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822: How to Take Your Next Best Step When Life is Uncertain with Jeff Henderson

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Jeff Henderson shares powerful principles for shrinking the risk of your next career move.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The most important networking question you can ask
  2. How to turn every “no” into powerful motivational fuel
  3. The three things that shrink risk

About Jeff

Jeff Henderson is an entrepreneur, speaker, pastor, and business leader. For seventeen years, he has led three of North Point Ministries’ multisite locations in Atlanta, Georgia—Buckhead Church and two Gwinnett Church locations. He has also helped launch North Point Online, which now reaches over 200,000 people. His bestselling book, Know What You’re FOR, launched a movement in nonprofits around the world and has become a focal point for many businesses. As the founder of the FOR Company, Jeff’s aim is to help organizations build a good name where purpose and profit grow together. Jeff was recently named by Forbes Magazine as one of twenty speakers you shouldn’t miss. Prior to working as a pastor, Jeff started his career in marketing with the Atlanta Braves, Callaway Gardens, Lake Lanier Islands, and Chick-fil-A, Inc., where he led the company’s regional and beverage marketing strategies.

Resources Mentioned

Jeff Henderson Interview Transcript

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

Jeff Henderson
Pete, it’s so great to be here. I really appreciate it. Been looking forward to this for quite a while, so thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I’m excited to be chatting with you and hearing your wisdom and some insights from your book What to Do Next: Taking Your Best Step When Life Is Uncertain. Could you share with us a time you had to figure out what to do next when life was uncertain and had to take a next great step?

Jeff Henderson
I’ve had four of those, actually, over the last 20 years, and part of that, Pete, was just I was intrigued with the next possibility, but every next possibility comes with a certain amount of risk, so I’ll just start with the one that happened, really was the biggest one over the last few years in terms of the first big risk and trying to figure out what to do next, and that was when I was working in marketing for Chick-fil-A, and my wife and I felt called to help start a nonprofit in the Atlanta area. And we went from working at a multibillion-dollar company with career trajectory to taking a massive pay cut and working for a nonprofit.

And so, you have to ask yourself, “How do you eliminate this risk?” And the reality is you don’t eliminate risk. You shrink this risk. But we were so intrigued with the potential of doing this that it kind of ruined where we were. And I don’t like the word ruined but we were so intrigued about it, we said, “If we don’t go do this, if this nonprofit were to work, we will always look back and regret it.” And that was over 20 years ago, and it was just a formative decision.

And over the course of these 20 years, I’ve made some similar decisions and I began to get questions, such as, “Hey, what was the decision-making process? And how did you know that this was the thing that you were supposed to do?” And so, I began to realize that there were some principles and strategies that I used to help make these decisions. And little did I know that, especially over the last couple of years, people have been asking the same question of themselves, “Hey, what should I do next?”

So, when I left Chick-fil-A, that was a big, big deal, especially moving from for-profit to nonprofit. But as I look back over the course of the years, Pete, I’ve been able to really serve business leaders and nonprofit leaders because I’ve lived in both of those worlds. So, that was a big decision for my wife and me, but we certainly don’t regret it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, could you tell us, what are some of these core principles that helped you figure this stuff out?

Jeff Henderson
The first one is one that I think a lot of times we overlook, and that is the better you finish your current season, the better you begin your next season. And we really need to start talking about finishing well more, I think. Typically, when people think, “Well, I’m going to put in a two-week or three-week notice. What are they going to do? Fire me?”

I think we have to realize that how we finish well honors the people but also honors the work that we’ve done over the time that we’ve been there. And certainly, for some people, next happens to them, right, the company gets downsized, new leader comes in, I get all that. But I think how we finish that current season is really, really important.

That said, one of the principles that Wendy and I really leaned into is understanding that with many advisors, plans succeed, but with few advisors, plans fail. So, we developed a personal advisory board, people that we trust, people that we look up to, that we meet with on a regular basis. And it’s not just about this decision. It’s about parenting, and marriage, and all sorts of decisions.

And, yet, when you get to a decision like this, about what to do next, making a career change, you want as much possible great wisdom that you can possibly get. So, over two years ago when we made this current season, when I left being a pastor of a church, to now serving businesses and nonprofits in a much broader scope, they were the ones that said, “Hey, you guys are going to be empty-nesters in about 18 months. What are you going to do in that season?”

And that was a great question because I’d not really thought about that, and they helped walk us through the decision-making process about how to figure this out. So, who you listen to is a preview of the future you. And then, also, and we’ll talk about this a little bit down the road if you want, but I really do believe in side hustles, experimenting with some things, trying to figure some things out that may or may not work, but you’re going to learn some things, and it might lead you to the next opportunity.

And then the principle that we’ve all heard is who you know is often more important than what you know. Who you know is often more important than what you know. In your personal network, in building, in enhancing and leveraging your personal network is so important. In fact, Pete, when I talk to people and they call me, and they said, “Jeff, I just lost my job, the company got downsized. What’s the first thing that I should do? Should I update my resume?” That’s an important thing, but, no. “Should I update my information on LinkedIn?” That’s important but, no, that’s not the first thing that you should do.

The first thing you should do is look at your phone, look at your contact list, and make a list of the top ten people that you’re going to call immediately that you can meet with to see if they can help you, because I do believe, Pete, that we are about four or five people away from that next opportunity. So, those are a few strategies, and we can talk about more or go more in depth with those. But the overarching principle is when it comes to what to do next, finding it when you’re uncertain, so often I will hear back from people, going, “I just don’t know what to do and I’m a little stuck.”

And the principles that we talk about is don’t let what you don’t know rob you of what you can do. There are some things that you can do. Focus in on that. And when you do that, you’ll be surprised how much that action can propel you forward.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, that’s a nice set of principles there. So, could you share with us, when it comes to some of these relationship pieces, the advisors and the people that you know, any pro tips associated with really developing those relationships well so that they could be of service when necessary?

Jeff Henderson
Let’s talk about building your personal network. I think asking people, contacting them, and saying, “Hey, can I sit down with you for 30 minutes? I want to ask you about your story, I want to ask you about your career, and then I have a question for you.” I think a lot of people are happy to talk about themselves, talk about their career. And I would say, “Hey, how did you get where you are? Tell me your career trajectory. Tell me your career story.”

And then, as you hear that, at the end of…and then, obviously, asking great questions as they tell you, “Hey, I went here, I went there, and how did all that work,” but at the end of the meeting, ultimately, where you’re wanting to lead them to is this question, and that question is, “Who do you know that I need to know? And will you contact them on my behalf?” And not every time someone will say yes but, more often than not, they will say yes. And I believe that person knows someone that can help you.

And then another pro tip would be either show up with a gift, maybe it’s a book that you could give them, a gift card, write a follow-up thank you note, but that is so important because you’re trying to leverage their network, and you’re also trying to add value to them which is why you want to bring a gift.

So, that question, “Who do you know that I need to know? And will you contact them on my behalf?” that’s so helpful. It’s gold, actually, in terms of building your network. And, again, they may say, “No, I don’t know anybody right now.” That’s fine. Every salesperson would tell you, “You got to get through some no’s to get through some yeses.”

But I think what you’ll discover is, more often than not, people will say, “Oh, absolutely. You know, I’m just talking to this guy the other day.” Or, even if they say, “No, there’s no one that I can think of.” “That’s okay. Well, when you do, or if you do, don’t forget, this is how to get in touch with me.”

Now, here’s the other pro tip, Pete, if you can do this while you don’t necessarily need to do this, that’s even better. Building your personal network while you might not actually need it because you don’t need a job right now, you got a job, you’re fine, but I’m telling you, it’s kind of like health insurance or life insurance. This is work insurance. If you have a well-built personal network, it will always come to be beneficial for you in the future.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Very good. And if we have any emotional resistance, reluctance, jitters, like, “Oh, I don’t know if I could do that, Jeff. It feels sort of sales-y or pushy or, I don’t know.” Any perspective on that?

Jeff Henderson
You’re listening to fear. You’re listening to doubt and insecurity. And I totally understand this, by the way. In fact, my kids, they’re 23 and 21, and they’ll say, “Dad, we don’t want you to contact this person on my behalf.” And I totally understand that. They want to earn their own way, and I get that. But, at the same time, I’ll say, “Hey, guys, this is how the real world works, and leveraging the people you know, and I know you might not want your dad to call, but there are other people that you can contact that can help you find that next opportunity.”

It’s kind of like this, Pete, one time I was sick, had a cold, and I kept complaining to Wendy that I’m just not feeling better, and she said, “You know what you ought to do? Here’s a radical idea. You might consider going to the doctor.” And I’m like, “No, no, no, I don’t want to go to the doctor.” And she said, “Okay. Well, but here’s this, if you’re not going to go to the doctor, you forfeit the right to complain about being sick, right?”

So, what I tell people when they say, “Oh, Jeff, I don’t want to contact somebody. That’s just a little pushy, a littles sales-y,” I get that. I get that. If you don’t want to do that, you forfeit the right to also complain that you don’t like your job, you don’t like where you are, you’re not sure what to do, “I don’t know how to figure out what to do next.” Okay, if you’re not going to push yourself and push past the fear of this, then you get to stay stuck where you are but you don’t get to complain about it anymore. You’re going to have to push forward. You’re going to have to take action.

But here’s what I’ve discovered about taking action. Even if they say no, the fact that you took action, it’s going to plant a seed that you may never know what comes out of that. But even if someone says no, who knows when they may see or meet somebody that has a job opening, and they remember your email, or your text, or your question, or your phone call. All of that is so, so important, so you got to push through the fear and listen to whether this is real or is this an excuse. And we’ve got to stop being victims and we have to stop listening to our excuses.

Pete Mockaitis
I like that notion that even if they say no, you’ve gained something. And I think you gain something even internally emotionally. This reminds me of my younger days, asking for dates.

Jeff Henderson
Absolutely, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Even if she says no, there is an internal victory associated with having summoned the courage to do so, and, in that way, I am a winner even if I have lost the date that I was seeking.

Jeff Henderson
Absolutely. You feel better about yourself because you stood up, you did something hard, and that gives you a little step of extra courage, whether you get a yes or no, it’s just so important. I’ll give you a quick example along those lines. When I served in the nonprofit world, I had to raise money, and I would sit down with people over coffee and I would cast the vision of, “This is what we’re trying to do and this is our vision of how we’re going to help people.”

And then I would ask them this question, “Will you help me?” and then I would be quiet, and I would just let the silence fill the coffee shop. And you have to do that, Pete. You have to let that awkwardness of the silence kind of fill the space. And then they would say one of three things, they would say, “Yes,” “No,” or, “I’ll think about it or pray about it,” which is also no. So, two of the three are no, but my responsibility was to make the ask. It was their responsibility to provide an answer.

And what I discovered in helping myself to be a better fundraiser is I decided I’m no longer going to answer for people. That’s actually rude for me to rob them of the opportunity to provide an answer. What I’m going to do is I’m going to make the request. And if I do that, whether I got a no or not, I just felt a little stronger that day because I was doing my job trying to raise money.

Well, the same thing is true if you’re trying to build your career or trying to figure out what to do next. You’re going to feel stronger even if you do get a no. Yes, we would like a yes. Absolutely. But even if you get a no from someone that you’re trying to build your network, it’s still going to make you a little bit stronger.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. You’ve also got a cool concept called the career risk calculator. How does this work?

Jeff Henderson
Many people, Pete, as I mentioned earlier, say, “Hey, I want to make this move but I’ve got to eliminate risk. It cannot be risky.” And I tell them, “Wow, you must live in a different world that I live in because you don’t eliminate risk. But what you can do is you can shrink it.” And so, when it comes to making a career decision or a life decision about what to do next, it doesn’t have to be a leap across the Grand Canyon but it can be reduced to maybe a leap over a mud puddle. You might get wet and muddy and fall and get wet, and no one likes to do that, but you’re not plunging thousands of feet below.

So, what we wanted to do is to help people think through that, so we created, as we called it, the career risk calculator. What we’re trying to do is ask questions to see what kind of level of risk someone is at. So, from 25 questions, and, ultimately, you get a red light, a yellow light, or a green light. The red light is not a pass or fail. It doesn’t mean you failed. The red light simply says, as a red light says when we’re driving around, “Whoa, stop. Before you take another step, you need to think through a few things.”

