, is you just do that and then you’re done.” It’s like, “At the end of the workday, you’re not at all thinking about the widgets and the cranking. It’s just like not there.”

And so, ease, in some ways it doesn’t mean like you’re lazy or you’re a bum. It just means like I’m thinking about farmers and some of them have very long, very demanding workdays, but in a way there’s some ease in terms of, “I don’t need to think or worry about what I need to do, which is very clear. Those cows need to be milked, that field needs to be plowed, and so I’m just going to do that and roll with it. I don’t have to agonize over the political stakeholders and how I’m going to appease all of them and their complex interrelationship struggles and conflicts. I’m just going to do the thing that really needs to be done now,” and so that’s a variety of ease.

Ashley Stahl
Exactly. And I’m really inspired by these people because I find that we live in a world where it’s really easy to be complicated. It’s actually so much harder to be simple, and these people have it down. And a lot of the work that they do in this category is very meditative, it flows, it’s easy. They’re not the people who are wanting to necessarily grow in their work. Maybe they’re growing in some other area of their life, and they’re just not motivated by that in their job.

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

Ashley Stahl
Yeah, I would say the final thing that we didn’t cover because there’s just so much, I mean, having written a 300-page book on it, is people’s interest. I think a lot of people get lost on how to figure out where to put their interest in their career. And if there’s any advice I could give to anybody listening, your interest is really your backdrop.

So, for example, I love cupcakes, and that doesn’t mean that I am going to be a baker of cupcakes. There’s a difference between loving to consume something and being meant to produce something. And so, if you have an interest and you want to bring it into your career, first think about your core skillset, how you’re spending your time and doing your day, then think about your interest more as the backdrop that you’re doing it in. So, if you love travel, maybe you’re going to work at a five-star hotel, but what’s more important is how you use your skillset.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that adds up in terms of, “I think I’m passionate about coffee.” It’s like, “Well, I mean, drinking coffee is very different from…”

Ashley Stahl
That doesn’t mean you need to be a coffee-maker.

Pete Mockaitis
“…making coffee, selling coffee, consulting coffees shops.”

Ashley Stahl
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
You might hate those things, and then just enjoy drinking coffee when you’re there, and that’s all.

Ashley Stahl
Exactly.

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

Ashley Stahl
A favorite quote. I love Rumi’s quote, “Act or live as if the universe is rigged in your favor.” I have found that that quote has given me so much peace at times where whatever is happening for me in my career or my life, I can’t make sense of it, I always trust that there’s something working in my favor, and it just hasn’t been revealed to me yet.

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

Ashley Stahl
I found a bit of research from Stanford, and I’ve struggled to find it ever since. I think I read it in a scholarly journal or something like that. But, recently, I read that 84% of your best ideas don’t come at work. That was by Stanford, and I love that because it’s such a reminder of how important it is for us, I mean, all of us are innately creative beings to create white space outside of our work and stop getting into that addictive pattern of booking ourselves back-to-back-to-back not allowing for that genius to come through in our day-to-day lives.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, I like that. When I slack off at work and I feel guilty, I just tell myself, “This is part of my creative process.”

Ashley Stahl
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
And there’s the hard data to back it up. So, thank you. More of that. And how about a favorite book?

Ashley Stahl
I mean, obviously, I have to say my own book You Turn, but if that is not self-serving enough, I could say my favorite book and the person that motivated me to be a writer in the first place and really influenced the way that I write is The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.

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

Ashley Stahl
I absolutely love Insight Timer app. There are some meditations. There’s a woman on there, named Sarah Blondin, and she has free meditations, and I always put my noise-cancelling earphones on, and I completely turn off the world for 10 minutes, and her meditations get me so grounded in my work. I always do it before a really, really big meeting.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Ashley Stahl
My favorite habit is probably fitness, and that’s something that’s brand new. I hate that I’m saying it because it feels really trite but it was really hard for me to get into fitness. I hired a personal trainer. It’s kind of forced me to exercise a few times a week, and I’m really proud of that because it’s given me such a level of new focus and energy in my day, and I’m so glad I’m doing that.

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

Ashley Stahl
Yeah, one thing I’ve said often is clarity comes from engagement, and it’s never going to come from thought. You really can’t think your way into clarity. So many people are sitting there, marinating, and engagement can look like so many things. It can look like as simple as reading my book or anybody’s book or listening to this podcast. It can also look like taking another job and trying it on.

Far too often, people hold their careers too heavily and they slow themselves down for making decisions. And what I think with this is I walked into the Pixar offices a while back, and I saw a big sign on the wall that said, “Fail faster.” And what I loved about that was that, to me, is the sign of a good career. If somebody who’s willing to be experimental to lighten their energy towards their career and engage in some way even if it means taking something that feels pretty big.

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

Ashley Stahl
I would say, right now, we have a bundle of courses and you can order my book at YouTurnBook.com or else you could hit me up on Instagram @ashleystahl.

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

Ashley Stahl
Yeah, I’d shamelessly have to say I hope that they read the book. I mean, it’s everything I’ve collected over a decade of work with thousands of job seekers in my courses. And it has been such a labor of love and soul. And if they don’t read the book, I would say at least re-listen to this podcast episode and take some notes on your core skillsets so that you can carry that with you into your career.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Ashely, this has been fun. I wish you lots of luck and many unstuck moments.

Ashley Stahl
Thank you so much.

626: Mastering the 2-Hour Job Search That Generates Dream Interviews with Steve Dalton

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Steve Dalton says: "You got to get comfortable with turning strangers into advocates."

Steve Dalton details his systematic process for securing dream interviews.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to generate 40 target employers in 40 minutes 
  2. Three effective ways to reach out to potential advocates 
  3. The 6 crucial elements of the 75-word networking email 

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

Steve Dalton
It’s my pleasure to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to dig into your wisdom. But, first, I want to hear you consumed zero carbs for a six-year period of time. Why and how and what happened here?

Steve Dalton
Desperate times, desperate measures. This was just right around when I’d finished writing The 2-Hour Job Search, I pulled my hamstring, I’m an avid soccer player, and was still eating like I was playing soccer all the time and packed on some pounds pretty quickly. So, drastic measures had to be put in place. I had just finished reading The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferris, who walks through kind of kind his slow carb plan, and took off a bunch of weight right away but I loved how binary his diet was. There was stuff you could eat, and stuff you could not eat, and stuff you could eat, you could eat in any quantity. So, it’s very simple. There was no food anxiety. And then he had a cheat day every week waiting for you on Saturdays, which was the most glorious day ever every week. Christmas every week basically.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so, then with zero carbs, I mean, don’t you just feel miserable? Tell me.

Steve Dalton
Initially, yes, but then you get used to not having sugar rushes and crashes. Your whole affect mellows out. I liked it so much that even after I lost the weight in the first three months, I decided to stay on it for six years just because I liked how much simpler it made living and food decisions.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, well. So, you liked simplicity and you talked about The 4-Hour Body, but we’re talking about your book “The 2-Hour Job Search.” Now, that also seems so good to be true. What is it exactly that we’re able to accomplish in two hours of job searching?

Steve Dalton
Great question. And this is something that people get wrong. Sometimes they think the 2-hour job search, “I’ll have a job in two hours,” or the 2-hour job search, “I need to do two hours of job searching every night,” and that’s neither of those things. It’s the amount of time that it would take you, starting from scratch, if your boss tells you, “Steve, you’re fired. Start looking for a job right now.” If it is 5:00 p.m., by 7:00 p.m. you will be done for the day. Any additional effort would be extraneous, any less effort would be insufficient.

But in that two hours, you can structure a strategic job search from scratch, come up with an adequate list of targets, put them in a logical order of attack, and initiate your first batch of outreach. After that first two hours, you simply need the help of others to make any further progress.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, there you have it. So, let’s dig into all of that. So, we are figuring out what we’re after, the targets, we’re doing the outreach, and then after that we have to start talking to other humans to get some insights and input and to see where the path unfolds, huh?

Steve Dalton
Yes. Nothing is arbitrary. But after that first two hours, the amount of work you do in a given day is truly driven by your response rate back from the people that you reach out to. And there’s if-and-then statements for every step of the process from that point forward. I can give exact instructions after that first two hours. And even for the first two hours, the majority of that two hours will be implementing and structured rather than creatively curating a bunch of tips. It’s more like a recipe than a list of ingredients.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, sure thing. All right. Well, could you maybe start us off by telling us an inspiring story of someone who followed this process and saw good things happen?

Steve Dalton
I think my favorite story of this, of someone implementing this process, this attendee at one of my sessions, had applied for a job online and didn’t hear back right away. So, he heard about this book, picked it up, and started following The 2-Hour Job Search process. So, he reached out to a contact at the company, did an informational meeting. That led to a referral to another meeting who did screening interviews which he passed. Got to the second-round interview, got to the final interview, got the offer and got the phone call from the company, and he was delighted. And the whole process took him about a month or a month and a half.

The day after he got his phone call offer, he got the automated email response from the company’s website, saying, “I’m sorry. There’s no match for you right now. We’ll keep your resume on our database for future reference.” He was two entirely different candidates just by being the same exact person. When you go through online job postings, you are a different candidate fundamentally than when you take an advocacy-based job search approach.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, that’s quite the distinction. Please unpack that. So, advocacy-based versus online, how do each of them look, sound, feel in practice?

Steve Dalton
I equate the modern online job posting job searches fishing for fish in a poorly stocked pond where if you spend eight hours fishing today, and you don’t catch anything, you are no closer to catching a fish tomorrow when you go back out towards that lake and start fishing over again. You start over again, it’s a raffle ticket that didn’t pay off so you have to buy more raffle tickets.

I equate the two-hour job search or, more generally, an advocacy-based job search to fishing for lobster. Lobster don’t swim up to the hooks, so you buy cages that you bait and you check the cages every day or two to see if you caught anything. That we never know with certainty that any particular lobster cage will ever catch you a lobster but you do know with certainty the more cages that you have baited in the water, the better your odds are of catching a lobster eventually, so your odds improve over time. Eight hours spent procuring or creating cages and checking on them in the water, your odds of catching that lobster go up over time as opposed to being just eight hours spent furiously marching in place, like that same amount of time spent applying online to job postings.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, walk us through here. So, two hours, we’re buckling down, we’re making it happen, we’re going to make some cages and bait them and set them. What are we doing?

Steve Dalton
First thing is we got to come up with an adequate consideration set. I’m a big TV nut, I’m also very sensitive to awkwardness, but I do like to start off my talks and use this analogy in the book, of “The Bachelor,” the TV show, the TV phenomenon. It’s much better to be the bachelor on “The Bachelor” than one of 25 contestants vying for the bachelor.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, absolutely.

Steve Dalton
Like, the bachelor got on the show called “The Bachelor,” hats off to you, sir. That’s well-played. I don’t understand why a woman would go on that show or why a guy would go on “The Bachelorette” though because supply is restricted, demand is stimulated, there’s an opportunity costs, you got to give up several months of normal dating, so there’s so much bad about that.

So, step one is taking yourself out of that one-of-25-contestants over and over mindset. And the way that you do that is you come up with an adequate consideration set. We brainstorm many employers. When people don’t have a systematic way to brainstorm target employers, they tend to just come up with the first few that come to mind and that becomes the entirety of their list but that doesn’t take away what I call artificial desperation.

Artificial desperation is where you have an artificially small consideration set. Where you need every conversation or every employer to work out because you don’t have enough backups to give you that confidence, that laissez-faire attitude that the bachelor can take into being exactly on the show called “The Bachelor.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, exactly. “Hey, this day doesn’t work out. It’s all good. There’s 24 more.”

Steve Dalton
Exactly right. Exactly right. Yet I see very smart people go into their job searches under that “I’m one of 25” assumption over and over and over again. After you do that enough times, you’ll get used to people treating you poorly and ignoring you. That takes a toll on your confidence. And once you start admitting that desperation, your prospects for success diminish greatly.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, then we need a larger set, not just, “Hey, a four or five.” Like, “Hey, I know four or five consulting firms or insurance agencies, so that’s it,” but rather many more. And so, you say there’s a structured brainstorming approach to build that list way out. What is it?

Steve Dalton
The technique is called the LAMP list. So, LAMP, I’m a former strategy consultant so there’s acronyms for lots of steps here. The L is for the list of employers itself, the first step of the LAMP list-making process, which in total takes 70 minutes, is to come up with a list of 40 employers in 40 minutes. That’s a little bit overwhelming so we split that into four different 10-minute chunks, four different brainstorming methods, 10 minutes each.

Once we have that consideration set then we find three pieces of data, the A, M, and P in LAMP, for advocacy, motivation, and postings, that are easy to find and predictive of success. And that takes the balance of the remaining 30 minutes of the 70-minute process. Once we have that raw data in there, we can sort the list so that we can identify our top six based on data. We’ll tweak that top list for our own intuition.

Once we have that top six identified, we initiate outreach to that top six simultaneously so that we are the bachelor in our own job search where we’re juggling multiple employers off of each other and we don’t become overly invested in any single one.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Steve, you have boiled this down to a mechanized science. This is impressive. So, let’s dig into a bit of detail here. So, yeah, let’s say we’re brainstorming here. I want to get 40 employers listed in 40 minutes. How do I go do that?

Steve Dalton
I recommend four different brainstorming methods. So, the first is the brain dump, the dream employer method, I call it. So, all those employers you thought, “I need to do a job search. Here are the ones I want to obsess over. I want to voluntarily become fixated on them like one of 25 contestants obsesses over the bachelor.” Write those down. Get them out of your head onto paper because they’re going to probably be in your top six but we need to brainstorm beyond them now. So, dream employer method.

If you can come up with a name for what those employers have in common, you can Google it. A list of strategy consulting firms, a list of companies headquartered in Lincoln, Nebraska, whatever kind of drove you to come up with that handful. A lot of people, I’ll give them 30 seconds to a minute to do this live in my talks. They’ll come up with anywhere between two or three on the low end and 10 to 15 on the high end. So, some people are already a quarter of the way there in that first minute, but then we can use Google to extrapolate beyond that.

The second method is the alumni method or the advocacy method. So, find a database of people who share a background with you, whether it’s a school you most recently attended or maybe the transitioning veteran community if you’re coming out of the military, and see where people like you are now currently employed, to brainstorm these employers a different way.

Pete Mockaitis
So, database like your school alumni database or LinkedIn grouping of sorts.

Steve Dalton
Absolutely, both of those.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Steve Dalton
The third is kind of the intuitive, the Indeed.com method, the posting method. So, let’s look up postings where they’re looking for people just like you. The catch is we’re not going to apply to these postings because those are blackholes. We’re going to use those to identify employers that are expecting to hear from you, people like you right now. It’s just a different way to brainstorm employers that you may not have come up with using the other two methods.

And the fourth and final one is the trend method. So, read for fun for 10 minutes. Whatever kind of professional adjacent reading that you do, do that. But anytime you come across an organization doing interesting work, recognize that that’s a potential employer and you found it doing something you do organically. Warning for free, in your spare time, I want to find a way to get you paid for that. So, those are the four different methods to come up with 40 employers or more in 40 minutes.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And I guess what’s interesting is, as you dig in, I could see them multiplying a few ways. Like, sometimes I like to play with NAICS Codes, the North American Industry Classification System. If you have access to a database like, well, back in the day it was OneSource Business Browser but I think, maybe, Hoovers is where it’s at these days, perhaps. So, you can sort of enter in the code and then see others. Or, you go to LinkedIn and see one person who’s in a role at a firm, and go figure the people also looked at also tend to be people who are on other firms.

