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Finding Fit

369: Avoiding The Perils of Workplace Technology with Dan Schawbel

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New York Times bestselling author Dan Schawbel discusses appropriate uses of technology and how to find fulfillment in your career.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to set career expectations
  2. Three tips for increasing productivity and improving work relationships
  3. How (and when!) to use technology to improve relationships

About Dan

Dan Schawbel is a New York Times bestselling author, Partner and Research Director at Future Workplace, and the Founder of both Millennial Branding and WorkplaceTrends.com. Through his companies, he’s conducted dozens of research studies and worked with major brands including American Express, GE, Microsoft, Virgin, IBM, Coca Cola and Oracle. Dan has interviewed over 2,000 of the world’s most successful people, including Warren Buffett, Anthony Bourdain, Jessica Alba, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and me! He is the host of “5 Questions with Dan Schawbel”, a podcast where he interviews a variety of world-class humans by asking them 5 questions in less than 15 minutes. In addition, he has written countless articles for Forbes, Fortune, TIME, The Economist, The Harvard Business Review, and others that have combined generated over 15 million views. Schawbel has been profiled or quoted in over 2,000 media outlets. He has been recognized on several lists including Inc. & Forbes Magazines “30 Under 30.”

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Dan Schawbel Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Dan, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Dan Schawbel
I’m very excited to be here, my friend.

Pete Mockaitis
I want to hear the story you recently conquered your fear of heights in Costa Rica. What’s the back story there?

Dan Schawbel
I was really anxious going to Costa Rica. I was watching all of these videos on YouTube of people canyoning and zip lining and I had so much fear. I’ve been afraid of heights my whole life.

My friends that I went with, they’ve done some crazy things in their life. My friend, Pete, he has zip lined in … places in the world. My other friend, we call him the crazy Russian, Slava, he’s bungee jumped, he’s jumped out of a helicopter, he’s done some crazy stuff.

And so, just going with them and knowing that I would be really pushed out of my comfort zone, gave me a lot of anxiety. And I have a lot of anxiety as is, so it just … up a notch.

I finally just gained the courage. I’m like, “Let’s do this. When am I going to go to Costa Rica again?” So we land, the next morning we go canyoning first. It was really intense because when you go in this canyon, you have to propel down these massive waterfalls. The first waterfall is like eight feet, but the second one is almost directly after that and that’s 150 feet. And I’ve never done this before.

And what I did was I went first because I knew the more I would wait, the higher my anxiety would be, more … I would be. I would always go first and that’s how I got around that fear is, “Hey, I’m just going to get this over with.” In many ways that’s how I’ve handled a lot of situations in life. I just replicated it in terms of to beat the fear.

A few days later we went zip lining and that was … the biggest and tallest zip lines in all of Costa Rica. I think one of the zip lines was a mile long. They would tell us that if you get stuck on the zip line, because you’re not going fast enough, then you have to crawl yourself back. maybe it happens a few times a year, but to me that builds up so much fear because what if I’m the person. What if I’m stuck and I’m looking down and you see the rainforest and the jungle and you’re like, “Oh my God, let me live through this.”

What really helped with the anxiety was going before my friends, but because it was a 75-year-old woman and five little kids who were zip lining with us. I was like, “Oh, if they can do it, I can do it.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah, that’s encouraging when the elderly pull it off. Great to hear. You did it. How do you feel?

Dan Schawbel
I feel good, but I’m also not ready to sign up for it again either.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it also sounds like you’ve got your hands kind of full. You’ve got multiple roles going on, founder of Millennial Branding and WorkplaceTrends.com and partner and research director at Future Workplace. Can you orient us a little bit, what is your job, your thing, what do you do?

Dan Schawbel
For the past month, I’ve really come to the conclusion that I’m just a curious person who asks a lot of questions. I’d start there, because since 2012 I’ve conducted over 40 research studies, including this new one for Back to Human, the new book with Virgin Pulse.

I’ve raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. I’ve surveyed over 90,000 people in over 20 countries, and I do all the questionnaires, so I’ve had to think of many, many, many, many questions through that.

Then I’ve also interviewed over 2,000 people one-on-one. These are anywhere from professors to authors, to astronauts, to Warren Buffett, Donald Trump, a wide variety of people and each of those interviews is five questions …. It’s really about learning as much as I can from people and through data and create and … those stories through the media, through books, and through everything else I do.

So that’s the core of what I do is ask questions. I’m also you could say an entrepreneur. I’m partner … Future Workplace. I do all the research through them, but we also put on four events every year, two on the east coast of America, two on the west coast. These events are for heads of HR companies that we serve. We also have an AI course and we do workshops as well.

Aside from that, I’m … Millennial Branding, so that’s where I do a lot of speaking, and books, and spokesperson, deals with working with companies to get their message across to people my age. I’ve done a lot of media. I’ve written over 2,000 articles.

I’m somebody who has worked since I was 13. My first business was sophomore year of college. I had eight internships between high school and when I graduated college.

I worked for three and a half years at a company called EMC Corporation, which is now EMC Dell. Dell purchased them. I created the first ever social media position there that’s because outside of work I was really early into blogging. I started my own …, everything around personal branding.

Fast Company profiled me and through that EMC hired me internally for the social media position. If you go Twitter.com/EMC and Facebook.com and all those, I did all the original social media accounts back in 2007, so it was really early on in all of this. I’ve watched the whole thing play out.

Then over time, I’ve continued to write. My really true love is I like to focus on organizational behavior, how robots and humans collide in the workplace. I’m very interested in work culture and the labor market at a high level.

I like to see from a macro level what’s … in the economy, what’s happening in the world, are more people being hired, are people losing jobs because of technology, what do retentions rates look like, what – who’s hiring what?

I love all of that because from a high level I know what the market is, so I can give better advice from an individual level … invest their time, what they should major in, what skills they need to develop. But also more corporate standpoint, I understand what skills people have and what they’re looking for in their employers.

For instance, people my age, 34, or younger, they’re looking for flexibility in the workplace. Through the research, through conversations I have I’m able to make those recommendations.

The goal really, my mission is to help my generation through their whole career path from student to CEO. The first book, Me 2.0, helped them get from college to first job. The second book, Promote Yourself, is first job to management.

Then Back to Human is a leadership book for the generation because over … percent of people my age have a management title and above and about 5% have a director title and above, so to me this is the best time to help engage the next generation of …. And you know, for me, myself, I consider myself a leader in this space. I’ve been supporting this generation since the early days, the early 20s.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. All right, that’s plenty. What’s your book, Back to Human, all about here?

Dan Schawbel
The thesis is that technology has created the illusion of connection when in reality, … using or misusing it, we are isolating ourselves to a more lonely, less engaged, and less committed to our teams and organizations.

People can all relate to this. The average person checks their phone every 15 minutes. We tap our devices over 2,600 times a day. We’re constantly using the technology. We’re not even thinking about using it. You see this everywhere we go.

Now, even though the book hits technology really bad, it does it to make bigger points about how we’re using it and when we’re using it.

For instance, you could use technology in order to discover people who might live in your neighborhood or your city so you can connect with them, but when you connect with them try and do it in a meaningful way on the phone or in person so you get to really know someone and form a stronger bond.

This happens in the workplace too. If we’re constantly using and abusing technology and thinking it’s going to solve all of our problems, it’s really not. It’s going to actually isolate us and bring us further apart.

You cannot solve an argument between two employers by texting. That’s just not going to cut it. It creates misunderstanding. One, face-to-face interaction is more successful … 34 emails back and forth. Instead of emailing someone constantly, hoping they understand you and know what to do next, all you have to do is walk four feet and actually talk to that person.

Because of the overuse and misuse of technology in our society and in the workplace, people are using it as a crutch and avoiding face-to-face conversations that are necessary in order to establish relationships that are required for long-term success and happiness.

Pete Mockaitis
Can you point to I guess a little bit of the mechanism or the line of causality or the evidence that says, that hey, this technology is in fact causing isolation and disengagement?

Dan Schawbel
Yeah, it’s actually in the study I did with Virgin Pulse of over 2000 managers and employees in 10 countries. We found that almost 50% of an employee’s day is spent using technology to communicate over in person. What’s happening with those employees is that they feel lonely … very often as a result of overusing that technology.

This is a big issue, especially in a world where … is much more dispersed. You have more people working from home than ever before. A third of the workforce works from home, but two-thirds of those people are disengaged because if you’re always working from home the whole time – and I work from home, it’s been almost eight years working from home you can become isolated and lonely because you’re not … human contact.

What’s really fascinating is we focused on all the benefits of working from home and … tons of research around the benefits that you get, the freedom of flexibility, you save commuting cost, but not enough people are talking about the drawbacks. The big drawback is that you feel isolated, lonely, and potentially disengaged.

We have bigger conversations around the full picture of this because sometimes people lie to themselves. They’re not consciously thinking about how working from home isolates them and impacts their health and wellbeing, which impacts productivity.

It’s like everyone talks about the glory of loving what you do and being passionate about what you do for work, but if you’re really passionate about what you do, it could become an addiction and actually isolate you from others because all you’re doing is work.

There’s the good and bad for everything. Part of what I want to do with this book is to reveal and make people more conscious of how and where they’re using technology and to try and make better decisions about that.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I guess what I’m wondering is the extent to which the working remotely thing is causality versus correlation in so far as some people who want to work from home are already, aren’t super attached to their coworkers. They won’t miss like, “Oh, I’m so sad that I will not see these people on a regular basis,” as opposed to it’s causing it like, “Oh man, I’m out of the loop.”

Are you talking about people who are working entirely remotely or sort of the once or twice a week work from home crowd?

Dan Schawbel
I’m talking about entirely working remote.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you.

Dan Schawbel
If you work remote, you’re much less likely to want to long-term career at your company because you don’t have emotional attachment to the people you work with. You’re never there. You’re out of sight, you’re out of mind, which actually limits your career prospects.

It’s like Jack Welch used to always say when he was the CEO of GE, “Face time matters.” If you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind. You’re less likely to get a promotion.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, got you, so these are fully remote workers.

Dan Schawbel
Yeah, so I’m talking about a fully remote worker. A third of the population works remote always or very often. It’s happening. Look at a company like Aetna. Over half the workforce works remote full time.

Other companies fall into this as well. That’s why you see this big backlash too. You have Yahoo, BestBuy, Reddit and various other companies like Honeywell that have forced employees to come back into the office. Now, they’ve forced employees to come back to the office full time, whereas Aetna says, “Hey, you can work remote fulltime.”

What I’m saying is more or less what you’re … to get to is let’s … extremes here. Let’s kind of meet in the middle and let’s customize work based on your individual needs.

It’s crazy. I interviewed 100 young leaders for my book, at least … of them are having kids this year. There’s a million new Millennial moms per year. If you’re having kids, you need some degree of flexibility. As if someone’s single or someone’s older, the benefits they need and the work they want is going to be a little bit different.

You’re going to care much more about retirement benefits if you’re 60 than 23. You’re going to care about flexibility in some regard regardless of age, but if you’re younger maybe you want flexible hours or telecommunicating, where as if you’re older, you want some other degree of flexibility. Like if you have kids, you want parental/maternal leave. That’s becoming a really hot benefit for many. Netflix gives unlimited.

I think it depends where you are in your career lifecycle, what you’re looking for at that time, and what your needs are, and then having a company and a manger step up and really lead by exhibiting empathy and understanding your situation, trying to create a good situation for you.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Then digging into some of the content of the book, you sort of suggest starting off by focusing in on fulfillment. What does that mean and look like in practice and what are some of the alternatives that people focus on instead?

Dan Schawbel
Great question. Life is too short and … work too many hours not to be fulfilled at work. The average work week is 47 hours for a fulltime salaried employee and 43 for an hourly worker. We’re spending so much time at work.

Anytime I stand in front of an audience of 50 to 6,000 recently, I always say, “How many of you respond to work emails on vacation?” It’s like 99% say they do. We’re always kind of working now. There’s an expectation, especially in the United States, that we’re working 24/7, which can be unhealthy and lead to burnout.

But the reality is if you do not like your work or you have a toxic work environment, where you don’t get along with your colleagues and manager, it’s going to affect your personal life.

This is why I put such an emphasis on improving the workplace, making people have healthier work environments because if you don’t have a good employee experience, it’s bad for the company, and it could be bad for your relationship with the people you’re closest with because you’re going to be complaining about work outside of work all the time.

Pete Mockaitis
Right, yeah.

Dan Schawbel
I put a huge emphasis on this. What I said in the book is you really have to focus on your fulfillment first. It’s like if you’re on a plane, they always say take care of yourself before you – if there’s going to be a crash, take care of yourself before your fellow passengers.

Same thing with fulfillment, you’ve got to get your stuff right because then you’ll be optimistic, you’ll be happy, you’ll be able to inspire and support people at a higher level. You’ve got to get your stuff right first before you help others.

The best way to start doing this is defining what makes you fulfilled. Think about what you’ve enjoyed in the past, what you think you’re good at, your values, what your previous accomplishments and experiments tell you. Really zone in on what you’re supposed to be ….

By the way, this doesn’t happen in one day. It’s not like you wake up and magically you know what makes you fulfilled. It’s being thoughtful. Taking notes. A lot of people keep journals now. I think that’s really smart, to write down how you feel when you do certain activities. Really narrowing that down is so important.

Then I think what happens in our society is people get distracted by technology. They get derailed from their own fulfillment. They try and live up to the expectations of others when we really have to take a step back and focus on ourselves and then our team second.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, a couple things I want to dig into there. One, I’m a sucker for data. That 47-hour figure, so this is in the United States, those who are full-time salaried position.

Dan Schawbel
Yup.

Pete Mockaitis
So that does not include the commute. That is just straight up work time.

Dan Schawbel
Straight up work time.

Pete Mockaitis
… further.

Dan Schawbel
That’s by Gallup. That’s a Gallup study from 2014.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. I’m wondering if it’s the mean or the median, but I’ll look it up on my own. Either way, it’s striking. 47 is a lot more than 40.

Dan Schawbel
Oh here’s another one for you. A third of people work on weekends.

I’m a data nerd, by the way. I’ve reviewed – I’m getting closer to over 8,000 research reports since I was a recent college graduate, so I’m really invested in this.

I have catalogued all the research over the years because I’ll tell you why I like research so much because when I was younger, there was so much ageism because I had a career blog. People were like, “What do you know about having a great career? You’re 22!” I stated early. I learned how to – internships, get a job, sell myself, build my personal brand. I knew that all early on.

It’s still a lot of ageism. I used data in order to combat ageism. “Hey, you don’t believe me? I’m going to point to data that you trust, so you now … be more seriously.” I always use data as a way to deflect ageism.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah.

Dan Schawbel
And then … 2012 I had a great opportunity to analyze four million Millennial Facebook profiles. That campaign went well. Then I’ve just been addicted to data ever since because it’s … almost like you’re an archeologist and you’re digging up the next dinosaur bone. For me it’s I want to find something new, discover it, and bring it into the world, and distribute it to others so it benefits them.

From a corporate standpoint, from an individual standpoint, I think data is extremely valuable in today’s society when everyone’s thinking about the ROI of everything and also just to really identify what’s really happening in the pulse of the workplace.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah. I’m right with you there. I don’t remember who said it. I think it was when I was learning to become a consultant at Bain. They said, “The only thing you can really rely on to be heard and credible and persuasive when you look so young and don’t know diddly yet about the industry is a fact.”

It was like, “Yup,” sure enough, a fact is a fact. They go, “Huh, okay. Well then that’s something that we’re going to work with a little bit.” As opposed to your opinion and you’re pontificating on how things should be when you’re not yet trusted for your pontifications. So I’m right with you there on the data.

Tell me when it comes to focusing on fulfillment, could you maybe set a little bit of an expectation on the grand scheme of fulfillment, I think it’s fair to say that no job will fulfill your every wish, want, desire, and need for that to bring about fulfillment and happiness in your life.

At the same time, I think there’s plenty of room to keep the bar higher than, “Well, you know, it’s a job. It’s a job and they pay me.” What do you think is sort of acceptable and to expect from a career versus asking for too much or too little?

Dan Schawbel
What I would say is it’s trial and error. What’s really interesting that I’ve been thinking about over the past year is no one has this all figured out. We’re all tweaking our careers. We’re pivoting. We’re learning more about ourselves as we experience new jobs and new projects.

For me, it took me a while to figure out what my mission was. I started young, of course, that helped, but I didn’t really put all the pieces together in my head until maybe three years ago when I came up with my mission statement that I put on my website. I now say I love research more than anything else. That’s why I’m like the chief question officer in a way because that’s a really key part of research in many ways.

I think you identify what makes you fulfilled based on self-reflection, based on feedback from others, and just being around people who give candid feedback, not ones who are yes men or yes women, people who are going to be real honest with you.

When I interact with pretty successful people in my network, a lot of them don’t get the best advice and get the best feedback because they’re getting complimented all the time because they have leverage in their careers. I stand out because I’m willing to give them criticism in the most genuine way possible and because of my track record, they take it seriously. Then they’ll take some of that advice to heart ….

I think you just need the right people around you who are going to be honest and if they see you doing something wrong or they see you unhappy, to just have them be honest and be like, “Oh, I see that you’re unhappy. This is not exactly what you should be doing or how you’re doing it.” Sometimes you might be in the right position, but doing the work in the wrong way, which will turn you off from doing the work and make you feel unfulfilled.