A yellow light says, “Okay, you’re making some progress but here are a few other things to think through.” And a green light doesn’t necessarily mean, “You have to now move.” It means you’ve done the hard work, here’s a couple of other things that you might consider. And this is just a free resource that we provide at my website JeffHenderson.com.

But once you get that light, once you get that information, we give you a few other things to think through. And part of this is designed for another action statement that I learned from John Maxwell. Early on in this new season of mine, what I’m doing now for two years, my first month, it’s brand new, I’m trying to go out and speak, and it’s COVID and all this kind of stuff, and it’s kind of crazy, but I was at a conference where John Maxwell was speaking, and John said this, and I’ll never forget this, Pete. He said, “I never had a clear vision. I just kept moving forward.”

And that just totally floored me in the best of ways because, I thought, “Wait. Here’s John Maxwell, he’s sold literally millions of books, he’s this leadership guru. You look at somebody like that and think this guy has it all going on. I understand a mere mortal like me, I don’t have a clear vision, but he didn’t have a clear vision? So, I just got to keep moving forward? Well, what are those one or two next steps that I can take?”

And a lot of times, it’s not this gigantic leap. It’s just a small step, picking up the phone and contacting someone, or doing a side hustle, or sending an email, or trying to get my finances together, or getting wise people and say, “Hey, what would you do if you were me?” And so, the career risk assessment basically gives you some small steps to take so that you can keep moving forward. And as you keep moving forward, you’re going to shrink the risk. You can’t eliminate it but you can shrink it. And so, that’s what that career risk calculator is all about.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, that’s cool. Well, can you tell us some of the best ways we can shrink it?

Jeff Henderson
So, first of all, really get to understand two of three things, two of these things that you have control over and one that you really don’t. So, what I mean by that is a lot of times folks will come up to me, Pete, and say, “Hey, I don’t know what to do. I just don’t know what to do.” So, what do you do when you don’t know what to do?

Well, when you don’t know what to do, there are three things to pay attention to. The first one is your gifting. Do you know your strengths? Do you know what you are good at? Because what to do next is usually going to come down that pathway. For example, you’re not going to see me launch a country music career. There’s no musical background in my history. So, I mean, maybe for some people do that but that’s not a gift of mine. So, gifting is really, really important.

The second thing is calling. What breaks your heart? Or, what are you passionate about? And if there’s nothing that you’re passionate about, okay, that’s all right. Well, let’s go out there and let’s try some things. But there’s understanding your gifting and understanding your calling. And then the third thing that is a little bit of the most frustrating thing for folks because they don’t have the most control over this, and that’s timing.

But when you understand your gifting and you understand your calling, what happens is the timing eventually shows up. And it’s kind of a Venn diagram, you have three circles. The first circle is gifting, the second circle is calling, and the third circle is timing. When those three connect right in the middle of that, is how you figure out what to do next.

And a calling often asks the question, “Somebody should do something about that. Who will do something about that? Somebody should start a company that serves customers this way. Somebody should start a nonprofit that does this.” So, that’s kind of a calling. Gifting says, “Somebody should do something about that, and I wonder if that person is me.” That starts talking about gifting.

And when I decided, eventually, to leave Chick-fil-A, I knew that the gifting and the calling were there, it took me a little bit longer to figure out the timing of it. And, generally speaking, it usually takes a little bit longer than we think. That’s why trying to figure out what to do next, it’s something that all of us should be on a journey of because I’m not trying to convince people to quit and leave their job today. I‘m trying to convince people to keep growing to bring the best next version of them to their organizations and to the people in their lives.

And if you continue to do that, even if you stay in the same organization that you’re currently in, you’re going to get better at serving them. And when you get better at serving them, you’re going to get bigger and better opportunities, and that’s what I’ve seen throughout my career. So, I think understanding gifting, calling, and timing, that will help you, especially if you say, “I just don’t know what to do.”

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

Jeff Henderson
Well, I think it’s important to understand that there’s a certain level of emotional awareness that comes into with understand what to do next. Understanding that, especially if a lot of transitions are tricky. As for me, I didn’t leave organizations that I didn’t like. I left organizations that I dearly loved. I left people that I dearly loved, so there’s a lot of emotions that’s associated with all of that. So, I think it’s helpful to process that out, especially if you’ve been downsized in a company, obviously, there’s emotion there.

So, we’ve talked a lot of technical skills and all that today, but I would pay attention to what’s happening internally inside of you because that grief of leaving and the emotions of leaving, it’s a real thing. So, just pay attention not only to the external applications, like, build your network, and sign us and career risk calculator, but also pay attention internally to what’s happening to you because that’s really, really important because the best gift that you can give the organizations and the people you serve is the best emotionally healthy version of you.

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

Jeff Henderson
A favorite quote for me is, “There’s not a limit to what a person can do when he or she doesn’t care who gets the credit.” Now, I think humility is a gamechanger but the reality, too, is we can’t say, “Hey, guess what, Pete? One of the best things about me is my humility. I’m so humble.” At that point, I’ve already forfeited. So, humility isn’t something that I think about. Humility is something that I practice. But I love that quote that there’s not a limit to what we can do if we don’t care who gets the credit.

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

Jeff Henderson
So, for me, I love the research that talks about the fact that if I assume the best for someone, it’s a marriage study and they looked at healthy marriages, and then if there was something that happened, the husband or wife or the partner would say, “You know what, I’m going to assume the best about that,” instead of the fundamental attribution error, which would say, “I’m going to assume the worst about that.” And even if they were wrong, the fact that they assume the best about that particular situation was so helpful and healthy.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And could you share a favorite book?

Jeff Henderson
I would just tell you, from a history standpoint, Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, it’s about Abraham Lincoln and how he hired many of his presidential rivals to be on his cabinet, and how that ultimately led him to abolishing slavery with their help. It was the movie, that book was actually adapted into a movie, Lincoln that Steven Spielberg produced. And I would say a leadership book would be The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell.

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

Jeff Henderson
So, for me, goodness, technology is just rampant, but I created a tool for communicators. I believe leadership comes with a microphone. And it’s called “The Four Presenter Voices,” and it helps me understand what my voice is and how to leverage my voice. So, when I’m preparing for a talk, I go back to that, and go, “Okay, I have this particular voice. Here’s how I need to prepare, and here’s how I need to make sure that the weakness of this particular voice allows me to avoid the weakness of that voice, and to leverage the strength of that voice so that I can communicate the best that I can,” because, again, leadership comes with a microphone.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And could you share a favorite habit, something you do that helps you be awesome at your job?

Jeff Henderson
I really do believe I’m trying to get better. I really do believe the better we finish the night, the better we begin the day. A way to say it is, “A great day begins the night before.” And so, I try to write down three things: one, “What went well today?”; two, “What could I do tomorrow that will move me forward?”; and, number three, “Who could I encourage tomorrow?” And a great day begins the night before. So, I’m trying to be more consistent about doing that, and shutting off technology, reading, and getting really set because the day doesn’t begin when I wake up. Great days begin the night before.

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

Jeff Henderson
There’s a question that I’ve asked over the years for leaders, and the question is for them, or the challenge rather is for them to ask their teams, “What’s it like to be on the other side of me?” That’s going to give them information that everyone else has but the leader, and it’s going to be challenging. They’re going to get some encouraging information, they’re going to get some surprising information about themselves, and they’re going to get some information that will hurt their feelings.

But this is one of the most healthy and emotional awareness questions, I think, that you can ask, and it’s going to help you get to be a better leader. But I challenge people and say you don’t have to do this and you don’t have to ask that question. You just have to know that if you don’t, and if you don’t have the courage to ask that question, you’re going to be the only one that doesn’t know the answer to it, “So, what’s it like to be on the other side of me?”

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

Jeff Henderson
JeffHenderson.com. You’ll see the free assessment that we talked about earlier. Actually, the voices assessment is on there as well, it’s just free. And then you can follow me from there on social media.

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

Jeff Henderson
So, I think in terms of being awesome at your job, the challenge that we need to be mindful of is, ultimately, there’s a wake in our leadership. And I think we need to look back and go, “Is the wake of that leadership, are we making the people in the organizations better?” My first business mentor challenged me with this, he said, “When you leave here, I want you to leave things better than when you found them.”

So, one of the ways that we can be awesome at our job is to know that we will not always be at this job. We’re all one day closer to leaving wherever we are. But when we leave, there is a wake that follows that, so leave things, leave the organization, leave the job, and leave the people better than when you found them.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Jeff, this has been a treat. Thank you. I wish much luck and joy in each of the things you do next.

Jeff Henderson
Thank you so, so much, Pete. I’m honored to be here.

818: How to Find Greater Clarity, Satisfaction, and Fulfillment in Your Career with Scott Anthony Barlow

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Scott Anthony Barlow shares powerful wisdom from many career changers on how to craft a fulfilling career path.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The massive costs of poor career fit
  2. Why you shouldn’t wait on clarity to act
  3. Three risk-free ways to get a feel for a career change

About Scott

Scott Anthony Barlow wants you to find work you freakin’ love! He is CEO of Happen To Your Career and host of the HTYC podcast, which has been listened to over 3 million times across 159 countries, and is the largest career change podcast in the world. As a former HR Leader, Scott has interviewed over 2000 people for jobs and completely rejects the way that most organizations choose to do work. He’s a nerd for self development, human behavior and ice hockey. Scott lives in Washington state with his wife and 3 kids.

Resources Mentioned

Scott Anthony Barlow Interview Transcript

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

Scott Anthony Barlow
Thank you very, very much. I am quite excited to be back.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to have you as well. And so now, Scott, we’ve had a lot of conversations that were not recorded, maybe for the best.

Scott Anthony Barlow
Accurate.

Pete Mockaitis
And one thing that I know about you is you are hardcore and inspiring when it comes to your goalsetting and you even have a nifty family goalsetting approach that involves your kids and a fun environment. Tell us the story here.

Scott Anthony Barlow
Well, here’s the story. My wife and I, we’ve set goals for probably approaching 15, maybe even approaching 20 years. I’m not even sure exactly when it started. I’d have to go back and do the calendar math. But all that to say we’ve been doing that for ourselves over and over again. And, actually, it originally started when we were trying to pay off about almost $400,000 worth of debt.

And so, we had this initial goal and so we started building skills around how to set and accomplish goals in order to get that nearly $400,000 paid down. And we eventually did that but then we realized, “Hey, this is actually working for us.” So, many years later after we had children and after Alyssa and I had started trying to focus on, “How do we be great parents? What do we want to instill in our children? What do we want to teach them?”

And after we started having those kinds of conversations, we realized, “Hey, we’re doing this thing over here, and, arguably, we’ve developed some skill at it, but we’ve taught our children almost nothing about that. Why is that?” And that’s where that question started. So, we eventually said, “Well, what would this look like? What would this look like if we wanted to take what we’ve learned about goalsetting and accomplishing some seemingly impossible things? And then how do we get our kids to want to do that?”

Because my kids now are teenagers, all of them are teenagers, and at the point in time we started doing any kind of goalsetting with the kids, they were, I think, nine and 11 and approaching teenage years, so they were at the ages where they don’t know necessarily want to do everything that we think is a great idea.

So, we said, “Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to do it in a crazy environment that we wouldn’t normally do, something that seems so serious, and then we’re just going to try and make it as fun as possible.”

So, we said, “What would that look like?” Well, we had just ordered a new hot tub, so we said, “Okay, we’re going to take the duck, the rubber duck that we got as a gift from the hot tub company, and we are going to do hot tub goalsetting where we pass the duck around and we talk about each person who has the duck what they want to accomplish this year, and what would be fun, what would be amazing, what would be uncomfortable, and talk through those types of questions.” And that’s how it began, and now it’s turned into this regular thing where we meet each month in order to review how we’re doing against our individual goals.

And I think something that’s really wonderful and personally inspiring to me watching my kids go through and really take this and have fun with it and run with it is that they’ve done some things where they set it initially. Like, okay, here, my son, Grayson, my youngest said, “I want to break a world record.” And Alyssa and I did the thing that sometimes you do as a parent where you want to be supportive, we’re like, “Okay, Grayson, all right, that sounds amazing. All right. Fantastic.”

Where I’m thinking, “Okay, maybe we should start it with something else.” So, both Alyssa and I were able to successfully, in that case, suspend our beliefs about that, and say, “Okay. Well, how can you do that, Grayson?” He eventually, over about a two-month period, ended up researching what type of record he might want to break, decided on video games. He decided, “I want to be the first in the world to speed run this particular game.”