So, can you tell us, what are some of your other favorite ways that just multiply, “Hey, I have five and I Googled, I looked at a database”? Are there any particular tactics that are just like “This is stupid easy to get a big list fast”?

Steve Dalton
My favorite is a tool called Crunchbase. It’s actually an investor’s website but it’s brilliant at helping job seekers brainstorm employers quickly all for free. So, you have to accept that they’ll only show you the first five results of whatever search you do, but the first five results, you can just find an industry and pick that one company that you know you really want to work for, look it up, and Crunchbase, it’ll give you a handful of industry names for it. Are you interested in Betterment because it’s impact-investing or is it because it’s a fintech company, for example? Click on whichever industry level you find most compelling and then narrow it down to just “fintech companies based in California” if you know you need to stay in the West Coast.

So, you can use three filters for free and it will keep showing you the first five results for free over and over and over again if you slightly change your search terms. But what I love about this approach is it gives you a very Tinder-like interface. It keeps suggesting employers to you as many of which you’ve never heard of but it gives you this nice one-sentence description where they’re based. And if you see something you like, you swipe right, you put it in your Add Column. If you see something you don’t like, you swipe left and you never think about it again. But I love how free and elegant and practical and applied that Crunchbase can make the act of brainstorming employers.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, Crunchbase is good. And that also gets me thinking about just like the Fortune or Global 500 or 1000 list for kind of the biggies, or the Inc. 5000 list for high growth, and, yeah, so I hear you. What previously sounded like maybe too good to be true, 40 employers in 40 minutes, now sounds kind of easy. So, thank you.

Steve Dalton
A pleasure.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, we’ve got our list. What next?

Steve Dalton
Okay. So, we found our three pieces of data. Once we found our three pieces of data, a key tenet of the LAMP list is the assembly line approach, “Let’s do the same task over and over and over again in rapid succession to get some efficiency on it.” So, let’s figure out which of these employers do you have alumni from your most recent organization, be it the military or be it your most recent school? It’s just a simple yes or no.

The next column is your own motivation. How motivated are you to reach out to these employers knowing that the majority of people you reach out to are going to ignore you? Do you have the desire to keep trying though? And then the posting column, let’s see how relevant their current job postings are to see how urgent each individual employer, out of your 40 or more, is. Now we can put them into a logical order of attack. Motivation, we sort by first, then by postings, then by alumni, and we see these are what the data our top six should be.

Now, we use our intuition, “Do we want to switch that top six around?” so, we can fudge the results a little bit. I want people to be anchored by data not intuition. Once they’re anchored by data, then they can override with intuition to their hearts’ content. Then, once we’ve got that top six, then it’s time to identify promising-looking contacts and initiate our outreach.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And how do I do that?

Steve Dalton
A great question. So, for each of these top six employers, now we can drill down a little bit. I have a hierarchy for how to choose promising-looking contacts. First and foremost, you’ve got target people who are functionally relevant, people who have the job you want right now or want one day, ideally one to two levels above you. But when I wrote the book, initially, back in 2012, I recommended kind of that alumni connection over functional relevance but now reach out to people who have the job you want. This process is built around doing informational meetings efficiently and it’s really hard to do a good informational meeting with someone whose job you don’t really care about and you don’t really want to learn more about. So, you’ve got to start with that functional relevance piece.

Then, if you have lots of options, choose an alum. If you still lots of options, choose someone one, two levels above where you would start. If you still have lots of options, choose somebody who’s been promoted while at that company because they’ve got more social capital to spend on behalf of a job seeker.

Pete Mockaitis
And when you say lots of options, am I just going into LinkedIn to see the lineup of human faces and names? Is that where I’m going?

Steve Dalton
Yes, absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Steve Dalton
LinkedIn is a great tool for this if you are savvy enough to access their all filter search. The best way to get to it is just click on that top box in LinkedIn, don’t type anything in, just hit Enter. That’ll bring up a ribbon at the top that will ask you to fill in some filters. If you go all the way to the right of the screen, it says All Filters. Hit that, that will bring up the Advance Search or the custom search where you can just plug in, “Okay, I want people at this company currently. Okay, let me add my school in next. Let me add a functional keyword into the job title section,” and you can narrow down your results that way iteratively.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, if we’ve got some folks and we prioritize by a role function similar to what we’re after, and they become promising if we have some kind of a connection, like, or commonality, alumni or something going on, and so what happens now? I’ve got the companies, I’ve got people out those companies, and what do I do?

Steve Dalton
It’s time to unleash the fury. So, we are going to figure out how to get in touch with these people. So, I have a hierarchy for finding the most effective way for getting in touch with each of these people. LinkedIn Groups, to me, are the best-kept secrets in a job search. If you share a LinkedIn Group with someone, which people often do with their schools that they’ve attended, you can message them directly, you don’t have to pay for in-mail, you don’t have to even check your alumni database in a lot of cases. So, LinkedIn Groups is the best option if you have it available to you. And there’s tools out there that will help you find email addresses directly for certain companies as well.

Pete Mockaitis
So, like Hunter.io or what are those things?

Steve Dalton
I love Hunter. Yeah, I’m a big fan of Hunter. It’s the best combination of power and replicability. You can use it 50 times free for a month, and I’m a big fan of free in the job search. I think it’s kind of cruel to ask job seekers to pay money in order to make money. So, once we’ve got our contacts identified, the contact information found, it’s time to unleash the fury, send one email to our favorite contact to each of our top six employers.

Pete Mockaitis
And just before we get into the content of the email, you say a hierarchy of ways to contact them. So, are you saying LinkedIn message versus email versus…? What’s the alternative and how do we choose?

Steve Dalton
LinkedIn Groups are my favorite because you lead with your affinity group. You don’t even have to provide a subject line for that LinkedIn message; LinkedIn provides it for you. This is different than a LinkedIn invitation to connect. While that is easy because all you have to do is just invite to connect, even if you customize it, what I find happens to you frequently is your desired contact will accept your connection request but never reply to you. So, I like that better as a backup.

Pete Mockaitis
Darn it, people. Sorry, guys.

Steve Dalton
So, LinkedIn Group connections, I like that it’s a little bit more thoughtful than a generic LinkedIn invitation to connect, and, plus, I think you just proportionately hear back from the helpful kind of contact when you contact them through LinkedIn Groups, and that’s a very important distinction that we’ll talk about a little bit later. It’s not about getting anybody to respond but it’s getting the right kind of person to respond because only a subset of the population at large are actually going to be helpful in your search.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, we might do an email via that we discovered via Hunter.io or another tool. We might do a LinkedIn message which we can pull off via knowing about them or having a mutual group connection. And I guess, by the way, go ahead and join some groups to get more of those. That’s easy and click, click, boom. Done. And so then, what goes into the content of this message?

Steve Dalton
Oh, this is such…this took a long time, like creating this process, it was a recipe that I had to cook myself. This whole process, “The 2-Hour Job Search” was developed during the 2008 financial crisis when I had a particularly devastated student who lost her offer, who had the ability to follow instructions but not the ability to curate tips. And so, that set me off, like, “How do I create this recipe for exact steps for sourcing your own interviews?” because that’s where people seem to struggle the most.

So, we get to the LAMP list which is great. People love that, they love having a top six, they know how to find contacts. But what do we write them? And that was where I got stuck for a good long while. The aha moment I had was when I read Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational. He’s my colleague at Fuqua, wrote a wonderful book, he’s a behavioral economist. Read all of his books; they’re great. But he had a particular study where he found that you were just as likely to get a stranger’s help helping you move a couch when you offer them nothing as when you offer them $50. But if you offer them $5, you’re far less likely to get their help.

So, he calls this switching from social norms to market norms, when you offer nothing, you have this ambient success rate. When you offer a token, any sort of compensation, immediately your success rate drops off until you offer like a market rate for that work. It’s not about altruism plus $5. It stops being about altruism altogether.

So, what clicked for me is that my whole life I’ve been told to sell myself but, in reality, the people who will help you get jobs, especially in down markets like the 2008 financial crisis and the one we’re experiencing right now, I’m never really going to get anything out of it, they’re not going to get $50 for it, so it’s better just to stick to asking for favors. And that’s a very different email than what people are traditionally told to write when job searching.

So, instead of selling yourself, ask for favors. It’s a much simpler email to write. And once you kind of coalesce around that concept, you can really optimize this email to get in touch with the right segment of the market in terms of people who are going to help you find you jobs.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And I think it’s more appealing as a recipient in terms of like, “Oh, you think you’re really something special. Okay.”

Steve Dalton
“Hey, stranger, let me tell you about why I’m so awesome.” Like, that’s really weird. Nobody does that. Why is that okay in the job search?

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, that’s the positioning, it’s like we’re asking for a favor as opposed to saying, “Here’s how amazing I am.” And so, you say there is a six-point email.

Steve Dalton
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
Lay it on us. What are we doing with here?

Steve Dalton
The six-point email, so first, there are six points that make it what it is. I’m terrible at naming things, as I mentioned. But each of these points is designed to remove a reason why a helpful contact, a particular type of contact that I call a booster, the one who is predisposed to respond to requests for favors from job seekers. Each point is designed to remove a reason why they might not respond.

So, the six points are: keep your email short, so under 75 words in the body; put your connection to them early in the email; ask a question rather than making your ask in the form of a statement; define your interest specifically.

Pete Mockaitis
With a question mark.

Steve Dalton
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I’m with you.

Steve Dalton
Rather than a period. Define your interests both specifically and more broadly, so give them a genre of the type of company you’re trying to learn more about or the type of role you’re trying to learn more about. Make at least half of the word kind of about them rather than you. And I think that is…oh, ask for advice and insight, don’t ask for job leads.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so, when you say make half of it, okay, so 75 words or less. We’ve got to cover how we know them, and then half is about them. So, give us an example. I mean, every word really counts in here. Let’s hear it.

Steve Dalton
So, I might reach out to a product manager at Waymo, so my subject line will be something like “Your product management experience at Waymo.” What I like about this is them-focused rather than me seeker-focused and they also don’t know if it’s a job seeker email or it’s from an executive recruiter.

Pete Mockaitis
I was going to say it could be from a head letter, yeah.

Steve Dalton
It could go both ways so it increases our open rate. “I’m a fellow Duke MBA. I was wondering do you have some time to tell me about your product management experience at Waymo? Your insights would be greatly appreciated because I’m trying to learn more about product management in the autonomous vehicle space.” That’s it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, we’re not asking for a time, a conversation, a 15-minute. We’re just like, “Do you have some time?”

Steve Dalton
Yep. Keep it open-ended. Most people will offer you a half an hour but it’s really up to their discretion how much time they want to give to you.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Yeah, what’s kind of comfortable, what I kind of like about that is sometimes I really do have like 10 minutes that it’s like, “Hey, you know what, between this thing and that thing, a 10-minute call would actually probably be perfect. And maybe I could go for a little walk on my treadmill or outside, and I could feel good about myself because I’m being helpful, and I’m getting some mix and some variety in my day.” Versus if you pitch a specific time or amount of time, then it’s more binary. It’s like I’m saying, “No, I cannot do what you’ve asked for,” and I feel like a cheap stingy jerkface if I say, “I can give you eight minutes at 1:42.” It’s like, “Why do you ask for 30?” But you’d rather have those eight minutes than zero minutes if I’ve got them for you.

Steve Dalton
Correct. I think it’s even more practical than that. I define, I think there are three segments of contact that people will encounter in their job search. There are boosters, who are our target audience, but there’s also a kind of person who never responds under any circumstance. I call them curmudgeons, they’re awful people, they hate babies, or they’re delightful people who just don’t want to help you job search or can’t right now. They’re not the worst segment.

The worst segment is a group I call obligates. Obligates want to appear to be helpful but they don’t actually want to be helpful so they make reasons why they can’t or they’ll respond slowly. And sometimes they won’t respond at all, they’ll make you follow up or they’ll set up a meeting with you but then cancel at the last minute. They’re dangerous because they give you a negative return on effort. Whereas, curmudgeons give you a zero-return effort. They ignore you. They don’t lead you on. I call them obligates because they are motivated by a sense of obligation. They’ve gotten help in the past. They want to do just enough to save face and simulate paying it forward without incurring the inconvenience of doing so.

But boosters are really our target audience. I would put them in about 10 to 20 percent of the population. And, remember, I said we’re going to reach out to six people at once, or one person at each of six companies once. If we do that, do we offer them each different times, because that’s a lot of calendar searching we got to do?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure, yeah.

Steve Dalton
Or do we offer them all the same times and then occasionally we’ll get double-booked and we have to flake on somebody, yeah. So, with a 10 to 20 percent response rate to the six-point email, I want to see who’s a booster, who’s going to engage with me, and I define boosters as being people who respond to six-point emails within three business days. I think any longer, they know they’re probably not being that helpful. Three business days is kind of that sweet spot.

Once they respond within three business days, then we’ll offer them a bunch of time but we know they’re probably boosters so they’re worth that calendar search. Before that point though, we’re doing a lot of intense calendar work for people who are most likely going to ignore us or lead us on.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, okay. Understood. And then how do we go about tracking and/or following up and/or is it okay to reach out to, I don’t know, 50 project managers at Microsoft? Or how do we think about these games of the numbers and the tracking and the follow-up?

Steve Dalton
That’s the million-dollar question. When are you done with these firms? I recommend going until you find one true booster, a booster who you say, “If you were me, is there anything else you’d be doing to maximize my chance of getting an interview with your company?” If they say no, you’re good. You’re probably good. If they say, “Ah, just keep talking to people. I don’t know, maybe.” That means they’re probably an obligate who didn’t find a nice way out of this relationship with you, so we need to start back over to find a true booster.

But once you have a true booster who can act as your eyes and ears, your triage agent within that employer to help plug you in to the right spots to get interviews, we’re done. If they say, “We can move on,” then okay. Number one in our list is checked off. Let’s move down to number seven from our original LAMP list because we have time for a new company to promote into our top six. And we kind of go into our management mode for the companies that we’ve already successfully found boosters at.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so then, let’s say we send a note to a booster, you say three business days is about what you expect. If we get no response, do we follow up or not so much?

Steve Dalton
Yes. So, I recommend a process called the 3B7 routine for your actual outreach within a company. So, basically, it’s called temporal construal theory. We do high-order thinking in advance of a decision than we do in the heat of the moment of making that decision. So, when we send the email, we’re thinking very clearly. After we’ve been ignored by someone for a week or two, we’re not thinking as clearly about when to follow up or whether to follow up, “Oh, this will be awkward. I’ll just be annoying them.”

When we send the email, we can be ice cold. Set a reminder for three business days later. That reminder will tell us, “Are they a booster or not? Have we heard from them yet or not? If not, let’s try a second person in parallel. Let’s hedge our bets.” If we don’t hear within three business days, it’s unlikely we’re going to hear at all so let’s hedge our bets because they’re probably not a booster. Let’s try a second person so that we don’t wait another week to get ignored by somebody before taking further action. At seven-day business day reminder, that’s the signal to follow up with unresponsive contacts just to protect your own brand to show that you care enough about this opportunity to follow up once and only once with each person that you reached out to if they’re unresponsive.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, the three days is, “Okay, talking to someone else.” And then the seven is going back to that first person and saying, “Hey, okay.” And then any special verbiage you put in that follow-up email?

