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694: How to Make Your Voice Heard with Connson Locke

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Connson Locke says: "Making your voice heard is not just about dominating other people."

Connson Locke reveals the factors that get people to sit up and take notice.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why we pay attention to some more than others 
  2. The elements of an influential voice
  3. The simple secret to becoming more likable 

 

About Connson

Professor Connson Locke joined the London School of Economics (LSE) in 2008 where she teaches Leadership, Organizational Behaviour, and Negotiation and Decision Making.  Connson has over 30 years’ experience as an educator, coach, and consultant working in Europe, Asia Pacific, North America, and Australia. Prior to entering academia, she served as Regional Training and Development Manager for the Boston Consulting Group where she was responsible for the learning and development of consulting staff in 10 offices across Asia Pacific.

Connson holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Business Administration (Organizational Behaviour) from the University of California, Berkeley and a B.A. in Sociology from Harvard University where she graduated with honours. Her new book, Making Your Voice Heard, uses the research on power and influence to help people speak up to those who have more power than they do. 

Resources Mentioned

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Connson Locke Interview Transcript

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

Connson Locke
You’re welcome. Thanks for inviting me, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, my pleasure. I am excited to talk about how we can go about making our voices heard. But, first, I think we need to hear just a bit about you, bungee jumping in Thailand.

Connson Locke
Well, bungee jumping in Thailand, it was in my early 30s and I was going through an early mid-life crisis and I didn’t know what to do with myself, and I thought, “I’m just going to go away on vacation by myself.” And in Asia, at least at the time, it was quite safe for a woman traveling alone. So, I went to Thailand and I thought, “Oh, look, there’s a bungee jumping place that’s over a lake.” And I’d always wanted to bungee jump, and I thought, “It’s over water so it’s probably safe, right?” It was only afterwards that I found out if you hit water at such high speed, it’s like hitting the ground.

And so, I went, I got this tuk-tuk driver, and the tuk-tuk is like the local taxi, he didn’t speak any English, and I pointed out where I wanted to go, so he took me there. He had never seen bungee jumping before so he was the only person there that was watching me, essentially, except for the staff. So, I stand up there, and the thing about bungee jumping, you see the photos, it looks like people are flying. You do not fly. You drop like a rock.

So, I stepped off the platform thinking, “Oh, I’m going to fly like a bird,” and I just went, boom, straight down, screaming. So, afterwards, I go back to the tuk-tuk, and the driver was staring at me, like, “Oh, my God, I cannot believe what you just did.” And he’s like tapping his chest going, “Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom,” like your heart must be going crazy, and I said, “Yes?” And so, he bought me a bottle of water, which he makes hardly any money but he bought me a bottle of water because he felt so bad for me. That was me bungee jumping in Thailand.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, wow. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom? I bet that probably plays in your head from time to time. That’s unforgettable. Well, so I take it that it wasn’t something you’re going to do again?

Connson Locke
No, no, it was one of those things I wanted to try once but that’s it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, there you have it. Well, I’ve been skydiving and hang gliding, and I loved it, but bungee jumping just feels like my stomach would go, “Waah,” just from the jolt.

Connson Locke
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
And I don’t know if I would do so well. Okay. Well, so I’m glad we covered that. That’s important. And now it’s also important, your book Making Your Voice Heard. That is something, boy, our listeners have asked for before. Can you tell us what’s kind of like the core thesis here?

Connson Locke
So, this is all about what I call upward influence. How do you influence people who have as much or more power than you do? And this is something that has always interested me. And I teach leadership at the LSE, so I’ve been teaching leadership for about 13 years now. And what I noticed in a lot of leadership courses, the focus is very much on, “How do the leaders influence their team?” But, come on, if you’re the boss, how hard is it to make your team do what you want them to do? Like, okay, you’ve got to engage them and all that, but still.

What’s really important and what I struggled with for the 16 years before I entered academia was, “How do I influence my boss?” or, “How do I influence the client?” or, “How do I influence the people who have more power than me, the government official, or whoever it is that I’m trying to convince?” That’s the challenging thing and that’s what the book is focused on.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, I’m looking forward to digging into the particular details. But maybe could you start us off by sharing with us a particularly surprising and counterintuitive discovery you’ve made while doing this research?

Connson Locke
I suppose what I find interesting about it is that it’s possible. What I mean is I’ve always been a very shy introverted person and, growing up, I’m Chinese-American, and growing up my parents were very traditional Chinese, I always grew up with this idea that, “Hierarchy is hierarchy and you’re not supposed to argue with your boss. Like, you don’t disagree with your boss. That’s crazy. And why would your boss change his or her mind because of what you say? They are the boss.”

And so, to me, I guess it’s not counterintuitive but it was something that was surprising for me is that, actually, this is something your boss wants you to do in a lot of cases. Like, they want to hear your voice, they want to get your opinion, and if you think that something is going wrong and you can fix it, they want to know that. So, it’s one of those things that, once I realized it’s beneficial for the organization, oftentimes the people in charge want to hear your voice, then that kind of changed the way I looked at it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yes, I concur as someone who has been both the boss and the follower. As the boss, it is genuinely helpful when I say something and someone tells me, not necessarily, “That’s the stupidest idea ever. You’re so wrong.” But rather, “Hmm, do you think that’s the best course of action, given X, Y, Z?” and I go, “Oh, shoot. Yeah, you’re right. Sorry, thank you.” And then, “It’d be like disastrous if we went ahead and charged ahead with the thing I originally thought of, so thank you, collaborator, for bringing that to my attention.”

Okay. Well, so then I want to dig into the how-to of that. But maybe, zooming out, can you tell us, kind of fundamentally, what makes some people more influential than others? And I’ve had listeners say something like, “Hey, sometimes I’ll be in a meeting, and I’ll say something, and then someone else, and it was sort of like, ‘Hmm,” kind of barely acknowledged. And someone else will say just about exactly the same thing, and they’ll say, ‘Oh, yeah,’ and there’s like enthusiasm and movement, and I think, ‘What the heck is going on here?’ And it feels horrible.” You feel so small when that happens. But what are some drivers behind that? What makes someone more influential than someone else?

Connson Locke
So, sometimes it’s pure bias, sometimes there is maybe the person who is being paid attention to is maybe physically bigger, or is taller, or has been around longer, or is more senior. So, these are things you don’t necessarily have control over and there are biases towards listening to those people more. But what you can do to be that person that people listen to is there’s reputation, and then there is delivery style, and, of course, there’s content, obviously, but we’re talking about two people presenting the same amount of content, so who gets listened to more, assuming all other things are equal.

Reputation is what’s called basis of power. So, basis of power are where you get your power from, and if you’re the boss, you get your power from things like you have access to rewards and punishments. But if you’re not the boss, you get your power from two things. One is called expert power, which is people respect you for your expertise. And the other is called reverend power, which is people like you, but this takes time, you have to build it over time.

And if you’ve built that respect, if people respect you, and they go, “Oh, okay. Well, I’ve worked with Connson for a long time, and when she says something, I know that it’s worth listening to,” or, “I’ve worked with Connson a long time, and I really like listening to…I’ve really liked working with her, so I think I will listen to her.” That is something that can really feed into that. So, that’s the reputation.

But the other thing is the delivery style. And delivery style is everything from your body language. We think a lot about body language but, actually, I think what’s even more important than body language is the voice. What are we doing with our voice? Are we emphasizing? Are we being monotone? Are we using pauses? And that’s something that we can practice, but, also, it’s delivery is like it’s being pithy, it’s like getting to the point, it’s catching people’s attention. So, it’s that combination of how do you sound, how do you look, and what are you saying.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so then let’s talk about both the long-term game and the short-term game. Let’s hear first some quick hits, the do’s and don’ts of sort of like the voice and the presentation and the delivery style because that’s something we can do immediately and, hopefully, see some impact. So, what are the top things that give us an influence boost versus an influence ding?

Connson Locke
Okay. So, when it comes to delivery style, think of how you look and how you sound. And I’m going to assume that what you’re saying is the same regardless, so let’s focus on how you look and how you sound. How you look, if you’re online, you need to pay attention to lightning. If you’re not online then, obviously, you don’t have to worry about that, you’re all in the same room anyway. If you’re online, you also need to pay attention to sound quality, so getting a good headset so people can hear you.

The other things about how you look is think about your clothing, your hairstyle. Are you standing up straight? Are you slouched or are you taking up space? So, the good things are, if you’re standing up or sitting up straight, you’re taking up some space, which means you’re not shrinking, you’re not kind of hiding, but you’re really owning that space. You’re using eye contact while speaking because that’s what makes people…that’s what makes you come across as confident. And you’re using a tone of voice that’s confident and natural, a pace that’s natural, and you’re willing to pause.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, could you maybe give us a verbal demonstration then associated with what does a nice influential voice sound like versus a not-so influential voice?

Connson Locke
Sure. So, if I’m trying to tell you about what makes me influential, yeah, and I’m talking and I’m just kind of using a lot of filler words, it’s not very engaging and, after a while, you kind of tune out. Instead, if you’re short, sharp, sweet, you deliver the information, look confident, sound confident, and deliver your information in sharp bites. Okay, I’ve got a confident tone of voice, I’m pausing in between each point, and sometimes I’ll change my tone if I’m emphasizing something or maybe I’ll say something a bit softer if I want to get your attention. That’s using your voice to its potential and it’s something you can practice. Everyone can practice at home. You record yourself on your phone, you play it back.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s great. It’s so funny, in the first one, my attention started drifting just within a couple of seconds, and this is kind of my job is to pay attention to everything you’re saying.

Connson Locke
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
And think about how we’re going to package and present it. So, I thought that was pretty funny and then there may very well have been some listeners, I think you’d notice the same thing or maybe even skipped ahead, like, “Oh, I’m bored right now. Let’s get more.” So, that’s potent there. And then part of it is practicing and recording yourself so you can just hear and see the difference for yourself. Any other tips in terms of doing the preparation so that that is possible?

Connson Locke
You know, who I think one of my best coaches has been, and he hasn’t meant to be my coach, my husband who I have been married to for about 20 years now. He’s a very impatient person. And when I first started dating him, I would tell him stories about what happened to me at work, and I’d go on and on and on, and he would just drift off, like he was not listening anymore.

So, over the years, I learned to be very much to the point. Like, I think a great way of practicing is to find a friend or a family member who you know is pretty impatient and practice telling them a story. If you can keep their attention, you’re getting to the point.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I like it. Okay, so that’s the vocal stuff. You mentioned clothing, and maybe this is common sense but maybe perhaps not common practice. What are the do’s and don’ts when it comes to clothing?

Connson Locke
With clothing, you have to pay attention to the culture of the organization you’re in. Don’t make assumptions. I had a student who went for an interview at an advertising company, and she wore a very conservative dark blue suit, and she noticed that everyone around her was wearing colorful funky kind of creative clothing. She did not get the job. So, don’t make assumptions about what’s the appropriate clothing or not. Really, you need to observe the culture around you and adopt what is best in that environment.

Pete Mockaitis
I notice in my own clothing game, which is mediocre – I’m wearing a T-shirt right now but you’re cool with it. Thanks, Connson – is that just sort of little things in terms of like, “Oh, there’s a wrinkle I didn’t notice before but, oh, now I see it and it’s there,” or, “Oh, there’s a little bit of a spot of, I don’t know if it was maybe a little bit of grease or oil or ketchup I got to wipe up and had just a smidge of that sort of oil or residue left behind.” So, it’s like a wet spot but it’s there for, I guess, the day. That’s what I find with clothing is those little things.

And, I don’t know, sometimes I wonder how much do people care but I think I’m coming around to thinking that even if it’s not fully in their conscious purview, it’s sending a little bit of a signal that’s impeding influence. Would you agree with that or what do you think about those little clothing things?