Pete Mockaitis
Which one?

Scott Anthony Barlow
Kirby. One of the Kirby games. It’s the most recent one, and, I, for some reason, it’s totally escaping me what’s it called.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, so speed run a Kirby game. All right.

Scott Anthony Barlow
Yup. So, he did that, and two months in, after he set the goal, he literally was the first person in the world to get this time on that particular Kirby game. So, he has the screenshot to prove it. It’s like it literally said, “You’ve accomplished a world record.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s nice to hear.

Scott Anthony Barlow
Yeah, but here’s the thing about that. We started realizing that, “Wow, this is incredibly powerful, not just for us but even more so for our children,” because both Alyssa and I, we really didn’t honestly get into things like goalsetting or really figuring out what it is that we wanted to do, wanted to accomplish, what type of life or career do we want to live, and it’s quite powerful once you decide that you want to do something, figuring out the very best way that that can actually happen in reality.

So, Grayson literally broke a world record.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so cool. That’s so cool. And you have seen transformation with many people in your work, your organization, and podcast Happen to Your Career, and now book Happen to Your Career.

Scott Anthony Barlow
And now book, yes.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, transforming folks. And you’ve seen a lot of folks set a career-related goal and go get it. Can you maybe orient us, generally speaking, what is it you do and know that’s fresh and unique?

Scott Anthony Barlow
I think that with the book, it was very much we wanted to be able to reach people a different way because, really, what we do as an organization is we are very focused on helping people find what their own personal version of extraordinary is, what does a wonderful fit look like for them as it relates to their career, and, ultimately, their life because, first and foremost, we can’t really separate out many of the decisions that we make for our career. They have a tendency to be inseparable from the rest of our life.

So, if we keep that in mind, then that means that anything that we are defining as extraordinary for our career is absolutely going to impact all of the other areas of our life. So, we get the opportunity every single day to be able to help people all over the world with defining what they want their life and career to look like, and then going and making that happen, going and getting it, this seemingly impossible thing, making that and turning that into their reality. And that’s what we do every single day both with the book as well as when we get to serve people as clients.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really cool. And so, I would love to get your take, when it comes to people and their careers, just what is at stake for professionals if their career is a great fit versus okay-ish fit?

Scott Anthony Barlow
We all only have so much time on the planet regardless of how you feel spiritually or what you believe. We only have so much time here, and I want to, personally, make sure that, for me, my time is spent in a way that I am able to contribute to other people in the way that I want and serve other people the way that I want, but also building the type of life and career that I want to live.

And I find that not everybody is looking at it that way necessarily. But the point that I would make is that if we’re all, or at least most of us, are going to spend arguably most of our waking hours doing some type of work, some type of service, if you will, then that means that we should probably find a way to do it in a way that is much more meaningful to both us plus the people that we get to work with, around, serve, and that’s how I look at it. I look at it as an opportunity to be able to do life completely differently.

Now, here’s the sad reality. So, although I can say that, and although I believe that, and I think a lot of people might agree with that, depending on which study, depending on which research you look at, it is someplace between half a percent and about 13% of people in the entire world that are just enamored with their work. And that’s dismal.

When I look at that and say, “Almost nobody in the entire world is really enjoying their work and finding it fulfilling in the ways that are wonderful for them, then that’s sad, and that needs to change, and that’s not okay.” And I know that you’re referencing a particular part in the book when you say, “What’s at stake?” We begin the first chapter and we tell a story of Michael. And in Michael’s case, he was working for a pretty large studio, one that most people have definitely heard of, a movie studio.

And that particular studio, he had actually had really a pretty wonderful career up until the last three years that he was there. And he found himself in a new promotion, new situation, that what was once a dream job for him was no longer that dream. It turned into a pretty terrible situation, one that was no longer a fit. And it became really bad, bad to the point in which Michael had considered self-harm, which is not a thing to joke around, but we’ve had many stories like that.

And in Michael’s case, he realized that this was bad for his mental health, it was bad for his physical health, it was ultimately just really a terrible fit for him. And by continuing to stay in that type of situation, he was possibly going to give up the opportunity to have any other type of life, let alone a life at all.

And so, this is a little bit of an extreme situation but it happens much more frequently. What I’ve learned in working with people all over the world is this is something that happens pretty frequently, where people’s health is severely impacted by what most people would look at, and say, “That’s an amazing job. That’s an amazing opportunity,” from the outside looking in.

And in Michael’s case, here’s the real thing that was at stake. If we fast forward about roughly a year to where Michael ended up making a career change, we got the opportunity to meet him and work with him. Alyssa, my wife and I, we had ended up actually meeting him in California and we met at this little diner down in Pacific Beach, and he was telling us, as we were eating banana pancakes, that it was the first time in his life where he had considered that work could potentially be fun. Like, that had never, ever even entered his mind. Like, literally, it was not a possibility for him.

So, he went from this situation where it started out as seemingly wonderful to him, he moved up the ladder really, really quickly, and arguably was good in a lot of very challenging ways. But then it became not so good, and, ultimately, he didn’t realize that was a fun possibility like that but it was something that if he stayed in that situation, it could be not a possibility. I guess that’s the word I’m looking for. I’m looking for a way to even describe that, like what he was feeling and the emotions that he was going through at that particular time. But imagine that if he had stayed. He literally never would’ve found that. So, I think that’s an example of what’s at stake.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s powerful and an eye-opener that folks who may be listening, it’s like, “Fun, huh? It’s going to work for a reason. It’s a job. It’s not play.” And so, that could be a lightbulb for many, like, “Oh, yeah,” some folks really do have fun at work. They find it meaningful, engaging, and life-giving, energizing, so some groovy stuff. And, of course, I think it’s also fair to say, with realism, that no job is 100% euphoric 100% of the time. Is that a fair statement? 

Scott Anthony Barlow
Yes, I do believe that that is a fair statement. And I’m curious with your opinion on that, because there’s been many times where you and I have had pivots and how we personally think about work.

And I remember talking to you, and even our group at one point in time, where it’s like, “Hey, I have checked the box in many of the things that I wanted to work in for a while. My role has changed and this was wonderful, and it’s no longer wonderful anymore.” So, I think I point that out because even if there is a situation that is great, and even if it is a great fit, part of the challenge, part of the reason why figuring this career thing out, figuring out what extraordinary looks like, is so challenging is because it’s actually a moving target as we go through different seasons.

Like, you have three kiddos now, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Scott Anthony Barlow
Do you want the same things that you did when it was 10 years ago with no kids?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I’m not quite as interested in as much travel and hustle, and it’s like, “Oh, sweet, I’ve got 11 coaching sessions today.” It’s like, “I would not find that sweet were that to happen to me tomorrow.”

Scott Anthony Barlow
Yeah, and I think that’s true for everyone, and I think that that’s normal. The really interesting thing, the thing I find fascinating is that we have a tendency to beat up on ourselves in so many different ways. When that changes, we don’t realize our wants and needs have changed and we’re still trying to shove the, I don’t know, square peg in the round hole, insert your cliché here.

We’re still trying to do the thing, we’re still trying to keep going, we’re still trying to beat our head against the wall, and I don’t really hear too many people talk about, like, it’s actually okay to change and it’s part of the game. But, simultaneously, that’s part of what makes it challenging to figure out what a great situation, what an amazing situation, what we call the unicorn opportunity situation looks like for you.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, let’s talk about figuring it out. Clarity, we all want it. How do we get it?

Scott Anthony Barlow
Has anybody ever asked you for, or has said to you, “Hey, I’m looking for clarity in this particular area or that area?”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure. Absolutely.

Scott Anthony Barlow
Okay. All right. So, we get that all the time, and the really interesting thing I found about clarity is that when we’re asking for it, we’re often looking at it as a destination. We’re often looking at it as a, “If I just figure out what it is that I want, then I can go and do the thing.” However, when we look into even the origins of the word clarity, we find that it has many of the same root words as declare, the same root word which is clarare, right?

And what that means, when you start to break down the history and the evolution of that word, is that it means to act or an action is required, the action of declaring, the action of declaring something as a priority is really what leads to any kind of clarity. So, so many of us think that we need to go and figure out the thing. We need to get all our ducks in a row. We need to go away and sit in a cabin for a month, and then we will emerge, and we will have clarity, and it’ll be amazing. There’ll be rainbows and butterflies. I’ve got a unicorn back here. It’s going to be awesome. And that’s not actually how it works, as it turns out.

Instead, what we find is actually true is that clarity comes from the simple act of declaring something as a priority for you, declaring something as more important, which obviously takes courage. It takes courage to be able to say, “My wife is more important than all of these other things.” I think many of us would say that but very few of us, I find, are willing to act on that in a way that takes courage. So, I’ll give you a quick example from my past.

Like, if my wife calls me right now, I’m literally going to pick up the phone. There she is right there on the phone. Not everybody can see that but if she calls right now, I’m going to pick that up because she is the most important thing in my world. Is that weird, as in socially kind of unacceptable? I would say so. Probably.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I’m going to light you up. Well, I wouldn’t because we’re pals.

Scott Anthony Barlow
It’s a good thing we know each other, right?

Pete Mockaitis
But, yeah, other people would say, “What the heck, dude? Seriously?”

Scott Anthony Barlow
Yeah, and that feels, honestly, when that happens, very uncomfortable for me. Also, if I’m going to behave like my wife is the most important thing in the world to me, then I should treat it as such. So, that’s a really small example but think about what goes into that. I have to think through, first of all, “What is most important to me?” And then I have to consciously make the decision that that is, in fact, the most important thing. In this case, the most important person, my wife. And then I have to be able to commit to that in a way that allows me to act as such.

And that’s part of what we’re talking about when we say, “What does it take to get to clarity?” Clarity allows you to be able to act, not action before clarity. Most of us think that we’re going to get clarity, and then we’re going to go do the thing. But, instead, it happens exactly the opposite way, “I’m going to declare what’s most important, and then that allows me to be able to make movement on whatever that most important thing is.” So, it is literally the opposite of how almost everybody in the world thinks about it.

Pete Mockaitis
And when it comes to doing that declaring and then living as such in harmony, in integrity with those declarations, might you discover through a little bit of trial and error that what you declared was actually not the most important thing to you, it’s like, “Huh, actually now that I’m in it, I’m realizing,” not this to be the case with your wife, “I’m realizing that this is not as important to me as perhaps I thought it should be, or is, or once was. Things have evolved”?

Scott Anthony Barlow
Yeah. Short answer is yes. I have many examples of that. But I’m curious, have you had that experience in the past? Have you gone through and realized that, “Hey, this thing that I thought that was most important one way or another, one area of life or another, is actually less important than what I think”? What are some of your examples? What are the Pete examples?

Pete Mockaitis
Sure. I think that that has come about…well, it’s so funny, like being awesome at your job. So, we have a whole show on this. So, I think that’s pretty important but I don’t believe that’s the number one most important thing in life. And so, it’s funny, when I think about other podcasts, I think that I would say they’re sort of like a pecking order or a hierarchy that I would rather folks listen to my show than true crime or sports or news, like for their own edification, I think. We’re going to do more of that for you than those things.

But if someone is listening to a show about how to be more kind, or spiritual, or healthy, or solving like a really challenging thing that makes their life and others miserable, I would rather you spend your time listening to that because I think that is more important than being awesome at your job. And, in fact, many of our guests do have a little bit of a mental health slant because there’s a real rich carryover in terms of if you’re mentally healthy, then you’re making better decisions, and you’re energized, and you’re able to bring good effort to stuff, so it’s like Yin-Yang, like reinforcing virtuous cycle thingy going down here.

So, I don’t think it’s either/or but I would say that, for example, I used to think, I don’t know if you remember a show “Boy Meets World.”

Scott Anthony Barlow
I do. I do. 

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, I’m about to drop a spoiler here.

Scott Anthony Barlow
Oh, dear.

Pete Mockaitis
But when Topanga gives up, I think, it was Harvard, her top dream school, to go be with Cory, I thought that was so dumb, I thought that was a horrible decision, I was like, “You’re young. What do you even know about love?” And I guess I think I’m high school-college age too when this comes about, and I just thought that was bananas because, at that time in my life, career really was sort of number one. And I hadn’t been in a relationship that serious, I suppose, as to make me think that I would give up such a career opportunity for a person. So, that was me then.