Steve Dalton
I used to recommend kind of forwarding the original email and saying, “I’m just following up on my email from last week. I want to know if now is a better time to talk.” Now, I’ve just changed my tune on this. I recommend sending the exact same email but through a different channel. So, same email, just assume they missed it. But if the first attempt went to them through a LinkedIn Group, my second attempt would go through finding their direct email address on Hunter. If my first attempt went to them through their work address on Hunter, my backup would be through a customized LinkedIn invitation to connect. So, same email, different channel. Next one down on that hierarchy that I teach.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And then I like that because even if they saw both of them, it’s totally reasonable. It’s just sort of like, “Oh, he probably thought he got the wrong one. So, okay, so he’s trying something else. That’s cool.”

Steve Dalton
A chance for them to save face.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. Okay. And so then, let’s say they say, “Yes, Steve, happy to chat next Thursday at 10:00 a.m.,” you say, “Cool. Thanks so much.” What are some of the critical things you want to cover in that conversation?

Steve Dalton
Again, I’m very anti-sales. Most people are. It’s just an outdated way of thinking of this kind of constant sell-yourself mode. What we need to do is take the stranger on a journey. Our goal for this conversation is to turn this complete stranger to an ally over the course of a half an hour conversation. So, the journey that I recommend, first, we need to establish likability. So, that’s where small talk will always kick these things off. Doing effective small talk is more about listening well than speaking well. So, interested is interesting. It’s just a wonderful phrase. The easiest way to get someone to be interested in you is to take a genuine interest in them.

So, I have a three-question algorithm that I recommend for people doing informationals for small talk to get off to the right start because I’m not a naturally charming person. But small talk at the beginning of informationals is largely pretty predictable so you can manage it kind of very methodically. So, once we’ve established some likability with good small talk, letting them talk about themselves, like demonstrating that we’re listening to what they’re saying, then we need to prime creativity.

So, they’re kind of liking us, we’re listening to them, if we ask them for advice right away, they’re not really primed to think creatively yet. They’re going to give us pretty obvious stuff so we want to prime creativity first by asking them why they’re so good at their job. Portray them as an expert in their field. This gets us into what I call the tiara framework. So, that kind of automates this journey.

So, the first half of tiara is trends and insights, T and I. These are questions like, “What trends are most impacting your industry right now? How has business changed most since you started?” Insights are a little more personal and sort of macro in scope, so, “What surprises you most about this job?” Nobody wants to give you a bad answer to, “Why are you so good at your job?” so this is the point of primed them to think creatively.

Pete Mockaitis
“I’m actually average to mediocre, Steve.”

Steve Dalton
Exactly. Exactly. Nobody wants to do that. They’re actually going to engage. They’re going to think like, “Yeah, that’s a great question. Why am I so awesome at my job?” To be on brand here. But then, once we primed them to think creatively, then we can move them towards treating them more as a mentor with advice questions is the first A in tiara, “So, if you were me, what would you be doing right now to best prepare for a career in this field?” Make them the hero in your story.

That’s what brings us to the pivot question of the tiara framework, R is for resources, “What resources do you recommend I look into next?” Ideally, we’re looking for a person here, but to ask them who you should speak to next is very threatening. It’s very likely that you’re going to lose, you’re going to make your contact lose face. Most people would not give you a person’s name without asking that person if it was okay to do so first, share their name, I mean. So, we’ll keep it vague, “What resources do you recommend I look into next?” If they give us a name, great. The internal referral is our goal for doing this informational meeting process.

Pete Mockaitis
Or they could give you a non-name resource, like, “Oh, go to CaseInterview.com for your strategy consulting needs.” It’s like, “Okay, I will. Thanks.”

Steve Dalton
Most often they’ll say, “What sort of resources are you looking for?” That’s their way of signaling that they’re not ready to give you a person’s name yet. “So, what’s the most important 10 minutes of research that you do in this field to stay current? What industry newsletter do you find most helpful?” Things that will actually make you smarter at this job that you want. And then we’ll wrap up with any time remaining with assignment questions, “Basically, what projects do you do if you have this job so that you can represent yourself more knowledgably when people ask you, ‘Why do you want this job?’”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Steve Dalton
So, that’s the journey we’ll take people on, to turn strangers into advocates over the course of a single half an hour conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
So, okay, in that conversation we’ve learned some things and they’ve gotten creative and provided resources and maybe names. And so, we’re not selling ourselves and we’re learning good stuff. I guess what’s sort of the dream outcome from these conversations? Like, if they say, “Wow, you sound amazing, Steve, and I’m going to make sure to put your resume to my boss right away.” What do we really want to happen most at this stage?

Steve Dalton
We want this person to tell us what to do next. We want them to literally be our mentor because it’s different at every company what the correct process is. For some, it will be, “You’ve got to talk to this person next,” or for others, it’ll be, “You have to apply online but use my name, put this into your cover letter to let them know that we had an interaction.” You are merely guessing from the outside of what the right process is of each individual company. What you want is eyes and ears within that organization telling you what to do.

And when they tell you what to do, that’s an easy way to build likability with them. Like, it’s great when people follow the advice that you give them and report back the results, which makes you more willing to advocate for this person further in the future. So, our dream outcome is to find out who we need to speak to next. But that isn’t always the right next step. We just want somebody inside that company to tell us what to do to maximize our chances. We want them to see our progress as a reflection of their ability to give good advice.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so, then I guess that sounds like there’s a follow up then in terms of, “Hey, thanks so much for chatting with me. I did exactly what you told me to do. Fingers crossed,” or whatever.

Steve Dalton
Yes. So, if they don’t offer a referral, I wouldn’t expect it in most any more than 10% of cases, I would send them a thank you note the next night with no ask. To me, the thank you note closes the transaction on our initial request for insight and advice. But then I’d set myself a reminder for a week later, and when that reminder pops up, I would want to make sure I close my informationals by saying, “Wow, you’ve given me a lot to think about. I’m going to take the weekend to reflect. Is it okay if I reach back out to you with any further questions?” they’ll say, “Yes.” You send your thank you note that night or the next day.

And then a week, you set a reminder for a week later. When that reminder pops up, then I would send an email like this, “Thank you so much for your time last week. Upon further reflection, this is definitely something I’d like to pursue further. How would you go about doing that if you were me? For example, can you recommend someone I should speak to next?” So, that’s when you can make that ask explicitly over email where it’s less threatening. A person has time to check with their contacts to see who’s open to talking to a job seeker. But if you don’t get a referral at this point, you’re probably not going to get a referral. It’s time to start over and try somebody else. So, everything is systemized.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Somebody else in the organization or new organization or both?

Steve Dalton
Same organization.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Same organization. All right. Well, I like the analogy of the lobster traps or cages there because, sure enough, there’s activity in motion that doesn’t require you, which is cool, as you have these exchanges and conversations. So, let’s say that, ultimately, you do the things they tell you to do, whether that’s the online application or talking to so and so, and then you have an interview. Any pro tips there?

Steve Dalton
Once you get to the interview, that’s great. There are other books that help you. So, for me, The 2-Hour Job Search really zooms in on that squishy middle of the job search, that valley between “I know what I want to do” and “I know what to do once I get in that interview.” The 2-Hour Job Search helps you get into that first interview. But I think the same rules apply when you’ve got that interview, recognize that companies don’t hire people. People hire people, so it’s really about giving them a compelling story.

Don’t get in there selling yourself right away. Instead, they’ll probably start with, “Tell me about yourself.” Give them a story that is authentic to you that demonstrates, like, “What is the rationale for me being in this room here today? Here’s why I want to work for your company. Here are some personal anecdotes. Let me give you some appropriate personal disclosures about things that genuinely motivate me,” and tell them about why it’s a win-win for you as well.

And then once they start asking you, for example, of times where you led the team, then you can start getting into sales mode. But I think a common mistake is people just can’t get that sell-yourself mantra out of their heads that they had drilled into them from a very, very young age even though its applicability has long been outlived by modern changes. We’re all such skeptical consumers now. When we sense a sales pitch, our guards go up. But success in this process means systematically bringing people’s guards down.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Okay. Well, so then, tell me, any other steps or key things that we should have covered? I mean, maybe, talk about the middle, is there something after cultivating boosters, and before getting the interview that we should be doing?

Steve Dalton
Yes. So, after you’ve done this informational, you’ve sent your thank you note, you checked back in, maybe they give you a referral, maybe they don’t, then we switch to the harvest cycle. So, the harvest cycle is a big process flow diagram for my fellow engineers out there. Basically, it’s a big if-then map. It’s a big diagram.

So, based on where you are in that diagram, that will tell you what step you need to take. So, in most cases, it will be, okay, they don’t have a referral for you, let’s check back in next month. And there’s a very systemized way of, like, here’s what that first update will look like. Recap the best piece of advice they gave you during your original call. Give them a specific example of how you benefitted from that advice and ask for additional advice. If they have additional advice, you repeat this in your email update next month. If they don’t have additional advice, your subsequently monthly check-ins would just be more personal in nature.

But the idea is that I call it the harvest cycle because you’re planting a lot of seeds initially to get these initial phone calls, and then people start shopping you out to their friends, and you have more people that you need to check back in with after some time has passed. It’s really hard to walk away from contacts you’ve done informationals with unless you got other conversations on the books. So, we need these seeds to have some time to take root and grow. it’s not immediately time to harvest all of them. So, that’s part of the reason why I want to systemize the follow-up process for these informationals. It’s not just about getting the informational; it’s about reaping the rewards from that informational systematically over time.

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

Steve Dalton
I think the one thing I really want to get across is that there’s a lot of bad information out there about job searching. I think people underestimate the importance of retraining your support network because your support network, I see people who are often asked, “How is your job search going?” and they’ll quantify it in ways that don’t correlate with success. Mainly, in how many hours they spent looking for jobs and how many resumes they dropped online to online job postings.

Neither of those things correlate with success. The one thing that does is the number of informational meetings you’ve done, how many people are out there that know of you and like you, but it takes time. You need to retrain your support network to get them to stop seeing it in terms of “How many resumes did you throw online into the black hole?” to “How many conversations did you set up? How many new people did you meet that have the job you want one day?” I think that’s just a critical piece that is often goes unnoticed.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, talking about numbers and correlations, I mean, you’ve been tracking this very well with your, hey, 10 to 20 percent. You can expect your boosters into reply, dah, dah, dah. Do you have any sense for, I imagine there’s quite a range, but ballpark figure in terms of number of boosting conversations per interview or offer?

Steve Dalton
I would say when people follow the 2-hour job search exactly as it’s designed, it’s a recipe, so when the recipe is followed exactly, people do not get past number 10 on their LAMP list. So, while we brainstorm 40 employers, realistically you’re only ever going to be doing outreach to about 25% of that list. So, three-quarters of that list is canon fodder just to get you up to 40 and get you out of that artificial desperation mindset.

Pete Mockaitis
So, you’re saying that folks, generally, land a job at their top 10, like, most of the time?

Steve Dalton
No. That is a great question. They will land a job by the time they get to number 10, but life is strange. Contacts that your boosters have connections in different companies that weren’t even on your radar initially because you don’t have the same visibility into that profession as the people you’re talking to do. You also don’t have the same network as the people you’re talking to do. So, while I say you’ll be done when you hit number 10, it won’t always be with one of those 10 organizations. It could be with an organization that one of the people you spoke to, at one of those top 10, referred you to that you, otherwise, hadn’t heard of before. Maybe they had a friend at a different company who was looking to fill a role. Maybe they heard of a startup that you hadn’t heard of yet that was doing similar work.

But the idea is by the time you get to number 10, you’ve got at least 10 boosters out there looking on your behalf, in your job search, giving you suggestions, pointing you to new people to speak to, new companies to have on your radar, that there’s just enough eyes and ears out there that something tends to happen and come through for you by the time you get to number 10.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, okay, well, if it’s by the time we get to the 10th company, do you also have a sense for by the time we have X number of contacts or boosting conversations?

Steve Dalton
I wish it were that simple. No, because there will be obligates who agree to do informational meetings with you. That’s part of the challenge here. Not everybody who agrees to speak with you is a booster automatically, and that’s the common error I’ll see people do or make when they’re doing the 2-hour job search.

Before you get your first booster, you can often confuse obligates for boosters. They seem like they’re sympathetic but they don’t really want to be there. They’re saying goodbye and pulling away at a certain point. Once you get your first booster and you see how fiercely they advocate for you and how they see your progress as their own success, you know how to tell a booster from the obligate, and you don’t make that mistake anymore. But getting people to hang in there long enough and not fall for a fake booster in the form of an obligate, I think that’s an intricacy that people will learn after they get a little bit into it.

I find, once people do three tiara framework informationals using the 2-hour job search, they get the rhythms of the whole informational meeting process. They become comfortably bored by it. It’s fun to talk to smart people and learn from them but there’s no real set number of how many informationals it’ll take at a particular company to find your booster. Sometimes people get lucky and find it in the first one. Sometimes they find people I call super boosters who will help you not just at their company but at multiple other companies. But other times, it’ll take you five or six conversations before you find that person is really willing to stick their neck out for you.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And I guess what’s interesting is this is the most structured, methodical, get-a-job program I have ever encountered, so well done.

Steve Dalton
Thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
And it strikes me as massively efficient. You told a success story of a month and a half is what one person saw, and it sounds like, well, you tell me. What’s the time range that you’re encountering?

Steve Dalton
I’ve had people who have started the 2-hour job search on a Monday and landed an offer by Friday of the same week.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Four days. There you go.

Steve Dalton
That is not normal. That is not normal however so don’t expect that. What I see during non COVID times, the most typical, it would be about a month or two months. During COVID times, it’s a little bit longer, there’s just fewer. And as you get more experienced in your career, this process is the same exact one I would recommend to someone with 30 years of experience as someone with zero years of experience. But if you have 30 years of experience and you’re looking for that C-suite job, there aren’t that many of those out there. It’s going to be a longer search. So, during COVID, I would expect it to be more into the two- to three- to four-month range even. But during better economies, it’s usually over by one to two months.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Thank you. And so, I suppose this could be a fun critique, your system seems potentially so efficient. I wonder if there’s a higher risk of folks landing a job that they don’t love. How do we prevent that from happening?

Steve Dalton
Great question. If people don’t follow the recipe, what I see people do sometimes is they’ll start networking with backup companies to get practice, but that’s the problem. These backup companies are so flattered to hear from a job seeker who’s organized, who’s like asking good questions and building relationships, that they’ll fast track you and they’ll give you an offer very quickly even before you start to reach out to your dream employer, and now you’re forked. Like, do you have the guts to turn down this good offer without even knowing where you stand with your dream employers?

So, that’s why when we sort the LAMP list, motivation absolutely has to go first. How fired up are you to reach out to people at this company even if the first few people ignore you? That absolutely has to be your first criteria when sorting your LAMP list, which ensures that people go after their favorite companies first. I’d rather they fumble over an awkward informational with their dream employer and then re-dedicate themselves to doing better the next time than start with backups, because too often I see people start with backups and, unfortunately, achieve success too quickly.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, I guess this just boils down to your motivation needs to be well-thought out and well-informed and then you’re going to land somewhere good.