Connson Locke
I think with clothing, it’s the impression that you make. So, if there’s a little stain and you hardly notice it, I doubt anyone else is going to notice it, unless you point it out to them, which I would suggest you don’t do. But, otherwise, it’s about the general impression. And so, as long as, in terms of the general impression, if you’re making the impression that you want to make, sometimes you want to make a more casual impression, sometimes you want to make a more formal impression, and so it’s all about that kind of broad impression that you’re making, and that’s what you should be aiming for. I wouldn’t worry too much about the little wrinkles or the stains.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, thanks for that. That helped there. I think fit also can factor into things in terms of if it’s a little too tight or a little too baggy, it looks quite different than when it’s sharp, like, “Oh, yeah, that fits you just right.” You just look good no matter the context. Okay, so clothing, we’re not going to say much more about that. When it comes to that expertise and the reputation, sort of the long game, how do you recommend we develop that well?

Connson Locke
So, developing expert power, the most obvious way to do it is just to be really good at what you do, be really good at your job, but also to make sure people know that you’re good at your job. So, for example, when I first started working at LSE, I got a lot of good evaluations as a teacher, but not everyone knows what evaluations everyone else is getting. But the head of my group was so impressed with my teaching scores that she actually had this little, at one of the staff meetings, she gave me a little award for getting the best teaching evaluations that she’s ever seen.

And so, that was great because I didn’t have to brag on my own behalf, which never looks good. She was the one who kind of let people know what I was doing, and that helped me gain expert power. So, then my colleagues were like, “Oh, wow. I didn’t know that Connson was good at that.” So, it’s being really good at what you do but also making sure, finding a way to let people know that you’re good at it.

If you want to build expert power with a particular person, it can really help if you can help them solve a problem that they’re working on, that they’re struggling with, because then you’re helping them solve this problem and they’ll be grateful, and they’ll also be like, “Oh, you’re pretty smart.” So, those are the ways of building expert power.

Pete Mockaitis
And then what I’m intrigued by your fantastic evaluations, and maybe particular pedagogical things that are not within the scope here, but is there anything you do in the classroom you think that is particularly powerful when it comes to being liked and influential by your students?

Connson Locke
I think, in terms of the evaluations that I’ve received, there are two things that students usually say. One is they can tell that I love what I teach, like I really care about this. But it’s not just that I’m so fascinated about the topic that I teach, it’s that I care about helping them become better leaders. So, when I teach, it’s not me kind of indulging myself. When I teach, it’s about helping my students become better at leadership, at influence, at doing better in their careers, and they can tell that. They can tell that I want to help them. So, that really engages them.

The other thing is I tell lots of stories, and they love the stories. So, I tell stories about my kids, about my husband. I guess I’ve already mentioned something about my husband today, and it’s just I bring all of my personal experiences into it, and they think that’s very engaging.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, certainly. Okay. Well, so then when it comes to the workplace, well, hey, that’s been a common theme we’ve seen in terms of just caring, just is huge in terms of people pick up on it, they want to reciprocate, you’re motivated, you get more creative ideas, you look out for their good, and so all kinds of great things happen just by caring, and caring can be rare in some environments, so it really is a distinguisher. So, what else do you recommend folks do to bolster their likability at work?

Connson Locke
So, in terms of likability, so expertise is one thing, and we’ve already talked about that. Likability is different in that it’s really about getting to know people as people, not as work colleagues. It’s really having that curiosity in a person. It’s wanting to connect with people just for the sake of connecting. So, for example, I don’t know, if you’ve got someone who works at the front desk, and you’re walking past the front desk to go to the stationery cupboard, pause at the front desk, chat with them, get to know them, at least get to know their name and who they are.

It’s that connecting with colleagues, chatting with people at the coffee machine. I know that doesn’t happen so much now with the pandemic and everything. I had a colleague, just today, who’s helping me with something, and she was so amazingly helpful. I said to her, “I’m going to take you out to dinner in return.” And so, it’s that taking the time to get to know people and appreciate people. That makes you likable.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. Well, you also write a bit about energy and body cues. Can you share with us a little bit about what are these, how do we identify them, and use them to our advantage?

Connson Locke
So, when it comes to body cues, I think most of what I think is important to focus on is what you are communicating to other people because that’s what you have control over. And what I think is most important, when you’re trying to be influential, is communicating confidence. And so, confidence, communicating confidence is everything you learn in presentation skills training – stand up straight, take up space, use eye contact, sound confident, all of those things.

When we’re trying to interpret other people’s body cues, we have to be very careful because it’s really easy to misinterpret. So, one thing I usually warn people about is narcissists are great at looking confident, and we confuse confidence with competence, and, obviously, it’s not the same thing. If someone looks confident, we think that they’re pretty competent. The next time you are interviewing someone or listening to someone, and you think, “Wow, they really know what they’re talking about,” just question yourself a little bit, “What am I basing this on? Am I basing this on the fact that they sound really confident? Or, am I actually basing this on something concrete?”

Like, if you’re interviewing someone, how do you protect yourself against a narcissist? There are a couple of things you can do. One is you ask for specific examples of what they’ve accomplished, because once you get the examples, then you can hear how they talk about the examples. Do they talk about it as if they did everything themselves, or do they give other people credit?

And the other this is you ask other people how they were treated by this person, especially the receptionist or the junior people, because narcissists tend to talk down to people who they don’t think are very important. So, I guess the bottom-line is don’t read too much into other people’s body cues, and, in fact, try to get additional data to make sure that what you’re interpreting is accurate.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, that sounds dead-on. And then I find there’s an interesting blend, I was chatting with my buddy Connor about this, not Connie, not Connson – Connor. And he said, I think I was chatting, it was a speech therapist. I was taking my son to a speech therapist, and she said, “Yeah, his pronunciation on words is pretty good but when it gets stretched out to a whole sentence, it does get a little bit harder to understand.” And I thought, “You know, I’ve always thought the word was pronounced pronunciation, and you’re the speech therapist, so I would imagine pronunciation is your whole game. So, if you say it’s pronoun-ciation, then I’m inclined to think maybe it is.”

And I think it’s so fascinating, and maybe this is agreeableness, the personality trait that I’m capturing here, but it’s like there are some folks who seem, and she was very sweet, but there are some folks who seem very confident and positive that their way, their thoughts are correct. And I, who have, I guess, a decent bit of humility and agreeableness, or whatever the construct is, when I receive that, I go, “Oh, okay. Well, I kind of thought it was this,” or, “Hmm, that doesn’t make much sense to me given A, B, C in my own experience, but you really seem to think…”

And so, it’s tricky and, often, that’s the conversation I have with friends, it’s like, “Wait. Am I crazy? What’s the deal here?” And so, hey, help us if you can. Help us decode that. Like, how much stock should we put in the confidence of another person relative to our own knowledge, data, expertise? And it’s probably not a one-size-fits-all answer. I’m putting you on the spot, but how do you think about that dance?

Connson Locke
The way I think about it would be trying to break down, “Is this person…Do I feel like this person is confident in what they’re saying because of the way they are saying it? Or, are they actually putting some data and some logic and some actual concrete support behind what they’re saying?” Because if they’re giving me some concrete support, okay, maybe I’ll be a bit more confident in what they’re saying. If it’s simply they’re delivering it with confidence, no, don’t be fooled by that.

I’m just going to use my husband as an example again. When my children, my daughters are now teenagers but I remember when they were younger, when they were like eight and ten years old, and my husband is the full-time parent. And one time I heard one of my daughters asking her father about a history question. We live in the UK so, obviously, they’re not going to ask me a history question. I don’t know about the queens and the kings of England and all of that.

So, they asked their father, who’s English, and he gave a very definitive answer, and so they went and did their homework. And then they came back to me the next day, and they said, “I got that question wrong. I asked daddy, and daddy was so confident, and so I thought it was right, but it was wrong.” And I was like, “Yes. Well, you should really double-check for yourself. Daddy says things confidently but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right.” And so, my daughters were learning that lesson very early on, but I think it’s something we all have to keep in mind. Just because someone is saying something in a confident tone doesn’t mean it’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. Well, Connson, tell me, any other key things you want to make sure to mention about making your voice heard before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Connson Locke
I think one of the most important things we need to understand about making your voice heard is that it’s not just about dominating other people. It’s not just about being heard. Like, you have to have something to say. You have to have a reason why you’re doing this. So, what has helped me over the years, as I said I was very introverted before and had a lot of trouble making my voice heard. But what has helped me over the years is that I have a higher purpose in a way. I’m helping people learn, I’m helping people be better at what they do, and that’s what drives me.

So, I think instead of just thinking, “How do I get loud enough so everyone is going to hear me?” you should be asking yourself, “What do I want to say and is it worth saying? Is it actually going to add to what’s happening out there?” The other thing I would say also is influence is a two-way street. So, it’s not just about trying to convince the other person that you’re right. It’s actually about getting to know the other person as well and being open to them, asking questions and finding out what their perspective is, and having a two-way conversation.

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

Connson Locke
Yes, so there’s a book by Kahlil Gibran called The Prophet, and there’s a quote from that that says, “Your pain is the breaking of the shell that holds your understanding.” And it took me a very long time to understand this, but now that I’ve been through failure, I’ve been through a lot of pain over the years – I’m 55 so I’ve lived, you know, I’ve done a lot of things – I now understand that when you go through a painful experience, you’re growing and, as a result, you actually get bigger.

And I kind of think of it as it’s kind of like a snake shedding its skin. So, each time you go through this painful experience, you kind of shed a skin, you’re getting bigger and bigger and bigger, and it’s how you grow. It’s how you develop. And so, when I look back on my life and the painful experiences I’ve had, I now no longer regret any of them. There was a time when I hated it, I was like, “Oh, my God, why did I do that job? Why did I have to go through that? Why did I have that horrible boss?” But now I’m like, “You know what, I learned from that and I’m better for it and I’m bigger for it.”

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

Connson Locke
I would actually say, and this is a little bit controversial, the power poses study.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah, Amy Cuddy.

Connson Locke
Yeah, Amy Cuddy, power poses. And it’s only controversial because in her original research with her colleagues, what they found was that holding a power pose changes your hormones. It reduces cortisol, the stress hormone, and increases testosterone, makes you more confident. And other researchers that tried to replicate it did not find any effect on hormones. And so, it became this big thing, like, “Oh, we can’t replicate it. It’s a false study. You should stop talking about it.”

However, what they did replicate was that people who held a power pose for two minutes – and a power pose is not something you do in front of other people, you kind of do in the privacy of a bathroom or something – you do feel more confident as a result. And when they actually did things like they had people do a presentation. Half of them did a power pose before the presentation, and the other half didn’t, and the people who were judging the presentations didn’t know who had done a power pose, but they judged the presentations.

And the presentations that they found more engaging turned out to be the people who had done the power pose. So, I actually think it’s one of those things that it’s so easy, a two-minute power pose. I do it before a big presentation when I’m really nervous. It’s just one of those really easy practical things that, yeah, that’s what I love. I love those easy practical things that you can just work into your day and it doesn’t take much time.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Thank you. And a favorite book?

Connson Locke
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Connson Locke
It’s a 12-week course in rediscovering your creativity and it doesn’t take much time. I did it while I was working at the Boston Consulting Group, actually, so I didn’t have much time. But it took maybe half an hour a day, and then maybe a couple hours on the weekend, but, as a result of following that 12-week course chapter by chapter, it just kind of put me back in touch with, I don’t know, the joy of being alive, kind of put me in touch with rediscovering, like noticing colors and nature and all of these things that I had kind of lost touch with.

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

Connson Locke
A favorite tool I actually think is in my job I lecture so I’m using PowerPoint all the time, which I actually love PowerPoint if it’s used properly, if you’re not using it as a Word document, but you’re actually using it for visuals and shapes and all of that. But PowerPoint has this notes function which I really like using.