And now I think, “Well, yeah, if that’s like your soulmate, or the person you’re destined to be with, or someone who’s just really clearly the one, well, absolutely, you should probably give up just about everything.” So, that happened. I remember once I was at a Subway sandwich shop, and Kelly Clarkson’s “Miss Independent” was playing, and I started tearing up, it’s like, “What is even going on here?”

Scott Anthony Barlow
“What is happening right now?”

Pete Mockaitis
I think I was…like, if you listen to the lyrics, you hear sort of the story arc, and it’s about like that kind of a transformation. There is someone who is all about their career, independent, taking care of business, winning. And then she came to realize, “Oh, there’s something else that’s even more important.” So, yeah, I think that what you say about things being a moving target is dead-on in terms of there’s a time and a place.

And Ramit Sethi talks about this too in terms of like there’s a season where it’s like, “Growth, baby. Bring it on. More, more, more, more, more. I want the biggest stuff, the toughest challenge, and I’m just going to pour myself into work or whatever.” And then there’s a time where that season is no longer suiting you, and it might come back a little later. That’s the game.

Scott Anthony Barlow
First of all, can I just say that I love that you started that whole section of the conversation with “Boy Meets World.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, you may.

Scott Anthony Barlow
And, second of all, I think that there is this stigma, at least in much of North America and some areas of Europe, too, but there’s this stigma that it’s not okay to change, or that one way is the right way, or the direction that we keep going.

Pete Mockaitis
“And you’re a flip-flopper. We don’t like our politicians flip-flopping. We don’t like quitters or flip-floppers.”

Scott Anthony Barlow
No, no quitters, yes. And so, interestingly enough, the main reason that I have this company now is because I quit and went from one thing to the next thing, to the next thing, to the point where, we counted it up the other day, I’ve had, in the last 20 or so years, I’ve had 20 different roles, and all of that set of experience of being able to go through many, many different things came from quitting. And, actually, for me, personally, I felt a long time, like that was an inadequacy in so many different ways because it felt like as soon as things got really hard, or whatever, then I would get bored and then I’d run off to the next thing.

And although there was some level of truth to that, that wasn’t necessarily the full reason but that’s the story that I was saying in my head for myself. And it was furthered by the fact that that is the message that we unintentionally put out in society. 

Pete Mockaitis
So, when it comes to clarity, you said one way we get there is we declare the priorities, and then act in alignment with them. What are some your other favorite questions, practices, exploratory activities that can yield oodles of insight for the time we spend doing them?

Scott Anthony Barlow
So, first of all, let me give you a high-level overview of the process we often use with our clients, and the reason that we do this is, I mentioned earlier that it’s really difficult to be able to separate out your career from other things. When you plug yourself in, if you think about plugging yourself into a particular career choice, whether that’s the people that you work with, whether that’s the organization that you’ve said yes to for a job opportunity, whether that is whatever you’re getting paid, all of those things impact other areas of your life from your schedule to the pressures that you feel or don’t feel, to everything else.

So, it becomes really important that we’re looking at all of these things as a whole. So, I wanted to be able to say that first, and that’ll give you some insight as to why we often are approaching activities that appear to be more holistic or addressing other areas of your life even though we often focus on career. So, one of those things is, initially, we try to help people create what we call an ideal career profile. And really just think about that as literally what it sounds like. It’s a profile of what makes up your ideal career.

Now, when I say that, often people are thinking about occupation, and I’m not talking about occupation. I’m talking about the things like, “How you are utilizing your strengths within your work opportunities? What amount of money do you need to make in order to satisfy your other goals that maybe aren’t even financially related? Who are the types of people that you want to spend your time around knowing that the choice that you make and plug into is going to impact who you spend your time with?”

So, starting out, we put together that ideal career profile, and I’ll give you a few questions here momentarily, but then what we’re going to do with it is we’re going to take that profile, which is an educated guess, and then we’re going to test it out. The reason we test it out is, generally, we find that when people come to us and they’re wanting to make some kind of career change, and they’re wanting to move to a better situation, a more ideal situation, then they also are simultaneously not wanting to take significant risks, because a lot of times they are not fresh out of college, if you will, necessarily. A lot of times, they may have already determined that, “The career that I’ve pursued is no longer a fit in one way or another,” so there’s an aversion to risk.

And one of the ways that we can avoid risks while still getting wonderful input is by creating a small series of experiments in order to determine, “Is that hypothesis, that ideal career profile, actually the right direction? Am I giving some road signs indicating that I am, in fact, headed in the right direction for me?” versus just making another career change, or going back to school, or putting all the time and effort in only to realize that the names and the faces have changed, but it’s the exact same situation. So, that’s no good for anybody.

So, here is a couple things that we use specifically. Number one, if we’re evaluating strengths, let’s say, let’s take that as scenario, one question that is my favorite, and maybe you can answer this, too, or we can answer it together, “What do you find yourself gravitating to that isn’t actually a part of your job but shows up over and over again? Now, is that I’m supposed to be doing these spreadsheets and these financial projections but I find myself wandering the halls and going and asking my neighbor what they were barbecuing the other day because I’m fascinated about what do people eat?”

Whatever it is, what do you find yourself doing over and over again? That’ll give clues or indications, especially if it’s not a part of your paid role. And what I find is that, as you dig into that type of question, often you start to observe some patterns. So, let me ask you that really quick. When you think about your past opportunities, roles, paid, unpaid, whatever else, what do you keep gravitating towards, Pete, that really didn’t have much to do with what you’re supposed to be doing at the time?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, what’s funny is I’m think about consulting back in the day, I really loved recruiting, which was part of…all of us was supposed to have a part of recruiting, but I really loved being able to go to a career fair to being able to do case interviews or help people prepare for their case interviews.

Scott Anthony Barlow
I see where this is going.

Pete Mockaitis
Or more people-y stuff, like, where there’s an intern, I got to play manager just a little bit with a fresh intern. I thought that was really cool in terms of helping them learn stuff. And so, I was having fun with that for sure. And I think I also learned this isn’t just about skills or strengths, but just the environment. I remember, once I was so excited to be able to take a trip by myself to Kansas City where some very hallowed terminals where I could access some data that was, I guess, air-gapped from the cloud to go there and get the data.

And I was really stoked by this trip, I thought, “That’s kind of weird. I’m traveling somewhere alone to do a fairly manual repetitive task, and I’m stoked about it.” And what I was stoked about was the autonomy in terms of, “You know what, I can eat what I want when I want when I don’t have to check in with the whole team.” Like, “Hey, so you’re going to do lunch. Oh, okay, we’re going to wait. Okay, we’re going to wait for the senior people because they want to eat with us but they’re not ready to eat yet, so we’re just going to wait some more, but I really want to eat now but I can’t eat now. So, we don’t know how long this is going to take but it might be four minutes, it might be 40 minutes. I’m hungry now.”

It’s so funny. I don’t know, but being able to choose when and what I eat during my work day felt very exciting.

Scott Anthony Barlow
So, that’s kind of fascinating because now you have, in some ways, the ultimate set of choices.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. So, I like the autonomy and I like the people development. And go figure, here I am in a very autonomous role doing a lot of people development.

Scott Anthony Barlow
I am so shocked. So shocked. And by that, I mean not shocked at all. But I think that that is just one of many questions. And what I find is that none of these questions yield the ultimate answer. None of the questions yield the “magic bullet” or the “magic pill” or whatever. But they do all give clues, and those clues lead to a-has, those clues lead to being able to understand yourself and what you need in a different way.

And what I find is that a better way to think about uncovering the right type of career, or career fit for you, which may not be occupational, it might be about the environment, it might be about some of those other areas I mentioned earlier, is to think about it more as a CSI or detective-type of approach where you find one clue that helps you get a little further along but it leads to another clue, which leads to another clue, which leads to another clue. And, eventually, we solve some version of the case, which then leads to a new case.

And that is a much, much better analogy for how to think about your career in a healthy way where it’s going to continue to evolve, it’s going to continue to change, and just because you climbed up the mountain in one way or another doesn’t necessarily mean it’s over. It’s an ongoing, living, breathing set of decisions. And for some people, that can feel a little bit scary but I think that it can also be really, really empowering because, take your example here, like you probably, if we talked 20 years ago, would you have known all of those, “Well, I need people development or I need autonomy, and everything else”? I’m guessing probably…

Pete Mockaitis
No.

Scott Anthony Barlow
Not.

Pete Mockaitis
No, I might have some clues in terms of I really had a lot fun when I’m speaking to groups. And so, that’s true, I do, but the topic makes all the difference.

Scott Anthony Barlow
Oh, really?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah. If I were talking about how to use a software program, that might be moderately energizing for me. But if I were talking about “Do this and you’re going to be way more productive and happy with your work,” that’s way more exciting for me to be talking about.

Scott Anthony Barlow
I agree. Me, too. I can only get so far. So, a topic for me makes a massive difference as well, but for some other people, it might just be about the act. For some other people, it might be about who they’re talking to. And for still other people, it might be about “Am I getting to speak with people one on one versus large groups, versus communities of people, versus any other way that you might slice that up?”

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. I’m thinking about the nature of the impact, like, “Are you talking to…?” “I’m just helping rich people get richer,” and that really bothers you versus you don’t care at all. That doesn’t bother you at all, it doesn’t even occur to you, versus, “Oh, I’m really helping disadvantaged communities,” or whatever. So, the who could be, or it’s sort of like the elite students were really engaged and fired up with it and challenging, like that’s exciting.

Or, they are very much not elite students who, like, really need your help and you feel a great sense of purpose for having assisted them and really met them and made a difference that you feel more palpable. So, yeah, that who, I think, has all kinds of angles and flavors that provide cool clues right there.

Scott Anthony Barlow
Well, the important part is finding the right flavor for you because, in the book, we talk about what we call the seven keys to fulfillment, and there are areas that create more or less fulfilling careers, or feelings of fulfillment. However, if you’re talking about the who or how you work with people – is it in a one-on-one format versus large groups format – it’s a very different from a person-to-person basis. And finding that right variety, that right recipe is also very, very different from person to person.

So, I think that to go back to, say, how you contribute to others, as an example, the important part there is not just who you’re helping but, if we look at all of the data and the research, the real question is, “Are you helping people in a way that feels like you are helping people?” I know that sounds a little bit weird because, arguably, any job in the world is probably helping, like we can make a case that it’s helping people.

Whether you are at a movie theater, you are a VP of finance, you are taking out the trash, like in some way or another, it’s helping people, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it feels like, and you can see a direct connection between how you’re helping other people, and that’s the real key. So, finding out how it feels, the right type of how for you is really what we’re after here.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Well, Scott, boy, we could talk for hours about this, but I want to hear, tell me, any top do’s or don’ts that we absolutely must hear from you before we shift gears and hear about your favorite things?

Scott Anthony Barlow
Absolutely. Absolutely. I think the number one do is run towards something. So many people are running away from something, running away from a not-great boss, running away from a situation that doesn’t feel like a great fit, but they haven’t actually taken the time to figure out what it is that they actually want. So, to be able to run to something, you really have to take the time, effort, energy to identify all of the areas and all of the pieces and parts that make up your ideal, otherwise, that’s going to be impossible. You won’t be able to run to something.

And the disadvantage, if you’re running away from something and not towards something that’s clearly defined, is you’re automatically going to be settling by default. So, run to something, that’s number one. And then, number two, experiment. We briefly mentioned that experimenting, or the idea of experimentation, however, I think that’s so critical as it relates to your career because it takes all of the risks, or at least most of the risks and perceived risks out of the equation.

So, so many people don’t career-change because they’re like, “Well, it feels so risky,” and in some ways it is. However, if you take small steps and a small amount of work to validate that you’re heading the right direction through a well-crafted experiment, that doesn’t even have to take a significant period of time, then once you get those road signs indicating that you are heading in the right direction, then it can reduce a significant amount of that risk. So, I think that’s thing number two.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. Now, well-crafted experiment, can you give us a couple quick examples of what that might look, sound, feel like?

Scott Anthony Barlow
Yeah. We have helped people craft hundreds of different types of experiments but there are some that are more common than others, and I’ll give you a couple just really quick examples. One is the social Goldilocks, another is what we call the volunteer, another is the paid researcher.

So, the volunteer is what it sounds like, where you’re actually volunteering your time or energy either with another organization or even, potentially, inside your organization, and that’s where we might move into the paid researcher. Now, the benefits of doing either of those are getting to trial out the work without necessarily a full-time commitment, and understanding the feedback from that experience about whether or not you’re heading the right direction.