A lot of people give up quick, especially in today’s society. Everyone wants instant gratification. They build up all of it in their head that this job is going to be perfect and they’re going to be so happy. They’re unwilling to work to ensure that they have maximized their day … fulfills their personal and professional needs and are fulfilled overall.

I think that you can’t just rely on the company to … fulfilled. You need to be responsible for doing that and working within your company to make that happen. That could mean doing projects outside of what you’re hired to do. It could mean that you change the nature of your work and working in a lounge versus a cubicle because maybe that gives you more inspiration.

It could be you changing how you get work done or who you work with. Maybe your group is not the right team for you at work as a leader. Maybe you need to manage a different team.

And things change too. What if your employee quits? Then you’ve got to hire someone else. Or what if you get laid off? Then you’re looking for another job and you’ve got to maybe reinvent yourself because people aren’t hiring those with your skillset that was valuable three years ago, but it’s not now.

It’s a constant work in progress. I think people should do their best. I think people should reflect often and surround themselves with people who will be candid with them.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, lovely. Thank you. I want to talk a little bit about some of your perspectives on how you’re doing the work. Let’s talk about the work/life balance. You say it’s a myth and we should look at work/life integration instead. What’s the full story here?

Dan Schawbel
Yeah, just based on how work is being done these days. It’s happening in the office. It’s happening remote. It’s happening in co-working spaces, at coffee shops. It’s all over the place. It’s very decentralized. It’s hard to know when to cut off work and when to do personal things. It’s becoming ever more blurred. But our personal and professional lives are very blurred because of technology.

Again, what I was saying before. It’s like you’re kind of always working even if you’re not at a physical office. Because of that we have to – we need a new solution because … is no longer effective like it was for our parents and our grandparents.

What we need to think of is work/life integration. Jeff Bezos calls this work/life harmony. The now former CEO of … when I interviewed her, she called this work/life integration as well and so has several other people in my network that I talked to because it’s all about taking the responsibility and accountability to say, “Okay, these are the five personal and professional things I need to do this day.”

Then carve out your schedule so you’re able to do those two, three, four, five things. It’s on you to figure out how to integrate the things that you need to do … fulfill you personally and professionally, not anyone else because only you know this. I think that’s really important.

Like for me, I’ll be doing this podcast and then in two hours I’m going to an event. I’m meeting friends there. Even though I’m going there for professional reasons, it’s also to be with my friends. Almost like as an excuse to see them. I’m constantly trying to figure out how to parley my personal and professional life together.

Like I’m going to LA and when I’m there I going to be doing some media for the book, but at the same time, I’ve already contacted some of my close friends who live there … dinners and lunches and get-togethers. So, it’s constantly figuring out how to make it work on a regular basis and blocking off times so that you’re fulfilled in both areas.

Pete Mockaitis
Any pro tips on any sort of powerful requests to make bosses or boundaries to set that for many people can make a world of difference?

Dan Schawbel
This needs to almost happen when you’re being interviewed. Just asking questions about from the employer’s standpoint, what are they looking for in work/life balance.

Then from the individual standpoint, just talking about the type of environment you work best in. If you really work well remote and then the hiring manager is like, “Well, we don’t let anyone work remote even for an hour here,” it’s probably not the company you want to work for.

It’s really having the conversations before you can start work so that once you know what you’re able to do and you accept that job, the expectations will hopefully be met. Rather than hoping it all works out when you already have a job, try and do it as early as possible in the hiring conversation.

If you already have a job and you’re like, “Okay, I’ve got to have this conversation,” it’s really about blocking off time with your manager and just seeing what the possibilities are and what the comfort level is. Because at Aetna for instance, they let employees work remote full-time, but they have to be at the office for the first six months to prove themselves.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you.

Dan Schawbel
You’ve got to earn the right to work remote full-time by showing that you can take the responsibility and do the work and deliver results.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, got you. I also want to get some of your takes on productivity, shared learning, optimal collaboration. Can you give us some of your favorite tips and do’s and don’ts in this world?

Dan Schawbel
Oh boy, this is a big one. The shared learning chapter is become very popular because I think there’s so much learning that needs to happen now. You look at the way skills are now, the average relevancy of a skill is only five years. In order to keep up with the fast-paced business world we live in, we have to rely and support each other by sharing what we know openly.

Being a hog of information is going to lead to a shorter-term career that’s not going to be as fulfilling. If you’re more open to share, and you’re more open to accept the knowledge that other people have and train them, but also ask for help, you’re more likely to succeed because everything is in real time right now.

Information is moving fast. Things are changing. Companies are being acquired, merged. There’s layoffs. There’s new skills that are entering the arena, like artificial intelligence skills. If you’re able to work as a team collectively and lead a team where people are just helping each other, that team is going to hold strong. They’ll have stronger relationships, which will lead to higher performance.

The other thing I’ll say is for optimizing your productivity, again, technology can be good or bad, but when it comes to optimization, you can do a lot of things that save time, like use conference room booking systems or even your own calendar to block off time on people’s schedules so that you have time to meet people, be prepared for meetings so that you can facilitate or catch up with your colleagues. I think that’s really important.

Like I was saying before with work/life integration, use your calendar to block off time for meals, time for breaks. For every 45 minutes or so of work, you should take a 10- to 15-minute break. That’s what the research shows. I think that you need to do what’s right for you, but there are certain best practices that can help you, like having … environment that’s optimized so that you avoid distractions and you can concentrate on the work at hand.

But then also getting out. A lot of people have lunch at their desk and they should be having lunch with their colleagues so they can form stronger relationships.

Again, this really has to do with the pressure that employees are being put on right now because people are working harder than ever before for no additional money, so there’s this constant anxiety that people have that they have to always be working. But that leads to burnout and lower productivity. So I would avoid that.

Instead, I would really think about how you can at least one or two times a week have lunch with your colleagues, just so they’re seeing you, they’re hearing you. You can bounce ideas off them. The best ideas that I always get are when I’m talking with other people. I literally get my best ideas in conversations.

If you’re staring at your computer all day, you’re probably not going to be as creative. But if you are in new surroundings with new, diverse people, it’s going to inspire you.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely.

Dan Schawbel
I would say training people is really important. Sharing articles among your teammates. Anytime I see an article that would benefit my team with the artificial intelligence, I see it and I share it. I don’t even think twice because I know what my … want and I just keep delivering because then they’re going to be more prepared for their meetings.

Every morning I’ve had the same habit, which I think is extremely effective in what some of your listeners could take advantage of is I review all the latest research and trends in my own space every day. Then when I have meetings during the day or I’m speaking or I’m doing something, I’m or I’m … at things that I learned about four hours before.

I become extremely relevant because I’m always looking at these trends regularly. Things are changing so fast, so I almost can’t avoid doing that now. But by learning a lot, by sharing that knowledge and keeping up to the pace with things that are changing, you’re able to offer more, be more relevant, and smarter in your field.

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

Dan Schawbel
Yeah. I think what I’m trying to really do is make people more conscious of how they’re using technology, not disregard human interactions.

The biggest thing that gets in the way of person-to-person human interactions is email. We’re sending way too many emails. Many times it just doesn’t make sense. You see a lot of my friends, they have hundreds of emails they haven’t even answered, which many could have been avoided by just one phone call to be honest.

We’ve dropped phone calls. We’ve dropped voice mails all for texting. We’re sending so many texts every day and it’s not getting us anywhere. Not all progress is true progress in my opinion.

That’s not to say technology can’t be good. Early in my career, I used technology to forge an incredibly big, vast great network, but it wasn’t until I started to meet those individuals in person where the real relationships prospered and became something more noteworthy.

For this book, when I was interviewing … leaders, it started off as me interviewing them, then us having a Facebook group to just share updates, but then what I did was I used the Facebook group to meet them in person all across the country. They came on a book tour with me.

I think that is a good case of going back to human, where the technology was used in the right way. It’s used for initial contact and used in order to get everyone on the same page with … and same vision, and then using in-person conversations and phone calls to really get to know people … and go with them.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Got you. Thank you. Now can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Dan Schawbel
I think the best quote in the book is “When you replace emotional connections with digital ones, you lose the sensation of being present and the feeling of being alive.” Other quotes that I really love that I said over the years are, “Learn from yesterday, live for today, and build your own future,” and “Invest in yourself before expecting others to invest in you.”

In terms of books, I’d recommend books that my friends … Dream Teams by Shane Snow, The Creative Curve by Alan Gannett, Superconnector by Scott Gerber and Ryan Paugh. These are all people I know personally, so it’s easy to recommend books because you trust them and what they’ve written.

I would say for the biggest challenge is the next time you’re in a meeting, have you and your teammates all put their phone in the middle of the table for the entire session and see what happens when you do that. You’re going to see what conversations take place, see what ideas are brought to the – brought up. Take notes. Then compare that to a meeting where phones were accessible and people were using them.

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

Dan Schawbel
Yeah, you could go take the self-assessment that’s in the book. It’s called WorkConnectivityIndex.com. It measures the strength of your team relationships. You can also listen to my podcast, Five Questions with Dan Schawbel, where I interview all sorts of people from Condoleezza Rice to Ann Jones, Richard Branson and five questions in under ten minutes, so quick, but you learn a lot by listening.

For everything else you can buy Back to Human on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, your local bookstore. Go to DanScawbel.com to follow all my research and articles.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Cool. Well, Dan, thanks so much for taking this time and good luck with Back to Human and all that you’re up to here.

Dan Schawbel
Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

304: Resigning Perfectly with Joseph Liu

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Joseph Liu gives practical tips and guidelines for career transitioning, dealing with counteroffers, and avoiding burning professional bridges.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Key indicators that it’s time to resign.
  2. Why it matters to resign well
  3. Numerous reasons why NOT to accept a counteroffer

About Joseph

Joseph Liu is a career change consultant, certified coach, and host of the Career Relaunch podcast, featured as a top business podcast for entrepreneurs in Forbes, the “best podcast for transitioning to a new career” in Glassdoor, and a top podcast to “help you find a job” in Business Insider. The podcast has listeners in over 100 countries and has received unanimous 5-star ratings, and has ranked as a Top 30 career podcast in the US & UK on Apple Podcasts. Tapping into my 10 years’ international corporate branding experience at Fortune 500 companies like Clorox & General Mills, Joseph now coaches professionals to change careers and relaunch their personal brands. He’s served as a speaker for various conferences and organisations including TEDx, MarketingWeek Live, London Business School, Cambridge Business School, Oxford Business School, and General Assembly. Joseph has also been featured in publications like Forbes, HuffPost, Fast Company, The Muse, Monster, SUCCESS Magazine, Credit Sesame, CEO Blog Nation, and Career Builder.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Joseph Liu Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Joseph, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Joseph Liu
Thanks so much for having me, Pete. Great to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, absolutely. Well, I’m excited to dig into your perspective. We’re talking a bit about resigning and how that’s done well. When you quit medical school, I understand the first thing you did was go forth and teach salsa dance lessons. Tell us about that decision making process.

Joseph Liu
Yeah, that was the fun fact that came to mind for me, Pete, when you asked me that question before we hopped on this recording.

I guess I mentioned that because, yeah, you’re absolutely right. I resigned from medical school after two weeks at the Georgetown School of Medicine. That was one of my first big career pivots in my life. I’ve had a few. That was the first major one.

I guess I mentioned the salsa dance instructor thing for a couple of reasons. First, it’s just kind of a random thing that a lot of people don’t know about me. I taught at a Cuban night club in Washington, DC just to do something on the side just because I enjoyed salsa dancing. I also mention it just because that was a time in my life when I was really confused about my career.

I use that example a lot just to demonstrate to people that hey, it’s okay to go out there and explore a lot of different things even if that thing isn’t the exact direction you want to go with your career because you could uncover some other strengths or illuminate some other path that may not have been obvious if you had just stuck really close to home in your explorations.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s intriguing. In your experience, did the salsa dance teaching sort of illuminate something for you?

Joseph Liu
You know, it did, but it was not something that I went into it thinking, Pete. It really just was the first time I was consistently up in front of a crowd with a microphone in my hand doing something that was new and something that required engaging an audience.

That was probably one of the first moments when I realized I actually enjoy public speaking because it wasn’t apparent to me. I’m actually quite a strong introvert myself, but that was a moment when I really felt like hey, this is something that I could enjoy doing and now I give talks and I do public speaking for a living. The seeds may have been planted from those first moments when I was holding that microphone.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s intriguing. In your speeches, does some salsa come out from time to time to this ….

Joseph Liu
It doesn’t come up a whole lot. I talk mostly about personal branding and career change, but it does come up in the career change talks just to kind of show people that I’ve been on my own winding journey that hasn’t always been straightforward. Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. You share a lot of this wisdom through your podcast, Career Relaunch. Sort of what’s the main vibe over there?

Joseph Liu
Yeah. Career Relaunch is a podcast that I started a couple of years ago, Pete, that is focused on sharing stories of people who have managed to reinvent themselves and to change careers.

I created it mostly as a point of inspiration and companionship for other people who have decided to step off the beaten path in their careers, whether that’s a major or minor career change, just because in both cases just from talking with a lot of people who have pivoted in their careers, it tends to be a very lonely, confusing journey.

Through these stories hopefully people are finding some points of reference that can help inform where they may want to take their career, but also just to remind them that there are other people out there who are going through the challenges of trying to make a switch in their career.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s great. I really want to talk about the specifics when it comes to resigning and how to do it smoothly and well. I discovered you from Mac Prichard’s podcast and I thought this was just such an important topic.

Could you maybe orient us a little bit in terms of the why it matters to resign well in terms of some might say, “Well, hey, you’re on your way out, whatever.” You’ve got a different take. Could you unpack that for us?

Joseph Liu
Yeah, sure. I think you’re absolutely right about the tendency for people to not care as much about how they behave on their way out the door. But in working with a lot of people who have left their jobs to do something else, time and time again what is very clear is that how you exit leaves a very long-lasting impression with your former colleagues and your former manager and your former company.

I actually think it matters a lot. I actually think it especially matters when you don’t have skin in the game how you behave because when you don’t have skin in the game, that’s actually very telling to others on who you are as a person. It tells people a lot about your actual character. It also tells people a lot about the type of professional you are.

I actually think that resigning is one of the most important things you’ll do in your career because so many things can go wrong and because it’s hard to do really well. I just know that a lot people don’t do it as well as they probably could.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, could you maybe paint a little picture for us in terms of an outstanding resignation and an abysmally comically bad resignation approach?

Joseph Liu
Yeah, there are a lot of different ways that you can resign from your job. There’s actually a Monster article about the seven ways you can resign from your job by Dominique Rodgers. They go through – she goes through a different range of ways that you can resign all the way from just bolting in and telling them you’re out of there to a more grateful, positive approach.

I guess to answer your first question, the best-in-class would be approaching it in a way that is very grateful and in a way that allows your manager to be in the loop on what your plans are as you’re in the process of resigning. I think there’s two p’s that I keep reminding people of when they’re trying to resign and number one is to be professional, number two is to be positive.

It means making the time to make the effort to meet with your manager in person. Making sure that your manager is the first person who hears this news. Letting them know you’re resigning, allowing them to understand that actually this is a very forward-looking decision. It’s not any gripe about the current situation or your current job even if that may be the case.

But to keep it positive and to focus on the fact that, “Hey, I’ve had a great time here. I’ve accepted a role at company X and this is my desired timing. I’m going to do everything I can to try to help facilitate the transition and hopefully to even onramp the next person who’s going to be following in my footsteps.”

It’s about letting people know with open communication, but also going the extra mile to let them know that, “Hey, during the remainder of my time here, I’m going to be giving it 100%. Here are some of my plans on how I’m going to transition in the next person and here’s some of my plans on how to make this transition smooth for you as a manager.”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so good, Joseph. I think we’re going to have some listeners going to the transcript like, “I want to use some of those exact words.” That was wonderful.

Joseph Liu
Right. Yeah. The flip side of that is not doing any of those things. It’s going in and in a very negative way just letting your manager know that you’re leaving and not giving any indication that you thought about how you’re going to leave, how to make it easy on the company – that’s still paying you, by the way – and just using it as a time to air grievances, which I just think lands very well with people.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. I guess when it comes to grievances if there’s some helpful, actionable feedback elements that I guess in an exit interview and such those can emerge just fine. That’s – airing of grievances, I just can’t the – was it Seinfeld – is it Saturnalia or no that’s the Latin – that’s the Roman holiday.

Joseph Liu
Yeah, I’m not sure.

Pete Mockaitis
But they made a holiday where there’s an airing of grievances.

Joseph Liu
Oh right.

Pete Mockaitis
And the feats of strength.

Joseph Liu
Yeah, exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
As an alternative holiday. That’s what I’m chuckling at over here.

Joseph Liu
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Welcome to my brain, Joseph.

Joseph Liu
Right. I think it’s so tempting to go negative. I think it’s so much easier to go negative than it is to remain positive. It’s just probably just human behavior. I just don’t think in the long run, even though it may feel good, I don’t know if it serves you and it certainly doesn’t serve your goodwill that you have built up over time with the company you’re currently working for.

Pete Mockaitis
Well said. I’d love to back it up just a little bit in terms of before we get to delivering the message.

Joseph Liu
Sure.

Pete Mockaitis
When it comes to just that internal thinking, pondering, decision making, what are some of the most reliable indicators you’ve observed amongst clients that says, “You know what? It’s likely that is in fact time to resign.”