The other favorite tool, nowadays when I’m teaching online on Zoom, the polling function. I love polling and I found I can really get students, especially my undergrads who normally won’t…I’ve got like 200 to 300 undergrads at a lecture. In a lecture hall, they’re not going to raise their hands but if I give them a poll, it’s anonymous, and they’ll answer, and I get to know them that way as well. So, I love the polling function.

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

Connson Locke
One thing that my students have said, they appreciate that I share, is how much I used to struggle when I was younger with my making my voice heard. And I often tell the story of when I was a teenager, I think I was about 15, when I was on vacation with my parents, and we were in a hotel, and my mother said, “Can you go downstairs and ask the front desk for a newspaper?” And I was so stressed out by that, I was like, “What? No, I can’t. You want me to ask a stranger about…? What? No.”

And my students laughed when I talk about that but I think they appreciate me kind of revealing how far I’ve come and how it is possible if you are painfully shy and introverted to evolve and to actually get your voice heard.

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

Connson Locke
I have a website ConnsonLocke.com, and that’s Connson, C-O, double N, S-O-N. C-O, double N because I was born in Connecticut, L-O-C-K-E.com.

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

Connson Locke
You know what, I think one of the most important things is to take time for yourself, is to really not just take time for yourself, but to take time to get to know yourself and to really understand, “What are your priorities? What are your values? What do you find important in life?” Because if you don’t understand that, you can’t bring your best self to work.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Connson, this has been a treat. Thank you and I wish you lots of luck in all the ways you make your voice heard.

Connson Locke
Thank you.

677: Optimizing Your LinkedIn for Maximum Opportunities with Donna Serdula

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Donna Serdula breaks down her four-point methodology for getting the most out of LinkedIn.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The crucial first step to building a solid LinkedIn presence 
  2. How to dramatically increase your reach with keywords
  3. The simplest way to grow your network tenfold 

 

About Donna

Donna Serdula pioneered the concept of LinkedIn profile optimisation, realising early on that the LinkedIn profile was so much more than just an online resume.

A job change in 2006 led her back to LinkedIn as Donna looked for tools to help her build a sales territory. It was during this time she had her LinkedIn epiphany and forged her LinkedIn 4 point methodology. By integrating LinkedIn into her sales process, she found tremendous success.

In 2009, she walked away from her successful sales career and founded Vision Board Media and LinkedIn-Makeover.com.

She is the author of the book LinkedIn Profile Optimization For Dummies, published by Wiley.

Donna has been featured on Forbes, Business Insider, Time’s Money Section, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, LA Times, NBC, SiriusXM Radio’s The Focus Group, and many other news outlets.

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you, sponsors!

Donna Serdula Interview Transcript

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

Donna Serdula
Hi, Pete. Thank you so much for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to talk about branding, LinkedIn profile optimizing, representing yourself well. And what’s fun because I was just on your LinkedIn profile and, right off the bat, you impressed me with your use of the pronunciation feature which most people don’t use. And you didn’t just say “Donna Serdula,” which is what I did but you said, “My name is Donna Serdula. I help professionals represent themselves or brand themselves on LinkedIn and beyond.” I was like, “That’s awesome.” Like, you got a few seconds to work with and so you, right there at the very beginning, you’ve made it count, and I was impressed. So, it looks like we’re talking to the right person.

Donna Serdula
Well, thank you. They give you 10 seconds and if they’re going to give you 10 seconds, I say use all 10 seconds. I will tell you, right when they first put that out there, I was using like a little bit of the Batman theme from the 1960s Adam West show, I had that as the introduction and then my name, but that was cute in the very beginning, and then I decided, “Let’s get this a little bit more professional.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, well done. And it’s funny, I listened to mine, it’s like, “I’m a little soft. I should do it again.” All right, so I’m already inspired.

Donna Serdula
But here’s the thing. With your name, I kept looking at it in my email, and I was like, “Mocca? Mikatitis?” and then I went to your profile, hit that button, got the pronunciation, and thought, “Why didn’t I see it immediately?” But it’s perfect, like for my last name, very few people know how to pronounce it. And for those people who have an ethnic name, I think it’s a great feature. It helps people and it makes everyone a little bit more comfortable.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so we’re going to talk about representing yourself on LinkedIn. And I’d love it if maybe you could kick us off by sharing what are some of the most wild ways you’ve seen people represent themselves maybe in terms of their titles or the headlines that made you go, “Huh?”

Donna Serdula
There’s a lot of ninjas out there. There’s a lot of ninjas, there’s a lot of rock stars

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, ninjas and rock stars.

Donna Serdula
But I like it. I have to admit when a person tries, I like it. I really like it. What I don’t like is when a person doesn’t try in any way and they upload a really just terrible profile picture and they just copy and paste old stuff that was developed years before, and they call it a day. To me, it’s a horrible, horrible thing. I really feel that people should think and really say to themselves, “How do I want others to perceive me? Where do I want to go in my life? Where do I want to go in my career?” and really be very thoughtful when you craft that profile because people are looking. They want to know what to think about you. And so, if you want to be that ninja, if you want to be that rock star, girl, go for it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. All right. Well, could you maybe kick us off by sharing a cool story of someone who did kind of rethink how they’re representing themselves and tweaked some things on LinkedIn and beyond and saw some cool results from it?

Donna Serdula
This is what we do every day, our clients come to us and they have problems talking about themselves, telling their story. It’s really, really hard to write about yourself. I’m thinking of a very specific client who had come to us. He was 56 years old, and the writing was on the wall, his position was going to be eliminated. He knew it. He knew the end date was coming. He was in technology and he was scared because at 56, he felt he was so far over the hill. He didn’t know where he was going to go, where he was going to get hired. He’d been at this organization for years.

And I remember him calling me and the sense of fear and dread and anxiety that was in his voice, and I remember saying, “Let’s take the bull by the horns and let’s make sure that you’re presenting yourself as who you are, that you’re relevant, that you’re interesting, that you’re energized, that you have so much to offer.” And we worked on the profile and we told his story, and we talked about who he was and what he represented and what he did and how it helped others. We infused the right keywords throughout that profile, and we did the same with his resume.

And he called me back six months later that he had gotten a job closer to his home. He was making 40% more.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, wow.

Donna Serdula
Why 40% more? Not because he did such a great job but because he’d been in that company for so many years, he had never truly gotten the correct upticks in salary that he would’ve gotten if he was in just the regular market. And he was so gracious and so thankful that that’s what happens when you decide to represent yourself and tell your story and put yourself out there.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Very cool. Well, a huge success story, so that’s encouraging and hopeful and inspiring for folks who may want to do some things that shake things up. So, can you tell us how do you start thinking about this whole thing? How do you represent yourself? And then maybe let’s get into some particulars for LinkedIn as a platform to do that optimally.

Donna Serdula
Sure. I believe that the very first step, at least with LinkedIn and branding yourself on that platform, it’s really important, Pete, to say, “Why am I on LinkedIn? What am I hoping to achieve?” Not everyone is on LinkedIn for job search. Some people are on it because they want to prospect and sell more. Some are on it because people are looking at them and they want to make sure that they’re utilizing it for reputation management, that when a person looks at them, they see someone who’s impressive, someone who has earned their confidence.

Others are doing it for executive branding to tell that story, to be perceived at a different level, and there could be combinations. But it’s really important to know why you’re on LinkedIn because your goal is going to determine your story and how you present yourself. If you’re in sales and your goal is to sell more but your profile is written like a resume and that goal is more for recruiters that you love to prospect, you’re just going to turn off your target audience which is prospects and potential clients.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. So, could I hear maybe a little bit of those implications in terms of, okay, if I’m in a selling of products or services mode, as opposed to selling myself mode, what are some key things I do differently based on the pathway I’m going down?

Donna Serdula
Yeah, it’s so important to really envision that audience, that person who you want to be reading the profile. And think in terms of if they were searching for someone like you, if they didn’t know your name, what would those keywords be that they’re putting into the search bar in trying to find you, to get close to someone like you. Those words are words that you’d want to infuse through your profile. That’s how you’re going to get found more often. And very, very few people ever really think that deeply about LinkedIn, they go, “Oh, I copy and paste my resume and I’ll be done.”

But LinkedIn is a professional network but it’s also a search engine, and recruiters and hiring managers are using it, but not just hiring managers. People in the media are using it, people who are looking for talent, who have opportunity to provide, they want to find someone like you, so you want to make it really easy for them to find you. But knowing what you want out of it and what that person would be interested in, that’s what’s going to shape the story.

So, what does a recruiter want? What are you targeting in that regard? Or, what’s going to impress a person? What have you done that you’re proud of that would make a difference? And once you have that down, jot it down. That’s what’s going to start to shape your narrative within the About section of your profile.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Certainly. Well, that sounds fundamental and yet often overlooked.

Donna Serdula
It’s so easy. Why doesn’t anyone do it?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, you take some time. Okay, seriously. Who do I want to see this? And when they see it, what do I want them to walk away thinking? And so, you’re thinking through that. And so with that kind of bullseye in mind, what are some of the key factors that make a profile make a great impression in terms of, “Hey, this is remarkable. This person really seems like they could be a winner,” versus, “Oh, okay. Next”?

Donna Serdula
I hate bullets. I hate bulleted lists. I just despise that. I also hate huge blocks of impenetrable texts where there’s not a single line break. It could be the most warmest, engaging copy ever written but if it’s hard for an eye to scan through, you’re going to turn people off. So, it’s not just what you write but it’s also how you format it through the profile. Like, line breaks, that enter or return key should be a good friend of yours. Don’t think like the old-fashioned paragraph concept that we were taught in school. You can actually break it up a little bit more, into more of like ideas so the easier it is to scan, the better.

I would say first person narrative. There are certain times, I have some clients that come to me and they have done the most amazing things. They’ve lived these incredible lives. Their accomplishments are huge. And when they write in the first person, it feels weird to them. It just doesn’t feel right. Those are very few situations where I’m like, “Okay, let’s write in third. It’s okay if you write in third person.” But for most people, they know that you’ve written it yourself, or you’ve hired someone to write it for you. You should write in first person, and write it in a manner where it’s warm, it’s engaging, it tells that story. It’s who you are. Why you do what you do? What does it mean to others? What do you stand for? What do you represent?

And when you talk about that, ultimately, it’s your why. I think it really resonates with people and they love that.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, I hear you there. And I’m looking at yours right now as you’re speaking. So, I hear what you’re saying in terms of breaking up the text so we’ve got some shorter paragraphs, maybe just a sentence at times, or, “Well, I do,” in the shortest. “Do you know what makes a LinkedIn profile stand out from the crowd?” New paragraph. “Well, I do.” That’s great. Okay, I’m intrigued. Okay. What are you about? So, I’m pulled in.

And then in terms of breaking up the text, you have a nice little bold, capital SERVICES, AUTHOR, SPEAKER, and then a little bit of an underline there, and that’s just easy-peasy to do, there’s no special tricks. You just push the bold button?

Donna Serdula
There’s no bold button.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, now you’re a ninja and a rock star, Donna. How do we do it?

Donna Serdula
So, that is actually faux text. It’s Unicode. And so, if you visit my website LinkedIn-Makeover.com and you go to the free tools, I have this little wizard or online app, whatever you want to call it, where you type in, and it will apply formatting, but it’s not real formatting. It just looks like text but it’s more of like code and you copy it and you put it into your profile. And, voila! You suddenly have italics, you have bold, you have underline. You can even have cursive if you wanted to.

The one thing though, Pete, to know is that it looks like the word but it’s not so you shouldn’t be doing everything in that because it’s not optimized for search. The other thing is if a person who is blind and they’re using a screen reader, they’re not going to hear the right words because it’s, again, it’s fake texts. But, in small doses, it’s fabulous.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, Donna, I just love talking to someone who’s just delved deep into the details, they’re somebody like, “It’s not actually texts. It’s code. So, here are some implications of that. Noted. It’s going to look great with some tradeoffs so use it appropriately but just know that you can use it,” and just about nobody does because I don’t think I’ve seen it before. So, kudos, Donna.