Now, the side benefit from that, and I think this is part of what makes a well-crafted experiment, in my opinion, is it’s not just for the feedback. But a well-crafted experiment also allows you to experience multiple benefits. Quick example, we had…personally we were working with…her name is Stephanie, and she volunteered at a marketing organization. She thought she might be interested in marketing, and volunteered with a local chapter of a marketing organization, met a lot of people and two things ended up coming from that.

One, she was able to land a copywriting gig, a small contract-based copywriting gig that didn’t take a lot of her time but allowed her to experiment in a paid way, and that’s what we call the paid researcher. A way you can do the paid researcher. And the other side benefit from that was she discovered she didn’t really like marketing by volunteering for that particular organization.

So, she eliminated an entire area that she suspected that she wanted to move into, and, instead, another area she was exploring at the same time was organizational communications. And some of the connections that she had made through that marketing organization ended up causing her to be introduced to other people that led to communications-type of experiences. So, there’s a quick couple examples.

Social Goldilocks, I mentioned that one at the beginning, that’s the idea of…well, you’re familiar with Goldilocks, of course, like, “This chair is too big. This porridge is too cold, too hot. This corner office is too large,” whatever. But the idea of the social Goldilocks, instead of doing what people call informational interviews, how can you identify either roles or organizations or other types of opportunities that might be a good fit?

And go talk to people in those roles, or in those organizations, for relatively short periods of time, even as little as 10 or 15 minutes, and learn about what makes them enjoy the role, what they think are relevant experiences to be successful in that role. Learn about what they love about their organization, what they don’t love about their organization.

And the idea here is not just the interaction itself, but that you can string together many different types of interactions with, say, 10 or 15 or 20 people in a relatively short period of time, and then you have a set of feedback where you can start making decisions from, “Should I dive further into this strategy-type role that I suspected that I love? And now I talked to three different people, and I’m getting similar feedback. And I think that it might be worth diving further in.”

So, these are all really quick examples of ways to do two things – get that feedback, and, simultaneously, build relationships at the same time, which, at this point, we don’t have very many computers hiring people. It does happen occasionally, but for the most part, it’s still people that hire people and make those hiring decisions, so relationships are critical when it comes to that. So, there’s a few different examples.

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

Scott Anthony Barlow
This one gets attributed to Da Vinci a lot of the time, and I’m assuming it was not originally in English, but the English translation comes out to be something that, “I often observe that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and allowed things to happen. Instead, they went and happened to them.”

And although it gets attributed to Da Vinci, I believe it actually, as near as I can tell, comes from Da Vinci’s mentor, and Da Vinci ended up repeating it many, many times and that’s in some of his books.

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

Scott Anthony Barlow
There is a huge body of work around strengths, and what Martin Seligman originally called signature strengths now. And so, this is not one particular set of research but the body as a whole has really expanded over the last 30 years, and it is fascinating.

When you get to spend as little as one or two more hours a day working in your strengths and operating in your strengths, there are so many benefits from smiling more in a given day, all the way to be more productive, to having health benefits, or being able to avoid health risks.

So, that’s fascinating to me, personally, and it’s really interesting, some of the lengths that have nothing to do with what people perceive to be strengths, and, in some cases, nothing to do with what people perceive work but that impact overall quality of life when you spend very small amounts of time more, comparatively, to what you might be right now focusing on areas that fit your strengths. So, that’s my favorite body of research as a whole.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a favorite book?

Scott Anthony Barlow
Here’s one book that changed my mind on quite a few different things. It’s called 80/20 Sales and Marketing.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah, Perry Marshall. He was on the show.

Scott Anthony Barlow
Yeah, Perry Marshall. Okay, so this was useful even if you care not about sales and marketing whatsoever. The idea behind 80/20 and something that tipped me off to a different idea that I don’t think that was said in that book but it sparked a lot of things for me, because the quick bit of 80/20, where it originally comes from, and now it’s pretty popularized, I would say, but the Pareto Principle is another thing that it’s called, where the idea of having 20% of the inputs produced 80% of the outputs.

So, Pareto saw that when he was raising peas way back when. He noticed that some of the peapods on certain pea plants had very few peas, and on 20% of the plants, they actually had roughly 80%. They produced 80% of the peas. And he started observing this all over the place in nature, this natural phenomenon.

However, what doesn’t get talked about that the book turned me onto is if you take that top 20%, it has its own top 20%, the 4% that produces 64% of the results. So, that idea is fascinating to me, and I’ve spent the last, almost seven, eight years really trying to figure out, “What is the 4% that really moves the needle so that you can just let the rest go in so many different areas of life?”

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

Scott Anthony Barlow
Superhuman, which you turned me onto.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah. It’s all good.

Scott Anthony Barlow
Oh, my goodness, love Superhuman. We have it for almost my entire team now, yeah. Are you still using it?

Pete Mockaitis
I am.

Scott Anthony Barlow
Oh, my goodness. Thank you for that. Like, lifechanging in so many different ways. A whole different way to do email.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite habit?

Scott Anthony Barlow
I think my favorite habit recently is fasting till afternoon.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I tried that and really didn’t like it.

Scott Anthony Barlow
Well, it’s not for everyone.

Pete Mockaitis
Glad it’s working for you.

Scott Anthony Barlow
And I really didn’t like it until maybe, I don’t know, probably after a month in. Then now it’s actually become a wonderful thing that adds energy, where the first probably two weeks, I’m like, “This is terrible. Who would do this?” So, not for everyone but that’s my current favorite habit.

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

Scott Anthony Barlow
The idea of identifying what you want so that you can then go and ask for what you want, and I find that people who ask for what they want are very often more frequently getting what they want.

So, that really simple concept has changed my life in so many different ways, which means that I need to have ownership and understanding around not just where I’m running to, which we mentioned earlier, but what it is that I, in fact, want and what’s great for me and my highest priority, which we mentioned clarity earlier, too, and it all ties back to that.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And if folks want to connect or hear more about you, where should they go?

Scott Anthony Barlow
Well, certainly, HappenToYourCareer.com, and we have, of course, a podcast by the same name, Happen to Your Career, in all the places where podcasts are played, so certainly over there. But I think that for people that really want to get started in figuring out what could be a next amazing step, what extraordinary could look like, and utilizing much of the concepts that we just talked about, go to FigureItOut.co where you get an opportunity to sign up for an 8-day email course where we send you an email each day, and it asks you a few questions that will begin to allow you to figure out what truly is your north, what is your compass.

We’ve had almost 50,000 people at this point through that particular course. And we’ve got so many people sending emails and feedback over the years that it’s helped them get started in figuring out what they want.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Scott, this has been a treat. I wish you much luck and fun and success as you’re happening to your career.

Scott Anthony Barlow
I appreciate it.

804: A Recruiter’s Insider Tips for Acing the Job Search with Zeinab Kahera

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Zeinab Kahera shares the best job search practices learned from her decade of experience in recruiting, interviewing, and hiring in multiple industries.

You’ll Learn:

  1. A behind-the-scenes look into what recruiters want to see 
  2. Powerful questions to identify your unique expertise
  3. The most important thing to communicate in your resume 

About Zeinab

Zeinab Kahera is a career specialist, who specializes in working with people to amplify their voice while utilizing expert techniques to build a cover letter and resume that is professional, strong, and best represents them.  

Her professional expertise comes from a decade of experience in recruitment, interviewing, and hiring in multiple industries. She has also served in Human Resources and various management roles including for a Fortune 500 company.   

Zeinab earned her Bachelor in Business Management from Georgia State University and a Master of Education in Counseling with a concentration in Student Affairs from the University of West Georgia.   

 Resources Mentioned

Thank you, Sponsors!

Zeinab Kahera Interview Transcript

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

Zeinab Kahera
Hello, Pete. How are you?

Pete Mockaitis
I’m doing well. I’m doing well.

Zeinab Kahera
Very good. Thank you for having me. I’m excited to speak to your audience and to speak to you and, hopefully, drop some gems this afternoon.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, we love gems.

Zeinab Kahera
Or this morning or whenever they’re listening, the evening.

Pete Mockaitis
We love gems. Well, first, I was curious to hear about you’ve lived in four different countries. Whoa! What are they and what have you learned from that?

Zeinab Kahera
Yes, I have. So, I started off in Saudi Arabia. My parents actually started off in Sudan. That was their first country but I was born in…or I moved to Saudi Arabia as an infant. And then, after that, came back to the States, did Egypt, lived in Egypt for a couple of years. I was older then so I remember that. I don’t remember Saudi too much. And then, obviously, the US, is one of the countries because I’m from the States. Now, I live in Canada.

So, what I will say in terms of what it taught me was I have such an appreciation for just the human experience and that I’ve seen so many levels. I’ve seen an excess of wealth, I’ve seen an excess of poverty, but the thing that kind of stayed the same was that people just really wanted to have a good life and do right things. So, I appreciate that perspective from living in those different countries.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, very cool. Yes. And I also want to get your perspective on, so you’ve been on both sides of the hiring table: hiring, being hired, negotiating, being negotiated. And in so doing, I want to hear any interesting or surprising things that you’ve picked up along the way that you just found really striking, like, “Huh, never would’ve guessed, but now that I know, that’s super powerful.”

Zeinab Kahera
Yes. So, what’s interesting is that I recently went through an interview process again, and this time was so different for me because, in the past when I had been looking for jobs, I was unemployed either through layoffs, the last time was COVID, this time I was working now.

I think if I could pinpoint, the biggest lesson that I share with people a lot is that there is a space for you to feel empowered in your job search. I think a lot of times people feel like we have to cater to or at the beckoning call of the hiring manager. And at the end of the day, or a colleague said to me that managers really just want to hire nice people who are knowledgeable and skilled. But that nice people part is really important.

And so, leaning into for myself and embracing, “Hey, I am a nice person. Let me show it more,” and not be caught up in my fear and my anxiety of the interview process really helped me to feel empowered in my job search. So, yeah, that’s, I think, a perspective that I recently garnered.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I do buy that in terms of just like showing you’re a normal real human being as opposed to sometimes it feels like we enter into this, like, professional mode. Like, I remember being at career fairs when I was recruiting, and folks will say things like, “Hello, I’m looking to combine my interest in finance and accounting, and find a rewarding career in which I can dah, dah, dah synergy,” I don’t know. And it’s like, “Really, is that what you’re looking for?” I mean, it feels a little too, I don’t know, PR’d. It just doesn’t feel real and authentic.

And that might be true, like, “Yeah, I like accounting, I like finance, and I want to put them together and do some things,” and yet the presentation just felt a little bit like, “Oh, I’m not quite talking to a person so much as I am talking to talking points.”

Zeinab Kahera
Yeah. What came up when you were sharing was it lacks authenticity, and I think that’s a thing that sacrifices a lot in people’s job searches is that they don’t feel like they can be their genuine selves. They have to be an image of what they feel this professional should look like. I’ve hired in various roles, and the most recent one was for a web developer bootcamp, and I was part of the hiring process for our career coaches.

And I just remembered the biggest thing for me was, one, obviously, how they articulated their skills, that they have good examples of workplace experiences. Were they reflective in their experiences? But also, were they allowing themselves to just be themselves, and maybe make a quirky joke? I had a colleague who we interviewed, and he had technical issues with Zoom, and most people would just kind of like freak out, and he just laughed. He’s like, “Did you all do this to me on purpose?” and that was like such a seller for us because he allowed himself to just be in the moment. But then what sealed the deal was that he knew his stuff, he had the experience, he showed great examples.

Pete Mockaitis
That reminds of that viral video of the judge and the lawyer and the filter, it was like, “I’m right here, judge. I’m not a cat.” “I am not a cat.”

Zeinab Kahera
Yes, exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, I also want to get a take on, okay, here we are, summer 2022, there are murmurs of recession upon us, how quickly the times changed. Can you tell us, okay, given that, anything we should be doing differently, thinking about differently, staying, looking around, negotiating?

Zeinab Kahera
Yeah. So, when I hear people say the word recession, obviously, there is like an anxiety or like a discomfort that come from that word, but I remember the recession of 2008. And I just remember I actually got a job during that time. And so, there are people who are still getting jobs. I think that we don’t stop believing that we can get jobs. We just make adjustments to our strategy.