Steve Dalton
Mm-hmm.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Gotcha. Well, now, can we hear about a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Steve Dalton
I open The 2-Hour Job Search with this wonderful quote by Aldous Huxley, “Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards.” I think people hear technology and they think forward. They see online job postings, they think better. And, in reality, it’s just made the search harder. And it’s important to take a step back and realize that online job postings feel like the most efficient way to be successful, but they cause a lot of pain. Building relationships, it’s not a skill that people have been trained for but it leads to a much more nourishing and better-quality experience for your job search.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And now can you share a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Steve Dalton
I already told you about Dan Ariely’s couch experiment. That’s my all-time favorite. But Brown, Setren, and Topa did this great study at the New York Fed a few years ago where they found that for each one person who was hired through an online job posting application, 12 were hired through internal referrals because every time you apply online, not only are you hoping you’re one of the hundreds that apply that they choose to interview, you’re also hoping it’s the one out of 13 jobs that goes to the random online applicant instead of somebody that somebody already knows.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, wow.

Steve Dalton
So, I’m a chemical engineer by training, like I’m bred for awkwardness, but when faced with those odds, you’ve got to own up to the fact that you can’t outrun that phenomenon, you can’t out-apply that phenomenon. You got to get comfortable with turning strangers into advocates. It’s a skillset you’ve never been trained for before so don’t feel embarrassed. I hope this does become standard training at the high school level, let alone the college level in the near future, but we’re not there yet so it is up to everybody to really embrace that skillset proactively.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a favorite book?

Steve Dalton
I’d mentioned a few times I’m kind of an awkward dude. Chemical engineer, again that’s my wheelhouse, but it makes me think about these things a lot more than other people to whom it would come naturally. So, my favorite book, there’s a book called Awkward by Ty Tashiro. Have you heard of the book Quiet by Susan Cain?

Pete Mockaitis
Mm-hmm.

Steve Dalton
Quiet is for introverts, Ty’s book Awkward is for awkward people, which I’m a proud member of the awkward nation. So, if you’ve ever felt like, “I don’t get how people work,” or, “This is really weird for me to interact with strangers,” give that book a read. I wish I had had it when I was 12. It would’ve saved me from a lot of pain.

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

Steve Dalton
I’m a big believer in time blocking. So, if something is important to you, block time in your calendar for it. This also ties in with The 2-Hour Job Search. Calendar reminders are a lot harder to miss than email reminders are because there’s time blocks for them. You have an alert that you have to clear or postpone. So, if something is important to you, block a period of time in your calendar day for it. That saved me so many times. I’m a huge fan.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Steve Dalton
Oh, gosh. 80/20 Rule, just not trying to be perfect slowly. Be good enough quickly over and over and over again. Iterate towards your results. But the quest for perfection, it’s not a realistic expectation in the modern world. You got to figure out where you can be good enough instead of perfect. It’s a lot faster.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks, people quote it back to you again and again?

Steve Dalton
Oh, the bachelor. The bachelor analogy comes back to me over and over and over again so that would be the one that I would refer to. Better to be the bachelor in your own job search than one of 25 bachelorettes over and over again.

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

Steve Dalton
I would point them to the 2HourJobSearch.com. That’s my website for my book, The 2-Hour Job Search, and my upcoming book called The Job Closer, which comes out April 2021. I’m also on Twitter @Dalton_Steve, and I’ve got a very active LinkedIn Group called “The 2-Hour Job Search Q&A Forum” where I answer questions from readers and coaches alike. So, if you find The 2-Hour Job Search approach compelling, please join us there. It’s free to belong, and I’m on there every few nights or so.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Steve, this has been a treat. Thank you and keep on doing the good work.

Steve Dalton
Thank you. Thank you for having me.

612: How to Find the Perfect Career Fit–An Analytical Approach–with Lindsay Gordon

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Lindsay Gordon says: "You can make absolutely any decision for absolutely any reason as long as you know why it works for you."

Lindsay Gordon reveals how to build and select excellent options for your career.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to get “unstuck” at work 
  2. How to define success on your terms 
  3. Why it’s okay to have a “boring” job

About Lindsay

Lindsay Gordon is a career coach for analytically minded people who want to stop doing what they think is “right” in their career and start doing what’s right for them. She helps people get clarity about what’s right for them in a job and why, confident about their skills and abilities, and able to communicate that to interviewers, managers, and colleagues through her program, A Life of Options. 

She used to work as a recycled water engineer in Melbourne, Australia before landing at Google, working as technical support for the Google Apps team. After which, she moved into career development at Google before starting her own business. She earned her Bioengineering degree from Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering. She loves applying her engineering brain to helping people find careers that fit, baking complicated pastries and barbershop singing. 

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you, sponsors!

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Lindsay Gordon Transcript

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

Lindsay Gordon
Thank you for having me. I’m super happy to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I’m excited to have you here as well. And I understand that you also do some barbershop singing with your vocal skills here.

Lindsay Gordon
I absolutely do. It is one of my hobbies. I sing baritone in the quartet which is basically all of the leftover notes in the chord, so you never want to hear a baritone singing alone because it’s a really unpleasant situation, but I promise that in the quartet it sounds much better than me singing by myself.

Pete Mockaitis
So, now, what are some barbershop hits? I don’t know the genre that well. But amongst a barbershop aficionados, what are like the classics?

Lindsay Gordon
Oh, that is a question that I am not going to be great at answering. One of the funny things about the barbershop quartet that I sing in, or the barbershop group that I sing in, is that we actually sing parodies.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, interesting.

Lindsay Gordon
So, we take those old songs, we write new lyrics, and then we dress up in costumes that go with the lyrics. So, we’re a little bit of a wildcard in the barbershop world.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so now when I think of parodies, I think of Weird Al.

Lindsay Gordon
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
Can you give us a sample in terms of something you parodied and that clever lyric that’s going in there instead?

Lindsay Gordon
Yes. So, we took the song “Babyface” which maybe you know, and we turned it into outer space, so it was a whole song about an alien who had a one-night stand, and it’s discovering that they are pregnant throughout the course of the song.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, I love it when songs are just like totally unique in terms of it’s not like, “Oh, I’m falling in love,” or, “My heart is broken.” It’s like, “Okay, we’ve heard that before.” But I’ve never heard that before. When I was in college, I sang, well, sang might be a strong word, I performed an original rap number about how I wanted to be a management consultant.

Lindsay Gordon
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
And I think it was the only one, so that was actually a decent segue for what we’re doing here. Usually, they’re forced.

Lindsay Gordon
Somehow it works.

Pete Mockaitis
Usually, they’re pretty forced and awkward, Lindsay, but that works. We’re talking about career coaching, career decision-making, strategery, that good stuff. So, you have an interesting moniker. You call yourself a career coach for analytically-minded people. I have a feeling I’m one of them. How do we know if we’re analytically-minded person? What sets us apart?

Lindsay Gordon
Yes. So, it is all in the way that you like to process information and make decisions. So, the reason I say that I’m a career coach for analytically-minded people is because I have an engineering background, which is quite unusual for a career coach. So, when I think about the work that I do, I’m taking my engineering brain, applying it to this question of, “How do we even know what we’re looking for in a job that’s going to be a good fit for us? How do we make that decision that we’re going to feel really good about? And how do we do that in the most practical and structured way?”

So, if you love a good framework, if you love structured exercises to go through, if you like to process information in a very logical format, that’s the type of analytical-minded person that really connects with the work that I do.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I love it. That’s just so clear in terms of some people say, “Yes, that’s so me,” and other people say, “Nuh-uh,” but then you know and then you can move, go on your merry way pretty quickly and know if you want to dig in deep. And so, your program is called A Life of Options. Options sound good. Tell us, what’s the ethos behind that name and vibe?

Lindsay Gordon
Everything that I do is about you having choice, feeling good about your choices, feeling like you have choices at any point in your career, and knowing that at any moment, you can proactively cultivate something that is going to be a good fit for you in your career. I think a lot of times people spend time being stuck, feeling like they’re unhappy, they don’t know what to do, it’s too late to make a change, they’ve spent too many years going down one direction. Whatever it is, I want you to feel like you always have options.

One of the things I always tell my clients is I want them to see themselves as an opportunity-creating machine by the time they get out of my program. So, if they are somewhere where they’re not happy, they have all the tools to be able to have conversations to know what they’re looking for and to cultivate those things so they feel like they always have options.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so let’s hit this one right up front then, talk about always having options and being an option-generating machine. I think that, hey, economies go in cycles, and so as we record this in the latter half of 2020, COVID is a hot topic, and an inescapable one, so that has economic ramifications, good for some, bad for many. Why don’t you lay that on us, first of all, in terms of in this particular economy, and in recession-type economies, just how picky can we afford to be? How demanding can we be? How many options can we realistically think about generating before we’re kind of, I don’t know, in a fantasy land?

So, I think that’s kind of a tension between something too small, it’s like, “No, you’re really not stuck. There are many other opportunities,” and some people think unrealistically, like, “Hey, it’d be great to earn 300K by doing almost nothing at what you love,” like almost nobody does that, so maybe you’ll find something else. So, help us navigate that.

Lindsay Gordon
Yeah. And I am a very practical realistic person so I think that’s a great thing to point out of I am not just about, “Quit and do your passion. And you can do everything. There’s a dream job out there.” Right, there is some reality to it. I have been quite amazed actually at how many people are getting new jobs that I am working with. So, that is one datapoint that I have of, “Yes, absolutely. There are a lot of people struggling, a lot of industries that are not hiring, that have hiring freezes,” and, as you say, it’s interesting to look at what are the fields and places that are actually thriving despite the situation. So, I think that’s one thing to consider where you’re looking.

I also think options is broader than just getting a new job. So, I want you to feel like you have agency within your role, within your company, to be able to create things that may not look like a big change, because it might not be the right time to make a big change, and I acknowledge that, but to be able to say, “What agency do I have? Where do I have control over what I’m creating in my current role? Are there other opportunities for me to be even happier and thriving more in my current job? Are there options for me to look around the company? Are there options for me to create opportunities that have not yet existed within the company?” So, I think that’s important to talk about too when we talk about options, having the agency within your job to find ways to thrive.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. All right, so let’s dig in then. So, you work with a lot of people who feel kind of stuck in their job and their careers. Can you tell us, what are kind of the big drivers of that, like the top reasons folks are not feeling happy and satisfied with their current career situation?

Lindsay Gordon
Yeah. The biggest thing that I see is that people do not know what they want.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Lindsay Gordon
And what happens when you don’t know what you want is you start doing many things. You start defining your own success based on what success looks like to other people. You listen to the noise of what does society think we should want in a job, what does your family think you should want in a job. We start to look around and have the grass is greener situation. We start to get distracted by shiny objects. And then, all of that, creates tension because we do not know what we want.

Another piece of this is a common experience where people have fallen into jobs and they have not proactively chosen or put any intention into that. So, then you start to have this question of, “Is this even the right thing for me? I never really chose this. I kind of fell into marketing, and now I’m like 15 years in. How do I know if this is actually the right thing for me?” So, first, we’re missing clarity, and then we’re missing the way to answer that question of, “Is this the right fit for me?” and feel really good about that decision that you’re making.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, for folks who don’t know what you want, how do you start to know?

Lindsay Gordon
Yup. So, I do a couple of things. I think it’s really important to know what is important to you and how work fits into that. So, that can look like values, that can look like an exercise from “Designing Your Life” called the work manifesto, that can also look like strengths. I help people be incredibly clear about, “What comes easily to you? What do you enjoy doing? How is that engaged with your work?” I also look at things like, “What working conditions do you need?” It’s really important what environment we are in in order to thrive.

So, looking at, “What physical environment do I need? What type of people do I need to be around? What type of work do I need to be doing?” So, there are these different categories that I help people understand, “Oh, this is exactly what I need in this area,” and then you can start to compare it to, “Okay, how well is that being honored and prioritized in your job? And what adjustments do you need to make?”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Lovely. And so then, in terms of assessing how well it’s being honored in your job, is there a particular framework you use to evaluate that? Or, are there sort of factors, drivers, criteria that we’re scoring, thinking analytically here? How do we do that?

Lindsay Gordon
So, I have created a spreadsheet that I like to call The Next Steps Tracker, and it basically allows you to look at every job you are considering, if you’re considering next moves, if you have often thought about going back and doing more school. Like, a lot of people who talk to me are like, “Should I go get an MBA? I’ve been considering that for five years, and I need to make a decision.”

So, in the columns, we can put the things that we’re considering, or our current job, and then we start to look at, “Okay, here are my top values. Here are my top strengths. Here are the working conditions I need in order to thrive.” And I basically have people go through and look at, “Okay, this top value. Is that being honored and prioritized? Yes. No. Unclear.”

And then we get this big framework of, “Okay, here are the things that might be out of alignment. They are two out of my top five strengths. One of these working conditions isn’t really fitting.” Great. So, then that gives us a place to start to look at adjusting, “How would I put more of these strengths in my role? What opportunities are there? How would I shift this particular environment to be able to be a better fit?” So, it really is just making a list of all the things that are important to you and applying it to your job to see where you want to make changes.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, then. So, then within that, it sounds pretty darn custom as oppose to, you know, I’ve created something before, it’s like, “Hey, there’s 15 career happiness drivers. Let’s look at them and let’s score them.” But it sounds like you’re taking a more personal approach in terms of, “No, there’s maybe not 15. There’s maybe a billion. And we’ve selected the six that are kind of resonating the most for you personally.” Can you maybe give us an example of a story of someone who they’re kind of stuck, and then they zeroed in on what they want, and then how they evaluated the next steps along those lines, and then made a call, and it worked out smashingly?

Lindsay Gordon
Yeah. So, I think that the important part that you’ve highlighted is that it is based on individual definitions of success, and that’s really a big part of my work of there are all these definitions of, “What does success look like? What does growth look like? What does recognition look like?” But, actually, if you don’t know what the definition is for you yourself, then you are going to be comparing yourself to these external definitions, and not getting the type of fulfillment that you want.

So, one example, I had a client come to me, convinced that she needed to leave her company, convinced that she needed to leave the field that she was in that happened to be aerospace engineering, and pretty much just done, “All right. Ready to get out. Need to figure out what the next thing is.” So, I took her through the process of, “What are the values, what are the strengths, what are the environments that are important to you?” And what she found, a huge part of what was missing for her is her strengths of teaching and facilitating, and she was not getting any of that in the type of engineering work that she was doing. And so, that was new to her. Because what I find is a lot of people are surprised that they have strengths or just don’t know what they are.

And so, once she figured that out, she’s like, “Oh, yeah, teaching and facilitating is huge to me. That’s really what’s been missing.” So, then we started looking around, “Okay, what is internal to the company that could be a better fit for that now that you’ve identified this piece that’s missing?” And so, what she was able to find is a three-year rotation program that is all about teaching and facilitating for the engineers of the company, so less doing the actual engineering but now doing the teaching and facilitating of the others. And she would have never thought to look around at other positions within the company, she would’ve never thought to look at staying in the field that she had already spent 15 years in, but she was able to find this different implementation of her strengths, and absolutely loves and is thriving in that role.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Lovely. And so then, that gets you situated in terms of zeroing in on what you dig in and then identifying the opportunities and how that can align to it. And I think that there’s a good gem there associated with the knee jerk reaction of, “I got to get out of here.” It’s telling you something, but getting out of there may very well not be the optimal pathway. Could you speak to that?