Donna Serdula
Thank you. Thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Okay. So, that’s some of the particulars in terms of looking great and being friendly to the eyeball such that they’ll actually read it. And so then, what are some key thoughts for what we put in there? We want it to be friendly. We want it to make a good impression. Any particular do’s and don’ts?

Donna Serdula
I recognize that it’s 2021 and I shouldn’t have to say that the profile picture is important but, even to this day, it’s something that so many people really struggle with. So, a good do is work on getting a professionally taken photo. It does make a difference. Don’t just go with a selfie with weird things in the background. Don’t show your shoulders or your elbows. It’s a headshot for a reason, especially on a mobile phone which reduces it even smaller. You really want to make sure that it’s your face that’s filling that circle, so that’s a huge thing.

There’s a background graphic that very few people use, and this is a great place to really illustrate your brand and subtly suggest to people who don’t even have to read anything who you are and what you do and what you represent, so definitely utilize that. There’s a lot of areas to upload, photos and things like that, links to websites and whatnot. It’s now called the featured section. It actually provides like a carousel at the top of your profile, and that’s a fabulous place. Very few people don’t use it but I would definitely say it’s a do depending upon your job and who you are and what you do. It should be relatively easy to find something to populate that area.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, we went right into some tactical stuff. Maybe I should zoom out a smidge. You’ve got a full-blown four-point methodology. Can you kind of walk us through that a little bit?

Donna Serdula
Step one, know your goal.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Donna Serdula
Know why you’re on it. We talked a little bit about that. Two, optimize your profile to your goal. Infuse your keywords. Tell the world who you are and why you shine. Three, start to grow your network. You need to connect. Have you ever seen that movie Glengarry Glen Ross?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, coffee is for closers.

Donna Serdula
Yeah. A, B, C. Always be…well, I like to say always be connecting. Always be connecting. A lot of people say to me, “Ugh, I don’t get LinkedIn.” And then I look at their profile, they’ve got like 10 connections, or even just a hundred connections, and you really do need to have a network, so try to get that online network to reflect your offline network. So, connect, connect, connect. So, that’s three.

Four, so now you want to engage. Now, you want to start to go to that homepage and scroll through and comment and like and share, and start to post. That’s when you can network in your pajamas. That’s when things should start to come together for you. And that’s when you’re going to start to see that there is opportunity in those hills out there.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, so we’ve talked a bit about the first two. Let’s hit keywords for a bit now. Well, hey, if you’ve gone deep into Unicode, you may have some answers that I don’t know. So, I guess I’ve played just a little bit of the Google search engine optimization game. Boy, that is a full-time operation and many people have made that their careers in terms saying, “Okay, so what are the keywords? What’s a traffic associated with those keywords? What’s the competition for those keywords? Where can I win? How can I write content that hits those and gets me surfaced in Google?”

And hopefully it’s good as opposed to, “Oh, man.” Well, I think we’ve all read it in terms of, “You might be asking yourself, ‘How do I get a good price on a mortgage?’ Well, the answer to getting a good price on a mortgage involves three key things. The first step to getting a good price on a good mortgage…” You know, it’s like…

Donna Serdula
Yeah, the redundant, yeah, the repetition of the key phrase.

Pete Mockaitis
So, we don’t want to do that. But I’m wondering, like is there any keyword research tools that give us a sense for, I don’t know, like Python versus Django? I barely know what I’m talking about here, so apologies, Python coders. But you get the idea. It’s like there are some opportunities where I can describe a given skill or set of expertise with many different potential keywords. So, how do I know which ones to go for and optimize for?

Donna Serdula
And, sadly, when you’re on LinkedIn, in your account, looking at your profile, it really is almost like pin the tail on the donkey, wearing a blindfold. LinkedIn doesn’t give a lot of insight into how well your profile is performing for keywords, what are the most searched keywords. Those are things that they kind of hold in the back. They don’t show their cards very easily.

What I recommend doing is this. It’s knowing, “What do you feel would a person be searching for if they were looking for you?” And, yes, there is a whole bunch of different keywords. Choose the ones that you feel are the most obvious, the most used, and then use them organically through your profile. The fields that are most sensitive for search – your headline. That right there, if you can infuse top keywords in there, you will find that you turn up higher and more often for those keywords.

If you can use those keywords not in a repetitive or obnoxious way but you can organically use it in the narrative of your About section, that’s going to be very helpful. Again, not in a repetitive way, not in a bulleted list type of way, but you’re weaving them into your story. That’s a good thing. Job titles, again, perfect for keywords. Very few people do but that area does make a difference as does the job description.

So, if you could put it in those areas, and really think, “If I’m looking for a job,” look at the job description, look at a couple job descriptions, highlight. What are the words that you keep seeing repeated over and over and over again? What are those core competencies? What are those applications that you need to know? That will give you an idea. And then what you do, Pete, is you wait and then you watch, and you see. Are you getting hits to your profile?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And they’ll tell you, like, “You’re viewed this many times,” so you know that. And I think it also tells you, “You’ve shown up this many times in search.” So, views of my profile – 1500. I’m looking at mine now. And so, I could see that and then I can just peruse, well, you looked at me. Hi, there.

Donna Serdula
I like to do my due diligence.

Pete Mockaitis
And I can kind of peruse. It tells you, “Found you via LinkedIn profile,” and it will also say, “Found you via homepage,” and found people similar to you but it doesn’t also say, “Found you via search.”

Donna Serdula
I don’t think it does.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, you set it straight.

Donna Serdula
But when they say, “Found you through the profile,” you can almost surmise that it was either they were doing a name-based search or they were doing a keyword search, and you popped up.

Pete Mockaitis
And I think your point associated with just knowing your audience is huge because, well, I looked at this once back in the day when I was doing more Myers Briggs training, which I’m capable of doing but that’s not been my focus lately. And so, you find tons of profiles that will have MBTI in their headline as their title, which, as a type practitioner, I know, and many others do, that that stands for Myers Brigg Type Indicator, which is the name of the tool.

However, I have learned that most people, when they’re searching for that, do not search for MBTI; they search for Myers Briggs. And so, just knowing that and, for all you Myers Briggs practitioners on LinkedIn, here’s a free one for you. Just about no one says Myers Briggs in their title even though that’s what more people look for. So, you can sort of try that out and I guess just maybe ask your target audience, like, “Hey, so if you’re kind of looking for someone to do a personality workshop for you, like what might you type into LinkedIn?” It’s like, “I don’t know, maybe Myers Briggs, maybe DISC.” It’s like, “Okay. Yeah, I know she did not say MBTI.” So, that gets you there.

Donna Serdula
Yeah, sometimes you get in the weeds of your own knowledge and you have to break through and step out and look at it. I see that a lot of times when people say to me, “Oh, I’m a dynamic person and I do all…” they’re using these crazy words and crazy jargon, and it’s like, “Talk to me like I’m a three-year old. Talk to your audience like they’re a three-year old. It’s going to help you really simplify the message and make it so much more accessible to the world at large.” Of course, you weigh that because if your target audience really does talk like that then that’s great. Go for it.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s true.

Donna Serdula
But I think sometimes people do get a little too caught up in the weeds. They’re so close they can’t gain that focus.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s great because I’m thinking I just recently learned the term capital allocator. I didn’t know what that meant. But there may be times you want to call yourself a capital allocator based on who you’re attracting, at times you want to call yourself a financial planner based on who you’re going after, even though there’s a fair bit of overlap in capital allocators and financial planners, “Well, Pete, actually, there’s several distinctions much like Python and Django.” But that’s a great perspective there in terms of how they would speak. And it’s unlikely someone is going to search for a dynamic multi-potentialite even though you might be that.

Donna Serdula
You might be. I remember a very specific client of mine had said to me, “Donna, before the profile, I was getting a ton of hits. I was getting found and I was getting a lot more inquiries on LinkedIn.” And, of course, I heard that, I was like, “Do you hate me? This sounds bad.” And he said, “No. Since you worked on the profile, you really dialed in to the right audience. It’s much more qualified, so, yeah, I’m getting less but the ones that I’m getting really want me and I’m aligned to those opportunities that they’re presenting to me. Before, I was getting all types of opportunities that I wasn’t interested in and was a waste of time.” So, you do have to sort of weigh it. You want to make sure that it’s the right audience and you’ve got the right message, and what’s coming to is good opportunity.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s so great. And, as you say it, I think all the little pieces are connecting here in terms of like your image and your banner, was the term I used there, you got your headshot and you’ve got your other image at the top.

Donna Serdula
Yeah, we call it the background graphic but banner works too.

Pete Mockaitis
Your headshot, your background graphic, and it all comes together in terms of telling the story, like the individual pieces, and you might optimize incorrectly. I remember in my early days, I got some headshots and I thought, “Oh, man, this one I looked really…” I thought I looked hot. I was wearing a black buttoned-down and a dark background, and I thought, “Oh, man,” there’s like a smouldering gaze, it’s like, “Okay, yeah, Pete, you do. Great job. They caught a good angle. But, really, we need you to show up as the friendly high-energy speaker guy and not a model.” So, I was like, “Oh, yeah, good point. Good point.”

So, I might look not as good in a, I don’t know, GQ sense of the word in one headshot but, for the audience and the impression I’m trying to give, it works better even though, “My rosacea is more prominent in that photo,” well, we’re going to go with that one because it’s going to get the job done that we’re looking to get done.

Donna Serdula
I know it sounds so strange but, I always say, people feel this need to, because LinkedIn is this professional network, they want to look serious. But when they look serious, they tend to look angry. And you want to seem approachable, you want to seem friendly, you want to make it easy for a person to want to reach out to learn more about you. And so, upload a picture where you do look more friendly. And that, of course, trumps the professional picture. If a headshot, it may be well taken, but if it’s not presenting you in that friendly light, it’s not going to work.

I’m going to tell you another thing, Pete. This is huge and it’s so obvious. People who don’t include their contact information, they don’t put their phone number in, they don’t put their email address, and they make it very, very hard to reach you. One of my biggest pet peeves.

Pete Mockaitis
And I think maybe some people have a worry or a concern, like, “Oh, I’m going to get all these spam callers or all these random calling me.” But I’ll tell you, I’ve got my phone number in there. Hello, listeners, you can give me a ring. My phone number is in there and just about never do I get super random calls that I think are traced back to LinkedIn. There’s robo spam callers but they hit everybody indiscriminately. So, I think, yeah, if anyone has any worries on that dimension, in my own experience, and you’ve got a lot more LinkedIn stuff than I do, it’s really not that noticeable. I don’t think I’ve suffered any negative consequences for having freely shared that contact info there. What’s your take?

Donna Serdula
I believe if you want opportunity to knock, you’ve got to tell it what door to knock on. It’s just that simple. Put your information out there. I actually wouldn’t mind if I got a random Telepass calling if I also knew that I was getting all these fabulous opportunities as well. It’s almost a balance. But I agree, I really don’t get a lot of garbage. I get people who want my services, who need my expertise, people that I can help. And, to me, that’s a win-win.

Pete Mockaitis
Perfect. All right. So, let’s talk about build the connections and engaging. How do we get that well?

Donna Serdula
Yeah, I hate to say this. I really do. I feel like it’s been overstated but send connection requests, put in a nice little note, say something personable, let the person know why you’re connecting, unless, of course…and this is the thing. If you know the person, like I’m going to connect with you after this show. I don’t think I need to say, “Hey, we just talked an hour ago. I think you’re going to remember me.”

Pete Mockaitis
“Oh, yeah, Donna.”