So, regardless of the times that we’re in in terms of recession, we should always be having the job search that allows you to have human contact first. So, everything is online now, we’re all applying online, so there is an influx of applications that are coming in. And companies are like, “Well, we don’t want to pay somebody to look at 350 applications,” so they’re using these softwares, these applicant-tracking systems, and so people are getting filtered out.

And so, your goal is, “How do I bypass that wall, that technical wall, and I get an opportunity to talk to people?” And in a time of a recession, that’s even more important because of the fact that you are going to have more people who potentially will be laid off. So, how do you differentiate yourself from those other 200, 300 people who are applying for the same job? So, are you sending a cold email? We also call them intro emails. Are you utilizing your personal network, not being afraid to ask for help? Those are the things that help, especially in rough times in the market.

And, yes, it’s okay to look for another job if you have a job. If there are jobs posted in your industry that could be potential growth opportunities for you, go for it. Obviously, we’ve seen some companies that have decided to freeze their hiring. But I do think that there are still jobs being created every day that are not going to be eliminated.

But I think, on a personal note, just to end on this, you have to assess where you are in your personal life. If you feel like, “You know what, I just want to just kind of ride this wave, not make any moves until things kind of quiet down,” that’s perfectly okay as well. It’s not a very black and white decision-making process. There’s a lot of gray with it. So, some people are like, “You know what, I’m not in love with my job but things seem to be okay with my company. I’m not hearing any hints of layoffs. Let me just stick this out for a little bit and see what opportunities are created in the future.”

Pete Mockaitis
And when you talk about assessing kind of your personal situation, how do you think broadly about assessing what is your next best career move?

Zeinab Kahera
So, as a career coach, I’m really big on the self-awareness piece, and I’m really big on assessing what your needs and your values are. With my clients, that’s one of the first things that I challenge them to do, is to look at, “What is it that you currently need and you value?” And so, I think that when it comes to assessing your situation, you have to have that reflection piece. You can’t be making decisions based on external factors, what everybody else is doing, because now you’re allowing other people to dictate your life journey, in a nutshell.

So, to give an example, I had a client who was doing pretty well in their job, didn’t really need to go anywhere else. They worked in nonprofit so they were in an ED role but they kept seeing these opportunities come up. And so, for them, I asked them, “Okay, so where is the challenge for you?” And they’re like, “Well, I like what I do and nothing is broken. Why fix it?” And I said, “Okay, so then why are you contemplating leaving?” And they said, “I believe in the potential of the future, and if other people want to work with me, I feel like why don’t I see what’s possible.”

And I said, “Well, what’s most important to you?” And they said, “I really like growth. I like learning more. I like not feeling stagnant. I like the risk of trying something new.” And I said, “Well, that sounds like something that you value enough that it’s worth it to you.” And so, that’s kind of the conversations that we have in terms of internally assessing where your situation is.

Now, the other external factors are your financial situation, your security. What potential debt do you have or currently have? Are you trying to position yourself with a house or a family or all of those factors involved? But it always starts with self. It always starts with fulfilling what your needs and your values are.

Pete Mockaitis
So, in needs and values, you talked about learning growth, you’ve talked about financial. What are some of the other big items that pop up frequently that we’d want to assess?

Zeinab Kahera
Yes. So, the idea of needs and values came up because I actually did an assessment by, I think her name is Carolyn Weir. W-E-I-R, is definitely her last name, and she created the needs and values assessment. And so, some of the things that are evaluated are “Do you have a need for having a sense for accomplishments, certainty?” I’m looking at my list that I have for myself. “How much do you value safety, order?”

Then also, “Are you someone that likes to teach? Are you someone who likes to be supportive, an educator, spirituality?” So, you see how it’s very specific interpersonal elements that are defining the needs and values. Those are the things that I would have my clients assess in terms of assessing where you are in your life and your decision-making process.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And then, let’s say, we’ve got some clarity on that and there is an opportunity that piques our interests, generally speaking, what are the things that make you interested in a candidate versus you just sort of pass right on by them?

Zeinab Kahera
I personally value someone who has a good career story. I think that a good career story shows growth, it shows adversity, it shows resilience, it shows courage. And those can define a holistic experience for someone. And so, when I’m interviewing candidates, I’m not just looking for check-off the box, “Can you do skill one, two, and three?” It’s like, “Okay, in your journey to get to where you are right now, what were some things that you had to overcome to get here? Or, in your last role, like where were you challenged? And what were the tools or resources or people that helped you, supported you to overcome those challenges?”

Another thing that I think is valuable, not to sound like a broken record, but it’s really important, is just someone who allows themselves to be themselves and show their genuine side and laugh and show their kindness or their character. Maybe even show a little bit of vulnerability. Why are those important? Because that’s who you’re going to be working with every day. You’re not going to be working with just the resume paper, words on the resume. Like, there’s a human being behind that, and that’s who you’re going to have to problem-solve with, maybe even manage crises with, come up with creative innovative ideas with.

And so, specifically, in the interview process, I’m looking for the best expression of your personality. And one thing, I want to mention this, because this is really important to me working in tech, I’ve had the opportunity to really have good conversations about neurodiversity, especially individuals specifically who are on the spectrum.

And so, the communication of personality may present a different way as someone who is not on the spectrum. But I’ve found, even with the clients that I’ve worked with, who self-disclosed that they were on the spectrum, it was almost like a puzzle and we just had to move some pieces around, and, boom, they were able to find themselves and their voice and be who they are and feel comfortable with who they are.

So, I’m saying that to say that the advice that I’m giving, it does exist for everyone. It’s not going to necessarily look as cookie-cutter as we want but it does exist. And then one more thing because I talked a bit about the interviews, but specifically on paper with the resumes, I’m really someone, and even LinkedIn, I’m really someone who values individuals who, you can tell, that they’ve put the work in. And not the work necessarily just in their career but just how they present themselves.

I tell the clients I work with all the time, “If your resume is mediocre, like it doesn’t show accomplishment-focused language, it’s not even showing keywords, it’s not celebrating your achievements, that, to me, is an articulation of how you feel about yourself. So, why would I want to hire someone who’s presenting that they don’t really feel that confident in themselves?”

It’s not faking it till you make it because you have to actually believe what you’re saying, but it is like challenging how your truth about yourself and your perspective of yourself, and allowing yourself to celebrate the accomplishments, how far you’ve come, the skills and the knowledge that you’ve gained, and then taking that, putting that on paper, putting that on your LinkedIn profile.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, that’s where I was going to go next, is you talked a bit about one’s unique expertise. How do you recommend we figure that out for ourselves and showcase it well?

Zeinab Kahera
Yeah. My litmus test for that is, “What can you teach other people to do really well?” And the word expertise makes people feel very uncomfortable because they feel like it has to be somebody in a suit and they look very prim and proper, Just like this sensationalized image of an expert. But it’s like, “What is the thing that people depend on you to get done? What is the thing that if someone had to be trained on it they would go to you? You are the point of contact, the subject matter expert.”

So, if you’re trying to evaluate that, I would sit down and look at the work that you do, “What is the thing that just clicks for you, it comes very naturally, you could do it with your eyes closed?” And here’s an extra thing, that there is a space for it, “What do you enjoy doing, too?” because most likely, the thing that you are really good at is the thing that you enjoy doing, so much that you’re willing to invest the time and the energy to get better at it. So, that’s a way of evaluating what your expertise is.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, there’s a beautiful sort of a feedback loop cycle going on there, like work-fun-good. It’s like, “Ooh, I’m working on this thing and it’s fun, so I’m going to keep doing it. And then, hey, I’ve done it for a while, so now I’m good.” And then it just kind of snowballs in a good way.

Zeinab Kahera
Yeah, there are sometimes debates about like, “Does this dream job or this ultimate career exist?” and I’m the person who believes that it does. And one of the books that I read is called The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks, and he talks about this idea of your zone of genius. So, below your zone of genius is your zone of excellence. So, your zone of excellence, you do it really well but it doesn’t really bring you any fulfillment. Your zone of genius, you do it really well, it brings you fulfillment so much that if you do it for free, meaning like you didn’t have to worry about other things, you would just do it.

So, to give an example. For me, I discovered that coaching is in my zone of genius, like I am a very empathetic person, I communicate well, I can really leverage and maximize one-on-one conversations with people, and I get such a sense of fulfillment from being able to help people, specifically with their careers, and help them navigate an aspect of their lives that can be overwhelming. And I did it for free before I even started getting paid. I just started helping people for free. So, in terms of making that connection back to your expertise, it can also be something that that’s in your zone of genius, that you’re a genius at.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And you mentioned a mediocre resume. Can you dig in a little bit and tell us what makes the difference between mediocre and exceptional? Or, what are the key mistakes that show up again and again that we should put the kibosh on?

Zeinab Kahera
So, I’m not going to reinvent the wheel because there is definitely very good advice about resumes that I think people should listen to, but the first thing is just language. How are you speaking about yourself? I’m very much someone who believes in being bold and almost audacious in some aspects in terms of how you talk about yourself, “So, I’m qualified to do this.” Like, we’re talking about their profile. “I’m qualified to do this. I have a proven record of doing this. I’m an expert at this.” You’d be surprised so many people feel uncomfortable using that language.

Then when you start getting into your actual work experience, task list. If you’re writing a task list, that’s not demonstrating the impact that you’ve made. The language that you use has to demonstrate impact. So, for an example, as a career coach, if I’m writing a task list, I could say, “Meet with clients one on one for 30 minutes.” Or, “Provide feedback upon request,” or, “Schedule appointments on a weekly basis.”

You see how it just falls flat. So, if I want to be impactful though, I’ll use language like, “Responsible for supporting the career development and growth of web developers and data analysts by providing one-on-one coaching, interview prep, as well as,” “feedback that is attainable,” or something like that. It’s always rough when I try to get it off the head, but my point is to say, I told you what I did and how I did it.

If there’s a basic thing that you want to demonstrate in your resume bullet, “What did you do and what was the impact that you made? How did you make that impact that you said you did?” So, if you were like number five out of ten in sales for your division, what were a couple of things that you did to help you get to that point? And that language also tells a story. So, it’s not just, “I did A, B, C, and D.” It’s like, “A, B, C, and D helped this company do this,” because companies that are looking to hire you, they want to know, “How are you going to make a change? How are you going to solve a problem that they have?” and they can’t do that if you just tell them what your to-do list was.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. And I heard some great advice associated with put the achievement or impact results number at the first part of your bullet, and then the “by coaching, developing, mentoring,” and how you did it at the second part because…and it’s so funny because, in my own resume, I said, “Oh, okay, I guess I can give that a try. Does it really matter? I’m just changing a little bit of the…” and it really did it because, as a reader of that resume, it’s very easy, like, “Okay, you did a bunch of stuff. All right,” versus, “Oh, you achieved that? Like, I’m intrigued. How did you pull that off?” “Oh, well, let me tell you.”

It’s sort of like this sequence follows my attention, like, “Ooh, that’s awesome. How did you do that?” “Oh, now I know,” versus, “Okay, you did a bunch of things.” It’s like, “Oh, and, by the way, that resulted in $3 million of savings.” It’s like, “I might miss it because it’s at the end of the bullet.” And do you have the stats on like how long a human looks at a resume?

Zeinab Kahera
Yeah. If you’re lucky, you’ll get them for 60 seconds but it’s really like less and they skim. So, you mentioned creating interest. So, a good resume from the beginning, creates curiosity, which entices the reader to keep going and going and going. So, I’m a big fan of profile, sometimes the word is a summary, but I like to use the language profile. So, that’s a small paragraph, two to three sentences, introducing yourself to the reader.

And then you go in and you’re like, “Here are my skills that are very industry-specific.” Don’t go really strong with the, soft skills where I tell people, “A soft skill is like, if you told me what it was, I can’t tell you what job you did.” So, like, “I’m a good communicator. I have a strong attention to detail,” okay, but what job are you doing? It’s not to say that soft skills aren’t important, it’s just that the reader is looking for, “Are you checking off the list in terms of industry-relevant skills that I need you to do?”

So just with those two you’re already telling the reader, “Here’s my synopsis of what you’re going to see as you read my experience from the profile. Here are the skills that I can do, which you’re also going to read when you read my experience.” So, when they go to the experience, now you’re just reinforcing what you’ve already told them, and that’s what captivates their interest is the story.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. the profile is handy in terms of orienting, it’s like, “Okay, how do you see yourself and sort of, generally, how might you fit in here? What are the high points?” I think, for me, when I hear someone say they’re a good communicator, it’s like I guess I’m just a skeptic.