Lindsay Gordon
Yes. So, most people come to me thinking they needed to quit their job, they’re unhappy in some way, they can’t figure it out, easiest thing to do is quit. What I realized about a year or two ago is that I am accidentally running an employee retention program. So many people come to me needing to quit, so many people do not end up not quitting their job. I don’t have current numbers, but when I crunched the numbers of about two years ago at that point, for the people who came to me who are currently in a job, more than 50% of them ended up staying in their job. So, that’s where I got this hypothesis that when we think we need to quit, it is actually that we are not clear about what we want, what might be out of alignment in this current role, and there are so many people. I can give you one other example.

A client came to me, “I need to quit. I’m done with this field. I need to figure out what my next thing is.” Two session into working with me, she just starts laughing, and she’s like, “So, this job is actually a great fit for me. It’s a great fit for my strength. It’s a great fit for what’s important to me. And, actually, what I want to do is make these two small changes and continue to grow in this particular area.” And now she is thriving. She is getting promotions. She loves the work. From the outside, absolutely nothing changed, not a single thing in her circumstances. Everything was the mindset about, “What is this job to me? How does it align with what I want?” And that made all of the difference in the work world.

So, really interesting that once you get people really clear about what they want and confident about those decisions, a lot of people end up deciding that they don’t actually need to quit their job.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Very nice. And you’ve got a particular take on boring jobs. Let’s hear it.

Lindsay Gordon
I love to tell people that it is okay to have a boring job if it works for you. And this is kind of a provocative idea…

Pete Mockaitis
I’m provoked.

Lindsay Gordon
…that gets some people really riled up, and I think that’s good. I think it goes to this point of we need to do what is right for us. And for some people, their passion and purpose and meaning and drive is going to come from work. Great. For others, that passion and purpose and meaning and drive is going to come from outside of work. And so, sometimes, a boring job can allow you to do things that are most important to you, about the contribution you want to make in this world outside of work.

So, let me give you one example of how a boring job has been very beneficial to one of my clients. So, she came to me in a self-described boring job, and she was underutilized, and there wasn’t a lot of challenge going on, and so we started looking at, “Okay, what might be interesting to you? What are your strengths? What are your interests?” And one thing that came out to her is that she might want to be a grief counselor. This is something she had not considered before but it really connected with her experience, and so she said, “Oh, interesting. I keep seeing these themes of the strengths that are aligned with that and the type of contribution that I want to make.”

So, what she used her boring job for was to test that out. So, I’m a very risk-averse person, I do not want anyone to just quit their jobs, burn it all down, go and do their passion because they think it’s the right thing without de-risking the process as much as possible with as much prototyping as we can do. So, for her, she started using her extra time and mental energy, which is usually what you get from a boring job, and she started volunteering with a crisis hotline and spent time doing that to test that out. And then she started testing out looking at different schooling options that she could take on.

So, she used her boring job to get more information about what was going to give her more purpose and passion in her next role, and use that in order to become a grief counselor. And she emailed me, I think, sometime last year, a couple of years after we had worked together, and she was like, “Lindsay, I am about to graduate, and I’m about to have my first client.” And the whole process had felt good to her because she had de-risked it, she had tested it out, she had stayed in that boring job that allowed her to still have financial stability while she moved to her next profession.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s a great point, that the boring jobs are to offer you that time and mental energy. Whereas, thrilling jobs tend to be intense, have some pressure, need you to be kind of…or pull you into thinking about them a lot because they’re interesting, and you might noodle on the unsolved mystery for while you’re commuting or maybe when you’d rather not be, when you’re at home with family, etc. So, that is a nice highlight there.

I’m thinking, boy, a couple examples come to mind. I remember Albert Einstein, when he was in the patent office, said it gave him a lot of time to think. That served him well, having that time to think. Or, a fictitious example is that Gerry or Garry or Larry Gergich from “Parks and Rec” just had this land government job but he likes being able to reliably return to his lovely family at a consistent time, and that really was what did it for him. And that’s a good example, specifically, of if we think about sort of societal or external expectations for what a good job is supposed to be, it’s like, “Oh, it’s got to be your passion, it’s got to be thrilling, and it needs to be so exciting and engaging.”

Lindsay Gordon
Everything to you. Have all your fulfillment, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
And, yeah, I guess some people, it’s not applicable to all people, I think, and/or even at times of your life in terms of like, “Hey, this thrilling job was awesome until I had some babies, and then it’s like this thrilling job is taking me away from that, and I don’t care for it as much.” So, things can evolve over time as well.

Lindsay Gordon
Yeah, one of my earliest clients came to me. She was in a very high-paying lawyer job, and all of her friends and family were saying, “Oh, my gosh, you’re being underchallenged, like they’re not using you to your full extent. You’re bored. You really should make a change and go get a job that is more deserving of your talents.” And so, she came to me, and she was like, “Well, maybe I need to get a new job because this one, you know, everyone’s telling me that I need something new.” When we did the values exercise, she said, “Number one right now is financial stability and the ability to have time with my young son.” And that gave her ultimate confidence to say, “Actually, at this phase in life, for what I want in this moment, for what’s important to me, this job is perfect.”

And so, she was able to just let go of all of the external noise from friends, family, who always want the best for us but they don’t always know what that is, and she was able to say, “You know what, thank you, friends and family. Appreciate that. And I know why this job is actually the perfect fit for me at this phase in life.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s really excellent, and it gets me thinking here. Yeah, I want to zero in on what you said with regard to the confidence because I think that’s sort of, emotionally speaking, a fundamental difference from the beginning to the end of this process. It’s like, “I have no idea. What am I doing? Is this the wrong thing? Aah,” to, “All right. This is what I’m going to do.” And, boy, there is just something so powerful about when you have that conviction that, “This is what it is.”

Because it’s sort of like all of the mental energy and time spent, like, “Oh, maybe it’s this, maybe it’s that. I don’t quite know. Oh, I don’t really feel like I could maybe take that risk or ask for help in this direction if I’m not really sure I’m going to utilize that advice or take advantage of what someone is helping me out with.” Like, all kinds of things fall away and power jet fuel is working for you when you’ve got that confidence. So, tell us, what are the fundamental ingredients in terms of what it takes to arrive at the place of totally confident versus, “Oh, that kind of seems like a good move”?

Lindsay Gordon
Yeah. One thing that I’d like to tell clients is that I promise them deeply unsexy results. There is nothing exciting about when they get through my program. There’s nothing flashy. They will most likely not have made a huge change in their job, but what happens is that deep, grounded, calming conviction of, “This is what I want. This is what is right for me.” And so, it’s so fun explaining it in that way because people are like, “What? Deeply unsexy results. Do I want that?” Like, yes, you absolutely want that.

So, when I think about what it takes to have confidence in your decisions, it comes back to clarity. One of the phrases that I like for clients to use a lot when they are in interviews, when they are having conversations about creating opportunities within their current role, is, “I know I thrive when X, Y, Z is happening, when I’m in this type of environment, when I’m doing this type of work. Can you tell me about how that might be connected to this role that you’re pitching to me, or to this company that I’m thinking about joining?” So, it’s all about, “I know when I thrive. This is very clear for me. And now all I’m doing is connecting that to the opportunity at hand.” So, that deep, deep clarity gives you the confidence to say, “I know that this thing is going to be the right thing for me.”

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely.

Lindsay Gordon
And I will give you a quick example of that. So, I had a client who was contacted by recruiters all the time, and the recruiter would be like, “Hey, hey, hey, want this shiny job at Facebook?” And then she would go into the, exactly what you were talking about, this energy-draining like, “Oh, my gosh, do I want the shiny thing? This company is so great. Everyone else thinks that I should work there,” and we’re just like giving all of our energy away, and just waffling and second-guessing and all of that. So, that had been her experience up until working with me.

And after she worked with me, she got a call from a recruiter, the recruiter said, “Hey, hey, hey, this shiny job, like do you want this thing?” And she said, “Thank you so much. That job is not a good fit for me for these three reasons. What I’m looking for, which will allow me to thrive, are these three things. If you find opportunities like that, I would love to hear about them.”

Pete Mockaitis
There you go.

Lindsay Gordon
End of story. There’s no waffling, there’s no, I like to call, the whirlwind of chaos, of, “Ugh, do I want the thing?” So, as you said, it’s just like the jet fuel of power in the direction you know is going to be impactful for you.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, when you talk about recruiters calling all the time and, “Ooh, do I want that thing?” that sparks…let’s talk about money. Sometimes it’s almost hardwired into us, like, “Of course, the right move is the one that is the most lucrative.” And so, that can be a stumbling block, and I know that that’s not true. Many people have chosen new opportunities that have less money but they are so glad they did. And that happened to me, I was in strategy consulting, I went to do my own thing, and there were several years which is like, “Hmm, I sure will have a lot more money if I were still strategy consulting.”

Lindsay Gordon
Yes, indeed.

Pete Mockaitis
And now, fortunately, I think this has gone well and I’ve got both, so happy ending. But other people are fine at the happiness without that. So, how do we think about money, happiness, and if that’s really in you deep, what do you do with it?

Lindsay Gordon
Two things I think to consider. So, the first is values. When I do my values exercise, what I have people do is make a list of all the decisions that they’ve made in their life, and then start to look at the motivations behind those decisions. So, it’s kind of looking at the data of how you have lived your life so far to come up with your list of values. For some people, financial security is a huge part of those values. For other people, financial security does not come up as a big part of their values. So, that’s one thing, is to think about how big is that in your set of values. So, that’s one input.

Another framework I really like, which is from the book Designing Your Work Life by Dave Evans and Bill Burnett, they think about it as three different sliders in your career. So, there are three ways to think about what it is that you do and how you get compensated for your work. So, one is obviously money, and that’s the one we think of most often. The next is impact, and the next is expression. And so, they think of it as sliders that you can move around at any point based on what your needs are at any phase of life based on what’s important to you at any phase in life.

So, let’s say when you are first starting out, you want to make sure that you are financially secure. This is the first time you’re needing to pay rent. You want to start to thinking about putting away for retirement. You need to pay off student loads, whatever it is. Maybe money is the highest one of those sliders.

Then a couple of years into your career, maybe you decide that impact is a place that you want to prioritize more in your career. So, you could think about dialing down the money dial a little bit and increasing the impact dial. Same with expression. So, I just liked the way that they think about the balance of those three things. And, again, thinking about you need in your life, what phase of life are you at, what’s important to you, and what is the balance that you want for those three sliders.

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

Lindsay Gordon
I think two things that are the easiest for somebody to do in order to think about making decisions that feel good to them with confidence where they can thrive. One is get clear about what your strengths are. If assessments are the way that you really enjoy doing that, StrengthsFinder has a fantastic one that I’ve been using for years. It’s 20 bucks. It will give you incredible vocabulary about what your top strengths are, how they interact, and how they might relate to your role. So, that’s something that people can do really easily to figure out how to thrive more in their job.

And then second is it’s really important to start to define some of the nebulous words that we use around career development. So, we talk a lot about growth, we talk a lot about recognition, we talk a lot about mentorship, and when we say those words, it can mean something totally different to every person that you talk to. So, for example, recognition is something that comes up all the time, “I don’t feel recognized in my job.” “Oh, okay. What’s happening?” They say, “Well, my manager is talking about me in our team meetings, and sharing her gratitude and appreciation there.” I’m like, “Okay, that sounds like recognition. But that doesn’t seem to be working for you.” And the client said, “Oh, yeah, recognition for me is getting paid more. That’s how I know what my value is.”

And so, when you are talking to your manager, and saying, “I don’t feel recognized,” and your manager is saying, “What are you talking about? I’m talking about you in team meetings. I’m putting you up for promotions, whatever it is.” I want you to have the definition that works for you so that you can have a much better conversation with people around you as to how to get the things that are important to you.

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

Lindsay Gordon
Yes. One of my favorite quotes is the one about, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. And the second-best time is now.”

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you.

Lindsay Gordon
I think we spend so much time beating ourselves up about past decisions, convincing ourselves it’s too late, waffling and all this energy draining. I want to help people redirect that energy and focus on, “What has happened has happened. What are we taking action on now to make things better in our career?”

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

Lindsay Gordon
I just read about this recently in the book Range.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, we had David on the show.

Lindsay Gordon
Oh, that’s amazing. Gosh, I love that book. So, I loved his mention of match quality, which is the term that economists use to describe the degree of fit between the work someone does and who they are. And they mentioned a study at Harvard called “The Dark Horse Project.” And, in a nutshell, basically, everybody who has found success in their role in the study has followed what they talked about as a really unusual path. And everyone was like, “Ugh, I don’t know that I would recommend this. But this is how I got to where I am.” So, it was incredible that, in the study, they all thought that they were the anomaly for having an unusual career path, and yet that was actually a dominant outcome of the study.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, there’s a study inside a book. But I want to ask about a favorite book too.

Lindsay Gordon
Favorite book, Essentialism.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah.

Lindsay Gordon
Tagline: Disciplined Pursuit of Less. That book is filled with terrifying truth about how much we let everything else in the world dictate our energy, our time, and attention, and what we can do to actually achieve focus in our life and in our work.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a favorite tool?

Lindsay Gordon
I would say The Five Minute Journal. It is a book that I discovered recently that has a couple of questions at the start of the day, a couple of questions at the end of the day, “What are you grateful for? What would be great? What do you want to create today? And what’s an affirmation?” And then a check-in in the evening, “What went really well today? And what could you have done better?”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a favorite habit?

Lindsay Gordon
I have recently started waking up at the same time every day, and it is incredible at how even just that small change to eliminate decision fatigue has been awesome. So, getting up at the same time, and reading for 30 minutes as soon as I get up.

Pete Mockaitis
And that includes your Saturdays and Sundays?

Lindsay Gordon
That does not. That’s probably an area of opportunity. I’m not quite there yet. I’m not normally a morning person, so this is like a change for me. But, yes, I know that it would actually be better for me if I do it every single day, so I appreciate that challenge.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure. And is there a particular nugget you share that seems to connect and resonate with your people again and again?

Lindsay Gordon
You can make absolutely any decision for absolutely any reason as long as you know why it works for you.

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

Lindsay Gordon
Website is a great place to get in touch, ALifeofOptions.com. And I would also love to have you connect with me on LinkedIn. Every Tuesday I share awesome reflections from my work with clients and help you think about action that you can take in your career, so I’d love to connect with you there as well.

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

Lindsay Gordon
We talk a lot about having it figured out, “I should have it figured out by now,” “I’m behind,” “Everybody else seems to have it figured out.” I would love to challenge you to shift your goal from having it all figured out to a quote from “Designing Your Life,” which talks about playing the infinite game of becoming more and more yourself with each day.

So, instead of this endpoint of having it figured out, I want you to ask yourself each day, “How can I become more of myself today and bring what makes me unique into the world, into the work, and into my contributions?”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Lindsay, this has been fun. I wish you lots of luck and all the best.