Donna Serdula
So, in that situation, I don’t have a problem not adding a personalized note, like, to me you don’t have to do it always across the board. But if you are kind of going outside of your real network and you’re connecting to people from maybe a long time ago, it is nice to add a little bit of a personalized note to say, “Hey, do you remember me?” And I think it starts that conversation off. So, hit connect, give a personalized note if the moment calls for it, and keep connecting. It’s just not something that you do once. It’s something that you do often. It should be a part of your normal business world that, as you meet people, as you go into meetings, connect.

There’s that quote, “Your network is your net worth.” And it’s something that I think a lot of people dismiss. And I remember years and years ago when I was in college, a woman came and was like, “Oh, you got to create a network.” Like it just sounded so intimidating and strange. And, really, all it is is keeping in touch with people, being friendly, popping up to say hello, making connections. That’s all it really is. And with LinkedIn, it’s a very easy way to connect and grow that network and continue to stay in touch with people.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, yeah.

Donna Serdula
So, that’s it. It’s that simple but it’s something that very few people do.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so let’s say you’re one of those folks who has a hundred connections on LinkedIn, and you and I know that such a person knows many more people on LinkedIn, and they could go ahead and connect with him, and then the whole world opens up to you. And that’s what I found in terms of one side said, “Okay, I’m just going to go ahead and find some people I know, and I’m going to connect.”

And then, I don’t know, I felt just like a surge of powerful feeling just in terms of saying, “Okay. Well, shoot, now that I’ve spent a little time on this, like a huge universe is now open to me in terms of secondary connections. So, if I have like a hundred connections before, and then built it out to a thousand, it’s like, wow, I could get introductions so readily to so many places now. That’s hugely cool.” So, if someone is at a hundred, how do you recommend they get to a thousand real connections relatively painlessly?

Donna Serdula
Well, they could certainly upload their email address book and allow LinkedIn to do like a match, un-match and decide who’s already there, and just mass connect. That’s one way. Another easy way is to go into the My Network icon and scroll down that page. There’s a People You May Know area where LinkedIn makes these connections, they say, “Oh, you’re connected to Pete, and Pete’s connected to so and so, then you might be connected to that person.” So, that’s an easy way to do it.

I actually kind of just like the old-fashion sit down and really start thinking about the people that you’ve met throughout your career and your school and life in general, and just keep jotting them down in a notebook and see who’s there, see who’s connected. And then if you know someone, you have like a history with a person, you could go to their profile and look at their connections, and plod through that, connecting with the people that you know in common. So, those are all ways that you can grow your network.

But what’s really important is when you grow that network, you’re going to be found by more people because when a person is searched in LinkedIn, when they’re doing a name-based search, yeah, they’re searching the entire database of users. But if a regular free user is doing a keyword-based search, think of yourself, when you do that, you’re seeing first-degree connections, you’re seeing second-degree connections, and you’re seeing third-degree connections. That’s what you’re searching. So, if you want to be found by more people, and you want to discover more people, you need to be in more networks. And that opens up and it really explodes being found and getting found.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I think that flywheel, that virtuous cycle really shows up because, let’s say, you have a hundred, you spend a little bit of time and then you connect with an extra 50. Well, now, LinkedIn has so much more useful information to share with more people you know, it’s like, “Well, as a matter of fact, I do know that person, and that person, and that person.” So, I find that it goes pretty darn quick in terms of getting there, it’s like, you make a bundle of connection requests, a week later, they’ve accepted. And now there’s a whole new bundle. Repeat, repeat, repeat, like, “Hey, what do you know?” In a couple of months, you went from a hundred to a thousand, and it didn’t take much time and it’s kind of fun, like, “Oh, what’s this guy up to? Oh, wow, it’s good time.”

Donna Serdula
Yeah, it’s true. And when you connect, use it as an excuse to maybe reach out and start more conversations. If you’re going to do a huge burst and you’re going from a hundred to a thousand, it might not be possible, but do try. As you’re connecting, see if they’re active on LinkedIn. And if they are, maybe just bookmark their activity and go back and check to see what they’re posting, and then engage with them.

And when you start to engage with certain people on LinkedIn who are themselves active, you’ll start to see that they fill your feed more often because LinkedIn likes to show their feed. They like their feed to be people that you know talking about the things that you care about. And so, follow the right hashtags, connect with the right people, engage with them on that feed, and you’ll start to find that LinkedIn is fun. It’s people that you know talking about the things you care about.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. And then let’s talk about engaging. And, particularly, I’m curious about any pro tips on how to request an introduction? Like, let’s say, you’ve got your network, and you say, “Oh, wow, I’ve got second-degree connections and all kinds of places I’d like to learn about maybe to work or to sell or whatnot.” Any best practices for how we make that request, like, “Could you introduce me to so and so?”

Donna Serdula
Yeah, at one time, LinkedIn had a very structured process for doing that. They don’t now. If you’re looking for an intro button, you’re not going to find it. And the way you do it is more manual. You look at a person, you find them, you see who do you know that’s connected to them, and then you just send them a message. You can also go into More and, say, “Send profile,” and so you can send that person the profile with, “Hey, this is the person I want an introduction to.”

But certain things to keep in mind. I have 29,000 first-degree connections, so if you’re going to ask me to make an introduction to someone, there’s a very good chance that I do not know them personally. So, be aware that if the person has an excessive size network, the answer might be, “I can’t help you,” and that’s okay. Don’t get hung up on that.

But, at the same time, when you’re going to make that introduction, if you could give the person that you’re asking as much information, “This is how you can introduce me to them. This is what it is that I want from them,” and make it very clear who you are and how they can describe you and what you want so that person doesn’t feel like they’re helping a spam artist defraud someone. But make it as very clear as possible, I think you’re going to find that, even if that person doesn’t know that person very well, the introduction will take place and it will be successful.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, Donna, tell me, any other key things you want to share before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Donna Serdula
I will say this, we touched a little bit about my formatter on the website and we talked about how important the LinkedIn headline is, and I will say to your audience, if you are sitting there and you’re looking at your profile, and you’re thinking, “I really do want to optimize this and I need help,” there is a free resources section on my website and there’s a LinkedIn headline generator. It’s a little app and they just fill out just a couple terms, put a little dot on different buckets that describe them, and it pushes out a headline that’s really awesome, and it’s optimized, and they’ll get more views and it’ll turn up more often in search. So, just know that there is a lot of free help out there and there’s an entire section on my website full of those types of tools.

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

Donna Serdula
This is a Tim Ferriss quote, and it says, “It’s lonely at the top. Ninety-nine percent of people are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things so they aim for mediocre. The level of competition is thus fiercest for realistic goals, paradoxically making them the most competitive.”

And I just love this quote because I find it’s so true. In fact, right before my father died, he had said to me, one of his biggest regrets was that he didn’t dream big enough. And this is something that I’m seeing as I work with my clients, executives, and entrepreneurs, and professionals from all over the world, it’s seeing people who have decided to dream big and go a little further and do a little bit more. And it is scary but you can. You can reach for the stars and you can do it.

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

Donna Serdula
This isn’t like an absolute study but I found this fascinating. If you were to fold a piece of paper in half 42 times, it would reach the moon. And I really love that. Just thinking about it, folding it 42 times, I couldn’t imagine that this is true but I started doing some Google. And it’s true, it’s the exponential growth, and this inspires me because it really reminds me that it’s just these little steps will get you somewhere much bigger.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I guess that’s about a trillion sheets thickness there.

Donna Serdula
Oh, yeah. I think someone said you’d need like a sheet the size of the Earth, so you can get close to it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, there’s so many parallel, well, takeaways in terms of compound interest or growth, or in terms of like what happens when something just grows and grows and grows. And a favorite book?

Donna Serdula
I’m one of those crazy people. I love the Think and Grow Rich and the Law of Attraction. I love that stuff. I love it so much. My favorite book is one where you either love her or you hate her, but I love The Fountainhead. I just loved it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a favorite tool?

Donna Serdula
I just recently purchased a reMarkable 2 and it’s a handwriting tablet so you can write on a tablet so you don’t need a notebook after notebook after notebook. It’s just this great gadget and it allows me to just do what I love to do, which is just handwrite but not use any more paper. It’s all digitalized.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Donna Serdula
Which goes back to the reMarkable 2, which is I love journaling and I love to-do lists. And, to me, it’s so important to get what’s inside of you out, and I think there’s something very soulful and inspiring when you can take your pen and drag it. If it’s not paper, then you know the reMarkable 2, but really get your thoughts out there and know what you need to do, but also know what happens so you can start to see repetitions because our memories are so short. We don’t even know how short they are so it’s important, I think, to really record your successes and the record things that have happened so you can remind yourself, and you can stop making the same mistakes over and over and over again.

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

Donna Serdula
I’ve said, “Success on LinkedIn is getting off LinkedIn,” and I often hear people attribute that to me, and I did say it. And, to me, it’s about sometimes people hide on social media and they hide on LinkedIn, and they hide behind the messages and they hide behind the posts. And, really, I find that the best relationships I’ve had from LinkedIn are the ones where I’ve gone to the person’s profile, picked up the phone, and called them. And that’s where the real world is where the real relationships are formed. So, I’d like to say get off LinkedIn, call the person up, take them out for lunch or coffee, and I think you’re going to find that it’s an even deeper relationship that can be formed.

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

Donna Serdula
Certainly, LinkedIn. I always visit my LinkedIn profile but my website is LinkedIn-Makeover.com, and that’s got tons of free tools that talks about our services. Everything I do is transparent so you can see our pricing, you can see our examples, you can see our portfolio, everything is there.

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

Donna Serdula
Yeah, I’m going to go back to what I said earlier. Definitely, I challenge all of you to really think about who you are, where you’re going, and look at that profile, and don’t just align it to where you are. Align it to where you want to go. Make it more future-oriented. Tell people. Maybe not just show but really talk about what you’ve done, where you’re going. And if you need help, there is my LinkedIn headline generator and, certainly, we’re here to help as well.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Donna, this has been a treat. Thank you so much and I wish you much luck in all of your connecting.

Donna Serdula
Thank you so much.

649: How to Persuade through Better Listening and Adapting with Brian Ahearn

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Brian Ahearn says: "The skill of listening starts with a choice, and when you make that choice... it becomes a habit."

Brian Ahearn shares how to improve your influence by listening well and adapting to different personality types.

You’ll Learn:

  1. What every professional can learn from insurance agents
  2. The 5 critical ingredients of listening STARS 
  3. How to DEAL with the four different types of people 

About Brian

Brian Ahearn is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE. A dynamic international keynote speaker, he specializes in applying the science of influence in everyday situations. 

Brian is one of only 20 individuals in the world who currently holds the Cialdini Method Certified Trainer designation. This specialization was earned directly from Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D. – the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence. 

Brian’s book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, is an Amazon best-seller and his LinkedIn courses have been viewed by more than 75,000 people. 

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you, sponsors! 

  • FSAstore.com. Use your flex spending account funds with the greatest of ease! Save $20 on a $150+ purchase with promo code AWESOME. 

Brian Ahearn Interview Transcript

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

Brian Ahearn
Thank you for having me back on. Third time is a charm, I think.

Pete Mockaitis
It is. Well, you’re in rare company there. That doesn’t happen very often. Maybe like three-ish times. Well, the listeners can’t see this but I’m charmed by your background. You have a screen which has the How to be Awesome at Your Job logo, cover art, and it says, “Hello, Pete.” And then you have a tasteful backdrop. I guess you got an Amazon, which looks pretty realistic. What’s the story here?

Brian Ahearn
So, in the COVID lockdown world that we’re in, I knew that I was going to need to do something to differentiate myself, and I saw a friend who’s a bigtime National Speaker Association speaker and he had put a studio in his house, and he was kind enough to spend about an hour with me one day to walk me through everything that he did, and we converted our daughter’s old bedroom.