Zeinab Kahera
No, I feel you.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m just like, “Prove it. Prove it.” It’s like, “I received the highest evaluations out of 20 speakers at this conference.” It’s like, “Okay.” that’s sort of unfudgeable in terms of, “You’ve got to be like a straight up con artist who’s lying to me, or that really happened and you’re good at communication. Well, I have some context. Like, oh, okay, to groups which is very different than one on one, and so maybe we’ve got something else there in terms of your coaching clients have scored X percent, increased, I don’t know, salary, or interview rate, or placement percent,” I don’t know, whatever the most relevant metrics.

Zeinab Kahera
Or hired within 180 days or something like that of working with me.

Pete Mockaitis
There you go.

Zeinab Kahera
Right, exactly. Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. All right. And then, cover letters, do they matter?

Zeinab Kahera
I hate them.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Zeinab Kahera
I hate cover letters. I do not feel any shame about saying it. And I will say, as someone who follows a lot of people in the career coaching industry, I’m not alone, but I think that the cover letter is important because, so your resume demonstrates your qualifications and your accomplishments. Your cover letter tells the reader why they should hire you.

And I think the thing that people miss out a lot on is you get the opportunity to make a personal connection between you and the company, especially in that first paragraph. People kind of skim through it, “I’m really interested in working in this role. I’m qualified to do this, this, and this,” and they ignore the company. They don’t mention anything that they admire about the company or any research that they’ve done. If you’re interested, it’s okay to tell them, like, “I researched you all, and this is what I found, and I love it, and this is how I feel. Like, I connect with the thing that I love about your company.” And your cover letter really genuinely allows you to do that.

And then when you get into your more industry-specific or your relevant skills, then you can kind of talk more about your accomplishments and so on and so forth but don’t miss out on the opportunity to make that personal connection with you and the company.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And then when it comes to interviews, any top do’s and don’ts there?

Zeinab Kahera
My biggest thing is you have leverage in the interview. A lot of times, people think that…I think I said that you’re beckoning call of the interviewer, and obviously you want to make a good impression, but it’s not about being someone that you’re not. It’s being the best expression of your best self. The best expression of yourself.

So, the best way to help you with that is to practice, honestly. You can hire a coach or you can grab a friend, say, “Hey, ask me these questions. I want you to look for this, this, and this. I want you to look for the quality of my answer, the timing of my answer. Do I give a good example? And do I sound confident? Look for those four things.” And then you practice with that person. Or, I did this before multiple times, I recorded myself on my computer, and I went back and listened to my answers, “Okay, I need to trim that down a little bit. Oh, that’s not necessary. I don’t need to mention that as much.”

Also, do your homework. Research the company. Research the people you’re interviewing with. When I would coach my students at my previous job, I can’t tell you the amount of time people would come to the mock interview and not research a company at all, and I’m like, “You are trying to convince these people to hire you, and you don’t even know anything about…like, go to LinkedIn and see if the person that is interviewing has a LinkedIn profile, and look up some things about it, and bring it up in the interview. It shows that you care. It shows that you’re willing to put the effort forward.”

So, to recap, practice, practice, practice, do your research, practice the timing of your answers, the quality. Make sure you have good examples of your work experience. Make sure you research the job description again so that your examples are aligning with what they’re looking for. And, also, research and look up the people who you’re going to be having these conversations with.

Pete Mockaitis
And what do you think about the STAR framework or is there an approach you recommend to interview stories?

Zeinab Kahera
Yes, the STAR method is very, very helpful. The other one that I like is CAR, which is context, action, result. I find that the extra letter can be a little bit…the S and the T can get a little bit intertwined. But, yes, when I was coming up through TARGET, we would use a model of what you did, how you did it, and the impact that it made. Or, who was involved, what you did, and what was the impact that was made.

So, this is something that I love sharing, you have to have a point system. The STAR method is a point system, there’s four points. Situation is point one, task is point two, action is point three, result is point four. Let’s say that you’re asked like an open-ended question that’s not really behavioral in structure or competency-based, how do you answer those, like, “Why do you want to work here?”

So, you can still follow the point system, “I’m going to give three reasons why I want to work here,” or, “I’m going to give two reasons why I want to work here.” Two to three is usually my sweet spot. Why does that help? Because it allows your answer to be more memorable from the interviewer’s perspective. It also keeps you from rambling and it also keeps you from under-answering.

That’s a great technique that I like to recommend to individuals who may be ADHD because they sometimes struggle with the organization of their thoughts or they lose their place. So, I say, “When they ask you a question, obviously, give yourself a few seconds to think about it. It’s okay to think about it. And then while you’re thinking about it, figure out your number, what’s your number going to be? ‘Okay, my number is going to be three and I’m going to give three reasons why I want to work here’ and then you start answering.”

Pete Mockaitis
And talking about ADHD and whether it’s clinically diagnosed or just that we’re all distracted, is the interviewer themselves is also a human being whose attention is subject to wander, and it’s just magical. I’ve noticed this in my keynotes, it’s like when you say, “There are three key things,” it just sort of like the pens click, “Oh, one, two, three,” it’s like they’re just primed. And so, why not galvanize attention that way?

Zeinab Kahera
That’s right. And when you say it through points and then you summarize really quickly, again, it makes it more easier for them to remember because you’ve organized it in a way where they don’t have to go through and search for what you said.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Zeinab Kahera
Very true.

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

Zeinab Kahera
Yeah, I was thinking about what are some things that I have found to be really helpful in a successful job search, and I identified like five things that I wanted to share. The first one was that you have to have a plan that is manageable but flexible. And you can use the SMART goal setup if you want to for your plan but the reason why the plan is important is because it allows you to track and measure your progress. So, that’s number one.

Another one, though, is that, in your measurements of success, there has to be an existence of grace because I find that people are very hard on themselves or they set these expectations that can be somewhat unrealistic. So, is your measurement of success graceful? Then you have to also be willing to be uncomfortable because we live in a time that we get things instantly a lot or we have a perception that we’re getting it instantly because time is still time.

I think that we feel like when we start applying, we should instantly start hearing something, there’s not going to be any waiting time, and that’s just a lie. It’s going to be very uncomfortable and you’re going to sometimes question your decision-making process, but if that’s coming up for you, the discomfort, that’s a normal thing, so embrace it.

I mentioned before about connecting with the best parts of yourself. You have to trust that person. I think sometimes we default to the worst parts of ourselves, and that’s what causes us to question our decisions a lot more. But you did something to get you to where you are right now. You didn’t just show up. So, what were those things that you did? What were those things the best parts of you that helps you to get to where you are right now? And lean into those, channel those.

And the very last one is you got to allow other people to help you. and this really comes up, especially in that networking piece because I think that people feel like, “Well, I don’t have a big network.” If you even just found four names, three names, and you write an email, and you say, “Hey, I’m making a career change, I’m getting into this industry, I’m just looking for some potential opportunities. I’ve attached my resume. I’d love for you to look at it. If you know anyone who may be interested in hiring me, please send them my way.” Done.

And it’s okay. Why? Because if you were challenged with the opportunity to help someone, most likely you’re going to do it. You’re not going to say no. So, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Pete Mockaitis
And I think what’s fun about that one is because when it comes to helping, that’s one of the easiest things you can do. It’s like, “Oh, I can send an email that might take three minutes. Like, hey, you people know each other now,” and it could very well result in they get a job there, and then both people are grateful. You’ve scored brownie points with both people, the hirer and the hiree. And it took you only a few minutes, and it’s almost like you get a sliver of the credit. So, just in terms of like impact per minute, I think it’s just huge and a fun to help that way.

Zeinab Kahera
Yeah, best investment in time you can put in for yourself. And I mentioned just recently coming out of a job search, and one of the things that I did differently was I was like, “I’m going to use my network this time because in the past I didn’t do that.” That’s how I got a job literally. A friend had a friend that worked at the company that I’m going to, and I set up a coffee chat because I was like, “Okay, well, I want this person to actually know that I’m qualified to do it, and I want to…” so, we did an informational interview, is another way you can call it.

And when I spoke to her, there wasn’t a job available but the conversation that we had was so impactful for her that when a job became available that I applied to, she went from just a reference to an advocate, emailing the hiring manager, having a chat with the recruiter. And so, for me, I was like, “Wow, this is so much rewarding,” and it felt weird asking for help but I’m glad that I did it because my job search went so much more smoother and quicker than I had anticipated.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. All right. Well, now can you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Zeinab Kahera
Yeah. I’m not a Christian but I love this quote from the Bible, it says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” And I love that because it talks about being able to be yourself and evolve through educating and learning and transforming yourself, not necessarily just falling into place and doing what everybody else is doing.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite book?

Zeinab Kahera
The Four Agreements. I love that book. I love that book.

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

Zeinab Kahera
I have two, and these are big because I give them my money two use them. One is Grammarly. I love Grammarly. And then the other one is Calendly. And what took hold of Calendly is just a story behind it because I remember using it before the CEO started really getting a lot of funding, and just to see it evolve. I love Calendly.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, me too. Did you schedule this meeting with Calendly?

Zeinab Kahera
I surely did.

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

Zeinab Kahera
Be kind to yourself and show yourself grace. People tell me that when I tell them that it helps them a lot.

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

Zeinab Kahera
Yes. So, once again, thank you so much for having me here. This is a great conversation. I love talking about this stuff, so much that I turned a career into it, so I appreciate it. My website is ZeinabKahera.com. So, that is Z, E as in elephant, I, N as in Nancy, A as in apple, B as in boy. Kahera, K-A-H-E-R-A.com. Email is zeinab@zeinabkahera.com. And you can hit me up at LinkedIn. LinkedIn is like that is my boo. I love me some LinkedIn. I’m on there all the time, so definitely reach out to me there. Let’s make a connection. If you ever want to practice an informational or an interview or a coffee chat, holler at me. Yeah, that’s it.

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

Zeinab Kahera
Thank you so much, Pete. I appreciate you having me today.

802: How to Level Up Your Career and Find a Job You Love with Brandi Nicole Johnson

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Brandi Nicole Johnson shares simple and practical tips for streamlining your job search.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to get really clear on what you want  
  2. The best salary database I’ve ever seen
  3. The tiny mistake that can ruin your entire resume

About Brandi

Brandi Nicole Johnson is an award winning international speaker, facilitator and coach. Currently, Brandi remains focused on her passion for developing the world’s next generation of leaders and creating experiences that transform lives. 

Brandi spent most of her career at the Center for Creative Leadership, a globally ranked, internationally known provider of leadership development, research, and executive education. 

Brandi has a Master of Science Degree in Management and Leadership and two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and Communication Studies. She loves consuming food that is life changing and asking provocative questions that inspire action.  

 

 Resources Mentioned

Brandi Nicole Johnson Interview Transcript

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

Brandi Nicole Johnson
Thank you so much, Pete. I’m so excited to be here today. Thank you for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, me, too. Me, too. Well, I’m excited to dig into your pro tips on how one levels up one’s career. But, first, I want to hear a bit about you and the Girl Scouts. You’re a lifetime member, you’ve been awarded the Girl Scout Gold Award. What’s the story here and why do you love them so much?

Brandi Nicole Johnson
Ooh, I’ve been a Girl Scout since 1995, so I actually got involved because I was transitioning school systems, and I wanted to stay connected to my previous friend group. And so, a friend, a childhood friend’s mom actually reached out to my mom, and my mom was like, “Well, this is a way for you to stay involved.”

So, I started as a junior, so those were the green uniforms back in the day. I’m not really sure what color they are now. And then stayed in until I graduated from high school. I got my Girl Scout Gold Award at my last year of high school. I created a project that was really focused on helping high school seniors really think through their options, and whether or not college was the right thing for them to pursue. And if so, like how do they pick the right college?

That was something that I really struggled with when I was a senior, so I really wanted to create a playbook that made those things easier. And then since graduating, I have continued to be involved in the movement at all levels of the organization, so global, national, and local. I love it.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, I’m curious, is there a particular vibe or ethos that captures you emotionally there?

Brandi Nicole Johnson
I would say making the world a better place. So, that’s embedded in the Girl Scout promise and law, and when I think about how I framed my career, when I think about pivotal decisions I’ve made in my life, I always think about what’s going to have the greatest impact.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. All right. Well, you’re also making an impact in your Level Up Your Career program. Tell us, what’s this program and what’s the big idea here?