Joseph Liu
Yeah. There’s probably – I guess the first thing I should say about that, Pete, is that resigning and the timing of your resignation is a very personal decision. Although I’m kind of going through this saying, hey, there’s like a textbook, best-in-class way to do this, it is a very personal journey that you’re on in your career.

You’ve got to decide at what point have you had enough and at what point do you want to throw in the towel. With that said, I think there are broadly three patterns that I see with people who get to the point where resigning makes sense.

The first one is just physical stress and exhaustion, so not feeling energized, never feeling like you’re in flow, feeling like you’re spending your evenings and your weekends recuperating from your day job.

The second one is just looking around the organization, not seeing another role that appeals to you. You might be in a place where you’re thinking, “Okay, I don’t like my current role. Is there something else that I could do? Would I want my manager’s job? Would I want my manager’s manager’s job?”

If you look left, right and upward in your organization and you don’t see anything that resonates with you, I think that’s another reason to maybe consider looking elsewhere.

The final one I think is when you’re day job starts to encroach on your personal happiness. I’ve had that happen to me in my career where my work wasn’t really energizing me and I dragged it home. I even remember going out to dinner once with my wife and she just had to stop me from complaining so much about my job. I was just dragging it into my personal life and my family life too much.

It was just – it was becoming hard for other people to be around me. Yeah, I think those are a few of the signs that I think are red flags.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s pretty clear certainly. Thank you. Then when it comes to doing a resignation, some wisdom would suggest that don’t leave a job until you’ve got another one lined up and it seems like that there are a few more shades of grey to that rule of thumb. Could you expand upon that a little bit?

Joseph Liu
Absolutely. You’re absolutely right about conventional wisdom saying that you should have a job lined up before you resign from your current job, which I think on the surface I actually – I see that does make sense in a lot of situations. First of all because, just practically speaking, you may not have the luxury of being able to take the risk of being unemployed for a while to try to find another job.

Then there’s also a lot of I guess conventional wisdom that says that you’re more employable when you are employed because you just look more attractive to hiring managers and recruiters. I get all that and I buy into that.

At the same time there are I think some hidden advantages to quitting before you have a job lined up. I’ve done this myself in my career. It’s uncomfortable but I think there’s probably a couple times when you may want to consider it, assuming that you can take the risk.

One is that you just may not have the headspace or the time or the capacity to be looking for another job outside of your day job. It could just be that your job is so demanding that you just don’t have the spare energy to do it effectively.

I hear that from a lot of my clients is that they just don’t have it in them to spend their evenings and weekends working on CVs and cover letters and resumes and applying to jobs. It’s hard to do. It’s a full time job. One advantage to resigning before you have something else lined up is just freeing up some time.

The other advantage, which I think is a little bit more subtle, is that sometimes if you’re in a job that is so draining on you or it makes you so unhappy, it can actually affect how you show up in hiring situations because you’re just so down about your current job and when you show up to recruit for another job, you just – people can tell you’re unhappy.

I think that that won’t serve you well as a candidate. I think people can sniff that out. I think you can come across as being someone who is really frustrated and who is desperate to get out and people can generally sniff out desperation. I think that makes you a less attractive candidate.

Pete Mockaitis
I see that indeed we got some real sort of counterbalancing forces to be weighed against each other. I’d like to get your take being up close and personal with a lot of clients and seeing how their paths unfold, what’s your view in terms of how true is it that one who is currently employed looks more attractive? Do you think it’s a little bit more attractive or a lot more attractive?

Joseph Liu
I actually do think it is more attractive. I think that it’s just the nature of recruitment.

I’ve spoken with plenty of recruiters. I’ve worked with recruiters both as a client and a candidate and yeah, in most cases it’s easier for a recruiter to present a candidate to their client who is currently gainfully employed and happy and knocking it out of the park and having accomplishment after accomplishment. Yeah, I do think it is actually slightly advantageous to be currently employed.

It also I think – I mentioned the other situation where it affects your confidence in a negative way. It can actually boost your confidence in a positive way if you’re currently very happy. People like confidence. I do think it’s an advantage. I just think it’s not a completely black and white issue.

I do think there are cases where – and I’ve had clients who are in this situation – where they just – they were not able to gain traction with the kind of radical career change they were trying to make, whether it’s starting their own business or their own side gig or just looking for another job. They just couldn’t do that search justice given the fact that their current job was such a drain on them.

I know I’m kind of – I’m kind of almost dodging the question.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh no, that’s fair.

Joseph Liu
But I think there’s a case for both.

Pete Mockaitis
There’s nuance there. No doubt.

Joseph Liu
Yeah, that’s a good word for it, Pete. It’s very nuanced. It’s a very grey situation.

Pete Mockaitis
And I’m wondering if you were to leave a job before having another, is there a super cool experience or answer or explanation you could offer beyond “I just hated it there. I had to leave.” Like, “I was really interested in pursuing the technological disruptions associated with …. I had it in my heart for such a long time to do some service in impoverished, developing nations. I just had to make a go of it.”

I don’t know, is there sort of a good story or experience or explanation that can bridge the gap?

Joseph Liu
Well, I think again it’s always going to be – I think it’s always going to land better with people if you’re positive and forward-looking and talking about the upside of the opportunity in front of you versus what you’re trying to get away from.

I think as long as you don’t go into it talking about your gripes about your current organization, which sounds like – you’d be surprised that people do do that. I’ve had colleagues who when they exit, it’s like they are – they’re going out in a blaze of glory. They don’t try to make a professional exit. They’re actually – they’re quite unprofessional about it. This stuff does happen.

But I think – I don’t know. Best-in-class is probably talking about why you were very happy in your current role but for a variety of reasons in your life you’ve got some other priorities that have come up, this opportunity that has come up at this particular juncture in your life makes a lot of sense.

It’s nothing about your current organization that you’re trying to get away from. It’s just this is a really great opportunity that would be too good for you to turn down and so you’re going to go for it, but that you’ve had a really good experience there.

I think if you can give some combination of why the new experience has been – is going to be good for you and also why that doesn’t diminish any of your positive experiences at your current organization, I think that tends to land quite well.

Pete Mockaitis
Got it. It sounds like you’ve got a story or two in mind in terms of a blaze of glory and unprofessionalism, so maybe to have some laughs and that picture of what not to do, can you share one with us.

Joseph Liu
Yeah. I won’t say who this person is. I won’t even say the company I was at. I’m not giving an example of myself by the way.

I was working at a large blue-chip company where they hire best-in-class, like top marketers and the people who work there are very professional. But I remember somebody resigning and she – she actually had a one-month notice period, so I’m in the UK, where notice periods can be a little bit longer officially. Anywhere from one month to three months is quite standard.

During that last month she completely checked out, like she literally didn’t show up to work. When she was in meetings, she was very negative. She showed up late. She was badmouthing other people in the organization, gossiping a lot to the point where I basically just stayed away from her. I don’t think that when people resign that is that common, but it does happen.

It’s funny because we’re talking about this right now and she’s the first person that came to mind and that’s how I’ll always remember her. Even though we worked fine together on teams, I will always remember her for how she exited the company. I don’t think that’s the kind of legacy you want to leave with people.

People do remember you. People talk about first impressions. People also remember last impressions. That’s why this topic I think is so important.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. You share a little bit here we’re thinking about sort of the timeline. There’s the telltale signs to know it’s time to resign. Then later on there’s the actual announcement, having the boss be the first to know. Any key things you recommend doing in that in between zone, post decision and pre-announcement?

Joseph Liu
Yeah, that’s a really important period, Pete. I think it’s probably going to feel like one of the most awkward times in your career.

If you’re listening to this and you’re in that situation where you’ve decided to resign, but you haven’t actually formally resigned yet, just know that this is going to be as uncomfortable as you probably feel in a job because you’re going to feel like you’re hiding something. You’re going to feel like you’re not being forthcoming with your manager.

When they start talking about whatever it is, the upcoming meeting or the upcoming presentation they would like you to make or upcoming project planning, it’s hard to not spill the beans on this stuff.

With that in mind I think one thing you need to do before sharing your news is to absolutely keep it to yourself until you’re ready to share it with your manager. Literally do not share it and I mean it with literally no one else because the last thing you want to have happen is for your manager to hear this news from someone else in your organization. That’s not going to be good. You want to keep it to yourself.

Another piece of advice is more of an administrative one is just to make sure you review your work contract. This is coming up with somebody I know right now who is exiting from her organization but there are some legalities around the amount of time that she needs to be there. You need to understand your work contract before you promise a start date with your future employer.

You may also just want to understand the administrative side of things related to benefits and other sorts of admin details.

Then there’s just two other things I think are especially important.

One just doesn’t happen enough, which is to prepare some sort of a transition file so that when you go to your manager to resign, you go in with literally a document or at least something that you can verbalize that demonstrates that you have given some thought into how you’re going to exit gracefully and facilitate a smooth transition for the manager and the new hire that’s going to replace you.

That is golden if you do that. It just demonstrates that you really care about the origination. It leaves a really great positive impression.

Last thing I would say to do is just to make sure you’re solidifying your relationships. That means making sure that you’re staying in touch with the people who are not only on your team but also your crossfunctionals. Make sure you nurture those relationships because a couple things can happen after you resign that you could experience a little bit of disenfranchisement in the organization.

You also are going to be depending on those relationships to ensure a smooth exit out of the company. You want people on your side once they know that you’re no longer going to be part of the team.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’d love to get some further detail when you talk about a transition plan or document. What are some great things that can go in it or action steps to volunteer to tackle to be the most delightful exiting employee possible?

Joseph Liu
Yeah, so this actually probably what I would consider simple to do but not always easy to do, which is – it’s literally a document. You can capture a few items on it.

Number one is project status. On your projects, where do they stand, what’s the situation on them, are they on track, are they behind, are they ahead of schedule. Just so somebody can glance just really quickly and understand what’s on your plate and how are all those projects going, what’s your role in those projects.

Along those lines, you also want to outline any sort of key issues or sticky situations that are either present in those projects right now or maybe coming down the pike.

You probably want to identify some key relationships so the document could include some of the key contacts you have in the organization, especially outside of your current functions, so cross functional relationships with people who have helped you get stuff done in the organization.

Then one more thing to keep in mind with that transition file is just key stakeholders on your projects, key decision makers related to your projects so that whoever looks at that transition file. This file is not only for your manager, it’s also for the incoming person who’s going to succeed you. It allows them to very quickly understand who they need to be building strong relationships especially when it comes to stakeholder management.

Those are just a few things like project status, key issues, relationships, stakeholders.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m just sort of imagining this situation and seeing what would be the most helpful, possible thing you can do if I’m in the manager’s shoes here. I’m wondering, and this might be – this has pros and cons to it, so I’ll just throw it out. See how it goes. I’m wondering – if I’m the manager I thinking, “Oh my gosh, I’ve got to go through all of the headache associated with finding a person.”

I would kind of appreciate it if the exiting employee would volunteer to do some of that leg work, whether that’s in terms of writing up a job post or a job description or sifting through the hundreds of resumes to give me a more manageable dozens of resumes and that sort of thing.

The flip side though, they might say if you are not enthused about this role, do I want you kind of facing those who may replace you. I don’t know. What’s your take on this one?

Joseph Liu
That’s I think a great point, Pete. I should have mentioned that before, but I think that one thing you can also do in this meeting is just ask your manager, “Hey, what can I do to make your life easier over the next X number of weeks? Is there anything I can do to help?” Assuming that they perceive you as a professional individual, I think they’d be happy to have you involved with the hiring process.

I’ve had both happen to me personally in my career. I’ve had situations where my manager said, “Hey, could you lead the hiring process? You know what this role is about. You know what it takes to do well in this role. Can you actually interview your replacement?” which is kind of a weird surreal thing to be going through. But yeah, I think it can be really helpful because hiring is really time consuming.

Then I’ve had situations where people just – it’s just – I’m just not involved with that. I think both can happen. I don’t think it was probably – I don’t think people thought I was going to sabotage it or anything, but they just chose not to have me involved.

I think both can happen. I think ultimately it comes down to what your manager thinks is best. I think that’s the general principle is just whatever he or she thinks is best, I would go with that.

If they want you to be involved, I would treat it seriously. I would approach it professionally. I would hire someone as if you’re going to remain there. I think that’s a great way to go out if you’re willing to do that and invest the time. I think that would leave a really great positive last impression with people.

Pete Mockaitis
Very cool. Now I’d like to speak to the fear here. You’ve really laid out a lovely set of things to do to exit gracefully and well, but nonetheless, I think that there is a not so rational part of us that still has this fear, like, “Oh, if I leave, they’re going to be disappointed in me. They’re going to be bitter toward me. They’re going to say terrible things about me. I’m going to be burning bridges. You’re dead to me, Joseph.”

Could you speak to that in terms of hey, if you do everything just right, what are the odds of that happening and how should we think about it?

Joseph Liu
Well, you just never really know with people, Pete. I would love to sit here and say, “Okay if you follow this step-by-step process, then you’re going to exit and everything is going to be great and everybody is going to be happy.” I think the reality is that in the world that people are human on both sides.

You mentioned this earlier; I think you’re absolutely right, I think the manager’s going to be a little freaked out. I think the moment you say, “I’m resigning,” I think the rest of it can be a little bit of a blur. Yeah, I say here get your transition file ready, but at the same time how much of that does the manager really absorb.

I’ve done that before with managers. By that point in time I’m handing over the document, they seem like that’s not what they want to look at at that very moment.

Yeah, I think there is a lot of emotion related to this. I think that it can go a couple ways. I think everybody can approach it professionally and I think that people cannot take things too personally. Your manager can want the best for you and once they hear that you are going off to a great opportunity they’ll be more than happy for you. They’ll even in fact do whatever they can to help you. I think that’s a great situation.

I think there are also situations where the manager is a little freaked out. They may not be upset at you, but they’re focused on trying to figure out how clean up what’s going to be a shortage of resource on their team.

Yeah, I think it’s very natural to go into one of these meetings and feel a little bit nervous about it. I know when I’ve done it in the past it’s been really nerve-racking. Literally my heart’s racing when I do this because you develop a good relationship with your manager. You don’t want to disappoint them. You don’t want to create a mess for them. At the same time you’ve got to think about what’s good for your own career.

Yeah, like I said earlier, I think resigning is a really emotional turning point in your career. It will feel heavy I think.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I guess it’s a good indicator if your manager is feeling shell-shocked or stupefied as opposed to just like relieved and delighted, that means you’ve done something right.

Joseph Liu
Exactly. I always tell people try – people have different pieces of advice on this one, Pete, but my advice to people is I try to do this fairly early in the week and not do it on a Friday because you don’t want them thinking about this over the weekend.

You want to do this at a time when your manager can talk to whoever they need to talk to in the organization right away, figure out how they’re going to share the news. They probably are going to need to talk to HR. They’re not going to want to be thinking about this over the weekend. They want to be able to talk to people right away.

Yeah, I think it’s good to think about where your manager is at and the timing of when you do this. I think it matters. Catch them when they’ve got some headspace. There’s not going to be a perfect time but there will be better times.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. If you do find yourself handed a counteroffer upon you sharing your plans, boy what do you do with that?

Joseph Liu
Alright, so I have a very strong view on this Pete. I read all sorts of different articles with different pieces of advice on this. I just read an article actually yesterday about how to handle counteroffers.

I’m just shaking my head because my view in general, okay, I think there’s going to be exceptions to this, is to not take counteroffers. I’ll tell you why.

Because first of all one of the things I recommend to people just to preclude this from even happening is to just make sure you accept your role before – accept your future role before you resign from your current role. That just eliminates the possibility of you even taking a counteroffer.

But let’s say you’ve done that or let’s say you haven’t done that and somebody gives you a counteroffer which is likely going to happen. I think most managers find it very expensive to replace even non-outstanding employees. I would recommend don’t take it. There’s a few problems with taking counteroffers that can play out in the long run that might not be obvious in the short run.

The first problem is if you take a counteroffer, I’m just going to assume it’s some sort of financial counteroffer, it then becomes very clear that the only thing that’s keeping you at the organization is some incremental amount of money, which means that you’re basically motivated and driven by money. I don’t know if that’s the kind of personal brand you want to be building for yourself in the organization.

The next one, which is much more practical, is that if you take a counteroffer, it may keep you in the organization, it may sort of make you happier for the time being, but if you work in any sort of a large organization or established organization, they’re probably going to recalibrate your salary the next year just so you’re not wildly out of whack with other people in your same grade level or your same level in the organization.

I think that the final problem with it, which I think is the biggest problem, is that your goodwill in your organization may take a hit if you stay or let’s say you take the counteroffer. I think your goodwill in your organization is going to take a hit because people know now that you were thinking about leaving.

Now you’ve gone from being someone who’s, I don’t know, loyal to the organization and quite happy there to someone who thought about leaving and is now suddenly staying. People are unfortunately never going to look at you the same.

The way that pans out in practical terms is maybe you’re going to get passed up for a promotion that you would have been considered for if people didn’t know that you were thinking about leaving. In general, I think it doesn’t go well.

Also, I forget there’s one more thing that’s really important point that I thought of just now is if you have verbally accepted your new offer and then you renege saying that you’ve accepted a counteroffer, there’s a bridge you’ve definitely burnt at that point.