And so, I’ve got a beautiful backdrop and a 55-inch TV and I can give standup presentations where I’m walking up to the camera and moving. It’s not just a face-on Zoom, and clients have loved it, and potential clients are blown away when they see their logo and their name up on the screen on a Zoom call.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, and it’s different I don’t know why but it is. It’s different than sharing your screen with an image of that with you like in a corner. It just is and I don’t know why or how it matters but it does.

Brian Ahearn
Well, I think clients are going to see me from like the waist up moving back and forth and turning towards, and getting a sense of, “Hey, this is a little bit what life was like prior to the pandemic. I’m seeing this person really interact with us.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, it does. It’s more three-dimensional literally because it’s behind you in the third dimension. So, Brian, not that I had any doubts but this just reinforces that this was the right choice to have you on a third time.

So, you’ve got a fresh book. It’s funny, I was a little slow, as you may recall, to reply to your email because your book is called Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents. And I’m like, “Well, you know what, most of my listeners are not insurance agents.” But, nonetheless, I think you’ve really identified some universal skills and principles that benefit all professionals, and so we’re going to zoom into a couple of those.

You’ve got some good acronyms, kind of STARS and the DEAL model, we’re going to talk about. But, first, maybe you could just tee it up broadly, what can and should non-sales professionals learn from insurance agents?

Brian Ahearn
Well, everybody is selling all the time, and so when people say, “Well, this book is for insurance agents.” Well, it’s really for all salespeople because we look at the entire sales cycle and how the psychology of persuasion applies throughout each of the steps. But even somebody who might say, “I’m not in a formal sales role,” they’re still selling themselves, their ideas, and things, especially if they’re working in a large corporation. So, understanding the deal model of how to interact with people is critically important for those folks. So, I feel like anybody who knows that moving forward with getting a yes, selling themselves, their ideas and things, they’re all going to benefit from the book.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so you’ve got some great perspective on listening and a helpful acronym STARS, which is funny because I think of STAR for interviews: situation, tasks, action, result. But you’ve got a different STAR associated with listening and I think it makes a ton of sense. So, can you lay it out for us, when it comes to listening well, why should we do it and how should we do it?

Brian Ahearn
Well, when I worked in the corporate world and I was involved in sales training, a critical component of being a good salesperson is the ability to listen. And, unfortunately, a lot of people haven’t experienced this, but good salespeople only talk 25% to 30% of the time. They ask good questions and then they stop and they listen, and they ask more questions. But you have to be a good listener and you have to be confident in those skills. And while we are taught to read and write and speak, almost nobody goes through a class on how to be a more effective listener.

So, as I was interacting with our field sales team back in the day, I came up with this acronym to make it very easy for people to understand what it takes to be listening stars. And it’s simply this: stop everything you’re doing, that’s the first letter, the S; pay attention to tone of voice, T, because it conveys emotion; A is ask clarifying questions; R is restate your understanding of what you’ve heard; and then S is scribble, take notes.

And I think if everybody could do those five things and just work on doing those things better all the time, you would be blown away by how much more effective you could be as a listener. You’d become listening stars.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, I love this in that it makes a lot of sense. Those seem to be five critical ingredients and often overlooked ingredients. Help us out with some of them in terms of it sounds easy to do but most often people are not doing it. Maybe tell us, how can we do each of these better? Like, how can we stop excellently? What should we really look for in the tone, etc.?

Brian Ahearn
Okay. So, when it comes to stop, you cannot give your attention to more than one thing at a time. You could try to fool yourself, and you could say, “Well, I can finish this email while I’m listening,” but you’re never really giving your attention and, therefore, you’re missing things. And we saw this when we were running little workshops and experiments, and we saw that people who gave their full attention to listening, they weren’t distracted by a second task or taking too many notes. They were catching 75% more of the facts that were being shared as compared to other people.

So, if you think about that, if you are a salesperson, or any position you’re in, if you discipline yourself to stop so that you can fully pay attention, and you’re catching 75% more than your competitor, you have a huge advantage. So, I think anybody who is listening to this podcast will catch themselves doing other things, and that’s okay, that’s a slap on the hand like, “Oh, I shouldn’t have done that.” That’s your first step in awareness. And if you keep that up, eventually you’ll find yourself stopping all those other things for longer and longer periods which is going to certainly help you be more effective in terms of what you’re receiving through your ears.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Brian, I love it when you drop a clear number like that. Boy, I’m thinking about there are just so many opportunities. Like, 75% more facts, I mean, that’s huge because someone might grab 10 facts, and then a listening star, could grab 18 facts, and those incremental 8 facts can make all the difference in terms of I’m thinking of it like in negotiation, like, “Huh, that thing I captured could surface a win-win opportunity that we could totally overlook had we not captured that upfront.”

Or, you can say, “Hmm, that little piece could really help me deepen my relationship with this person down the road.” It’s like, “Oh, hey, I remembered you liked flyfishing,” or whatever they like, and then you’ve got a cool opportunity to engage in subsequent conversations, build connection, camaraderie, etc. wow, 75% more facts from a conversation is just like 75% more opportunity, possibility, impact.

Brian Ahearn
And I would say, too, it’s not just the positive facts that you catch. Sometimes it’s the negative facts that might make you say, “Hmm, this isn’t a deal I want to go through with.” When I worked with an insurance company, a lot of the role of an underwriter is to get as many facts to make a determination, “Do we want to write this account or do we not? And if we do write it, at what price?” Catching those things, even the negative things, impacts the decision-making on behalf of the company, so it was critically important on the positive and the negative what are you going to catch or miss.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, decision-making in terms of making those decisions optimally and the facts are just the top of the funnel, so that’s huge. So, for stopping, you notice that you’re doing something else and then bring it back. And this kind of sounds like any number of mindful practices and exercises, like with your breath or whatnot. How else can we get better at stopping?

Brian Ahearn
Make an intentional effort to do it. Just to tell somebody, like, “Hey, hold me accountable here.” If you’re sitting in a meeting and you tell somebody, “I’m really trying to work on my listening skills and I don’t want to be distracted. If you see me kind of going off or something like that, just give me a nudge.” But that accountability is probably enough at that point just to get you to do something different versus if you never said anything to somebody else. So, it really starts with a commitment.

And what I want to say about this, Pete, every step in the STARS model, it’s a skill but it’s not a skill that people don’t possess and cannot get better at, and I’ll give you an example. I’m 5’9” and I weigh 210 pounds, I was always into weightlifting and things, but I was never able to dunk a basketball. And if somebody came to me tomorrow and said, “Hey, Brian, this contract that you’re looking at, it depends on your ability to dunk a basketball.” I’m like, “I’m out. Never been able to do it. It’s not a skill I ever possessed, and it’s not one I ever will, given my physical characteristics.”

But the skill of listening starts with a choice, and when you make that choice, the more often you make that choice, it becomes habit. And that’s where you, all of a sudden, you’re finding yourself stopping more and more, paying attention to tone more and more, asking those questions, etc.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s good. And if I may, I’m thinking about what distracts me from listening. It’s often my body in terms of like, “I’m hungry,” “I’m thirsty,” “I need to pee,” “I’ve been sitting for too long.” How do you recommend we address those in particular or is it all the same in terms of redirecting it right back to the person talking?

Brian Ahearn
Well, I think the consciousness of it, like when you start thinking like, “Oh, I want to go to the bathroom,” or, “Oh, I’m getting so hungry,” it’s still like shake your head and say, “Well, wait a minute. There’s going to be time for me to get some food. I need to just bear down here a little bit more.” And give yourself some grace, too, because sheer willpower is like a muscle. It gets tired too. And as we are mentally tired, as we are physically tired, as we are hungry, all of those things will impact our ability to give focus and attention.

So, if you have an opportunity to do something different, like, say, “Hey, Pete, I’m loving this conversation but can I take a short break? I just need to get a little carbohydrate in me. I just need to get like a piece of candy or something.” And that person is probably going to say, “Sure, that’s fine.” They may be feeling the same way, and so that might be license for them to go do that thing too.

And I think that when you’re the person who’s engaging somebody to help them be more effective listeners, I always make sure, like when I’m doing training sessions, every hour, we have at least a 10-minute break. And I know that carves out time but if people can use the restroom, can get a refreshment, can stretch their legs, can clear their mind, that next 50 minutes that I have them, they are so much more focused than if I try to just plow through two hours.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s absolutely true. I’ve seen it many times on both sides of the presentation table there. Okay, so that’s stopping. So, tone, you say that there is a lot in it and we should pay attention to it. Expand on that, please.

Brian Ahearn
Well, I think everybody knows two people can say the same thing. Two people could make an apology, and one person can seem sincere and the other one doesn’t, and it’s not so…

Pete Mockaitis
“I’m sorry.”

Brian Ahearn
Exactly. We hear it all the time when people are caught, media figures are caught, and, all of a sudden, they’re issuing that standardized apology. But I always thought about the example that my wife called me one time, and I was at work, and I could hear the wind blowing, and I said, “Are you playing golf?” And she said, “Yes.” And that three-letter word, yes, just the way she said it, I said, “You’re not playing very well, are you?” And she goes, “No,” and then she started kind of unburdening herself.

But that’s a clear indication. Three letters, one simple word, and just by the tone, I could tell that she wasn’t playing well. You’ve been married now for a little while, I’m sure that you can hear some words like, “Fine.” When you say, “How are you doing?” “Fine.” You realize, “They’re not really doing fine. There’s more behind that. I can tell,” and that’s usually based on tone of voice.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. Okay. And so, are there any tone things that people tend to overlook or a great sort of telltale indicators? Because I think that sometimes in my own tone or others, I notice…how do I say it? It’s like they’re energized and excited, and then they’re back into sort of like perfunctory, like, “Uh-oh, duty, responsibility, process, compliance.” I don’t know what words I would use for those tones but sometimes you could see they’re jazzed about this and not so jazzed about that. And so, I can pick up on that and I find that pretty handy. What are some other key dimensions of tone to look out for?

Brian Ahearn
Well, where somebody emphasizes. You can have a sentence, “I didn’t steal that toy.” If you say that to a little kid or somebody, depending on where they put the emphasis, “I didn’t steal that toy,” or, “I DIDN’T steal that toy,” “I didn’t steal THAT toy. I stole another toy.” Right? So, paying attention to where that emphasis is and that tone is coming out, starts to become an indicator too. Because if somebody says, “I didn’t steal THAT toy,” then you might think, “Oh, the way you said that, you might’ve stolen some other toy,” or something like that.

But a lot of times people aren’t aware of it and they’re a leak, so to speak, and we do this with our body, too, and how we verbalize things and how we move. But there are leaks that will really let you know more about what somebody understands. And some of this goes back to the work of Dr. Albert Morabia and in his work on communication.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s like the words and the tone and the gestures. It’s the proportion of…

Brian Ahearn
Yeah. And what they say, I think, is 55% body language, 38% tone, yeah, and 7% words. And speakers get up and all the time they tout that and they say, and I was guilty of this at one point, they’ll say, “People are going to remember your tie more than what you said.” That is not what his work was looking at. His work was looking at when the message and the messenger seem to be incongruent, people will focus a lot more on how somebody looks, their body language, and their tone of voice. Because, going back to that apology, two people can say the very same words. And if somebody says it in a way that doesn’t seem sincere, you start focusing on the body language and the tone. That’s what he was talking about in his research. Not a blanket, “People aren’t really listening to your words.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. Thank you for setting the record straight there. And that sounds a lot more true, certainly, in terms of if they said, “Ah, ah, ah, I didn’t steal anything.” It’s like, “Well, your words say that you didn’t but there’s something. You’re very nervous for some reason, and that’s what I want to be keying in on.” Okay, so tone. And then how about some asking clarifying questions? What are some of your favorite clarifying questions?