Brandi Nicole Johnson
I started the Level Up Your Career program because I wanted to scale my impact. So, rather than meeting with coaching clients one on one, Level Up Your Career is a group live training opportunity where you can quickly learn everything that you need to learn in order to be set up for success in your job search.

So, typically, we would take four weeks over the period of a month to walk through my signature career coaching framework. And that’s rooted in, first, creating a strong job search strategy, then crafting resumes and brand that get results, then taking an opportunity to think through, “How do you maximize your interview performance?” And then, finally, getting prepared to actually level up your offer once you get an offer that you’re really excited about.

So, in a couple of weeks, at the end of September, we’re actually going to offer the program again in a Masterclass format. So, over a period of two evenings that start at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, we’re going to take an opportunity to walk through that same framework in an accelerated fashion. So, I’m really excited about it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, now, I’ve got to know. Can you share with us some of the juiciest gems in each of these four phases in terms of I see in my mind’s eye that silly ad about one weird trick to eliminate belly fat? Brandi, can you give us at least one weird trick, or it doesn’t have to be that weird, inside each of these that is super handy to leveling them up?

Brandi Nicole Johnson
Yup, absolutely. So, I’d say in that first phase, especially when you want to really focus on creating a strong job search strategy, I see so many people today on LinkedIn talking about how much time they’re spending on job applications, and I highly recommend not doing that. And I recommend not doing that by getting really clear around what it is that you’re searching for.

So, there are a multitude of resources that we can pursue to help us learn more about what criteria we want to set so that we’re really clear about what it is that we’re looking for in terms of our next professional opportunity, and then letting technology do the work for you.

So, one of the magic things, or one of the wonderful things really about LinkedIn right now is that LinkedIn allows you to set up job search alerts. So, once you’re clear about that criteria, LinkedIn will actually notify you when something that aligns with your criteria becomes available. And so then, you’re streamlining your job search in terms of the amount that time you’re spending actually on applications.

In that second phase where we’re thinking through how to craft resumes and brands that really gets results in a way that really want and keeps recruiters in your inbox, this really comes down to helping other people understand what you can do for them. And the best way that one can illustrate that is by taking an opportunity to quantify every single contribution and accomplishment that you have achieved in your past.

So, if there was an increase, actually talking about the percentage. If there was a revenue goal that you met, actually talking about that dollar amount. If there was a portfolio that you managed, actually talking about the depth of that portfolio and the size. When we get to maximizing your interview performance, and this is where I see a lot of candidates go wrong because the reality is, if you’ve taken the time to apply, you have submitted your application, you’ve then been invited for an interview, interview experiences can make or break your candidacy.

And so, it’s really important to make sure you’re investing the amount of proper time to set yourself up for success. So, that often means that you have to practice beforehand, and that you’re also really clear from your previous conversations with the recruiter, from your research about what that company is looking for, and what problems that role will actually have an opportunity to solve.

And when you get to that final phase, which is my favorite because it’s all about the money, this is when we don’t want to leave any money on the table. And so, in order to be best prepared for any salary negotiation conversation, it’s going to require that you do your research upfront. I don’t recommend going to check out Glassdoor. I actually recommend taking it a step further and going to look at trusted resources of information. So, one of the best ways to do that is through salary databases that are open source.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, Glassdoor, not the trusted source. What are the open source for salary databases that are trusted?

Brandi Nicole Johnson
Yup. So, if you look at H1B data, for example, that’ll give you a really good pulse as to what the base salary is. Now, the reality is compensation varies based on industry. So, if you’re in tech, you’re likely looking at a compensation package that may also include a bonus or equity of some kind. Another trusted salary resource, I love 81cents. They just got acquired not too long ago, but their mission is still very much the same, and that is they can help you understand your market value and what kinds of compensation expectations you should have going into that job search, and especially as you’re preparing to get an offer. So, that’s another wonderful resource.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. Well, we’ll zoom in a little bit on the first piece with job search strategy. Are there any particular approaches you recommend we go about doing to for our own soul-searching, or identifying, “All right, these are the things that make all the difference when it comes to finding a fit you love versus hate”?

Brandi Nicole Johnson
Yeah, for sure. One, I think in today’s time, being really honest about the reality of what’s not working for you and your current role, if you are working, or, if you’re not working, what you’re more excited about. I think, over the last two and three years, especially as we journeyed throughout the pandemic and all the other things that have been happening around the world, the reality is work is different. And because work is different, we have an opportunity to really think strategically about what it is that we want so that we’re making sure we’re pursuing opportunities that align with our strengths and with our preferences.

So, the first thing is honor yourself. The second thing that I’d say that’s really important is take some time to do some introspection. So, whether you hire a career coach, whether you talk with a trusted friend, whether you take some time, spend half a day reflecting on questions like, “What kinds of problems do I want to solve?”

For me, when I was in the same situation and job searching, it was when I had taken my first sabbatical. I remember thinking about, “How did I want to spend my energy?” because the reality is that, in today’s time in 2022, most of us are spending most of our awake hours at work, if we’re working. And so, for me, I really wanted to spend my awake hours doing something that gave me great joy, but that also gave me an opportunity to learn and earn.

And so, I returned to coaching, I returned to learning and development. And so, I invite and encourage everyone to think through that same lens of “What are you excited about? What gives you great energy? What kinds of problems do you want to solve?” Take that one step further, and also think through, “What brands do you really admire? Who has a strategy that you’re really excited about helping them build, and helping them execute?” Those are some of the guiding things and principles that I often encourage clients to really think through and to think about.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Lovely. Well, I’m also curious, when it comes to this personal brand business, can you speak to that and give us some examples of what does an okay personal brand sound like versus an excellent one?

Brandi Nicole Johnson
Yeah, I would say we have to remember what age and time we live in, which is that everything is searchable in today’s time. And because it’s searchable, that means we really need to be mindful, especially digitally, of what we’re showing. It doesn’t really matter whether or not your Instagram profile is public or whether or not you have an unlisted video on YouTube. The reality is the power of meme and screenshots is still very real.

And so, the first thing I always recommend when it comes to thinking about your brand is making sure you have done an audit. So, for example, is what I’m posting, is what I’m sharing, is what I’m commenting on something that’s helpful to me getting my next career opportunity or is it not? Does it detract away from the opportunities that I want?

And so, if there are things that detract away from it, I encourage you to delete it and remove it. And then, also, really thinking about how you brand yourself starting with your name. So, I know from a previous private coaching client I had, we did a quick Google search on their name, and we realized that there was someone with the same name that had an open warrant out.

And so, I was like, “You probably want to put your middle initial in your name from now on professionally just to make sure it’s abundantly clear that you are not this person, should a hiring manager ever do a search.”

The other thing I really encourage is to take an opportunity to really invest and creating a really robust LinkedIn profile. So, not only thinking thoughtfully about your picture and using every character of your headline, but making sure you’ve captured your experience in a really meaningful way throughout your profile, and that you have at least 50 connections so that you’re able to still grow and build your network.

I also highly recommend commenting on posts that you find intriguing and engaging with others across the LinkedIn network community. LinkedIn is very powerful in that in today’s time, if there is a new opportunity, especially if it’s a new job opportunity, it goes there first. Hundreds of thousands of roles are posted there week over week, and so it’s a great place not only to build and increase your professional network, but to also find out about new opportunities as they become available.

Pete Mockaitis
And you said something that made my ears perk up, when you said things that you can do that are detracting from your online presence from a career professional perspective. Well, I imagine there are some things that are obvious and maybe juicy and funny, so tell us about those. But what are some things that are maybe more subtle, like, “Oh, it didn’t occur to me that I should perhaps not do that”?

Brandi Nicole Johnson
Yeah, I would think thoughtfully through that lens because this is going to be very contextual, right? So, through the lens of I always say that if you wouldn’t want to testify about it in a court of law, you probably should not post it. If you wouldn’t want to be called to HR because you posted it, you probably shouldn’t post it.

Pete Mockaitis
Or in an interview, “Brandi, I noticed this on your Instagram.”

Brandi Nicole Johnson
That’s exactly right.

Pete Mockaitis
“Oh, well, you don’t think that’s kind of funny?”

Brandi Nicole Johnson
You’re right.

Pete Mockaitis
“Oh, no? Uh-oh. Okay.”

Brandi Nicole Johnson
Yeah. So, if you don’t want to be asked about it in an interview, which is always fair game if you posted it, again, it’s probably something that you would want to remove in that season. In today’s time, some companies now even have social media policies so they’ve been very specific about what you can and cannot post on social media, or they even have a disclaimer to say, “Hey, my posts are my own.” So, I just always encourage all of my clients to be really mindful of what they’re posting, whether or not they’re job searching or not. Like, your brand always matters.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. That’s good. Well, now let’s talk a bit about resumes. Any top do’s or don’ts, mistakes you see all the time in terms of things that people should stop doing or start doing right away?

Brandi Nicole Johnson
Yes, absolutely. So, I see typos in resumes all the time, and that’s got to stop. So, get somebody else to proofread your resume. A typo, for me, is an automatic no. I’m going to move your resume to the bottom of the pile. I think it’s also really important to acknowledge again that resumes yield a short attention span.

So, the research says that recruiters and hiring managers typically spend about six seconds reviewing your resume before they move on to the next. So, you have a very small finite amount of time to get their attention. So, again, make sure your resume is aligned with not only representing your experience in a quantifiable way, but really painting a picture of what you want them to know about you, and giving them an opportunity to think through what it might be like to have a conversation with you in real time because it’s often the interview that comes next.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, you’re bringing back fond memories of resume typos back when I was doing hundreds of consulting resumes. There were several people who were looking for a challenging role in a world-class “consulting” firm, and I was like, “Oh, well, I don’t think this is the place that you’re looking for, actually.”

Brandi Nicole Johnson
See what I mean? Use Grammarly, use spell check, get a friend to proofread. Like, it really does make a difference. It really does.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, Brandi, this is fun. Tell me, anything else you really want to make sure to mention before we hear about some of your favorite things?

Brandi Nicole Johnson
I would just say, if there’s anything I can do to support any of you, just reach out and let me know. You can always reach me at BrandiNicoleJohnson.com.

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

Brandi Nicole Johnson
“Be who you needed when you were younger.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you.
Well, now, could you share a favorite study or experiment or a piece of research?

Brandi Nicole Johnson
Right now, I’m reading a lot about toxic work cultures, and the impact that they can have not only on our careers and our lives, but also our health. And so, for me, I’ve become ever more vigilant and passionate about making sure everyone that I’m connected to is pursuing opportunities that they’re really excited about and where they know they can truly grow and advance their careers.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite book?

Brandi Nicole Johnson
Becoming by Michelle Obama.

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

Brandi Nicole Johnson
I’m going to say it’s a tool that makes me better, my prayer journal.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great, yeah.

Brandi Nicole Johnson
So, I take an opportunity every morning to write down and capture at least three things I’m grateful for, and then three things that are top of mind for me that I likely am worried or concerned about, and then I let them go.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. All right. Well, my next question is a favorite habit, so it sounds like we’ve already heard of one.

Brandi Nicole Johnson
I’m working on a new habit, which is I try to see my trainer every week day. So, not only does it give me an opportunity to invest more in my own wellness, but also in movement. And so, that’s going really well. It’s a habit I’m trying to build.

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

Brandi Nicole Johnson
“Consider it done.”

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

Brandi Nicole Johnson
Yup, absolutely. You can go to BrandiNicoleJohson.com.

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

Brandi Nicole Johnson
Yeah, absolutely.
So, if you are finding yourself in a place where you’re overwhelmed by your job search, where you are looking to transition and level up in your career, I invite you to join us for the next Level Up Your Career Masterclass a little bit later on this month. You can find out more at CareerGold.co.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Brandi, thank you. This has been a treat. I wish you much luck and fun as you level up.

Brandi Nicole Johnson
Thank you. It’s been an honor. Thank you so much, Pete. Take care.

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

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

You’ll Learn:

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

About Jeremy

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

Resources Mentioned

Jeremy Schifeling Interview Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. All right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jeremy Schifeling
That’s right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Yup.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Alrighty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
No kidding.

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, okay, endorsements.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

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

Pete Mockaitis
Twice. He’s so good.

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

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite tool?

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

Pete Mockaitis
I think so. Keep talking.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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