Lindsay Gordon
Thank you so much.

608: Finding Extreme Clarity for Better Career Fit with Tracy Timm

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Tracy Timm says: "He or she with the most clarity wins in times of major uncertainty."

Tracy Timm discusses how to define your professional value and find greater fulfillment in your career.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The three types of fit that determine career satisfaction 
  2. Why an emphasis on job titles hurts our careers 
  3. How to get clear on your toughest decisions in one hour 

About Tracy

Tracy Timm is the founder of The Nth Degree® Career Academy, the proven career clarity system that helps high-potential professionals discover, define, and drive careers they love. She has a degree in behavioral psychology from Yale University and studied design thinking with the founder of the d.school at Stanford University. 

Tracy left a successful but unsatisfying career in finance, traveled once around the world on Semester at Sea, and discovered her ideal career. For more than five years, she has applied these lessons in her career advisory work with hundreds of individuals and over one hundred fast-growing companies. Tracy lives in Dallas, Texas. 

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you, sponsors!

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Tracy Timm Transcript

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

Tracy Timm
I’m super pumped, man. It’s been a long time coming, some mutual friends between the two of us, and this is going to be a fun conversation.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you for your patience. It’s all my fault that it was a long time coming.

Tracy Timm
Oh, my gosh. Absolutely not. You’re a busy man.

Pete Mockaitis
We take our time when we investigate or stalk prospective guests, and, well, you came up tremendously. So, I want to hear, first of all, you have won three different national championships in two different sports. What’s the story here? What are the sports? And how did you do that?

Tracy Timm
I did not achieve that level of success again until I was a senior in college, and not in softball but, actually, I had finally got recruited at Yale to play softball, I played for two years, and then I quit the softball team to do other things and find something that I really enjoyed, and I started playing club volleyball for the team on campus but the club team not the varsity team, and we won a national championship my senior year. And, like, nobody saw it coming, it was the most random event of all time. Yeah, nobody saw the Yale volleyball team coming. But we had so much fun, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s lovely. So, we’re talking about you’re being unstoppable in the world of careers. So, I’m curious, do you think there’s a parallel in terms of your sports championship unstoppability when it comes to being unstoppable in your career?

Tracy Timm
Oh, man. Yeah, when I was getting recruited out of college, and I was finding that a lot of companies, and you might know this already, are really interested in hiring athletes because of the background of dedication and hard work that they’ve shown in one particular area of pursuit. So, yeah, I think that there’s an element of relentlessness and grit and persistence.

And the thing that I always tell people now is, like, especially if you’re in a job where you’re doing something like sales, or you’ve got quotes, or you have to perform to a certain level, when you’re an athlete, especially, let’s say baseball or softball, success is hitting the ball three times out of ten. A 300-batting average is excellent, and anything above that we’re like, “Oh, my gosh. Can you believe it?”

But that means bad athletes go back to the dugout seven out of ten times, so you have to develop this just like skin on you that is, “You know what, three out of ten is a huge win, and if I can do a little bit more than that, I feel amazing about myself.” You get beat down a lot so, yeah, I think that there’s an element if you really want to feel unstoppable of building that muscle over time. And, certainly, being an athlete would help with that.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I think that three out of ten, I have a spreadsheet when I evaluate all these different business initiatives, and that’s just my assumption is that, “Yeah, there’s about a 30% chance this thing will work, and a 70% chance I will torch all that time and money and it will yield nothing.”

Tracy Timm
Oh, God. I’ve never thought about it like that.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, hey, hope your book takes off, Tracy, but…

Tracy Timm
Geez Louise, we’re going to be one of those three out of ten times this book. It’s a good book.

Pete Mockaitis
And if it isn’t, just write three more books.

Tracy Timm
There you go.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s all. That’s all, Tracy. Just do that. Well, let’s dig in a little bit in terms of so, Unstoppable: Discover Your True Value, Define Your Genius Zone, and Drive Your Dream Career. That sounds awesome. I want to hit, first of all, if anyone is feeling not so unstoppable because maybe they were laid off with COVID and they don’t know just how choosy or big dreamy they can be right now, what would you say to them?

Tracy Timm
My heart really, first and foremost, goes out to those people because we are in weird times and more than ever in, maybe, our lifetime, myself being only 32, about to turn 33, this is some of the most uncertain times that we’ve lived through at our age. But what I think we all could benefit from and take a step back and get some perspective on is that, yes, this is a kind of a weird crazy time, but, to me, the pandemic is just a reminder that life is crazy and uncertain.

And as much as we think we have control over anything going on, let alone our careers, it’s largely an illusion that we are dictating exactly where our future is going at any given time, which is not a reason to give up, but it’s a reason to maybe put where you’re going through right now into some perspective, and maybe take a little bit of the pressure off of yourself, and ask yourself, “Okay, if life is inherently uncertain, and, yes, we’ll get back to something that looks like a new normal, but I can never really depend on things the way that I used to, how am I going to respond? How am I going to react?”

And, in my business right now, what we’re seeing is that he or she with the most clarity wins in times of major uncertainty. So, when there are more people applying for the same amount of jobs and, of course, it’s going to mean more people with maybe better credentials than have ever applied for those jobs, I’m hearing crazy stories, like people with PhDs applying for jobs that don’t even require bachelor’s degrees type of thing, the question becomes, “How do I compete? Or, how do I find my way back to some semblance of clarity and confidence and certainty?”

And I think the answer has to be you have got to go back to the basics and figure out what is truly valuable about you as a professional and an individual and be able to articulate that value incredibly clearly to someone who is in the position to hire you or to employ you in some way. So, I get it, and it’s hard. It’s not easy to stare down the barrel especially if you’ve had a pretty stable existence so far, or maybe you’ve lived a very reactionary career so far, but I don’t think that those are your people. I think your people are the proactive ones who are looking for, “Okay, how do I make the most of this time? How do I bounce back better? How do I take advantage of this white space?” And it’s all about clarity.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I love that so much because that’s been my own experience with, boy, when I get really clear, results are happening. That’s just like, boom. And I think my problem is, I’m thinking about the StrengthsFinder, Ideation and Activator are two of my top strengths, and so I just get a lot of ideas and I want to do a lot of ideas, like, “Waah!” And then, in so doing, well, not a lot of things get all the way to the done finish line. And then when I’m really clear, it’s like, “No, no, Pete, I am completely certain that this is the critical thing that needs my attention right now, and, thusly, I’m going to do it,” then some cool things start happening.

And so, that’s my experience kind of in the entrepreneurial realm. And I love what you’re saying is when you’re in job-seeking, job-hunting professional career mode, it’s powerful, well, not only because I think you can dig deep and be super impressive and dazzle people with the research you’ve done because you had a narrower field of stuff you’re going after, but, also, that you’re articulating your stuff so well, it’s just impressive, like, “Okay. Well, that’s amazing. That’s exactly what we need,” or, “You know what, that’s not what we need, but you were so clear, this other thing over here is exactly what you want. Go talk to them instead of us.” Boom!

Tracy Timm
You’re so right. You’re absolutely right.

Tracy Timm
The cool thing, too, is that leaders want that amount of clarity. Like, we’ve had multiple times where graduates of our program have gone to their bosses and said, “I did this work and I know exactly what I want to do. And here’s why I’m the best at it,” and they’re like, “I wish everyone of my people could tell me that,” because they’re playing a guessing game, “We’ve got this sort of team full of athletes, if you will, and we’re trying to figure out what positions to put them in to get the best results of the business.” And if you don’t know your value, they’re definitely not going to have absolute clarity into your value either, so it’s only mutually beneficial.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so you break that into three components, they each start with D: discover, define, and drive. Can you give us a quick overview of what does that mean and how do we do some of that? And then we’ll go on in a little more depth.

Tracy Timm
Yeah, let’s do it. So, I find that what happens is a lot of people, if you were to say, like, ‘Discover comes first, define comes second, and drive comes third,” a lot of people in the midst of uncertainty, and, especially career uncertainty, jump to the third piece, which is drive. So, they start networking, and they’re all over LinkedIn, and they’re all over job boards, and they’re contacting recruiters, and they’re applying to jobs. And what they’ve done is put the cart before the horse.

So, I like to go all the way back to the beginning. When I deal with somebody who’s in any way uncertain, unclear, and unconfident in who they are as a professional, then we have to go all the way back to the beginning, we have to go all the way back to the foundation of what makes you you. So, in order to do that, we have to go through a really solid discovery process of what those individual, I’ll call them puzzle pieces, of your professional value are.

And then, once we’ve done that deep dive, that discovery part, that’s when we can transition into the define phase. So, once we’ve done all the discovery, we’ve got all your puzzle pieces, then we can set them all out on the table, create the framework for success for you, and put those puzzle pieces together properly, aka define your genius zone as a professional.

And it’s only when we’ve defined what your niche is in the world, your ideal best and highest value, what’s called your Olympic gold medal level ideal profession where you have the best chance of succeeding at the highest level, adding the most value, and getting the most in return, only then do you want to go in the drive component, which is, “Okay, now I’m going to actually take action on this. I’m going to network my tail off. I’m going to navigate with more certainty. So, I’m going to actually test drive my ideas and really explore with interest and adventure what it is that I can do, and really nourish myself along the way.”

So, yeah, I think you have to go back to the foundational components before you can really jump into the doing and the tasks, which is hard for people like me, frankly, who are like high sense of urgency, go, go, go. I have Activator and Maximizer in my top five, so I’m all about getting on the road and getting going, and 75% done is usually completely done for me, and I’m onto the next thing. So, yeah, I really encourage people to go back to the drawing board. And it may sound like starting over, but what it’s really doing is honoring all of the value that both comes naturally and easily, and from a values perspective to you, as well as that that you’ve learned and earned over time, and making sure you don’t waste any of that energy or experience.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s good. I think it makes sense in terms of, especially if it’s like, “Uh-oh, income has disappeared. I need that stat. So, that path through that is get a job. So, where are the jobs? I want to go after the jobs.” So, it’s natural as sort of an apparent knee-jerk reaction but I’m right with you that for it to be the most enjoyable, lucrative, complementary job, you’re going to have to do some of that discover and define stuff. So, how do we go about doing this discovering of our true value?

Tracy Timm
Yeah. So, I find that, you know, when I first started my business, my story goes all the way back to the fact that I graduated with a degree in psychology that I loved, but then I had no idea how to apply that professionally. I didn’t know how to translate that desire and interest and learning something into a role that I would do day in and day out, that I wouldn’t get bored with, and so I did it all wrong.

My first job out of college was on Wall Street, and I ended up being miserable and quitting that job, and traveling around the world, and spent every last time I had, and all that stuff. And so, one day, I just remember sitting down, the truth of it is I got fired from a job that was a horrible fit for me, and I was like, “Okay, self, like if this thing doesn’t work, like, what do you really want? Like, who do you have a heart to serve? And what problem do you want to solve for them? And who do you think about when you’re falling asleep? What is the thing that’s just on your heart?”

And, for me, it was that person that I was years before that who had all this potential that was just like bundled up inside and looking for a route out, looking for the thing in the world that you could go just slay at, right?

So, it took me three years to develop this methodology, and I was coaching people on the side, I was working as a human capital advisor.

And so, over that three years, I was discovering what elevates a person from an employee. So, let’s just say you’re an asset, you’re a line item on a spreadsheet, you’re having to justify your paycheck every two weeks, to, “What takes that person and elevates them from that to an asset?” Because once you’re an asset, you are irreplaceable. We’ve worked with all those people, where you’re like, “Oh, my God. How could we do business without Kim? Like, does someone else in the world have Kim’s job?” Probably. “Does someone else in the world have Kim’s sort of pedigree or whatever?” Definitely. But there’s something about Kim in that role, in that company, with that team that makes her unstoppable.

So, the magic combination I’ve found is three things. There are three specific ways you can fit into a company and three specific ways that a role can really be a deep fit for you, and if you have all three, then you become that asset in that area.

So, the first three steps are now, nature, and nurture, and this is exactly the formula that you need to discover what your niche is in the world, or your true value as a professional. The now component is made up of your core values and your commitments to yourself and your lifestyle, and that equates to what type of culture fit you’re going to be in a company. So, now is kind of your culture fit.

The second puzzle piece, or handful of puzzle pieces if you might say, is I call it nature. And so, nature is your personality, your gifts, your behaviors, your talents, and even your aptitudes, things that just come naturally and easily to you. And that’s how you become a strong behavioral fit in an environment, or a company, or a role.

And the last set of puzzle pieces I call nurture, and nurture is everything else. It’s what your cumulative life experiences have taught you. So, it’s education, it’s work experience, it’s even things in our 30-day program we call your ninja skills. So, that’s, “What did you learn from travel? And what did you learn from your hobbies? And what did you learn from your extracurriculars and volunteering?” All of that adds value as a professional person, and so you’ve got to write those things down and articulate what those values are. It’s skills, it’s knowledge, it’s expertise.

And if you stack those three items on top of one another, so the foundation is now, it’s your core values, and then you layer on how you’re naturally good in that area, and you layer on top of that what you’ve learned or studied or practiced or experienced, then, and only then, do you become this sort of Olympic-level athlete at your job. And then we can say, “Okay, if you’re Usain Bolt, then we know exactly the one event on the track that’s perfect for you. If you’re Michael Phelps, we know exactly the one event in the pool that’s perfect for you to win the most gold medals,” in this case, to achieve at the highest level, to have success, to have it sustainably, and to become an asset in a business, whether it’s your own or someone else’s, as opposed to a liability or just an employee.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, if the now leads to a cultural fit in the organization, and the nature of the nature leads to behavioral fit in the organization, what does the nurture kind of fit lead to?

Tracy Timm
Job fit.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, job fit.

Tracy Timm
That’s like, “Do you have the skills or the knowledge or the expertise to do the thing that you’re required to do?” And if you have all three, the cool thing is that you know how to do it, it comes to you also without having to work as hard as someone else, and you deeply value it so you’re likely to work harder at it than anyone else, and that’s the magic. It’s sort of amplifies or, what’s the word, exponentiates, makes exponential, your value because it’s layered so deeply into who you really are in all of those different areas.

Pete Mockaitis
What I think is intriguing here is that, I mean, you can be in roles that have zero out of three, or one out of three, two out of three, or three out of three. They kind of go all the way up and down. And so, I’d imagine that the flavor of discontentment you’re experiencing, if you will, would be kind of distinct in terms of, like, “I’m in over my head and have no idea how to do the things that they’re asking me to do,” would be we don’t have that nurture job fit in play.

Tracy Timm
Correct.

Pete Mockaitis
As opposed to, “You know, hey, man, I dig the way we work it but, I mean, who cares?” So, in terms of like, “I don’t think that the world really needs us to exist in it, and it wouldn’t be any worse off if it didn’t, but, you know, I like my coworkers and I could do the job, I can fly all over those spreadsheets like nobody’s business.”

Tracy Timm
And you know how insidious that is, right? It’s how people get stuck in these jobs that really aren’t serving them or allowing them to serve, it’s that there’s just enough. There’s just enough good about it, or, “I’m just good enough,” or, “I just got another promotion,” or, “I just got another raise, which is telling me that I’m good at this thing, and telling me that the world needs it,” but at the end of the day, you’re like, “Really? Is this what I do, the widgets? Is that what I’m going to be all about?” And that’s what keeps people up at night, but it’s really hard to break away from that without clear evidence that that’s what you’re supposed to do. You know what I mean?