Pete Mockaitis

Right. Okay. That’s some mounting evidence. I want to follow up on that one thing you said in terms of if others realize you were considering other things and then you didn’t take them and you stuck around and your goodwill takes a hit. I guess, well, call me naïve, but I guess I’m thinking everybody at all times is always entertaining many offers.

Joseph Liu
Yeah, that’s true.

Pete Mockaitis
Maybe not hard offers like in hand written with dollar signs, but just the notion of fluidity and opportunity and how one as the CEO of one’s own career should kind of always have eyes open and awareness of opportunities, what’s out there and going.

Maybe that’s not as much the real world in terms of people’s perception of when other people do that, that’s bad news, but I just want to get your take on that one.

Joseph Liu
Yeah, I think that there are always exceptions to these rules. I think if – gosh, if your current employer comes back with an amazing counteroffer that you can’t turn down, okay yeah, maybe think about it.

But I guess the problem with that then is let’s say they do come back with something that is extremely compelling and extremely attractive and tempting. If I’m the employee, my question then is so it took me wanting to leave in order for you to offer these things to me. It just – I don’t know if that signals good things about your employer in that case. I think that – I think that won’t go well for you potentially in the future.

Let’s say you’re in a similar situation in the future where you’re unhappy with something, are you going to then have to try to pretend to resign again to get what you want? Me, personally, I think it’s problematic from all sorts of angles.

The other problem with it is that – and this is probably a more jaded view – but I think that what can happen is, okay, like what you mentioned, you take the counteroffer and maybe people perceive you as someone who is just kind of going with the punches, is adapting to a new situation and so you decide that you’re going to stay and you’re just making that decision because it seems attractive to stay.

There could be people out there also who think that you were saying you were going to resign just to get these additional benefits. I think that that is again, more of a – I guess more of a sinister view on it.

But I think that you risk at least being perceived as somebody who said you had an offer elsewhere as a way of threatening people, as some sort of ultimatum to get what you want at your organization. I think that doesn’t serve your personal brand very well.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Thank you. Tell me, Joseph, anything else you really want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Joseph Liu

Well, I think that I’ll just mention that I think it’s really good we’re talking about this topic because I think so much is talked about related to your first 90 days and I think that’s really important, but, again, I think that at least for me whenever I’ve left a job behind I try to remind myself of two things.

One is that final impressions really do matter a lot when it comes to your professional reputation and your legacy.

And I also just remind myself that I’m still working for this company. I think sometimes we can get a little arrogant the moment we have another offer lined up. I think it’s important to be modest and just remember, hey, this is your employer who is still paying your bills and stuff and so you really should give 100% from the moment you resign all the way to your last day there.

I’m not saying do more than 100% or less than 100%. I’m just saying do 100%, do your job, do it well, and I think if you do that, you’ll exit in a good manner.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright. Lovely. Thank you. Now can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Joseph Liu
Yeah. One of my favorite quotes is related to persistence. I’ll just read it off to you. This is a quote from Jacob Riis.

“When nothing seems to help I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps 100 times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at 101st blow it will split in two and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”

I love that quote, Pete, because it’s just a reminder to me, sometimes I get a little frustrated because I’m not making as much progress with stuff as I want to, especially related to – I don’t know – career or life goals, things like that. Things just don’t tend to move along as quickly as I ever want them to.

I just try to remind myself that all this work that you’re putting in to whatever you’re working toward, you’re just planting seeds and sometimes it just takes a while for those seeds to grow.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, thank you. How about a favorite study or experiment or a bit of research?

Joseph Liu
I hate to talk about one of my own little projects here, but I actually find that the stories from the people who are on my podcast are really helpful to me also because these are real people making real changes.

I talk about career change on my podcast. But it’s quite meta for me because I’ve recently made a career change myself leaving the corporate world to start my own business.

I find it very educational to just hear not only about people’s success stories, but their actual challenges and their emotional struggles and the loneliness and the self-doubt that they dealt with along the way because I think that it’s just a nice reminder for me to know that most of the things you do in life are – if they’re worthwhile, they’re going to be difficult because if they weren’t difficult, everybody would be doing them.

I take a lot of notes when I’m hearing other people’s stories when they’re navigating something that I care about.

[39:00]

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite book?

Joseph Liu
Great by Choice by Jim Collins. That is a fantastic book.

It’s basically a book – he writes a lot of business books and this one is about comparing companies or teams that succeed to companies or teams that don’t succeed. There’s just some really great concept in that book that you can apply to your own life and your own career.

If you do check out the book, I’d recommend you – if you read one chapter, read the one about the 20-mile march, which is about just putting in a certain amount of work every single day to eventually get where you want to go.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s good. That’s good. And co-author Morton Hansen from episode 278, so good.

Joseph Liu
Oh right.

Pete Mockaitis
Sharp guys teaming up there.

Joseph Liu
Yeah, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Very good. How about a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Joseph Liu
I actually – a couple of years ago I spend a lot of time looking at a whole bunch of different tools to help me be more efficient because I just felt like I was so scattered with all the different things I had going on. I’ll mention a couple here if that’s okay. The first one is Trello. Have you heard of that or used that?

Pete Mockaitis
I’ve used Trello. Yeah.

Joseph Liu
Yeah, Trello’s great. It’s basically like a virtual post it note app you can use on your desktop, your mobile phone. It’s just a great way of organizing projects. I use them for work flow for my own podcast. I just like the visual nature of it.

Wunderlist is my go-to checklist program. I like it just because it’s multi-platform. I can organize things by topic. I can set deadlines. It’s simple. Love that.

Then I use Dropbox for pretty much every single one of my projects where I’m working with different freelancers or suppliers in different parts of the world. Yeah, Trello, Wunderlist and Dropbox.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. How about a favorite habit, something that you do regularly that helps you be awesome?

Joseph Liu
Well, I don’t know if it – I don’t know if I would consider myself an awesome person, but –

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I do, Joseph.  I do.

Joseph Liu
But okay, I’ll give myself that label temporarily. I would actually say that taking the time to take care of yourself is really important.

I mention that one not because I think I’d do it well necessarily but because it’s actually something I struggled with for a while, self-care and making sure that I take breaks from my work. Now I’m doing a lot more of that and I am noticing how it really affects my energy and my ability to bring 100% to every other aspect of my life.

Just to get really specific, I try to make sure that I’m doing some exercise every day. Today I went swimming. It doesn’t take forever. It takes 20 minutes to do that, but I am left feeling really energized the rest of the day and it helps me bring more energy to relationships, to my work, to being a father, to really everything in my life. Yeah, I think make sure you take care of yourself.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget or piece that you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks?

Joseph Liu
Yeah, I think the one that comes up most often is this idea that you have to let go of one thing to make room for something else in your life. I think I mention that just because I think a lot of times especially when it comes to careers people want to try to have everything. That can be quite paralyzing because it’s hard to have everything.

I think career pivots are about choices and it’s about tradeoffs. It’s about deciding what’s the most important thing to you, but also realizing that you’ve got a finite amount of space in your life, in your career. You will have to let go of something in order to make room for something else.

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

Joseph Liu
Yeah, so they can go to my website, which is JosephPLiu.com. There they can learn more about my speaking and workshops and my online courses and also my Career Relaunch podcast.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright, and do you have a final challenge or call to action for those seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Joseph Liu
Well, I would just say that it is worth investing the time to find meaningful work in your life. I think you can find meaningful work. I would just challenge you to invest the time necessary in understanding what sort of work allows you to make the most of who you are. I think if you can figure that out, then you can be awesome at your job.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Well, Joseph, this has been so much fun. Thank you for taking this time and good luck with the Career Relaunch podcast and all the good stuff you’re doing.

Joseph Liu
Alright, well, thanks so much Pete and it’s been great talking to you.

296: Working with a Recruiter 101 with Korn Ferry’s Julie Forman

By | Podcasts | 2 Comments

 

 

Korn Ferry partner Julie Forman shares how to leverage recruiters and executive search consultants as you manage your career.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Pro-tips for becoming more visible to recruiters
  2. Do’s and don’ts when speaking with recruiters
  3. When a pay bump isn’t worth it

About Julie

Julie Forman is a Partner with Executive Search Firm, Korn Ferry International where she is a member of the Firm’s Global Industrial practice and Marketing Center of Excellence.

She joined Korn Ferry following a 15 years career with GE where she’s held senior roles on both the Industrial and Capital sides with her last position being Head of Strategic Marketing for GE in Canada.

She focuses today on recruitment and leadership consulting mandates for industrial organizations going through critical inflection points requiring upscaling of strategic capabilities, shift in focus and transformational leadership. She is a certified Six Sigma Black Belt and Change Management Coach.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Julie Forman Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Julie, thanks so much for joining us here on the How To Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Julie Forman

Thanks, Pete. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, I’m so excited for this chat. And I’m curious to learn, first of all, since you’ve hunted many heads, recruited many people, how did you end up finding me?

Julie Forman

Well, it is through the beauty of LinkedIn. I was looking for some various leadership experts and your name came across. And I thought you had an interesting background, and just sent you a request to connect to keep you in my network. And you had started a conversation, which I happily took part of.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, yeah, it’s so fun because usually LinkedIn connection is just like, “Okay, cool”, and then maybe they sit there for a long, long time. But right away, you were so interested in engaging and shared some great tips. And I’m eager to dig in and share them with the broad world.

Julie Forman

Excellent. Well, I’m looking forward to that.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, and I understand you’re often asked so I’ll ask as well. What made you leave GE where you were for quite a while and go on over to Korn Ferry?

Julie Forman

Well, so as a lot of people in the executive search business, sometimes some of them, they’ve grown up in the industry, others have come from management consulting, and others, like me, have had an executive career before. And in my case, although I loved GE and spent many years and had an awesome time, at one point, I live in Montreal and with the company’s evolution, there just weren’t anymore roles that I thought would be my next stop here. And so, I had to take the leap of faith and follow one of my ex-colleagues who I happen to love, and who sometimes knows me better than I know myself, and thought that this would be a perfect job for me, a perfect follow-on career. And he is right. It is great. It leverages a lot of the skills that sometimes I think I didn’t even know I had myself. So it’s a lot of fun every day, and I get to work with one of my great friends, so that’s an added bonus.

Pete Mockaitis

Absolutely. And I have great respect for Korn Ferry, and we had your CEO in episode 273. And I’m excited for our conversation because it sounds like you have shared a lot with people in terms of working with a recruiter 101.

Julie Forman

Yeah, for sure. One of the aspects of having had a corporate career before as myself when I switched careers, I didn’t realize how little I knew about the industry and how invisible I actually was. And so, as I go through working with different people, obviously I tend to work with C-suite and above, but I love working with up-and-coming talent as well and telling them how to leverage recruiters and executive search consultants, and how to think about it as you manage your career.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, maybe let’s start real basic from the beginning. You said “recruiters” and “executive search consultants” or “headhunters.” Are these terms interchangeable, or how would you orient us to the words themselves?

Julie Forman

So the industry’s pretty wide, and it’s one where there aren’t a lot of barriers to entry. So I think one of your previous guests had mentioned 16,000 executive recruitment firm placement agencies. Basically, when you look at the ecosystem, there’s two different models. There is the contingency model – basically being paid when you place a candidate, which tends to cater to more staff-level positions. And then you have the executive search group that is a retained model, so more closely aligned to management consulting, where we are tasked with building specific strategies, solving talent challenges for our clients. And so you will find different firms that focus on the different types of recruitment. Now, obviously there is overlap, but typically, the more senior positions will be on the retained model.

Pete Mockaitis

And when you say “retained model”, that’s just how folks get paid a flat monthly fee for your ongoing services?

Julie Forman

Well, as you can imagine, there’s a lot of different variation to that.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay.

Julie Forman

But it’s more like consulting. So, when you hire a consultant and you have them redesign your whole plant, whether or not you implement those changes, you still owe the consultant for the work. So it’s the same way we do, it’s the same thing in recruitment – there is that notion of upfront work. Now, obviously we wouldn’t be in the business if we didn’t end up placing people, so we tend to be very successful at finding what we’re looking for. But the idea is there.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s cool. And so, maybe we’ll start really basic. So why would a typical professional maybe not yet at the executive levels choose to use a recruiter? They might say, “Oh, we’re just putting another middleman in between me and the job.” Is that helpful, and why?

Julie Forman

Well, so typically, a recruitment, let’s say we talk about search consultant.

Pete Mockaitis

Alright.

Julie Forman

So search consultants — they work for the client, and that’s something that’s very important. So often, we get calls about candidates saying, “Well, I’m trying to work with a search consultant”, but actually, the model is where we’re hired by a client and we will find you in a sense.

Pete Mockaitis

Alright.

Julie Forman

When you are more earlier in your career, more of a professional level, then it is worth it to think about who I want to work with, because at a contingency level, a lot of the value that these consultants bring is knowing the candidates and being able to present them quickly to the clients, because there is that element of speed.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, and so then I’m thinking if I am a professional and I am getting some inbound requests or information from a recruiter, how do I know how to sift through that a little bit and know, is this someone who has really cool opportunities or not as cool opportunities? Or you just have to kind of get deeper into the conversation to know.

Julie Forman

Well, the first mistake that I always see people make, or most people make, is that they are on a search mode only when they are actually looking for something, when there are not happy, when they want to move. When in reality, the conversation about your career should be ongoing. So when you get these calls, when you get these opportunities to have a conversation, you should take them. Have a conversation, learn what is out there, learn what these firms are working on, get a sense for what clients are looking for in candidates. And always make sure that you know the market in which you are, so knowing which firms are the ones that you definitely should strike up a conversation when they call, and that you should get to know.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, and so there is a nice listing in a Forbes article that I’ll put in the show notes. Any other kind of resources you might recommend to get oriented a little bit to, who are the names, who are the players? And you said, “They’ll find you”, but if we want to find them, what should we do?

Julie Forman

Well, you mentioned it. So there is a list there, and those lists, and I think on the website you’ll share, there is both the professional recruitment and also the executive recruitment. Most of these firms will have an area where you can upload your information so that you are on their radar. So that is something that’s very important. The other part is also looking around you. So when somebody has a new role, ask them was there any headhunter involved, any placement agency, and try to get their feedback for the level of service that you felt, the experience that you felt as a candidate. And that’s something that’s really important – using your network.
But most of all, I think it’s about being receptive. Sometimes people feel that, “If I dare to answer a recruiter, I am breaching this loyalty I should have to my employer, and I will be tempted to do something that I do not want to do.” Well, that’s kind of not true, right? This is just about talking about your career opportunities that may or may not appeal to you. And it’s important to have those conversations.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay.  Well then, how would one make themselves more findable? I understand there is a LinkedIn feature that explicitly says, “I’m open to chatting with recruiters.” Or what do you recommend?

Julie Forman

Well, LinkedIn certainly is something that a lot of people use, so making sure that you have a very professional LinkedIn profile. And there are tons of resources out there that explain how to do it, but that’s certainly a number one. And not just listing the title; it’s really giving an idea of what you’ve done, what you’ve accomplished – that’s really important. That’s certainly a first part. Making sure that your resume is up-to-date and ready, not just as though I’m going to write up my resume because you want to find a new job, but because you’re ready to, if you want to engage in something, that you have it ready and at hand.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. And so, you said there’s a number of these LinkedIn resources. I’d love it if you could name one or two, and maybe just a couple of quick do’s and don’ts that you see all the time.

Julie Forman

Sure. So the first one is making sure that when you describe your position or the positions you’ve had in the past, you are not generic. A lot of people, they write their accomplishment or their responsibility in such a generic term that it could be anyone. And so it’s important that you think about, what is my value proposition, what have I done that is valuable to an employer, and how can I create, I’d say, the feeling that somebody wants to call you and learn more about you, because that’s what LinkedIn’s all about.
The other thing, make sure you have professional pictures. That’s always very important. Make sure that you have – if you’ve done any major transformation, any major initiatives you worked on, things that are very relevant in your industry, make sure you highlight it in your LinkedIn profiles because those are the things that are picked up. And never forget that LinkedIn is a keyword-based search engine, so make sure that whatever keyword you would see in a position spec that you would be interested in, that that is somewhere in your resume, so somebody can find it.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, so then it sounds like – we talked about generic versus specific, and the initiatives and transformations – that there could be a fair bit of content, a pretty hefty word count then on your LinkedIn profile. Any thoughts on how much is too much?

Julie Forman

Well, I think you need to put enough to be able to create the curiosity. You have to bring enough to distinguish yourself from others. Obviously, you don’t want to have a five-page LinkedIn profile, but you want to put enough. Most people do not put enough. It’s not clear the scope of their responsibility, it’s not clear what they’ve done. And it’s just not, I’m going to say “salesy” enough, right? But I would certainly advocate to put more than less, especially if you’re looking for a role.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay.  So maybe, I don’t know, just to frame it a little bit – two or three bullets or accomplishments per role, or is that about the right amount?

Julie Forman

About two or three where you… And it’s important as well to say if you are leading a team, how many people are you leading; if you have a sales responsibility, give me a scope of how much; if for example you’re working in a specific vertical or industry, what is that experience; if you’ve worked with major clients, what are the types of clients that you’ve worked with; if you’re working in sales and you’ve done through channels, which channels do you know, because those are the aspects that clients often will ask for.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s great. And I have advised many clients when it comes to, say, working on a resume, that numbers do really work wonders, in terms of if something is significant or large – what do you mean by significant or large? Can you put the millions of dollars or numbers of people?