Brian Ahearn
Well, let me say this about questions. First is I’m never an advocate of interrupting somebody when they’re speaking, but when you don’t understand and you recognize in the moment, “I don’t really understand something,” it shows that you’re engaged in the conversation. So, if you’re telling me a lot of stuff, and I say, “Hey, Pete, can you hang on a second? When you said this, did you mean that? I’m not really sure.” It gives you an opportunity to make sure that I do understand and clarify, but it also shows that I’m engaged in that conversation because if I just button up and don’t say a word, you might start even wondering, like, “Is he even paying attention? I mean, he hasn’t said a word. He hasn’t given me any gesture. I don’t know if he’s engaged in this conversation.”

And it’s even more difficult over the phone because you can’t see the person. So, I think utilizing clarifying questions is a great way to stay engaged in the conversation so your mind doesn’t wander. It lets the other person know that you are in that, and it just helps you clarify what it is that you’re hearing.

And to your question, too, a simple one is when you say what are some of the questions. It’s, “Help me understand,” or, “I’m not really sure. Could you explain it?” But it’s a question. So, you have to say, “Well, I don’t understand something,” “I’m not clear on what you said,” “I don’t think I hear what you’re saying,” “Can you explain?” “Can you expound?” “Can you do something to help me out here?”

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, that’s grand. And I do like a 90-minute training on clarifying questions alone for like collaborators in terms of what you really need to understand before you embark upon a piece of work such that you don’t end up giving them something that they don’t want, in terms of like the deliverable, the timing, the process, the resources, the audience, and the motive.

Brian Ahearn
Well, I will say this, we talk about STARS in the book in the section on qualifying. So, in the sales process, when you finally have the opportunity to meet with a client, you want to assess, “Do we want to do business together?” Not all business is good business, “Can I do business? Do I have the capacity to fulfill your needs? And do I want to?” And you’re making the same assessment of me as the salesperson, “Do I want to do business with this guy? Can he meet my needs?” Questions are what help us determine that, and that’s why we talk about the STARS model in the qualifying part of the sales process.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, we’ve asked some clarifying questions. And then restating, how should we do that?

Brian Ahearn
So, whatever it is that you understand somebody to say. Pete, I know your listeners can’t see this but if I ask you, for example, about your business. You’re proud of your business and you know all this, and I’m putting my arms out really wide. You have this vast wealth of knowledge. If I’m working, for example, with insurance agents, they don’t need to know all of that. There are certain key things that they want to understand and so they’re going to hone in on those.

And as they do, those are the things that they’re going to probably come back and say, “So, Pete, your business sounds awesome. And if I understand you right…” and then I kind of come through and I lay out a few critical things about what it is that you need in your insurance protection. “If I hear you right, Pete…” and then I clarify that. And you may come back and go, “That’s exactly it, Brian. Thank you.” Or, you might come back and go, “No, you’re missing it. It’s the claim that I had. That’s why I’m upset.” And so, we can circle back and make sure that we’re both on the same page.

But no matter how well I do with listening, I will never know everything going on in your mind and so I don’t want to make that assumption that I do, so I, therefore, am going to try to restate to the best of my ability, “Here’s how it boils down for me.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Excellent. And then note-taking, I mean?

Brian Ahearn
Well, I use S for scribbling because N would’ve been STARN and that would’ve blown the whole model, right? So, I always encourage people to take some notes, but this is not writing the great American novel. It’s not trying to get down every word that people say. And while we can use certain tools like laptops to get a lot of information, that actually can hurt your listening because they say a lot of times students are trying to take down everything the professor is saying and they’re missing context and other things.

I encourage people to just bullet point things that they’re going to need to circle back on. So, I might’ve heard you say you had a car accident. I don’t need to stop you right in the middle of your story to say, “Tell me the details,” because you might. But if you don’t, I‘ve got that little bullet point and I can say, “Hey, Pete, you mentioned you had a car accident. Can you tell me a little bit more?” And I start asking, “When was it?” “What happened,” and all those things but it’s because I have that bullet point to remind me.

It also maybe just a few quick bullet points so there are things that I can fill out after our conversation is over. So, maybe I catch the name of your pet, I catch the name of your wife, or other things that I think will be important for me to remember down the road. And so, I bullet point those and it triggers my mind, and then I start going back, “Oh, yeah,” and I remember the type of dog that you said you had, and how long. Certain other things are triggered by that bullet point. So, that’s what I mean by scribble.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Excellent. So, there we got the listening, STARS, cool. And we’ve got another perspective, you called it the DEAL model, and you’re thinking specifically about four personality types. Well, first, lay this on us in terms of what are the types? Where do they come from? And how do we identify them?

Brian Ahearn
Okay. People are probably pretty familiar with DiSC, the DiSC model. And when I was working with the insurance company, and this was probably ten years ago, a training organization came in and used something that was similar to that. I don’t remember exactly what it was but it was similar to that, as a way to try to identify yourself, and it was a little more self-reflective than others.

And a guy I worked with came up and said, “Man, it’d be really cool if we could tie the principles of influence that you teach to the different personality styles. Are there some that are more effective than others?” So, I did a survey with my blog readers, and I took some very generic descriptions and said, “Read these and choose what you think you are,” and then that kind of funneled them in. And then I was asking them all the same questions, but I could look at the results then, and say, “Wow, people in one category seem to be different than people in these other categories.”

So, through the course of that, I came up with driver, expressive, amiable, and logical. And I like that because it’s spells DEAL and we deal with people, and the people I worked with, the salespeople, want to close deals, so it becomes very easy for them to remember. And it’s focused on, not self, not that it’s unimportant. It’s very important to understand ourselves, but it’s other-focused. I wanted to try to determine, Pete, are you a driver, that person who’s more focused on getting things done than relationships, and you like to be in control? Or, are you the expressive, the person who’s really relationship-driven but also really likes being in control?

And then that amiable, which is the relationship-oriented person who is more about self-focus and self-control. And the logical person is a task-driven individual but they’re not focused on controlling others or situations. They’re more focused on themselves, their own thinking, their own self-control. So, that’s a very basic model but it’s good because salespeople don’t always…I mean, I’m not going to go up and say, “What’s your Myers-Briggs, Pete?” And I wouldn’t be able to figure that out.

But this is a pretty simple model to assess people, and once you feel like you’ve got a handle on the type of personality, then we talk about the principles that are most effective in terms of being able to ethically influence them.

Pete Mockaitis 
Okay. So, it sounds like it’s, if I were to stick them in into a two-by-two, the dimensions we’re looking at are their level of task focus and their desire to control others?

Brian Ahearn
And situations, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so, with the driver, being high-high; the expressive being, I don’t know, low-high, they care about the relationship.

Brian Ahearn
Well, I just say that, yeah, there’s a demarcation and the bottom of it is the person is very relationship-driven.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you.

Brian Ahearn
And I would say good examples of that that I used in the book, Steve Jobs would’ve been a driver, right? That guy doesn’t care about being your friend. It is just about the work and get the stuff done. Oprah Winfrey, I think, is a great example of an expressive. She wants to know your story. She wants to get to know you and help you, but yet she is completely in control of her media kingdom just like Steve Jobs was in control. So, in the respect, they’re very alike but they’re very different in terms of their interactions with people on an individual level.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, okay. And so, how about examples for amiable and logical then?

Brian Ahearn
Amiable is always a little bit tougher in terms of coming up with examples because they’re not necessarily limelight people, and a lot of the occupations that they tend to move into aren’t ones that are necessarily in the limelight because they’re very relationship-focused and a little bit more self-control, self-focused than other in terms of control. They tend to be things more like counselors and teachers and nurses and social workers, and those aren’t always positions that are in the limelight. Now, that’s not to say that because you’re an amiable you can’t lead a company. You absolutely can. But what we tend to see is people move more into those positions that are not as much in the limelight.

Brian Ahearn
Mother Teresa would be an awesome example.

Pete Mockaitis
Alrighty. And logical?

Brian Ahearn
Logical person, again, very, very task-focused but not about controlling others or situations, more on the self-focused. And a great example here would be a Bill Gates or an Albert Einstein. And I would hope that you’d agree and your listeners would agree, if you have five minutes to try to sell an idea to each of these people, I hope you would go about doing it very differently with Steve Jobs versus Oprah Winfrey versus Mother Teresa or an Albert Einstein because they’re going to respond to different things and for different reasons.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. In terms of like Bill Gates doesn’t care much about your story most likely. If you’re talking about he’s trying to save the world in some dimension, I don’t know, climate change or vaccines or something, and then you say, “You know, Bill, let me tell you how I got interested in malaria,” I have a feeling Bill doesn’t want to hear, and maybe he does. I don’t know. But I would imagine he’d be more intrigued by, “Here’s the innovative cool thing that we’ve got going on here and why it’s different than what’s ever been used before, and why it’s way more cost-effective at saving lives than the previously existing technology available,” versus, Oprah would probably not be as into that. She wants to hear the story about how you got into malaria.

Brian Ahearn
Well, here’s a really good example, I think, for the logical versus the driver. According to the research, the survey that I did with blog readers, both of those personalities responded to the principle of consistency. And that principle says that we feel an internal psychological pressure and an external social pressure to be consistent in what we say and what we do.

I would think that somebody like Albert Einstein or Bill Gates, when they say something, they believe they’re right because they trust their intellect, they’ve thought it through, they’ve been methodical, and they’ve come up with a decision, and that’s why they believe what they believe. And if you can tie your request into that, then it makes very logical sense for them to say, “Absolutely.”

You go to the driver who is also driven by that principle of consistency but it’s a lot more ego-based. When Donald Trump was on “The Apprentice,” when he said something, he believed it. Even as president, when he said something, he barred the door on the facts just because he uttered it, he believed it. And I think to a great degree, a lot of people who are in that driver situation, they trust their gut, and so when they say something, they believe they’re right but it’s not for the same reason as the logical. But, nonetheless, if I can tap into what they’ve said, what they’ve done, or what they believe, it becomes easier for them to say yes. So, same principle, but very different reason on why it’s so compelling for each of those personalities.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s interesting. I’m reminded of I heard there’s like a legendary story, and I believe it’s true, the person doing the interview wasn’t lying, about Bill Gates, Microsoft, the XBOX, like they’re having a meeting about this thing. And, at first, Bill says, “What you’re proposing is an insult to everything I’ve done in my career in terms of like how it’s going to work and how it didn’t utilize the DOS/Windows, whatever stuff that he built up.”

And so, the meeting wasn’t going well for a long time until someone said, “Well, what about Sony?” He’s like, “Yeah, what about Sony?” And then it sort of totally changed his thinking associated with dominance and market share and influence and being in the living room, and how Microsoft and Sony were both kind of growing on these dimensions, and Sony has got this PlayStation, and they’re like, “Yes, we’ll give you everything you’ve asked for. Go for it and do the XBOX.” And so, that’s interesting in terms of like the set of facts that he’s focused on, logical, sure enough, was the persuasive thing that got it done when those were brought front and center for him.

Brian Ahearn
And I would say, too, that contrast phenomenon, right? He’s being compared to Sony, somebody that he looks at as a peer, a competitor, somebody he doesn’t want to be beaten by. If they had made the wrong comparison, maybe there was a little upstart company that was doing something, and he might’ve looked at it and said, “Who cares?”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, or like Nintendo. Like, “Yeah, okay, Nintendo has got Mario. I don’t care.” But Sony, “Oh, that’s a different story.”

Brian Ahearn
Yup.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Well so then, maybe if you could give us an example of some things that you might hear out of someone’s mouth that would make you go, “Hmm, driver,” “Oh, yeah, expressive.” Just a couple of telltale words, phrases, sentences that kind of cue you in to thinking, “It sounds like this is where you’re landing here.”