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. And could you maybe give us an example of, “Hey, here’s a person, maybe it’s a client, and how, hey, here are some things about their now, about their nature, about their nurture, that landed perfectly in a role, and it’s just as resonant and harmoniously beautiful”?

Tracy Timm
Yes. Okay. So, I’ll give you the first one that came to mind because I ended up hiring her. This is how perfect this was, and it just goes to show you that you may not think that your dream job exists, but I guarantee you, if you’re specific enough and you’re talking to the right people, it does. Just because you don’t know about it, doesn’t mean it’s not out there. It’s one of those cases if you don’t know until you know, or you can’t know what you don’t know, right?

So, about a year ago, I had a woman come through our program who told me, it’s one of my favorite stories to tell because we saved her so much money, she was like, “Okay, Tracy, I’m 99% sure I have this 10-year plan where I’m going to go back to school and I’m going to finish my bachelor’s degree,” because she had a degree in Fine Arts, she didn’t have a proper sort of bachelor’s, “And then I’m going to go work in a school environment for a few years so I can get some experience under my belt. And then I’m going to go get my guidance counselling degree, so that eventually, 10 years from now,” after what they had decided as a family and they’ve calculated was $70,000 of college tuition and 10 years of work and/or college experience, she could finally be, ta-dah, a high school guidance counselor.

She’s 99% sure and I was like, “What’s the 1%?” She’s like, “I don’t know if I’m going to like it perfectly. Like, I know that I have a heart to serve people in transition, in transformation, and the underserved, and I think it’s this cohort of people, but I’m not 100% sure.” So, the more I pushed her, the more it’s like, “I’m like 50% sure this is right, not 99% sure.” I think she just convinced herself. So, I said, “Listen, make one percentage point of an investment with me to see if this is 100% what you want to pursue. And then if you are going to eliminate your husband’s 401K and go back to school, and yadda, yadda, yadda, and spend the next 10 years, you know that it’s right for you, you know that you’re not sort of putting good money after bad.”

So, she goes through the program. Within three weeks, so we’d only gotten through now and nature basically, we realized that her nature, she has an extremely low amount of formality naturally, like she’s really great at dealing with ambiguity, which is great, but if there’s a lot of bureaucracy, a lot of red tape, a lot of unnecessary structure in the way of how things get done, she gets really frustrated, really overwhelmed, and it doesn’t really work well for her, which may sound, on the face of it, like, “Oh, this person is unemployable,” if you’re out there thinking, “You can’t do my job like that.”

That may be true but there are definitely environments where that type of personality is really useful when you’re having to work with somebody through an ambiguous situation where you’re going to have to show confidence when they don’t see the end goal or results, and you have to handhold them through that process. It’s a really valuable thing to have if you’re working in an environment of uncertainty. That’s not a valuable thing to have if you work in a high school.

So, within three weeks, we knew exactly that this was a horrible decision that she and her family had made, so we saved them $70,000. She unenrolled, from school, because she had already started like potentially taking classes. And by the end of what was then an eight-week program, which is now a 30-day program, we realized that actually what she wanted to be was a career coach, which is kind of funny. The answer is not necessarily in the title. It just so happened that when we combined her now and her nature and her nurture, her niche was all about serving people through ambiguity, who are going through some type of transition or transformation, with deep emotionality and empathy.

And what was great is that I hired her almost on the spot. It was really funny. We’re in the middle of a workshop, and I was like, “Oh, I think I have an idea. We should talk about it later because there are other people around.” And she was my very first coach that I ever hired and trained to facilitate our programs. And the reason that I felt so confident hiring her without her ever having coached, ever, she doesn’t have a certification, she doesn’t have any of it, she consistently gets tens our tens from our clients because she’s naturally empathetic, so that goes under the nature column, and communicative, and thoughtful, and emotional.

She deals really well in ambiguity, so when our clients are like, “I don’t know if this is going to work,” she’s like, “Borrow my confidence. You got this,” and handholds them through the process. She has a theater arts background so she can actually mirror emotionality, and she knows how to show up for people in a way where they feel like they’re the only person in the room, and it’s not fake. It’s her training. She’s learned how to do that. And then her value set is all around serving people and allowing them to reach their fullest potential.

And so, there were all these really cool puzzle pieces that I would say the average maybe leader or manager wouldn’t necessarily put together, but because we put her niche together, together, I was able to see how these seemingly disparate qualities, from now to nature to nurture, actually complemented one another in such a way that it set her up to be successful in that role without her actually ever having physically done that role before. So, all I needed to do was teach her the program, and that was the last puzzle piece we needed from a nurture perspective. But her facilitating the program came easily because of the theater arts background, because she had actually led and managed people previously, again, all in different scenarios, but it was 100% transferable to working for me.

She tells me at least once a week, “I’m doing like my soul’s work. This is my dream job.” And it’s just so cool that I get to see that.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, we’ve zeroed in. So, that’s the discover phase there that we’ve done, those three Ns?

Tracy Timm
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
So, how do we define the genius zone?

Tracy Timm
There are a couple ways to go about this. It’s kind of like personality and background and core values math in a sense.

When you go into define, the goal is to figure out how all those things come together and complement one another. So, one of the ways I like to do this is think about like a triple Venn diagram in your mind’s eye, so you’ve got now at the top, nature on the bottom left, and nurture on the bottom right. And what we’re looking for is the nexus in the middle. Where do those three things overlap? I find that the easiest way to do that is to just pick a value, so like pick one datapoint in your now piece, and ask yourself, “Where does this value show up for me in my nature? Is it a part of my personality? Is it a part of my natural behavior set? Is it a part of my gifting? Is it a part of my talents?”

And then ask yourself, “Now, what have I added from nurture to make myself even more dangerous in that area?” So, if I have a personal core value of caring for people, caring for others is like one of my top five core values, and then in my nature, I’m naturally an empathetic person who’s thoughtful, who’s socially-oriented, who’s outgoing, who’s really good at persuading, or whatever. And then, also, in my nurture, I have been in Toastmasters and practiced speaking and the power of persuasion. And in my nurture, I have gone through a transition and a transformation myself. And, let’s say, maybe that transition is I’m recovering from an addiction of some sort. And I can talk from my own experience, and I can be really incredibly powerful and articulate in helping people through that process themselves.

Well, hot damn, now we’re cooking with grease because we naturally care about it, it comes more easily than it does for most people, and you’ve put in some time to really gain skills and knowledge and expertise in that area. And then the goal is just to do that over and over and over again for each core value. And if you’ve got, let’s say, seven to 10 core values, which is what most of us have at any given time, then you’ve got seven to 10 core components of your ideal profession. And so, we just need to weave that into a narrative, it gets really powerful. That’s where you can start to really powerfully articulate your value and define your niche in the world.

Sans job title. I was just on a panel earlier today, and this woman was like, “Listen, the answer is not a job title.” Just like the answer to ‘who your life partner is’ is not their name. They have a name, your dream job has a title, but the reason that they’re your dream person is all the qualities that make up that job. And I think we need to reframe looking for careers like that. If we can describe the who, what, when, where, why, and how of our dream job, that’s so much more powerful than account manager or sales representatives. You know what I mean?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s true, it’s like, “I want to be a business analyst.” Like, maybe you do. Because even the title, I think that’s a great distinction because that title can mean wildly different things to different organizations.

Tracy Timm
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
And, like, one organization’s business analyst is your nirvana, and the other organization’s business analyst is your hell, even though you might still be fiddling with Excel in both of them.

Tracy Timm
You’re absolutely right, Pete. I think you’re spot on. That’s the difference, and that puts you back in the driver’s seat, because if you can articulate your value that way, then you’re never beholden to someone else defining you, or someone else saying, “Oh, this is what you’re talking about.” Well, no, because you know, “Actually, it’s not this. It’s that.” And you know why and you’ve done the hard work to back up that answer.

We just graduated a girl a month ago who, two weeks, after she graduated, had competing offers for a job that she had been reticent to apply for because she didn’t think she had the experience or the accreditation to actually be chosen. Not only did she, she just needed to build the confidence that she did via the experience she already had, and she had competing offers within two weeks of graduating. And now she said she’s making $14,000 more a year, she’s working at a dream company, she’s able to leverage those offers against one another for better benefits and more flexibility, and their family is on like a whole new trajectory all because of confidence.

It’s just crazy to me. It’s not easy. It’s hard work. But I think it’s simple. I think the math is simple when you break it down.

Pete Mockaitis
You’ve called it math, and I was intrigued when you zeroed in precisely. It’s like, “Well, we have seven to 10 core values at any given time.” It’s like, “That’s okay. Let’s dig into that,” because there’s a number of ways we could define that. You tell me, what do you mean by a core value and how do we figure out those seven to 10?

Tracy Timm
Yeah, okay. So, I have sort of my favorite process for figuring out my core values every year, and this is how we teach it in our 30-day breakthrough program. So, what I like to do is I call it the 10, 20, 30 core values brain storm. So, for 10 minutes, what you want to do is just think of all the things in your life that really move the needle for you. And some good questions to stir the brainstorming process for that are, “Where do I find joy? What lights me up? What makes me feel good? What gets me excited? What do I need to live a good life? Who do I need to be to be a good person in my own eyes?” It’s all about your core values, not anybody else’s. And if you’re going to take the time to do this, please rid yourself of the expectations of other people, at least for these 10 minutes.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I was going to say, to that point, so feel good, hey, I love positivity, but I think we might also say feel bad, like, “Hey, where do you feel guilty because you know you have failed to live up to something that matters to you?” With that asterisk that matters to you, as opposed to, “Oh, I feel bad because I didn’t call my mom enough,” and I kind of do that, but it’s not because of her expectations, because I really respect and appreciate all she’s done for me, and I love her, and I want to be the person who is a great friend and son, and grateful and giving to her. Hi, mom. She listens.

Tracy Timm
Oh, hi, mom.

Pete Mockaitis
So, yeah, I guess it’s not so much because of my mom is disappointed or upset with me, but it’s because it’s, no, that’s who I want to be, and I’m often not being that.

Tracy Timm
Yup, I think that’s really powerful.

Pete Mockaitis
And then I feel some guilt associated with that.

Tracy Timm
Totally.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, we dig in a happy place, and then also, in the guilty place, so long as it’s purely your guilt and not inflicted from another party.

Tracy Timm
Yeah. Well, you can go to another level which is what pisses you off.

Pete Mockaitis
Sure, yeah.

Tracy Timm
Like, what’s the thing where you’re like, “Why don’t more people signal when they’re turning right? What does that mean to me?”

Pete Mockaitis
And that gives you so much insight too in terms of, boy, like if it’s a movie or a book or just something you heard someone do, or a news article, it’s like, “This is filling me with such joy and delight. Why?” or, “This is making me super angry. Why?” And that can point you to a value. But continue. So, we have 10, 20, 30. So, we’re starting with some questions for 10 minutes. We ponder.

Tracy Timm
Correct. And just get it all out and don’t judge it. So, it doesn’t need to be one-word values, and they don’t need to be like life-affirming. The last time I did it, one of the first two things that I wrote were warm kitten cuddles because I have two cats that I absolutely adore. And then the second one that I wrote was a bar where the bartenders know my name. Like, I like the idea of having a home bar, of having like people know you, of being part of a neighborhood. And so, those are what I wrote. I didn’t over-analyze them. I didn’t ask, like, “What’s the deeper value here?” I just wrote the thing, the thing that brings me joy, or the thing that makes me feel good, right? So, that’s the first 10 minutes. Don’t judge it. It’s brain dump. Get it all out.

The second part, for 20 minutes, is this is when you go and actually find a list of core values, and you either print them out on a piece of paper, or you look at them on a spreadsheet, and you’re circling every single one that resonates with you. All of them. And this is your opportunity to fill in the gaps. So often, the first 10 minutes, maybe you forgot something, or you had a mental block on some area of your life that actually really is important. This is where we’re actually going to find inspiration from the words themselves as opposed to try to pull the inspiration out of ourselves, if that makes sense. So, 10 minutes of brain dump, 20 minutes of reading words and circling them.

Pete Mockaitis
And these are the words that you dumped.

Tracy Timm
No, this is a whole additional set of words, so it’ll probably be complementary. So, the things that came naturally to you that you just dumped out of your brain might not be in these perfect value words.

Pete Mockaitis
And where do I find this value word list?

Tracy Timm
I use CoreValuesList.com. yeah, it’s not my own. It’s just 500 words.

Pete Mockaitis
CoreValuesList.com. Thank you.

Tracy Timm
You know what, it’s really funny. Enough people have asked me that that I should make my own page TracyTimm.com/CoreValues. But, heaven, I’m so lazy.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, you might be able to put some flavor on it. Like, if they’ve got 500 pieces of raw material, you can do some categorizing and, you know, I don’t know.

Tracy Timm
I like that. I like it a lot. Well, so, now you jumped the gun on me because step number three is categorizing. At this point, you’re probably going to have 50, 100, 150 words or phrases, either written down, I like to do mine in a spreadsheet because then I can just move them easily. But the goal now is to look at your words and start grouping them in groups that are similar. So, if you looked through all your words, and you’re like, “Okay. Well, I have a lot that are on sort of health and wellness. It’s all different words, like, vitality and strength and everything else having to do with health and wellbeing, and it sort of falls into that category, and that’s what it is. That’s the value. That’s the underlying value of these words or phrases.”

The 30 minutes that you’re spending is getting your massive chunk of words down to 10 or less groups,
10 or less. Because if you have more than 10, it’s way too many cooks in the kitchen. If you have less than seven, I would argue that you’re not specific enough.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Tracy Timm
Yeah. And that’s how you figure out your core values. And what I like to do is, at the end of the hour, 10, 20, 30, at the end of the hour, look at your groups and give them names that resonate with you. If that’s just words then it’s just words for you. If it’s phrases, then give them like a really strong powerful phrase. I’ve had clients do mythical characters or historical figures, so they picked like George Washington was their whole category is, let’s say, honesty or whatever, and that’s really what resonates for them.

Pete Mockaitis
Self-sacrifice. George Washington. What a guy.

Tracy Timm
Right. Hardworking and whatever, yeah. But how powerful is George Washington as a value for that person because of the image that it conjures, and how much more powerful is it then hardworking or honest or self-sacrifice?

Pete Mockaitis
Like, generous. You’re right, it stirs something in you because you’re like, “Man, when I was listening to 1776, like, this dude was wow, you know.”

Tracy Timm
Yeah. And core values are only as powerful as you make them, right? So, it’s these platitudes that you put on the wall and you don’t ever use, and the words don’t even resonate with you. Why are you laughing so hard?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now you got me thinking. It’s fun. You’re right. Like, you get to be you and expressive, and so now I’m thinking of myself. Like, as a child, one of my…well, I guess I still play it today a couple times a year. There’s this strategy game called Master of Orion, super dorky, on a computer.

Tracy Timm
All right.

Pete Mockaitis
I think it launched me into strategy consulting and strategic thinking stuff.

Tracy Timm
I love this, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, if I were to sort of play this game, but that’s also important to me, it’s like using resources well, like, being a good steward of them. I also just enjoy it, like strategically optimizing, like, “Hmm.”