Julie Forman

Yeah, exactly. Or somebody in finance that says on the resume, “I was responsible for closing the books every month.” Well, yeah. Whether they were closed properly or not, that tends to stay out.

Pete Mockaitis

Certainly. Well, and I think that specifically for a moment, folks in accounting roles, I think, sometimes those resumes are kind of tricky to showcase some real results in terms of like, “We kept things moving well, and appropriately, and sensibly, and according to GAAP, and nothing broke.” It kind of doesn’t have as much of a flash or an enticing element as, “Discovered acquisition opportunity that yielded $200 million of transaction”, or something. So I’d love to get your take there, if that is the nature of your role and responsibilities, like you’re responsible for keeping things moving and operating and humming, as opposed to generating new explosive initiatives that are game-changing – any pro tips on that?

Julie Forman

Well, you probably hurt the feelings of a lot of accounting people out there.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m so sorry, accountants. I love my accountants, and you have skills that I often do not. And I value your contributions, all accountants out there. I want to make sure these accountants are getting their credit, their props in any way possible.

Julie Forman

Absolutely. I’m just kidding. But what may not sound exciting to somebody that is not in finance can be very exciting to somebody in finance. I think finance is one of those areas where nobody is looking for somebody who just stamps paper or closes the books. We’re always looking for people that add value, that are business partners. That’s what we’re looking for. Just calculating numbers and presenting them and making sure they add, it’s not value anymore.
So it really is about, when you think about your role, is how do I add value, how what I do every day distinguishes me from somebody else, and why would somebody want to hire me and not somebody else? And if you have no answer, I would say, change it. Do something. Think about how you can change it up. Challenge yourself to go above and beyond. And find those bullets that are going to go on LinkedIn and make a recruiter say, “Hey, I’d love to get to know this person because they’ve just done what my client is really looking for.”

Pete Mockaitis

I really like that turn of phrase there, “Find those bullets”, because that is powerful both in terms of representing yourself to the outside world, but also the internal representation for promotions and performance reviews and those kinds of things, is to proactively seek them out. And in college, I was a little bit of a… I was maybe a little bit of a prestige hound in the pejorative kind of interpretation of it, or a very shrewd strategic career planner in the kinder interpretation, because I was. I was thinking, “Okay, what is this bullet going to be that is going to sound awesome to impress McKinsey, or Bane, or BCG?”, because I was hungry and focused. That’s what I wanted post-college.

Julie Forman

No, managing your career is certainly about creating those experiences that are going to impress people. But more and more, managing a career isn’t something that’s linear. Before, it used to be you need to impress your boss, you need to impress your boss. But today, those people who are going to help you along and accelerate your career are all over. They’re everywhere. They’re your colleagues. They are your direct reports. They are everywhere. So it’s important that we stop seeing it as such a, “I need to impress my boss”, because that’s not what cuts it anymore.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, I’m with you there. So let’s say you’ve done some smart networking, you found some recruiters, or you’ve been found by recruiters by having an excellent LinkedIn profile that has the great keywords and great distinguishing accomplishments. What are some key things to think about, or goals to have in mind when you start having the conversations with these folks?

Julie Forman

So, it’s important to know what you’re all about, what you’re like, what you want to do, what you have been successful at, and what you want to develop. When you enter in a conversation, that’s the really important part. Too many people, they don’t think about it, and then they get pinged on an opportunity, and they’re just like, “Hey, it sounds fun. I’m just going to go there and explore it.” And they really don’t have the control of the conversation. So thinking about what you want to do is really important.
Another thing as well is what you want in your career, what you want in life. Every so often, you hear these conversations on, “You should not have your email during the weekend. At 6:00, close everything down.” But the reality is some jobs, you cannot do that. Whatever people say, I can guarantee you that does not exist. It doesn’t mean that you should do it. It means that if that’s a value, a preference that you have, then maybe those jobs aren’t for you and you should look elsewhere. And you could be successful doing something else. But understanding who you are and what you like is something that’s really, really important to find the career success that you want.

Pete Mockaitis

I think that’s a really good point there. It’s not just having a clear understanding of what you want, but also what you don’t want. And I have had some conversations with guests about establishing boundaries and that can take you so far. But as you said, in some roles that is just not going to fly, no matter how diplomatically brilliantly you engage in that discussion.

Julie Forman

Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, cool. So then you’ve got some goals in mind, you’ve got some clear self-knowledge, and then you’re entering into the conversation. What are some maybe particular do’s and don’ts to think about as you are having conversations? You’ve got a relationship with a recruiter, and you are having some back-and-forth. Are there some things that people do that just are delightful to search consultants and just dreadful, like, “Oh my gosh, I hate it when people do this”?

Julie Forman

Well, so I’m going to talk from the perspective of a search consultant. It’s probably a little bit later in your career, although these apply to any level. The first part of it is really to engage in a conversation. You mentioned LinkedIn, and the reality is most of our sourcing, most of the way we find candidates isn’t LinkedIn. Most of it is our network, the network of consultants of the firm, and also, a lot of executives that we know and we ask them, “Hey, who do you know and how? I have this particular challenge. How would you tackle it? What kind of person do you think could tackle it? Do you know anybody?”
And so one of the things when you get into these conversations is to think about, first of all, “Is this something that I am qualified for, interested?” That obviously is the first question. And then if the answer is “No” to either of those questions, “How can I help the person? What do I know about the industry? How can I help, maybe with a contact, with an idea, with a place I would look?”, because that’s really important.
The other thing that’s really important is as a lot of management consulting happens, we’re not alone. So although I don’t do a lot of the work, the work is done by senior associates and research associates – all these awesome people who reach out to folks and who are often the first entry point.  And so make sure that you network with these people, that you are very kind and nice, and take their call and return their call. So that’s really important. Another point that is also something that we talk about and there’s a lot of different points of view, is salary. Do you answer when somebody asks you how much do you make?

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah, let’s hear that.

Julie Forman

That’s a big one. And there’s certainly a lot of different points. Salary, it has changed a lot. 30 years ago, 40 years ago, your salary – the salary you got from your job – often was your only source of revenue, and that kind of dictated where you were on the ladder of life. Today, you have people that have side jobs, and they create apps, and they have this, and they have that, so salary becomes one of the ways that you create wealth. And so I think that as a lot of things in these days, transparency becomes more and more, that you should find a way to figure out to test, how much do I make and how much does this job pay? And benchmark where you’re at, and think about it that way.
So, it really is a matter of personal preference and where you’re at, but obviously when you are in search and you call someone and you want to know, “Are we in the right ballpark? Does this make sense? Could we create an opportunity that would be compelling for this person?” So when people are super cagey, it’s not the best. And they don’t have to tell us, but they have to tell us what they want. And that’s the problem. The reason we ask for salary is people don’t know what they want. So it’s like going to a store and saying, “I want this. How much is this?” “Well, I’m not going to tell you how much.” It’s like, “Okay.” So it just doesn’t work. So either you say what you make, if it’s actually allowed, because a certain US state now prohibits it, or you say, “You know what? This is what I’m looking for. This is the range that I’m looking for.” And you have to have the confidence to say it.

Pete Mockaitis

Certainly. I’ve heard that tip shared and it resonated with me. When asked the question, “What are you currently being paid?” the appropriate answer is, “I am targeting a range between X and Y.” So it’s a little bit of a dodge, but I think it still accomplishes the goal you spoke of, is, “I need to know what works for you.”

Julie Forman

Absolutely. And you need to know how do you relate. And when you have these conversations, it’s a good time to ask, “Hey, I’m at this point. Does it make sense? What do you see?” Not obviously with everybody who calls, but when you’ve established that relationship, when you have this person you spoke to two or three times, and you’ve met them, you can ask. It doesn’t change anything. At the end of the day, whatever offer you get, you can say “No”. But the problem is people think that whatever is put in front of them, they just have to take it.

Pete Mockaitis

I think that’s very wise. And I want to dig a little bit more into – you said people don’t really know what they want. Could you be a little bit more specific, in terms of maybe precise questions within that realm of “What do you want?” that you often see people just don’t have answers to?

Julie Forman

Well, I think a lot of people, they start in a career, they get paid a certain amount, and they don’t talk about it at all. And so they have no idea whether or not they’re fairly paid for what they do. So, it’s about knowing, getting a little bit more information, educating yourself to know, “Okay, so what does an average role pay?” And sometimes getting a $5,000-$10,000 raise is not worth changing the job. But sometimes having that information helps you think about, or gives you the confidence the next time you’re in front of your boss and you need to negotiate that raise, knowing what is it that you’re worth out there, what are similar jobs paying. And it doesn’t mean you’re going to leave, but it means that you have at least that information.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, that’s good. And I’d like for you to speak a little more to that. You say sometimes a 5 or 10K bump is not sufficient to exit. And I can think of many such reasons why that’s the case. Could you elaborate on some of the biggies?

Julie Forman

Well, so especially when you’re earlier in your career. This isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon. So you need to think about what is it that you want to develop, where do you want to go, and what is the best environment to develop that? And is it worth $10,000 if you just leave what you have and go? Sometimes you’re not in the right environment and you need to leave, and you’re not going to reach your goals where you are, but saying that just money is enough to motivate a move is rarely the right decision. It needs to be a package.
So, getting back to your question – you have a support environment in your role, where they are coaching you to get to the next level, you’re in an industry that you’re passionate about, and you’ve worked many years to develop, let’s say a clientele, and it’s just starting to work out for you. That would be too bad to let that aside to go to something else. So there’s a lot of reasons, but typically, people know. You get that good feeling on whether or not you’re doing it for, really, the holistic value of changing, or really if it’s just the appeal of a little extra cash.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, understood. And I’d also like to get your take when it comes to, you said we’re looking at keywords and does it seem to have a fit based upon distinctive experience. I also want to hear from you in terms of, are there some things associated with attitude or demeanor or some sort of other universal things like, regardless of I am trying to find someone in marketing or finance or if it’s in airlines or high-tech, everybody loves a candidate who, blank. Could you fill in some of those blanks?

Julie Forman

So the number one attribute, I would say, is somebody who’s agile. And agility is about the ability to take everything you’ve learned in the past and kind of rearrange it to deal with a new situation. The reality is the world is unpredictable. Nobody knows what’s going to happen. There are shocks every day, and so you can’t be prepared for everything that is going to come in front of you. But you can be prepared in developing a lot of different skills and having that ability to put them together to face whatever situation’s in front of you. So that’s definitely one.
The other one that’s very popular, and for good reason, is authenticity. So the ability to really embrace who you are and who people are, and find your real strength, and knowing what you’re good at and what you’re not so good at. And that has a lot of different flavors, you can call it self-awareness, but that’s really important – knowing what it is that you can do and being upfront and honest about it.

Pete Mockaitis

And I can see how the authenticity piece, you can kind of get a quick gauge if you’re talking to someone, if they seem to say that they are great at everything, it’s like, “Maybe, maybe not.” But we’re not maybe getting the whole story or the full truth, in terms of seeing that self-awareness or that authenticity. I’m wondering from your vantage point, how do you get a read on if someone seems agile?

Julie Forman

Well, so that’s a good question. I think it’s when you speak to somebody and they talk about their background, there is a lot of creativity in how people approach problems and create solutions, and they’re always on the lookout for something new, something different. They’re not afraid of trying different things, and they’re not afraid of changing industries, or changing roles, or they see more of the positive than the potential challenge.
So that’s typically when somebody is very agile. Now, there is a scientific measure taken from it, and we could certainly measure it. Each time we do interviews and we meet with candidates, it’s really something that we measure. But on a high level, it really is that ability to be creative on how you tackle problems.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, you got me so intrigued now. Scientifically measuring this agility, I know Korn Ferry has some tools, instruments, assessments along those lines, but from a mere conversation you’re getting a gauge and taking that into a number. How does that work, to the extent that you’re not disclosing super proprietary things here?

Julie Forman

No, so to get into levels and numbers, those are very complex assessments that are done, and so we certainly don’t do it by just a conversation. But I mean you get a feeling. I think it’s the feeling of when you think about those contests around the world and you’re a team of two and you have these challenges that you’re not too sure about. I think it’s Amazing Race. Well, who would you like to be on with Amazing Race? Who would you feel that whatever’s thrown at you, you will kind of manage it through? And it’s that feeling that we tend to look into in candidates, somebody who you would feel very safe in whatever situation, you know they’ll figure it out. And so we don’t come out of an interview with a number, I’ll tell you that much. It’s more of an impression.

Pete Mockaitis

That is a nice image there with the Amazing Race piece. Well, I guess now I’m thinking about in the consulting case interviews, in terms of we say, “Okay, we’ve thrown several business scenarios at you, where you’re able to crack them again and again.” And so, I’d be curious to hear in terms of, not to go too deep into interviewing, but when it comes to questions posed, are you seeing any kind of mistakes happening again and again that candidates can just easily avoid?

Julie Forman

Yes, definitely. So the biggest mistake that people tend to do is, they are not prepared. And they haven’t really been thoughtful about, once again, what is their value proposition, what are those great examples in their career that really showcase who they are and what they can do. And so what that creates is that when you’re in an interview, somebody will often spend too much time explaining the context, and then they get in the weeds, and there’s too many details. And they forget that this isn’t about the price of oil in 2012; this is about, what did you do about it?
So if you think about a minute, let’s say, or two minutes to answer a question, you don’t want to spend a minute and a half talking about context. You want to give it quick, have that elevator speech of, “This is what happened, this is the gist of it, and now I’m going to tell you what I did about it and that why I was amazing in this situation, why you want to hire me.” But most people haven’t practiced it, and that really shows in an interview.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. Well, I also want to get your take here – you’ve recruited at multiple different levels of seniority for clients. Can you share some perspective in terms of what do you see those who are rising, they’re flourishing and seeing a really cool career progression. What sorts of, I don’t know, knowledge, skills, abilities seem to come up again and again? We mentioned the authenticity and the agility. Is there anything else in terms of themes you’re spotting?

Julie Forman

Definitely the ability to learn, and also the confidence of knowing, of being able to come out and meet with us, and have the conversation, and take the information, and really have that level of gravitas that we look for. So, gravitas is something that’s really tough to define. It’s tough to define, yet it’s so easy when you see it. And I think that one of the ways that you develop that is often by being surrounded by people who have great executive presence. But executive presence really is when you meet someone, and they have a good background, and they know how to conduct a conversation, and you feel like this person can handle a lot of challenges. That’s certainly something that we look for.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, beautiful. Well, tell me, Julie – anything else you really want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Julie Forman

Well, I think it’s really going back to trying to develop the best that you can be. Many years ago, developing your career was about being the best. So if there were five vice presidents or five directors or five managers, you wanted to be the best manager to get the promotion to director, and then the best director.
Now things have changed. People come and go, there are no long-term careers anymore. So you need to make sure that you work on yourself to be a director, whether or not it’s a director in your company, whether or not you get your boss’s job, all you need to do is make sure that you are director-level. And if that position is not there, then you’ll get another position. And I think that really is a shift in mindset, where you need to work collaboratively with your colleagues, you need to make sure that everybody gets to be the best they can be. And at the end of the day, everybody’s going to win by doing so.

Pete Mockaitis

That is a nice final note there. So now, could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Julie Forman

Well, one of my favorite quotes is actually by a great Montrealer who died last year, Leonard Cohen. And he sang in one of his songs a verse that says, “There is a crack in everything. That is how the light gets in.” And I think that Leonard Cohen wasn’t somebody who spent a lot of time explaining how he came up or what anything meant, so it’s open to interpretation. But to me, it really means that there’s nothing you can’t crack, there is really an opportunity everywhere, and that once you find that little piece of light, that’s when everything gets better. So it’s the continuous pursuit through imperfection that you get perfection.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, excellent, thank you. And how about a favorite study or a bit of research?

Julie Forman

Well, study – I would say at Korn Ferry, as you mentioned, we have a ton of research. We have lots of information on executives that are successful and what makes them successful. So we’ve been looking at studies on what makes great Chief Marketing Officers and what distinguishes customer-centric leaders. And so we’re in a lot of that analysis right now, so certainly, if your listeners go on our website, shortly you’ll have all those findings.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, so it’s in process as we speak?

Julie Forman

It’s in process, definitely.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, cool, alright. And how about a favorite book?

Julie Forman

Well, I read so much for my job that I don’t think I have a favorite book recently, but what I’m going to suggest is a favorite podcast. I assume everybody listens to podcasts. It’s actually an HBR limited series called Women at Work. It is a six-episode that they ran about, I’d say, six months ago. And it’s a conversation between Amy Bernstein, who’s the editor, Sarah Green Carmichael, executive editor, and Nicole Torres, a younger associate editor. And it talks about issues that women face, but it is done in such a pragmatic way and away from the conciliation work and family that basically a lot of us are sick of hearing about. But it really goes into really more interesting and useful subjects, so I definitely recommend listening to those.

Pete Mockaitis

Alright. And how about a favorite tool?