Brian Ahearn
Well, I think a lot of times, and I don’t like always making generalities, generalizations, because they’re always exceptions, and I absolutely recognize this. But I think a telltale, a lot of times, for drivers is they don’t stop talking.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Brian Ahearn
You really have a hard time getting a word in, edgewise, because they want to be in control of the situation, they have an opinion on everything, and, therefore, they’re continually going. And so, that can be a clue right there that, “I’m dealing with somebody who’s not giving me any space to step in and share what I need to share.”

If you’re going to try to influence somebody like that, you have to be okay with that. You have to recognize, you have to pick and choose the battles, and then step in where you get that opportunity or ask a question that might make them go, “Hmm, what do you mean? Tell me more.” Now, you’ve kind of got the platform back. But I think that’s the big telltale for a lot of drivers is it becomes kind of hard to get a word in edgewise.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And expressive?

Brian Ahearn
I think expressive is a lot of times people, and these are entertainers and politicians, people who know the importance of having a relationship, they’re probably a lot more of the storyteller, somebody who’s got a, “I met somebody and here’s a story and here’s another story.” So, they may do a lot of talking too. They’re expressive, they’re very outward, but they also allow you that space to ask about you, and you feel a little more connected to them, and some of it may just be because of the stories, but you’re like, “Hey, that’s funny. I like that person.” You don’t feel like you’re necessarily being talked to or talked at as much as maybe you will from that driver, who’s kind of tell you what it’s got to be like.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And amiable?

Brian Ahearn
Amiable is a lot of times are going to be the ones where you have to pull a little bit out of them. I’ve always pictured an amiable, if you’re going to go to the movies and you’ve got six people, and you say, “Hey, what do you guys want to see?” Amiable is probably like, “No, anything is cool with me,” because they’re very laid back, very relational. They’re just happy that they’re hanging out with everybody, and they’re cool doing whatever.

The driver would be the person who might say, “Well, if you guys are going to see that, I’m going to head home. I don’t want to see that movie,” and they’d be okay heading off by themselves. So, I think with the amiable, you’re going to see people who are very relational, very laid back, not looking to be the life of the party. You may have to do a little bit more to draw them out. You’re probably are going to get into much deeper conversations with somebody like that.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And logical?

Brian Ahearn
Logical person is going to be somebody, obviously, who’s very analytical and they’re thinking they’re going to be very fact-oriented. They’re going to be the people who don’t just share an opinion. They will do some research so that they can speak intelligently on something. Before they open their mouth, they want to really understand what they believe and why they believe it so that they can feel comfortable in terms of sharing it.

And that one, I would say from experience, people will say that I am an expressive just because of what I do, but I am absolutely a logical person. I’m a deep thinker about things, and I always tell my daughter, when she asked me a question, I’m like, “I don’t have an opinion on that because I haven’t really looked into it and I’m not going to just say something.”

Pete Mockaitis
I feel the same way, and particularly, in business-y situations. I remember, talking about insurance, I was buying some insurance once and it had some absurd clause, I was like, “Wait. And this kind of make it sound like you don’t pay any claims ever. So, what’s the deal here?” “Oh, no, one has ever asked that question before.” It’s like, “Well, so can you share with me some evidence that you sometimes pay out claims because this kind of reads like you never have to?”

And so, when I’m in sort of a business conversation, that’s kind of what I want, it’s like, “I want a profoundly compelling evidence that proves that you got the stuff. Like, you’re going to deliver what I’m seeking to be delivered.” And so, I think that often makes people feel very uncomfortable because usually they don’t have the evidence that I want. And so, they need to kind of like try to be compassionate, it’s like, “Well, okay, if you don’t have that set of facts, can you give me some alternative sets of facts that maybe I can plug into my spreadsheet and deal with how I need to deal with to prove it out?” But, still, it’s logical, like got to have it.

Brian Ahearn
Well, this can be a shortcoming when you’re the one trying to persuade. Let’s say you’re really good at building relationships. That’s an awesome skill to have but if you get into that situation with a logical like you, if you make a friend, okay, that’s cool. But if you don’t, that’s cool, too. You just want to buy the insurance.

So, if a person only is able to lean on what their strength is, that strength ends up being a negative, a weakness with certain people. And this is why I try to emphasize in looking at this model. It’s not about you, it’s not about what you’re good at, it’s not about your strengths; it’s about the other person. Learn what the psychology is and then understand what the psychology is that applies to them, and get good at that.

So, in a sense, be a little bit of a chameleon in terms of how you interact with people, not being a false person, but just recognizing that just because you like having these great relationships, you’re going to have some clients, and they could be great clients, but they’re just not into the relationship part. That’s okay.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, maybe since insurances is your specialty, maybe I’ll just put you on the spot. Let’s say you’re trying to sell auto insurance to these four different types of people. Can I hear a sentence or two of a custom verbiage that might be very appropriate when you’re making that pitch to a driver versus an expressive versus an amiable versus a logical?

Brian Ahearn
Okay. Well, if you’re talking to a driver, then scarcity is something that comes into play a lot. The mistake that people would make is talking about all the things that somebody might gain or save, but what you really want to talk about is what they might lose.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Brian Ahearn
So, going in and having that conversation and framing something instead of gain, like they don’t care so much about saving as what they may be losing, and framing it that way, “You’re overpaying,” instead of, “Well, I can save you a bunch of money.” That would be a particular approach.

When you move down and you’re talking to somebody who’s an expressive, understanding that they’re going to be more relationship-oriented, you’re going to want to tap a little bit more into like, “You’re going to want to make that connection.” They’re going to want to look at you and say, “That’s a person that I really like and I want to do business with people that I like.”

Another effective principle in terms of interacting with folks like that is consensus. What are other people who are like them doing? And by bringing that in, that becomes a strong decision factor. Whereas, again, the driver, they don’t care what everybody else is doing. They think of themselves as completely different and unique. So, that’s a little bit about how you’d be different with this person who’s the expressive.

When you move over to the amiable, also very big on relationship, so you’re going to want to certainly make sure that you tap into liking because they’re probably not going to want to do business with somebody that they don’t like. So, connecting on what you have in common, talking about those things, being complimentary where genuine compliments are due. But they also surprisingly respond really well to the principle of authority.

And so, by really showing that you know what you’re talking about, that’s not challenging to them; that’s comforting to them. And so, by deferring to something like, I might say, “You know, Pete, I’ve been in this business now for more than 30 years. And something that I found is really important.” That little tidbit about, “I’ve been in business for 30 years,” isn’t coming across like a bragger to them. It’s giving them a sense of comfort that, “Wow, okay, I like this guy and he knows what he’s talking about.” And so, that becomes a little bit more of the tact that I take with that person.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And then the logical?

Brian Ahearn
So, the logical, obviously they’re going to be fact-driven so you’re going to need to be able to show authority not only that you have some personal authority that you’re good at what you’re doing but bring in data, bring in information from respected individuals or organizations that would support your claim. If you don’t do that, then you come across to the logical person as just somebody who thinks they know everything. Much better to bring in that support of the information, “Where did you hear that quote?” “What did this particular report say?” That’s what’s going to give somebody, who’s a logical individual, a sense of comfort.

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

Brian Ahearn
As I said at the beginning, I wrote this book for a specific market. I wrote it for insurance agents, and that was because trying to write a sales book can get super generic. When you keep talking about products or services, and people start reading it, “That doesn’t apply to me. Well, that’s…” So, just on the counsel of somebody I really respect, I thought, “You know what, I’m going to tighten this up. I’m going to make it specific to insurance. It’s what I know.”

But then I realized, as I got into it, that every step in the sales cycle, if somebody is in sales, they’re going to benefit from understanding the psychology that applies. And that even people who aren’t selling are going to benefit from learning how to be a listening star, how to deal with different personalities so that they can sell themselves and their ideas. So, I would just encourage anybody, if you see yourself in any capacity as selling, check the book out.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. And, now, a favorite quote?

Brian Ahearn
Well, I think the one I find myself referring to more than ever now is something that my high school football coach said, and I attributed it to him for a long time, until somebody said, “No, that was the Roman philosopher Seneca.” But it is, “Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.” And ever since I was a sophomore in high school and heard coach say that, and recognized that if I worked really hard, good things would happen.

And even when the good thing that I want doesn’t come about, it’s amazing, Pete, how all that preparation comes in in a different way, and, all of a sudden, I’m like, “Hey, that preparation is helping me now over here.” So, it never goes untapped.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Brian Ahearn
One of my favorites, was Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning. And just reading about what he and all those other people in those concentration camps endured was unimaginable. But the takeaway for me was towards the end of the book when he said, something to the effect that, “Every freedom can be taken away from a man except for the last freedom; where to place your thoughts, what you’re going to think about.”

Nobody. And he said, basically, it didn’t matter how much the guards beat them, threaten them, or do anything, they could never ever make them think what they didn’t want to. And that is incredibly powerful.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Brian Ahearn
It’s called Voice Dream, and it’s an app that I downloaded on the advice of a friend on my iPhone. And when I write something, I have it up usually in Google Docs, and I just pull it into that app, and then I can listen to it. And it’s amazing what you catch. You write it and you think it’s good, and then you hear it, and you’re like, “Eh, it’s not exactly how I wanted it to come across.” So, it has helped my writing immensely. I’m working on two more books so I use it all the time.

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

Brian Ahearn
First will be LinkedIn. I connect with everybody and I guarantee your listeners, if you reach out to connect and you don’t put a reason, I will come back and say, “How did you find me? I’d like to understand why people are reaching out.” And if you do put in a reason, I will still respond because, as my most recent blogpost said, “Social media is supposed to be social.” And the way that we do that is by having conversations with people. And so, I will absolutely respond to you on LinkedIn.

The other place, Pete, would be my website which is InfluencePeople.biz. Just a tremendous amount of resources out there if they want to learn more about this topic.

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

Brian Ahearn
I think it would be to start dedicating time to understand the influence process. Influence, in some respects, is like listening. Very few people learn how to do it well and yet we use it every single day, I say from womb to tomb. As soon as a baby is born, he or she cries. They’ve got a need they’re trying to get met.

Some of us learn how to do it well and it helps immensely with our professional success and personal happiness. So, I hope people who are listening will say, “You know what, maybe I need to dig into this a little bit more. I could use the ability to have more people saying yes. That would be helpful in my life.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Brian, this has been a treat. Thank you and I wish you lots of luck in all your influencing.

Brian Ahearn
Thank you. I appreciate it, Pete.

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

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

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

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

You’ll Learn:

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

About Jena

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

Resources mentioned in the show:

 Thank you, sponsors!

MunkPack. Save 20% on delicious, keto-friendly snacks at Munkpack.com with the promo code AWESOME.

Jena Viviano Interview Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jena Viviano
That’s impressive. You are lucky.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jena Viviano
I thought it was fun too.

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

Jena Viviano
Wow! You really were interested young.

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Take it away.

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

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

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

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

Jena Viviano
How about that? Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Excellent.

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, they say that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jena Viviano
Simple. Don’t complicate it.

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

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

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

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

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

Jena Viviano
Oh, really?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s cool.

Jena Viviano
Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite tool?

Jena Viviano
Yeah, I love Loom.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, me too.

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

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a favorite habit?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jena Viviano
Thank you so much.

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

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

Steve Dalton details his systematic process for securing dream interviews.

You’ll Learn:

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

About Steve

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

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

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you, sponsors!

Steve Dalton Interview Transcript

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

Steve Dalton
It’s my pleasure to be here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, absolutely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Dalton
Absolutely, both of those.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Dalton
A pleasure.

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And how do I do that?

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

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

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

Steve Dalton
Yes, absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Darn it, people. Sorry, guys.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Dalton
Exactly.

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
With a question mark.

Steve Dalton
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I’m with you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure, yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Dalton
A chance for them to save face.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Dalton
Same organization.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Dalton
Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Dalton
Mm-hmm.

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, wow.

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

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a favorite book?

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

Pete Mockaitis
Mm-hmm.

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Dalton
Thank you. Thank you for having me.