Tracy Timm
Oh, totally. Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, if you could put that as one of my values is that I am the Master of Orion.

Tracy Timm
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Which is so dorky, which is why I’m laughing. It’s so dorky but, to me, it is very meaningful.

Tracy Timm
It’s so accurate.

Pete Mockaitis
Like, I know what that means and I want to be that.

Tracy Timm
And I want to be that. Exactly. I got to tell you. The best ones are the people who are creative that’s because I’m a creative person. I find the ones that resonates really powerfully for people, they actually go that extra mile, and it’s this uber specific thing that only they understand but it fully encompasses the value, if that makes sense.

One of my absolute favorites was this girl, she was one of our workshop participants a while back, and she was like, “One of my core values is ‘Welcome to my party.’” And she said it just like that, “Welcome to my party,” and I was like, “I’m sorry. What?” And she’s like, “It’s this one specific memory I have where I hosted this incredible party, and so many people came and I was so engaged as the host that I lost my voice. And so, by the end of the night, I was like, ‘Welcome to my party.’” And she said people made fun of her forever, but what it encapsulated for her was this sense of like providing a space for people to have a great time, and how much energy she got from that, and how much joy she got from that, and she loved being in charge. So, it’s actually a more complex value but it was so perfect for her that it’s Master of Orion for you. It’s fabulous. I love that. So, I think that’s how you do it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, if I may, can I put you on the spot, drop it on us, your seven to 10 core values in all of their unique flavors?

Tracy Timm
You want to know them?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Tracy Timm
All right. You know what, you’re so lucky, Pete, I actually have these up on a spreadsheet all the time because I like to refer back to them whenever I’m making decisions. This is the cheat code for life. If you have your core values figured out ahead of time, and someone says, “Hey, do you want so-and-so to potentially be your business partner and make an investment and take 50% of your business?” or somebody is like, “Hey, would you consider even coming to this event that I have to go to later tonight or do you need to go take care of your mom?” or, “Hey, do you want to spend your money on this vacation or do you want to spend your money over here?”

If you already have your values figured out ahead of time, it is the equivalent of a life-easy button because you can look at your core values, and you can go, “Ugh, that doesn’t even fit number one. Out.” You don’t have to lose sleep. You don’t have to be overly-emotional about it. It’s amazing. So, literally, I pull these out all the time. Like, I was entertaining a potential business partner earlier this year, and my gut was telling me, like, “Uh-oh, I don’t know. Don’t you want to be Sara Blakely and own 100% of SPANX? And do you really want to give this away?” And it was all ego-driven, right? It was all sort of in-the-moment, emotional, reaction and response.

And then when I actually wrote, I literally did this, Pete, I wrote my core values in the middle of a piece of paper, and then on the left, I put a pro column, and then on the right, I put a con column, and then anything that this…if saying yes to this partnership produced a pro that had to do with core value number one, I had to write it on the left, but if it produced a con, I’d write it on the right. And by the time I was done, I had five to seven pros for every con on the other side, and I was like, “Oh, the better version of me who deeply thought about what mattered ahead of time is telling this current ego-driven emotional version of me, ‘Hey, dummy, you already did the hard work. Why are you thinking about this so hard? It makes sense. Let’s move forward.’” And it made me feel so much better about my decision.

Okay. So, my top 10 core values. Number one is “deeply in tune” which is feeling divine, grateful, faithful, and hopeful, so it’s kind of how I live my faith. I’m Catholic so I’m pretty into that. But even beyond that, it’s like, “Am I listening? Am I grateful? Am I thoughtful about my career decisions? Am I hopeful about the future? Do I feel aligned?” Number two is “it takes a village.” This is a new one this year because Tracy Timm was rowing the business canoe alone for about five years, and my arms got real tired, so “it takes a village” is feeling supported, loved, comforted, and connected. If I’m living those two values, then I also get to live my third value, they’re all in a row, which I highly advise people do, my third value is “in my element” which is feeling confident, capable, masterful, and impactful. So, if I’m deeply in tune, and I have the right people on my team, I get to be in my element more often than not.

Which then, if I’m in my element, I get to be number four, which is “fully alive,” so that’s feeling excited, eager, adventurous, and awake. Being awake is such an important word to me because I feel like I lived a good portion of my life as a zombie, and I don’t want that for myself or anybody else.

Pete Mockaitis
I can’t help but tie together Catholic and fully alive with Saint Irenaeus. Oh, my God, was this man fully alive. That’s one of my faves.

Tracy Timm
Thank you for that. Oh, my gosh. I feel so affirmed. Yes, love it. So, if I’m fully alive then I get to be number five which is “in the moment.” And, for me, in the moment means engrossed, and aware, and connected, and kind of full of wonder. Like, I tend to be the kind of anxious fearful person more than I am the full of awe and wonder person, but I really aspire to that value so that’s why that’s my fifth value.

Number six was a personal sort of plea for myself at the beginning of the year. Number six is “less is more,” and that was feeling uncluttered and organized, synergistic and prosperous. So, how could I eliminate to create more? And I told myself, by the end of the year, that meant that I was going to commit to like Marie Kondo-ing/home-editing my world, and I’ve made like baby steps in that direction but it’s only September, so we’re going to get there.

Seven is “serenity pool.” Have you ever floated in one of those float chambers?

Pete Mockaitis
You know, I’ve wanted to but I haven’t done it yet.

Tracy Timm
It’s worth it. I wouldn’t do it for longer than 45 minutes. I got a little antsy and bored by the end of it, but the first 30 is just like, “This is heaven.” So, serenity pool for me is feeling light, and peaceful, and balanced, and harmonious, and putting enough in my life to create that on purpose. Number eight is “vitality or bust,” which speaks a lot to me because I need to give myself good strong boundaries. So, vitality or bust is way better than feeling fit, or whatever. It’s like, “No, you’re going to do this.” And so, that’s feeling strong, fit, energy-rich, and energy-giving.

And then the last two are “keep going,” which is something I have to tell myself basically every day, which is feeling determined, dedicated, resilient, and resourceful. And then the last one is called “living inside out,” which, to me, means being authentic, being heard, being understood, and being genuine in that exchange with people. So, wow, I’ve just laid it all out there. It is bare.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you. I appreciate it. And it shows, I mean, the vulnerability and the realness, and like straight up, that’s what really matters to you. There it is.

Tracy Timm
It is, and I put in the work to figure that out. And it took about an hour or two hours to do. I do it once a year in January, my whole team does it in January. We get together and we sort of go over and what’s everyone’s values for the year. It’s part of our annual meeting so that I know what my people care about, and they know what I care about. And so, if we’re showing up to work, we’re there to do our jobs but it also serves our own values.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, I love it. We’ve talked about values a few times on the show but I don’t know if we ever quite got this raw and precise.

Tracy Timm
Nice. I’m glad.

Pete Mockaitis
So, kudos and thank you. Glad we went there.

Tracy Timm
Thanks for asking the question. That’s all you.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you for getting there. All right. Well, let’s see, wow so much good stuff. I asked, hey, drive, I mean, there’s plenty of tips on that but go ahead and lay it on us, one or two tips, tactics, that just rock when it comes when you’re actually the job hunting?

Tracy Timm
I have two for you. Once you know your niche, well, now you just got to put your vision into action. And there are two things that I think we don’t do enough of that everyone should be doing if you’re in the process of discovering your ideal career or making any type of professional transition or transformation whatsoever.

Number one is, our maxim in the business is 10 minutes in front of a human being is worth 10 hours of online research. So, if you aren’t actively speaking to other human beings about your niche, about what you’re pursuing, about what it looks like, the who, what, when, where, why, describing it to them, talking to them about your transition, anything, if you are going back to the fear of living behind the computer screen, which I know it’s easy for us to do, especially us millennials, shame on us, right, we forgot how to talk to humans, you are wasting time. Categorically wasting time. Ten minutes in front of a human being is so much more of a dynamic engagement and interaction that could not be replaced with 10 hours of Googling and job boards and LinkedIn updates and things like that.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And when you spend that time, you suddenly have so much richer stuff to Google, it’s like, “I’ve never heard of that company. It sounds amazing.

Tracy Timm
There you go.

Pete Mockaitis
And then that time you spend, it just has a whole different energy to it, like, “Oh, my gosh, I can’t wait to learn about this thing. It sounds amazing,” as opposed to, “So, what are some business analyst opportunities in the Chicago area?”

Tracy Timm
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
Maybe that is the appropriate thing to look for but it’d be great if you had that gusto and that certainty from having tapped into someone else’s brilliance.

Tracy Timm
Well, yeah, because, remember, this is How to be Awesome at Your Job, not How to be Mediocre at Life. So, if you want to be awesome, talk to other people who can show you, “Okay, yeah, you’re almost there. But if you want all the things you want in a job, you should be looking here. This is what you’re really describing. And it lives here and it exists here, and it’s called this,” which is not something that Google is ever going to autocorrect you for, you know.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s true.

Tracy Timm
So, that’s number one, we call that network. That’s step one in sort of this drive part of the process, and it’s everybody’s least favorite part, like nobody wants to “network” because they think it’s awkward and they’re going to talk to people they don’t know, and 99 times out of 100, you have a preexisting amazing network that you’re just not tapping. They want to help but they don’t know how to help you, they don’t know what you want, and all they need you to do is go to them and tell them what you want. It’s brilliant. But you have to ask.

And so then, the second piece of advice in drive I call “navigate,” which is really just a fancy way to say test drive your options, like have an informational interview, go shadow someone, do not be the person that accepts a job, or applies for a job without knowing what you’re getting yourself into. Like, investigate what you’re pursuing. Inspect what you expect. And the easiest way to do that is to test drive your assumptions.

And the only thing that keeps us from doing that is we’re afraid to be wrong 100% of the time. It’s like, “Oh, well. But if I just accept this then my job search is done, and I can wash my hands of this and I’ll be happy. I’m sure of it.” And every time I’ve done that, I’ve been ignoring a blaring siren red flag going, “This thing is not in alignment with your core values,” or, “This thing is going to make you turn your nature inside out,” or, “This thing is going to make you feel like you’re in over your head all the time. And even though you’re a fast learner, it’s not going to be fun for you.”

So, test drive your options and assumptions. And I listened to another woman today talk about this, and she was like, “Be curious. Have fun with it. It’s not a right or wrong, live or die, type of thing. It’s be curious. Ask the follow-up question. Follow somebody around. Ask about their day-to-day.” And the things that you learn from that navigation component of the job search they will either affirm to you that this is going to be life-giving and wonderful, or they will allow you to dodge the unnecessary bullet more often than not.

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

Tracy Timm
My call to action is whenever I’m uncertain about things, especially life and career things, I like to go back to logic and reason and what I know to be true. Like, what ultimate truth is there? And my favorite anecdote about this that really spurs me to action anytime I’m afraid to try something, or anytime I’m afraid to really go for something, is that I met this guy on Semester at Sea, who’s a professor of psychology, and he taught me. I was just in the pits of despair.

And I was so deeply unhappy with my career at that point, and I asked him, like, “Listen, is this just how it has to be? Do I just have to suck it up? Is this what work is? It pays well, so I guess I get to have a lifestyle that’s nice, that’s fun. But 12 hours a day, five days a week, I’m pretty unhappy. Is that just how it has to be? Or, should I go for it? Should I actually try to find…?” because even then I didn’t know what it was, but I was like, “Should I go try to figure it out?” And he was like, “Tracy, it is always worth it to take your meaningful shot for the stars because the way that our brain processes regrets is that you will regret infinitely more something that you didn’t do than something that you did and failed at.”

Those are the only things you can regret, one is called regrets, or sins of omission, that’s the thing you didn’t do, and the other one is a sense of commission, that’s the things you did wrong. And the reason that you regret things you didn’t do infinitely more is because there’s no answer, and your brain is looking for the end of the story. It’s looking for what happened as a result of that action. But because you didn’t do anything, there is no result. There are, in fact, though, an infinite number of potential results, the what-ifs, and the would’ve-beens, and things like that, that literally haunt us, and have the opportunity to haunt us our whole lives not because we regret it inherently more but because our brain is looking for that solution.

So, if you’re out there on the fence, and you’re like, “How do I be awesome?” live a regret-free life, and go for the things you want. And if nothing else convinces you to do it, let the logic of the fact that you’re never going to regret failing at something more than you’re going to regret wondering what would’ve happened. That’s one my favorite pieces of advice.

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

Tracy Timm
The first is the one that I discovered most recently which is Einstein, which is, “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life feeling stupid.” That was my very first job out of college. I was a really hardworking fish, climbing a really big tree, and feeling like, “Why isn’t this working?” And I think a lot of people feel that way. And if that’s you, get yourself out of that. The other is, “Don’t ask what the world needs? Ask yourself what makes you come alive, because what the world needs is people who’ve come back to life,” and that’s Howard Thurman. And that’s really what is one of the cornerstones of our business core values, it’s like, “Let’s bring people back to life.”

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

Tracy Timm
I think my favorite psychological phenomenon that’s been studied a lot is cognitive dissonance. So, it’s the idea that your body and your mind cannot exist for very long at odds with one another, which means if you believe something but you behave in a different way, then something has to give. Either you have to change your behavior or you have to change your beliefs.

And I’m of the belief that a lot of people are suffering for longer than they have to, because instead of changing their behavior, whether it’s in their life or their career or anywhere else in their life really, they haven’t changed their behavior, they’ve convinced themselves of a different set of beliefs, and so they’re suffering longer because, really, deep down, they don’t believe that. They’ve only made it logical or reasonable to explain away their behavior. So, cognitive dissonance, I think, is huge, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m about to ask you for a favorite book. I’m currently reading Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) about cognitive dissonance, which is amazing. I recommend it. What’s a favorite book that you’d recommend?

Tracy Timm
Well, Unstoppable, the career book for you, and please go check that out UnstoppableCareerBook.com. I’d appreciate it. But if you’re not going to read my book, I would highly recommend that you read, maybe in addition, this book, it’s a total throwaway coffee table book but it was a game changer for me, it’s called If Life Is a Game, These Are the Rules, and it’s by Dr. Cherie Carter-Scott.

And she wrote it originally as a list of like eight rules for living that was published in the very first Chicken Soup for the Soul, and then Jack Canfield tracked her down and said, “I know you wrote this. Can I attribute this to you?” because in the original printing, it was anonymous. And because of that conversation, she was inspired to write the book where she explains each of the rules in detail. So, each of the rules for living comes with like four or five different virtues that when you sort of master those virtues, you’ve mastered that rule for living. It’s powerful. It’s really powerful.

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

Tracy Timm
TracyTimm.com. In fact, I’m going to go ahead, for your audience, create a little landing page, TracyTimm.com/awesome is where you can go, and you can get all kinds of freebies there specifically if this is resonating with you. You can book time with somebody on our team to just talk about what’s not working in your career, and we can help you get on the right path, and that’s absolutely free. So, TracyTimm.com/awesome.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Tracy, this has been a treat. I wish you lots of luck in all of your unstoppable adventures.

Tracy Timm
Thank you so much, Pete. I just appreciate what you’re doing for the world, and I know everybody out there, I don’t know how they don’t adore you. You’re an absolute treat. So, thank you so much for having me.