Julie Forman

So a favorite tool, I would say… So I bought this nifty little whiteboard peel-off that I stuck on my desk, and tons of dry erase pens. And every morning I do my to-do list, and then I have the pleasure of just wiping it off as it goes through. And it’s great. At the end of the day, when you take that eraser and you just wipe it clean, you have a feeling of accomplishment. So hey, you take what you can, right? [laugh]

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, I like that. I think that Caroline Webb of How to Have a Good Day, in a previous episode, really kind of emphasized that, in terms of when you are getting the pleasure of checking something off, maximize it. If it’s digital, it should have a big swoosh, or an “oink” noise, or a gray strikethrough, or a disappearing animation. And if it’s paper, it should be a big thick line through it. And you’ve taken it farther with the erasing – that’s cool. So you say a “peel-off.” What exactly does that mean?

Julie Forman

Well, so it’s a whiteboard material but it looks like a big sticker. So it’s the size of a sheet of paper, and you just stick it on your desk. So there is no way… I tried the notebooks, but then the notebooks, you forget. Papers, you have too many of it. This is just in your face, so if you decide not to strike something off your to-do list, then it’s on you.

Pete Mockaitis

Understood. And does it actually stick to the desk?

Julie Forman

It does, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay.

Julie Forman

Well, it’s removable, so if there’s any furniture-lovers out there, it’s not going to damage it. But it’s like $10. It’s actually really cheap on any place where they sell stationery.

Pete Mockaitis

And it’s held up. One peel-off has stood the test of time.

Julie Forman

It does, definitely. Absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis

Cool, alright. And how about a favorite habit?

Julie Forman

A favorite habit, I’d say, is going paperless. So I have my iPad and Apple Pencil, which I absolutely adore, because I can’t get into the habit of typing everything, I still love to write. And going paperless is something that’s really great for me. It allows me to carry all my notes everywhere, it keeps them confidential. And I think that’s really something that takes a little bit of getting used to but now makes for a much cleaner desk.

Pete Mockaitis

And can you write with an Apple Pencil and iPad as fast as you can with a normal pencil and paper?

Julie Forman

Absolutely. It’s even better, though, because you can download some documents and then just mark on them. So it’s great when you have resumes and you want to keep that for posterity.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Julie Forman

I would certainly point them to connect with me on LinkedIn. So I love building my LinkedIn profile with great people. Also Korn Ferry, our website. Korn Ferry’s coming out with great tools for even people at all career levels, so it’s certainly worth it to go and have a peek. It’s called Korn Ferry Advance, so that really is a great tool that’s coming out. And that’s it. And watch out for Korn Ferry Institute, where we have tons of great research paper that’s backed from our experience, both on the research side, but also the pragmatic part of being in search and seeing talent every day.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Julie Forman

Yes, make sure you’re visible. Be out there, network. Even if you’re super happy in your job and you think this is the best in the world and you couldn’t be better, you never know what changes and you never know what’s out there. So be confident, know what you’re worth and what you can do and where you can go, and make sure that you can test that regularly on the market.

Pete Mockaitis

Perfect. Well, Julie, thank you so much for sharing this. I think that many folks have finally had this question demystified. So, very much appreciated, and keep doing the great work you’re doing.

Julie Forman
Excellent, thank you so much.

291: Deciding Whether to Stay or Go with Pete Mockaitis

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Pete inserts himself into the show format, sharing his approach to tackling your next career decision.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The 8 step-by-step questions that determine whether to stay or go
  2. Whether the grass is in fact greener
  3. Pete’s favorite things

About Pete

Pete Mockaitis is an award-winning trainer and coach who helps brilliant professionals perform optimally at work.

He’s delivered 1-on-1 coaching to over 700 leaders hailing from world-class organizations (such as Google, FedEx, the United Nations, Anheuser-Buesch, and Apple), 50 countries, and every Ivy League university. His work has been featured in numerous publications including the New York TimesForbes, and Inc.

He began his career at Bain & Company and currently hosts the How to be Awesome at your Job podcast. The show receives millions of downloads from delightful people with excellent taste.

Pete lives in Chicago with his wife and new baby!

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Pete Mockaitis Solo Episode Transcript

I’m so fired up to dig into this stuff. I wanted to start by sharing a little bit about why is this something worth going after in the first place.

The reason is because I’ve done many coaching sessions with many folks and I found myself saying the same things kind of often and wondering, “Is this super cost effective for folks? Is there a better resource I might be able to point folks to?” At the same time I also found some gaps there in terms of the tools available or some questions I did not yet have great answers to and I had to dig in a little farther to come up with them.

Beyond that, in talking with listeners, it seemed like this was a strong issue that was recurring again and again for people, saying things like, “Boy, I have a stable job. It would be kind of stupid to leave. At the same time, I’m not really happy here. Well, isn’t that work? Is the grass really greener anywhere else? I don’t know. Oh, I wish I wasn’t so wishy washy. Oh I’ve got mortgage. I’ve got a family. I’ve got responsibilities. I shouldn’t entertain leaving, but at the same time I’m not happy here. But would it just be the same in another environment?” a whole lot of pain and consternation.

It’s a tricky question and one that cannot be answered with a quick Google search or an internet listicle and instead really requires going into some real depth. It has taken thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours to craft a course that can aid in this tricky decision.

I want to share with you some of the greatest hits, tidbits, and those eight key questions that unfold step-by-step in order to aid you if you find yourself in this trick spot, trying to make the decision.

I’m going to talk through each of these questions, which build upon each other one by one.

You might have a decision by the end of this podcast episode or at least have some great things to heat up to take further action and finally make some good practice if you’ve been stuck on the matter for a while. Let’s get into it.

The first question to consider here is what’s the ultimate goal. The short answer on that is arriving at a decision with clarity, with confidence, with conviction.

I’ve already had folks share with me as they’ve worked through some of the modules that they feel so much better about their current work because they just didn’t just have a knee-jerk reaction, they didn’t just focus in on the part of the job that they hate and sort of bemoan it and say, “Oh, this sucks. I want to be out of here,” but they realize, “Huh, after having taken a look around, I realize things aren’t perfect here and I want to try and make some improvements, but it’s not so bad.”

That’s a great victory right there, a decision that for now I’m going to stay and that’s cool. I’ve got some clarity, some confidence, some conviction around that, so that’s handy.

The ultimate guiding light I suggest in terms of how do you arrive at reaching such a decision is to do so based upon happiness. Some of my favorite quotes are that ‘happiness is the ultimate is the currency.’ We heard Gary Burnison say, “Start with happiness.” And that with Shawn Achor all the research when it comes to positive psychology, conveys that happiness is linked to performance and then is broadcast to others and impacts them and the work environment.
That’s the fundamental guiding light I suggest that you look at if you’re making this decision is to start there. That sounds kind of obvious, but the challenge is that a lot of times our thought processes get derailed by a lot of shoulds and buts before you even really get started thinking about it.

It can sound like, “But I’ve got a mortgage and a family. It would be irresponsible to quit. But I’m not going to find this kind of money at another job. I’d be kind of stupid to leave. But I feel guilty abandoning this important work that we‘re doing here. But I don’t want to lose these precious relationships I’ve formed. Maybe it’s just me.”
Or, “Maybe things will get better. Maybe I’m just not good enough. But I fear the unknown. How do we know if the next job is going to be any better whatsoever?” I give some quick take answers to each of these concerns if that’s showing up for you in an upcoming video that is going to speak to them. You can get access to that by going to DoIStayOrGo.com to sign up for such videos.

For now I’ll just make a quick point about the money. When it comes to, “I’m not going to find this kind of money elsewhere,” I just want to plant a seed that it’s very possible, if you think of happiness as the ultimate currency, to switch jobs and get a different job that pays less and for that to actually be an upgrade for you.

I’ve got a friend of a friend right now who is taking on a bigger position. There’s a whole lot more responsibility, a whole lot more stress and substantially more money and yet she is miserable. She’s been crying and she’s been begging to get a demotion and to be paid less money. That happens.

In the professional preferences assessment results only about 9% of folks had an upgrade in compensation as one of their top three happiness drivers. It didn’t make the top three out of 15 compensation for 91% of folks.

Interesting paradigm shift there. It’s not just about the best job is the one with the best money. No, no. It seems that in fact, in our experience, that is clearly not the case for the majority, but, nonetheless, it can be sort of lodged into the brain as the thing that is to be optimized and maximized above all else.

The second big question is which elements of work drive happiness for me. The short answer is it is a combination of 15 happiness drivers across the area of rewards, experiences, and demands. These really do vary substantially person by person which we’ve seen time and time again when folks do the assessment, which you can do at DoIStayorGo.com.

Now some folks are all about the compensation, the security, the advancement potential, the prestige. Others are more into the people stuff, the appreciation, the warmth, the purpose, the trustworthy colleagues. Others are more into the learning, the compelling tasks, the styles of alignment, the autonomy or the time load or the flexibility.

It really does vary person by person. But the tricky thing is because no job is perfect and all jobs have these tradeoffs, you’ve got this bundle of tricky decisions with everything in terms of well, what really is most important here.

What’s cool about the assessment is we take each of those 15 happiness drivers and they all square off against each other. You are choosing between time load and appreciation or compensation and purpose. They are all squaring off so you can see ultimately having made 105 little decisions the aggregate results of what that looks like in terms of stacked top to bottom.

It can be pretty powerful and eye opening for people. We had a great kind, encouraging word from Jenny who said, “Wow, Pete, you’ve done it again. So many of the nagging desires that have been swirling around my head for years are now laid out neatly on your bar graphs.” Cool. Well, I’m so glad that was working for Jenny and for many others who have taken that.

It’s still available for free, so check that out. It’s at DoIStayOrGo.com, the assessment. Pretty cool stuff that can spark a whole boatload of clarity in a hurry and cut through a lot of the morass that might be in your head right now.

The third question is, is that grass really greener elsewhere. The short answer is a definite maybe. The scoop is it really goes both ways in terms of some people they are in their jobs and they get so caught up with the thing they don’t like when they stop and take a look and see, “Hm, how does this opportunity really stack up against alternatives.” You see, “Hey, it’s actually not so bad.”

Other times it goes just the opposite way in terms of folks are so accustomed to the toxic bad stuff that’s going on they think, “Oh yeah, this is just normal. This is just what work’s like.” Then you take a look around, it’s like, “Oh my gosh, not at all is that the case.”

Here we borrow a little bit of a page from Consumer Research in terms of saying for like a given brand, what are the most important features associated with it and then how is one brand performing on that.

If we were looking and comparing say fast food companies together, we’d first determine for consumers how important all the different factors like speed, health, cost, the freshness, the customization, the clean environment of the restaurant. Then we’d also take a look at and how well does this particular restaurant do, McDonald’s versus Wendy’s versus Burger King to kind of get a lay of the land and see where should we focus.

Likewise we do the same with happiness drivers in your current job versus others, and getting a little bit of benchmark context to say, “Okay, well, what’s this look like elsewhere,” and some fun facts like for learning. Well, 32% of people have a mentor at work.

For the alignment of work styles, about 52% of folks say their meetings are effective. For time load, well, hey, we’ve got quite a range with 13% working 7 or fewer hours in a day and 13% working 12 plus hours a day and then the bits in the middle you can see.

By getting a little bit of that context and then doing a rating, you can see, “Okay, on the dimensions that really matter for me, how is my job stacking up?” If it’s not stacking up so well as compared to what’s out there, you’ve got your answer. Yup, that grass is substantially greener elsewhere or, “Oh hey, it looks like we’re doing okay after all.”
The fourth question is how can I improve right where I am. The short answer here is by changing either your mindset or your extracurricular activities outside work there or reshaping the work situation itself.

You can make a world of difference giving yourself a boost in these areas of happiness drivers if you 1) just think about things differently. For example, instead of thinking about how this is all bull crap that you have to deal with all this stuff, reframing to who is this helping and serving and how and that can spark something.

Or when it comes to extracurricular activities, if you feel like you’re not getting enough purpose or warmth in your work environment, well, you can find that elsewhere, whether that’s volunteering or making more of a special effort associated with seeing your cool besties and getting those exchanges going.

Or when it comes to reshaping the work environment, talking about pushing back diplomatically, tactfully, how to make that happen successfully as well as prudently and shrewdly assessing are things likely to change here if I take a lay of the land and see how feedback requests and suggestions and those sorts of things have gone historically. We can just get a bit of a lay of the land for how that works.

Having established those three strategies, we then look to applying them across each of the 15 happiness drivers to generate over 100 starter ideas for inspiration. Just to zero in on one or two that you can truly commit to do to improve your work situation happiness right then and there.

One of my favorites is when it comes to compelling tasks, you can actually just proactively swap tasks with someone else at work. We heard this tip from Lisa Cummings in the Strengths episode. If you can zoom in on, “Hey, I like this and I’m strong at this and you like that and you’re strong at that, why don’t we just quietly, informally do a little switcheroo?” It’s a fun win-win for everyone there.

That’s just one idea. Maybe that works, maybe it’s doesn’t. But after cruising through the 100 and pondering you’re on, you come up with a few things, one or two at least, that will really make a world of difference for boosting your happiness right then and there in your current work environment.

The fifth question we tackle is what would be the most amazing work ever. The short answer to get there is we first release some constraints to thoughts. Secondly, we kind of dig deep into your youness and what makes you tick. Third we do a quick assessment for is that thing likely to be so amazing.

For releasing your constraints, often before an ideation, a divergent thinking, brainstorming process even get started, we tend to short change our self, like well the job has to have at least 80,000 dollars or it has to be in this location.

We go through a little bit of an approach for breaking that down which includes, thinking through well, why must that be the case, is that a valid value underneath the why and is there an alternative means of satisfying that. It’s kind of cool what can come up in terms of alternative means so that you feel a bit freer to dig and really think about what would be the coolest work experience ever.

From there we dig into your psyche, your personality, your youness asking provocative questions like, “What did you like to do as a kid? What made you weird as a kid? Describe your ideal day from top to bottom and how does that fit into it? If you think about some of the greatest days of work, what made them the greatest days of work?”

Getting that introspection going to see what is potentially an opportunity that would have all the cool goodies and lots of it and then to take a quick look and say, “Well, is that likely to really be the case or is that a fantasy land,” and just consulting the crystal ball or the time machine if you will by just imagining yourself in that scene. What do you see?

Getting a quick sense for what a day in the life looks like via some research approaches and just getting yourself, “Why was this the most amazingly awesome perfect decision ever and why was this a terrible decision? What did I overlook?” or, “What must be true for this to be a good move? Then how can I test that?”

We get a real quick sense for loosening up, coming up with the coolest work experiences you can conceive and then taking a quick look, “Huh, is that for real? Is that likely to be the case?”

The sixth question is who really has the answers about whether or not an alternative opportunity could be superior. The short answer is interesting, helpful people at interesting organizations. Here we talk all about how do we surface such interesting organizations and then people within them.

This is fun and I get to get dorky and tactical looking at databases and listings and services there, whether it’s the Hoovers’ Avention Dun & Bradstreet, … database that can surface all kinds of different organizations from different industries or it’s using GuideStar Foundation Center along the lines of NTEE codes to find the coolest nonprofits who are getting grants and are large and growing and substantial.

Or whether it is getting jiggy with the lists from the Fortune 500 or the Inc. 5,000 or the TechCrunch, Crunchbase …. Oh wow, there’s so many cool organizations out there I had never even heard of. They’re doing exactly what I want to do and have money and are growing.

Those kinds of things can be rather intriguing. It’s like oh well, then once you find them, how do I find the specific people who are there using things like a Tweeple search in the Twitter bios, like, “Oh, hey, here’s somebody who works there and says right in their bio that they work there and freely tweets things associated with it. Maybe they would be open to a conversation.”

Or getting jiggy with some LinkedIn approaches to surface folks and then related folks and your connection to those folks. Getting some specific names here associated with “Well, there is a person right there whose name is John Smith or whatever who would actually have an answer for me.” Then we end there by having a list of great names at great organizations.

The seventh question is how do I get such people to talk to me. The short answer is by finding their contact information and sending them an optimized digital message.

For finding their contact information, there’s a number of interesting tools such as Hunter.io, which will tell you specific names and emails associated with a given domain or URL or even just the structure. Is it first initial dot last name? Is it first name last name no dot? Is it first name dot last name? You kind of cut through that ambiguity, so you’ve got just the one.

Then we talk about what is the optimal message to send and some principals associated with making it super short, super easy to say yes to, and then some encouragement that even if you don’t have the optimized message, your response rate will be pretty good.

I share the full text of an email or LinkedIn message I got from someone who was asking about consulting, which was okay. I don’t think it was an optimal message. I provide some thoughts for how to tweak it.

But what is intriguing was this dude, Casey, ended up taking very close careful notes associated with what responses he was given when he was requesting total strangers to chat with him about career stuff. Casey’s results were that 28% of the time, total strangers agreed to say, “Oh yeah, sure. Let’s have a coffee. Let’s have a chat. Let’s discuss your career stuff and I will give you free advice along those lines,” which is pretty cool.

Over one and four complied and he had done this reaching out hundreds of times. One dude’s decent, acceptable cold message got the job done over one in four times.

I think that’s really helpful in terms of if you are reaching out to many folks, some of them will talk to you and they will give you the time. Then you just ask them the optimal questions that matter the most to you given your happiness drivers and you start to paint a picture for how these options are looking for whether you stay or you go, which is looking like a rosier, happier scenario.

The eighth and last question is what is the final answer, synthesizing it, putting it all together. This is fun. We consult both the hard data and the heart date, a turn of phrase I heard from a client I really liked.

The hard data is we put together this spreadsheet which is pretty cool in terms of figuring out a couple things. One taking a stab at quantifying your happiness at a given opportunity based upon your happiness drivers and how highly a given opportunity rates on each of those 15 happiness drivers. We can sort of consolidate that into a rough aggregate happiness number.

Also, a cool number called a give per take ratio in terms of jobs vary wildly in terms of the compensation they deliver as well as the time, the sheer hours they demand of you both on the job and commuting and maybe some extra expectations for social functions or whatever.

When you put it all together with the commute, and the compensation, and the value of the bonuses and your tax rate, and all that stuff, what is the give per take, the wealth created per hour demanded for a given job?

If you look at those side by side alongside the happiness drivers, you get sort of a hard data, a quantitative view for, “Hm, my current job looks awesome compared to these other things,” versus, “Wow, it is really falling short if I look at the projected happiness number as well as just what I’m getting for the time I’m investing there.”

Then we consult the heart data, what seems good and right and true for you in your intuition, in your gut, in your belly. We’ve got a number of really cool approaches to get a quick read on that.

One of my favorite little ones is – and don’t skip right to this. I think that it’s best done once you’ve sort of taken a good clear look around is you flip a coin and when you flip that coin, you can say, “Okay, heads I’m going to stay here, take it head on and tails is they’re going to see my tail as I walk out the door and say goodbye.”

You decide, “Okay, heads I’m staying, tails, I’m leaving.” You flip the coin, you turn it over and here’s a trick. Rather than look at it, see which one you are hoping for it to be. That tells you something.

Anyway, that’s just one fun little trick associated with consulting intuition and getting a sense for what’s deep down there. We’ll talk about a few other approaches for tuning and listening in to see what you see there.

Once you consult the hard data in the spreadsheet and the heart data deep inside, you’ve got a pretty clear sense. This is sort of what needs to happen. I am going to stay. I’m going to make the most out of it in these key ways or I’m going to begin pursuing opportunities in A, B, and C.

Even though you don’t have a job in hand yet there’s huge power in the decision and the conviction, in the clarity and the confidence that’s happening right then and there. Either way you win, whether you stay or you go by methodically working through these key questions.

Again, if you want some extra goodies here, you’ve got DoIStayOrGo.com. I’m releasing three videos shortly to discuss this and then inviting you to enroll into the course. I hope you dig it, whether you choose to enroll or not, this content is handy for you and it’s something you can reference back when the indecision is getting a little bit more intense and you’re starting to wonder all the more frequently.

That’s my story here. Now I’ll share a few of my favorite things, turn the tables a little bit.

For favorite book, I’m going to go with How to Have a Good Day by Caroline Webb. We also had her on the program and I like that it seems like she shares stuff that makes a lot of good sense, like, “Yeah, that makes sense,” she shares the research associated with it like, “Oh yeah, that checks out,” and she shares a very simple implementable step-by-step approach to tackling it and it’s all about how to enjoy a day of work more.

I’ve got many, many favorite books. I think this one is particularly applicable to the topic du jour and very enriching. I’ll say that one. I’ve been listening to it on audio and I’m thinking I just have to buy the real thing because there are so many notes and flags I want to highlight and underline that the audio alone is not doing it for me.

For a favorite quote I’ve got, “I cannot give you the formula for success, but the formula for failure is trying to please everybody,” by Herbert Bayard Swope.

I find that quote so helpful for me when I get a little bit hung up in terms of, “Uh oh, someone probably doesn’t like this.” Because I guess I am a little bit of a people pleaser and I do love feedback and sometimes I take it a little more personally than is super helpful.

I was actually recently even in a Subway, the sandwich shop, and I started to feel a little bit weird or bad or guilty because of the person behind me in line I thought, “Uh oh, I’m taking too long in selecting all of my condiments,” because I kept getting all of the stuff: the lettuce, and the spinach, and the tomato, and the green peppers, and the oregano, and the parmesan, and the pepper, and then the – I put a lot of things on.

I was like, “Oh boy, she’s probably getting irritated with me because I’m getting so many things. Oh, I feel bad about that.” It’s sort of funny. It’s like wait a second, Pete, that’s quite silly. First of all, she probably didn’t even notice. She’s probably focused on her own stuff. Secondly, that’s just sort of how sandwich making works in Subway.

This has been a source of a helpful reminder and touchstone for peace that trying to please everybody is a recipe for failure as well as recipe for anxiety I would say because it’s impossible and counterproductive to what your ultimate aims for true success will be for you.

For favorite study, I’m really in to the Walter Mischel Marshmallow Test. If you haven’t heard of it, that’s when the children were presented with a marshmallow or tasty treat of sorts, maybe it’s an M&M or a Reece’s Pieces or whatever, but it doesn’t matter, only that it is tempting and interesting to them.

The rules of the game go if you’d like, you can eat that any time you want, but if you hold out and wait for up to 20 minutes, when the experimenter comes back, you may receive two of that treat. It’s all about self-regulation, self-discipline, can you handle the wait.

Go figure, they discovered that the children who could handle the wait and were able to self-regulate and go the distance to get the two treats had all sorts of other positive life outcomes whether it comes to schooling or other things.

Very impressive how that little indicator tells so much. Also very interesting how it’s quite possible to build these skills.
He said that some of the strategies the high-performing children used in order to wait included, looking elsewhere, playing a game, covering their eyes, and what wasn’t such a winning strategy is looking very closely at the marshmallow, maybe tasting the powder off of your finger, smelling it deeply and repeatedly, sort of that was contrary. Environment shaping maneuvers you have available to you are powerful.

My favorite habit is something I do almost every morning and it is sort of like a multi-mega habit that merges a few things into one. That is I like to do a nice walk, usually on my treadmill, sometimes outside or sometimes just back and forth in my home.

I like to do a good walk for about 30 minutes in the morning and while drinking my Klean Kanteen 27 ounce bottle, while also getting some bluelight exposure in terms of whether it’s outdoors or with this Philips blue light device that I use. Also, engaged in prayer.

I particularly like to be thankful and express thanks for sort of the five great things that happened in the last 24 hours because there’s cool psychology research pointing that to putting you in a more appreciative, and grateful and positive mindset, as well as some other areas of coverage there.

It’s really great to in the first half hour of the day to get all of these things going. It upgrades my body from, “Oh, I’d kind of really rather still be asleep,” to, “Oh boy, let’s get after the day. What’s next?”

For a favorite tool, I’m going to have to say OmniFocus. I think it is super handy. It is a task management application that is so powerful, robust and full-featured. What’s cool is how I can ubiquitously capture anything anywhere in the app.

It is right on my homepage. I can push it, put it in there, include a photo, include an audio description or just make a Siri command to add an OmniFocus item and then from there it’s in my OmniFocus inbox, which can be processed associated with the context or the project and the deadline and then reviewed. It’s so cool.

I never miss anything cool when someone says, “I read a really interesting book,” it’s like, what is it? Bloop, then that’s there for later processing. I can continue the conversation, capture it, and then later on go investigate, “Oh, is that a book I should read?” Yes or no and make a good decision.

I’m having a world of fun with that as well as in the mornings for creative time it’s cool to see, “Oh there’s my OmniFocus inbox,” a bunch of random, cool ideas I had or suggestions I heard, which brings just a lot of richness to life in terms of in that creative time for me in the morning, here’s some creative seeds that I collected previously and let’s see what happens. It makes it kind of fun.

Favorite way to be contacted? Anytime, please. What are you thinking about the show, feedback, tips, suggestions, stuff you want to hear? Pete@AwesomeAtYourJob.com.

Parting challenge or call to action, I just encourage you, don’t accept just the default state when it comes to your job situation. Take a quick glance and think through, “Is this really the optimal spot for me in terms of happiness.” Not to spark discontent within you but just to make sure that you’re making a contentious decision as opposed to just reverting to the default, which is continuing to do the thing that you’re doing.

A great first step to that is to visit DoIStayOrGo.com. Take that assessment to see which of your happiness drivers is top for you, and then think through “How’s my job doing on these. You know what? Pretty darn good.” Awesome. You can feel good and just be grateful for that’s where it is.

Or, “You know what? There are a few things that are very important to me that this job is falling quite short of. Maybe I should start thinking a little bit more in depth about if it’s time to look around and explore that do I stay or go in a bit more detail.

That’s what I got. I look forward to catching you on the next episode. It is Oren Jay Sofer. I discovered him from the Simple Habit Meditation app and he just I think has got some little distinctions, some nuances about this mindfulness, this meditation stuff that are well worth hearing to bring a little bit more peace, a little bit more compassion, a little more ability to focus with intention with what you’re up to.

I hope to catch you there and peace.

273: Taking Control of your Career with Korn Ferry’s Gary Burnison

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Korn Ferry’s CEO Gary Burnison talks about the importance of learning agility and areas to consider when evaluating a potential job offer.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Which skills predict success–and which are 200X harder to develop than others
  2. New rules of thumb on timelines that suggest “job hopping” vs “getting stale”
  3. Why happiness is central to your career strategy

About Gary

Gary D. Burnison is the Chief Executive Officer of Korn Ferry, the preeminent global people, and organizational advisory firm. Korn Ferry helps leaders, organizations, and societies succeed by releasing the full power and potential of people. Its nearly 7,000 colleagues deliver services through Korn Ferry and its Hay Group and Futurestep divisions. Mr. Burnison is also a member of the Firm’s Board of Directors.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Gary Burnison Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’d love to start if we can hear a little bit about you and surfing. I understand you use that as a metaphor for many things. Are you also an active surfer in the literal sense?

Gary Burnison

In the literal sense for sure, dude. [laugh] Look, I was raised in Kansas – a long way from where you can actually surf, but in Los Angeles it is… Yeah, you can surf. And it’s kind of my philosophy on life that people get a certain number of waves – maybe some big, some small – and the whole trick is figuring out which ones you ride, how long you stay on, when you bail. And I think life and careers are much like that.

Pete Mockaitis

I hear you, yeah. And so, just to orient listeners here – I’ve been a fan of Korn Ferry for a good while, and fun fact – the birth of the How To Be Awesome At Your Job podcast came from me just shamelessly looking at the bibliography of the book For Your Improvement, and cold out reaching to hundreds of those authors. And then some said “Yes”, and now – well, they say “Yes” more easily and they come to me, which is a cool situation. So thank you for the great work you do in the organization. But could you orient those unfamiliar what’s your company all about?

Gary Burnison

We’re a global organizational consulting firm, so our purpose is to help organizations and people exceed their potential. We’re couple of billion dollars in revenue, we’re all over the world, we’ve got 8,000 employees. And the sole purpose of the company is to improve other companies through their people, through their organizational strategies, how they develop people, how they motivate people, how they pay people. That’s what we’re about.

Pete Mockaitis

Very good. And so, I want to talk most of the time about your book Lose the Resume, Land the Job. But first, I’ve got a couple of tricky ones I want to make sure we’ve got a moment to hit right upfront. And one of them is something I’ve been wrestling with, and others in the Learning and Development industry. I’ve got the Korn Ferry book For Your Improvement open, there’s an appendix called A Developmental Difficulty Matrix, which is a cool graphical representation that shows a number of competencies ranked from hardest to develop to easiest to develop.
And so, I had a buddy of mine in the Learning and Development industry get into a little bit of a scuffle with someone who said, “Hey, wait a minute. That sounds a little bit like a fixed mindset. That’s blasphemous”, to say that some competencies are super hard to develop and thusly you should just hire for them upfront. So how do you square the notions of, you want to be a learner, which is awesome, and a growth mindset is helpful, versus your hard resource that shows some competencies are harder to develop than others.

Gary Burnison

Look, it’s nature versus nurture, right? So it’s an age-old question: Were you born to be a great baseball player, or did you do the right kinds of things, to coaching along the way? It’s one of those things that it’s kind of like, does God exist? To find the ultimate answer is very, very hard. We have a ton of research behind it, but I will tell you that just my practical experience – I’m CEO of a public company, I’ve been the CEO for 11 years. Korn Ferry has done decades of research on this.
It is absolutely true that some skills are much harder to develop than others. And what I would tell you is that in my simple world there’s a left brain and there’s a right brain. And the left brain, for purpose of our conversation, is very analytical, it’s very kind of black and white. The right brain is a whole different world. And as you move up an organization, I would say the number one predictor of success that Korn Ferry has studied in CEOs all over the world, is learning agility. But as you move up, you have to make that transition from your left brain to your right brain, and it is not easy.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, so a couple of things. What precisely do you mean by “learning agility”?

Gary Burnison

Knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do. And so the more situations that you’re in where you have failed, the better are your chances for success in the future. And so what happens is as a CEO, as a leader – doesn’t have to be a CEO – but you’re always going to be in situations that you’ve never been in before. And that could range the whole gamut of possibilities, from being personally sued to dealing with the things that you read about in the papers today around a workplace environment – all of those things you’ve probably never experienced. And guess what? As the leader you can’t say, “I don’t know.”
And so you have to inspire confidence to the organization about where it’s headed and how it’s going to punch through that opening in the sky when it’s a very, very cloudy day. So the right brain is really all around how you connect with others, how you inspire others, how do you get people to wake up without the alarm clock? That is something that has to be learned over time.
And so as we’ve studied people, and you’ve referenced the research that we’ve done – when you start out, and it could be out of high school or out of college, you’re basically a follower. And what you’re going to be doing is going to be very repetitive, and it’s going to be very action-oriented. You’re going to be making rapid, quick, repetitive decisions. But as you progress – and this is the question you were asking – as you progress, that becomes totally reversed. And so you do not, as a CEO or a leader, you don’t want to make rapid decisions. You want to be reflective, you want to be a complex thinker, you want to have Plan C for Plan B for Plan A – almost the polar opposite of somebody starting out in the workforce.

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah, I’ve got a Marshall Goldsmith book title leaping to mind here – What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. So that’s helpful to lay that out. And so, when we talk about some competencies being harder to develop than others, is it like they’re twice as difficult to develop, or is it like 200 times as difficult?

Gary Burnison

Like 200, yeah. So it is this very, very easy to motivate yourself. I shouldn’t say it’s very, very easy. It’s not easy for everybody, but it’s relatively easier to motivate yourself. Now, if you have to do that to five other people, if you’ve got to do that to 50 other people, if you’ve got to do that to 5,000 other people – becomes much, much harder.
Take a simple task, like let’s say you’ve got five friends over and you’re going to go to dinner. And one likes Mexican food, one loves Chinese food, Indian food. You’ve got a whole range of gamuts, and as the leader you’ve got people that have different motivations, they have different self-interest, and they’ve got different tastes in where they want to go to dinner. And so what you’ve got to do is anchor that discussion on where you’re going to dinner in a common purpose and get everybody to agree that we’re going to go have the Happy Meal at McDonald’s.
That is not an easy thing, just with five people figuring out where they’re going to go to dinner. But if you then expand that range of thinking and possibilities to 50 people, 500 people, around strategies to enable a company to succeed, or an organization to succeed, just think about how much harder that actually is.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh, certainly. So the feat is certainly way, way more challenging. And I guess I’m wondering from a competency-development perspective, are you saying that some competencies such as managing conflict, that are in the hardest area, as compared to being tech-savvy or action-oriented on the easiest area – those are 200 times as hard to develop, the harder ones?

Gary Burnison

Oh, for sure. There’s no question about that.

Pete Mockaitis

Alright.

Gary Burnison

And it’s something that, again, a textbook can help, but there’s no substitute for… I can remember the first time my dad pushed me on the bicycle. And so I remember the exact moment as clear as day, and that feeling – there’s nothing like it in the world. And so at Korn Ferry, what we found again through research is when it comes to development, we believe in 70/20/10. In other words, only 10% of your development once you leave your college is actually going to come from the classroom; but 90% is going to be on your assignment or assignments and who you’re working with, and who you’re working for.

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah. And I want to go there next. We recently had a guest, Carter Cast from Kellogg Business School, and he was a lot of fun, had some great thoughts about career derailers. And he cited a Korn Ferry study, in which managers ranked their own level of skill at competencies, and they had ranked dead last the competency of developing talent, or developing direct reports in others. So, I thought that was pretty striking, and I’m wondering in a world where 90% of learning is kind of happening right there on the spot, on the job, with interactions with boss and others – how do you become, as you say, a learn-it-all effectively, in that undesirable context?

Gary Burnison

I think the other thing is you want to mirror it all. So it is true that most people in all the research we’ve done would not describe themselves as high in terms of developing others. And I think that’s the responsibility of any great manager or leader. It’s much like raising your kids. And I think it’s so much easier to mirror the behavior that you want to see in others, rather than telling people what to do. And so I think that developing others is a little bit like networking. Networking, which we talk about in the book, is really about the other person. It really starts with the other person. And I think that the concept of developing others is not a “tell me” type situation, it’s a “show me” type environment.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. And so then, if you’re on the more junior side of things, I suppose that’s great advice for those who are doing the mentoring and trying to grow and develop those they’re leading. I guess I’m wondering if you are the leadee, the follower in this relationship and you’ve got a boss who fits right in there, in terms of being on the lower side of being able to develop the direct reports in others, what are some of your best options and career moves to keep that learning going?

Gary Burnison

I think in this… Look, the world is changing, and so Millennials today are probably going to work for 30-35 companies. I’m a Baby Boomer, I will have worked for five. So, the reality of today’s world is it’s not hierarchical anymore; it’s very lateral, and you will be making many, many job moves. When I was younger that was a big negative – you were called a “job hopper”. Now actually we look at resumes and we actually have the opposite view. If you’ve been at one company for a long time, the question is are you stale, can you adapt to new cultures? So it’s going to be very common for people to work for different companies.
I would also say that a truth is that people leave bosses, they don’t necessarily leave companies. And one of the mistakes, even in Millennials and people that are going to have many more career experiences and employers, is that they automatically jump for the wrong reason, and they think the grass is greener, maybe they hate their boss. The truth is, you can actually learn more from bad bosses than you can from great bosses.
And we can all think about our mom or dad, or aunt or uncle, or elders in our life. And how many times have we said to ourselves when we were a kid, “I’m never going to do that to my kid. I’m never going…” And so that very, very basic kind of instinct in human nature is the same one that actually applies in work. And so I believe you can actually learn from a bad boss. I’m not saying you shouldn’t take control, but I would first say embrace it and learn from it.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, that’s helpful. And I want to follow up quickly on the point about job hopping, and now it’s sort of the opposite. So you have a unique vantage point, and I’d love to get your view for what is the amount of time… I guess it varies a lot, but in terms of how many years you think, “Huh, that’s kind of short and concerning”, versus how many years you say, “Ooh, that’s kind of long and it’s concerning”?

Gary Burnison

Yeah. Look, I’m going to back to happiness. And we can talk more about this as we get into it, but I think it’s got to be paced by your happiness. However, when you put a clinical view of it, perception over reality view of it, today if I look at a resume and the person is there a year, less than a year, maybe slightly over a year – I’m going to raise questions. If they’ve been there kind of two years, two years plus – I’m cool. And so that’s kind of I think a pretty good rule of thumb today. In today’s world it’s very lateral – not ladder, not very hierarchical.

Pete Mockaitis

And on the flipside you mentioned if they’re there too long, you wonder are they stale and maybe not as adaptable.

Gary Burnison

Yeah, isn’t that amazing? It’s so amazing how that switched in my career. Absolutely true. And so, when I start to look at it and I’m kind of like 10, 15 years, kind of plus, those questions are coming into my mind. Ten years I’m okay, but kind of when it gets into the 15 I start to wonder, can they adapt to a new culture?

Pete Mockaitis

And that’s 15 years at the same company.

Gary Burnison

Job. Same company. They’re not the same position, but the same company.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, then I think maybe there’s another point, like if you’re in the same position… I come from strategy consulting Bain & Company, where it’s up or out, but I guess in quote-unquote “normal” industries…

Gary Burnison

See, that’s the other thing that people don’t necessarily recognize, is that… So when I look at a resume I’m going to spend literally, I bet I spend 20 seconds. And what I look at is a couple of things. I look at career progression, and I think most people, whether it’s overt or covert, that’s what they’re looking for.
So in other words, they want to see that from the time of college to the most recent, that you’re actually progressing, in terms of scale, scope and size – what I would call “the three S’s”. And it very much is an S-curve. So we’re going to want to see that you’ve taken on more scale, bigger teams, more complexity, in other words you’re being promoted. So it could be the same company, but if you’re in the same position for that whole time at that company, that’s probably going to be viewed as a negative.

Pete Mockaitis

Right, yeah. So when you say “that amount of time”, it’s like 10 years?

Gary Burnison

Yeah, if you’re kind of in the same position… Because again, we’re going to come back to say the number one predictor of success that Korn Ferry would say, is learning agility. It’s just curiosity, right? Curiosity in terms of music, in terms of what you read, the whole deal. And we actually test for that.
And then if you believe that you’re learning through others and you’re learning on the job – well, if you’re doing the same thing you’re just exercising the same muscle. So it’s a little bit like going down to the gym – well, if you keep doing pull-ups and that’s all you do – well, one part of your body is going to be disproportionate to the other part. So in terms of a more holistic exercise routine you’re going to want to exercise many more muscles than just your arms. It’s the same thing in a job and a career.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. Understood, thank you. So now let’s talk about the book here. It’s called Lose the Resume, Land the Job. What’s the big idea behind it?

Gary Burnison

The big idea is most people are clueless; that most people do more research in terms of buying a washing machine than actually thinking about their career and their next job. And it’s blowing me away, from college students to Fortune 100 board members. And there’s this kind of view that, “Okay, I’m like miserable. I can’t wait for jury duty. I just can’t go into this place anymore. My boss is a jerk. I’m not going anywhere. He or she’s promised a performance review six times over the last six months. I finally got one last week, and it was five minutes.”
We’ve all, all been there. The problem is, all of us, what we do – the first thing is we get out a piece of paper or we get out a computer and we start updating this little thing called the resume. And what happens is we sit there, we start to agonize over verbs or adjectives. We think we’re Hemingway.

Pete Mockaitis

The font. The font, Gary!

Gary Burnison

Yeah, the font, the size, the space. And three hours go by, you’re so frustrated that you just go back to that miserable boss again. Or you complete the exercise and you blindly send resumes. And my view is, if that’s what you’re doing, you just as well go down to 7-Eleven and buy a lottery ticket. Because your chances of getting hired cold through that resume are just as good as playing the lotto.

Pete Mockaitis

Alright, understood. Okay, and I want to dig into the sort of thoughtlessness piece you mentioned. I love it, it was well-stated – the unspoken truths there, when it comes to the amount of time spent researching a washing machine or a TV. I love numbers. I couldn’t help it, I had to look it up. An Ipsos survey put research of a TV purchase at four hours. And I don’t know if you were sort of being cheeky or data-driven with that assertion, but I’m wondering, have you done some research or studies in terms of how much time, energy, thought, attention, folks on quote-unquote “average” are putting into their career planning and path and next move?

Gary Burnison

Very little. Again, I just see it. I can’t tell you how many thousands of resumes I’ve received, and guess where those go? Nowhere.

Pete Mockaitis

In the recycling bin.

Gary Burnison

Yeah, they do. They do. And that’s just the unvarnished truth. And I’m not speaking just for myself; I can tell you that’s what happens. And so there’s this naive view on the part of everybody that, “I can just kind of blindly send out this resume and it’s going to work” or, “I’m going to be plucked out of the ocean like I’m this fabulous fish, and I’m going to get discovered.” It just doesn’t happen. It’s not reality. And so my view is, like you would do with other things in your life, take control.

Pete Mockaitis

Alright. And one way you recommend taking that control is you have a handy acronym – to showcase your ACT. Can you unpack that a little bit for us?

Gary Burnison

Yes, absolutely. And that’s really in the context of meeting a company, doing an interview. Before that if you want to take control of your career, I think you have to first start with purpose and you have to first start with happiness, because if you’re happy you’re probably motivated, if you’re motivated you’re probably going to outperform, and you’re going to love what you’re doing.
So I think the first step, rather than updating the resume, which everybody goes to – that’s the first thing people do – I would say don’t do that. I would say actually look at yourself, in terms of strengths, weaknesses, blind spots. What does that tell you about yourself? What is your life’s purpose? What do you like doing? And from that I would sit there and say, “Okay, what industries, sectors, then companies actually kind of line up against that purpose and what I love doing?” And that includes, by the way, cities – where I want to live.
Then what you want to do is you want to do the whole six degrees of separation thing. You absolutely want to update the resume, and in the book we’ve got ways to do it the right way, but you want to get that warm introduction. So my view is, don’t just look and see if there’s an opening at a job; actually take control and proactively target the places you want to work, and get a warm introduction into those companies.

Pete Mockaitis

Alright, very good. And how is that done well, in terms of really making that work for you?

Gary Burnison

The whole effort around networking does require work. I mean you have to roll up your sleeves; you have to actually research who really works at this company, where did they go to school, what are their backgrounds, what are they involved in the community? You have to do it the good old-fashioned way, offline as well. You’ve got to ask somebody who maybe knows somebody who knows somebody who works at the company. I will tell you that if you just do a random sample and ask people how they got their job, I think what you’re going to find five times out of 10, is that one way or another, they knew somebody at the company, that they somehow, someway got turned on to it.
And so I go back to when we were kids, what happened? Well, there was the ice cream shop, there was the grocery store, there was the bike shop, but you went down to that store and you filled out an application. Well, what actually happened before that? Well, probably somebody had told you that that’s a really cool place to work, or you shopped there.
But the point is, you proactively targeted where you wanted to work. And what happens then over a span of 10, 20, 50 years later – we forget that. And that most basic principle of taking control and targeting opportunities – you just forget, and you automatically go to the resume. And the resume, trust me, is only 10% of it. People think it’s 90%; it’s actually only 10%.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay, so you’re doing the networking, and then the principles here are you’re thinking clearly about knowing yourself and your interests, your values, your passions, your strengths, your weaknesses and all that stuff. And then you’re doing your research on folks. And then any other key tips to share to round out the networking perspective and being focused on the other person, etcetera?

Gary Burnison

You had talked about… So I do have tips, in terms of the resume and how you should do a resume. There’s tips, and you asked the question about ACT. That’s in the context of interviewing. So when I think about interviewing, I do think of ACT; and even in the resume preparation. “A” for being authentic, “C” for connecting, and “T” for giving somebody a taste of who you are.
And here’s the deal, is that we each make judgments, whether you like it or not, on another human being within the first seven seconds of meeting that person. So if you assume for a moment that it’s true that that happens – and you may not believe it’s seven seconds; you may believe it’s two seconds, you may believe it’s two minutes – but the reality is it’s sooner rather than later, and we all have preconceived… Our brain works in very mysterious ways.
So what that means is, you’re going to have to do your homework ahead of time, and you’re going to have to find those immediate connection points, because most people think of an interview like, “I’m going to go have a root canal.” It’s this cross between the root canal and Disneyland, and it’s a terrifying experience. And I think that part of the book is to kind of change people’s thinking around, quote, “the interview”, and don’t treat it like an interrogation or you’re having your tooth pulled, but rather make it a conversation.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. And so then, dig into that a little bit. You lay out some deadly sins of interviewing. Could you share perhaps some of the deadliest and the most commonly occurring?

Gary Burnison

Oh man, I’ve seen it all. Listen, don’t confuse community service and prison. And I’ve actually had that. I once interviewed somebody… I’ll tell you two sides of it – I interviewed somebody, and there was this “Friends of the Freeway”. And I started to probe a little bit and it turned out it really wasn’t “Friends of the Freeway”; it was actually prison time. And the other side of that is somebody who was completely honest, and they had actually been convicted of manslaughter. A very, very sad story, but the person was dead honest. And abusive relationship, the whole thing. The person got hired.
And so, these deadly sins of interviewing – number one, never lie. Don’t exaggerate. Don’t claim success for all of humanity, that it rested on your shoulders. So, that’s number one – don’t lie, don’t inflate, don’t exaggerate. Number two – don’t be late, be on time. Number three – don’t dress like you’re going on Dancing with the Stars. So in other words, you’ve got to do your homework, which is kind of like another sin of interviewing. You have to do your homework ahead of time. So, those are a few thought starters.

Pete Mockaitis

Yeah, that’s good. I got a real kick out of, in the book you mentioned, don’t eat during your interview, and don’t shout out “Lunch!”, even if it is your lunch hour and you have to get right back to your other job afterwards. And it just made me chuckle.

Gary Burnison

Look, I’ve seen it all, I’ve got to tell you. And we’ve seen it all. We’ve seen people interviewing at Pepsi and asking for a Coke. We’ve seen people interviewing at a fast food place and the candidate actually asked the question, “Do you really eat this crap?” But I think the biggest thing is just not being prepared, not doing your homework. You’ve got to actually know what you’re going to wear, go there ahead of time, know what the commute’s like, Google the person, go on LinkedIn, make sure you’re dressed appropriately for the gig, for the culture, that you bring your resume, that you bring a notepad, but don’t bring your mom. And I’m telling you, we’ve also seen people bringing their mom. Not a good idea.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, that opens up so many new topics for another podcast – sort of the mindset that could lead to that sense that that was acceptable is intriguing. But you tell me, Gary – before we shift gears and hear about a few of your favorite things, any other key points you really want to make sure to share with this group first?

Gary Burnison

Take control. I just hate to see people that they actually don’t plan their careers, that it’s more kind of by happenstance. And I think it’s becoming more common for people to have worked for different employers. Job hopping is not a stigma anymore; that’s actually how you learn. You learn through who you’re working for, and people ignore that. People focus on the money, which I get. Look, I was the first one to go to college, I’ve been there. I know what it’s like, I’ve been there, trust me.
But what people ignore is their boss. They ignore the fact of who they’re going to work for. The boss is actually going to have a gigantic determinant of your happiness and success. Culture. People now focus on the title and the money and the ring, but they won’t focus on the culture. Well, the truth is, most people won’t fail or succeed based on whether they were technically competent; they’re going to fail or succeed because there wasn’t that culture fit. And people totally ignore that.
And so a company is no different than a house or a family. People coming into my house don’t have to take off their shoes – that’s kind of customary. Well, in another person’s house maybe they do need to take off their shoes. Well, that person’s not right or wrong, and I’m not right or wrong. But the reality is, each company has a very, very unique culture and you have to spend as much time thinking about whether that culture is going to invigorate you and keep you motivated. And most people just don’t focus on culture; they focus on money.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, I’d love to get your quick take – maybe could you drop for us three rapid-fire, hard-hitting cultural mismatches you see that are destructive, like, “Hey, the candidate loves this but the company is that”, and sadness ensues?

Gary Burnison

I see all the time companies have these great job descriptions, they’re so long, and they seem so strategic and so lofty, and yet when you ask, “Okay, but what am I really going to do on Monday?”, there’s this huge gap between what the job description says versus what you’re actually going to do. So make sure you actually know what you’re going to do. It may sound stupid but, “What do you want me to accomplish in the first month? What do you want me to accomplish in the first six months?” That’s number one.
Number two is around culture. I think one of the easiest ways to tell that is how people dress. So, what’s that like? Or people’s offices, if it’s offices. Is it open door, closed door, do families get together, do they not get together, are there virtual employees or they’re not virtual, do you have to go in the office? Dress and kind of everyday stuff reveals a multitude around culture.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, that’s intriguing. And so could you share, “Hey, if you see this, it tends to mean that” kinds of quick rules of thumb there?

Gary Burnison

If you walk into an office and it seems like… And I’ve gone into places, trust me, and I thought I was at a mortuary. Now, that may be great for some people; I’m not saying that that’s not great. I mean some people may love hardwood, dark wood panel, shag carpet, drop a needle, everybody hears it. That could be great; it’s not me. So, you just have to make sure that you know what’s you, and I can’t tell you what’s you.
But those very, very basic things, man – open your eyes. I’ll never forget this company – the people would put “Stop” signs on their door, that you couldn’t come in. And that’s just not me. I’ve been in companies where the office doors are closed all the time. That’s not me, but it could be somebody else. So you just have to look at those – they seem pedestrian, they seem rudimentary, but I guarantee you they are probably the most important.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Gary Burnison

What’s on my mind these days is, “Don’t talk about it; be about it.” And the world is at an interesting place, and the left is further left and the right’s further right. And there’s obviously a lot of conversations from socio-economic to the workplace environment. And for me personally right now, that’s kind of my motto, is that, “Let’s not just talk about it; let’s be about it.”

Pete Mockaitis

Alright, thank you. And how about a favorite study or experiment or a piece of research?

Gary Burnison

Well, I’ll only talk about right now – probably Mao Tse-Tung, The Little Red Book. China – I’ve lived in China. It’s a very mysterious place, and you think you know it and in fact you don’t know anything. So that’s actually what I’m turned on by these days, that’s kind of what I’m reading. And I’m trying to gather from that – even though very communist and you might find it counter-intuitive – but I’m trying to glean kind of humanity. What the overall theme right now for me is really just, don’t talk about it; be about it.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. And how about a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Gary Burnison

I read, read, read. And so I wake up in the morning before anybody, and I go to bed at night doing the same thing. And it’s not so much novels; it’s just kind of being in the world and current events. So I’d say that probably helps me because again, a big part of what I do is trying to connect with others. And we are in 60 different countries, many different cultures, 8,000 people. I think that to the extent that I am broader, I’m going to have a better chance of connecting with others. And as a leader it’s really not about the leader; it’s about whether you can create followership, which is not easy to do.

Pete Mockaitis

Okay. And is there a particular nugget that you share that you find is often quoted back to you or really seems to be connecting, resonating with folks, retweeting and taking notes?

Gary Burnison

Yeah, it gets thrown back at me all the time because we’re all human beings and we’re all flawed. But I’ve always tried to have an orientation of, does somebody feel better after the conversation than before? And I fail at that all the time. Absolutely fail at that all the time. But I try to hold that out and I check myself against the glass. I think that’s a pretty good yardstick for a leader, that you want people to feel better no matter the situation, after than before.

Pete Mockaitis

Alright. And Gary, if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Gary Burnison

LoseTheResume.com. We’ve got the book there, we’ve got a whole business of Korn Ferry around helping people with their careers – KFAdvance.com, books on Amazon. So that’s where to find out more.

Pete Mockaitis

Alright. And do you have a final challenge or a call to action for those seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Gary Burnison

Be indispensable to somebody else, and find your purpose.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright. Well Gary, thanks so much for taking this time; I know it is in high demand. And for all the work you do in leading Korn Ferry and the cool stuff that comes out of it, I’ve been a longtime admirer and this was a lot of fun for me.

Gary Burnison

Thank you very much. It’s great.