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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.

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

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

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

You’ll Learn:

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

About Jena

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

Resources mentioned in the show:

 Thank you, sponsors!

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Jena Viviano Interview Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jena Viviano
That’s impressive. You are lucky.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jena Viviano
I thought it was fun too.

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

Jena Viviano
Wow! You really were interested young.

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Take it away.

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

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

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

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

Jena Viviano
How about that? Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Excellent.

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, they say that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jena Viviano
Simple. Don’t complicate it.

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

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

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

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

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

Jena Viviano
Oh, really?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s cool.

Jena Viviano
Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite tool?

Jena Viviano
Yeah, I love Loom.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, me too.

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

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a favorite habit?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jena Viviano
Thank you so much.

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.

507: How to Get Exceptional Mentors and Opportunities with Alex Banayan

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Alex Banayan shares unconventional approaches to creating new opportunities.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The ultimate cold email template to recruit mentors
  2. Creative “third door” approaches that nobody takes
  3. Communication secrets from Maya Angelou and Larry King

About Alex:

Alex Banayan  is the author of The Third Door, the result of an unprecedented seven-year journey interviewing the most innovative leaders of the past half-century, including Bill Gates, Lady Gaga, Larry King, Maya Angelou, Steve Wozniak, Jane Goodall, Quincy Jones, and more. He has presented the Third Door framework to business conferences and corporate leadership teams around the world, including Apple, Google, Nike, IBM, Snapchat, Salesforce, and Disney. When he was 18, Alex hacked The Price is Right, won a sailboat, and sold it to fund his adventure. He was then named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list.

Resources mentioned in the show:

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Alex Banayan Interview Transcript

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

Alex Banayan
Thank you very much for having me. I’m very excited.

Pete Mockaitis
I think the first thing we got to cover is how did you hack The Price is Right.

Alex Banayan
Going right to the meat. Wow, that was nine years ago. I was 18 years old at the time, a freshman in college. And the context is sort of important because I was sort of going through this what I want to do with my life crisis.


And not only did I not know what I wanted to do, I didn’t know how other people who I looked up to how they did it. How did Bill Gates sell his first piece of software out of his dorm room? Or how did Spielberg become the youngest director of Hollywood history.


So I … The short version of the story is I sort of set off to go find the book I was dreaming of reading. I went to the library and looked through dozens of biographies and business books. But eventually I was left empty-handed.


So, that’s when my naïve 18 year old thinking kicked in, and I thought well, if no one is reading the book I was dreaming of reading, why not do it myself? 


I thought it would be very simple. I thought I would just call up Bill Gates and interview him, and interview everybody else, and I would be done in a few months.

Pete Mockaitis
Alex, so good to hear from you. He picks it up and you’re just chatting away.

Alex Banayan
Yeah. I really thought that that’s how it would go. What I thought would be the hard part would be getting the money to fund the journey. I was buried in student loan debt. I was all out of Bar mitzvah cash so there had to be a way to make some quick money.

Pete Mockaitis
And actually game shows is your first instinct.

Alex Banayan
Well, do you know what’s funny? It wasn’t even my first instinct. I didn’t have any instincts. But I just kept ruminating on this problem until two nights before final exams I’m in the library and I’m doing what everyone is doing in the library right before finals, I’m on Facebook.

Pete Mockaitis
Sing.

Alex Banayan
And I’m on Facebook and I see someone offering free tickets to The Price is Right. It’s the longest running game show in US history. And my first thought was what if I go on this show and win some money to fund this book? Not my brightest moment. 


Plus, I had a problem, I’d never seen a full episode of the show before. I’ve of course seen bits and pieces when I was home sick from school in fourth grade.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s exactly what I was thinking, home sick is what I associate The Price is Right with.

Alex Banayan
Yeah. You know I didn’t have cable growing up. Everyone knows the price is right but I’ve never seen a full episode before. So, I told myself this was a dumb idea and to not think about it.


But, I sort of felt this, you know, almost like someone was tying a rope around my stomach and was pulling me in a direction. So, that night I decided to do the logical thing and pull an all-nighter to study.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Alex Banayan
But I didn’t study for finals, I instead had to hack The Price is Right. I went on the show the next day and did this ridiculous strategy and I ended up winning the whole showcase showdown winning a sail boat, selling that sail boat and that’s how I funded the book.

Pete Mockaitis
Well that’s excellent. So, what’s the strategy? I mean, I guess there is some strategies for winning once you’re selected. But how do you get selected?

Alex Banayan
Well that was my whole question because when I decided to pull that all-nighter, I decided I’m not going to ditch finals and just hope that luck goes my way. I was like I have to figure out this strategy.


So, I just started Googling how to get on The Price is Right, because I figured that must be the hard part. There’s 300 people on the audience.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, statistically, right.

Alex Banayan
Right, statistically there’s 300 in the audience, eight get called down, one out of those eight win. So, the big statistical challenge is being the 300 down to the eight.


So, what I found out is The Price is Right, and I found this out at three o’clock in the morning by the 23rd o of Google. I found this blog post from back in the ’90s that said The Price is Right is not what it seems. They make it look very random. Pete, come on down.

Pete Mockaitis
Me? Wow, all my college friends are excited for me.

Alex Banayan
Right, right. Like all … Like as if they pulled your name out of a hat. But what I learned is like everything in life and business, although it looks like luck, there is a system to it. And there’s a producer who interviews every single person in the audience before the show begins.


And in addition to the producer, there is an undercover producer planted in the audience who then confirms or denies the original producer’s selection. So, it doesn’t matter how much you love the show, how bubbly your personality is, if that producer doesn’t put you on his list, and if the undercover producer doesn’t then confirm or deny you, it doesn’t matter how much you want to be on the show, you’re not on.


So, that’s where I poured all of my focus. The long version of the story is like this, like 20 minute preposterous story and it was much less Einstein and much more Forest Camp when I say hack.


But it ended up being the event that really launched this seven year journey of the third door. 

Pete Mockaitis
So, then how do you identify who the producer is and get the meeting or the impression such that you get lucky?

Alex Banayan
Well, during my all-nighter research once I found out how it worked, I then poured all of my focus into studying who the producer is. And I figured out his name is Stan. I pretty much knew where he grew up, where he went to school, I essentially knew where he had for breakfast that morning. I learned everything I could about him.

Pete Mockaitis
Just like LinkedIn and googling around this Stan guy?

Alex Banayan
Yeah. He’s the head casting producer for The Price is Right. There’s stuff about him on the internet and when I finally, that next morning, drove on to the CDS lot in Los Angeles.


First of all, even before I got online, I realized I don’t know who the undercover producers are, so I just have to assume everyone is the undercover producer. So, I’m dancing with old ladies. I’m flirting with custodians. I’m break dancing and I don’t know how to break dance.


And eventually I get in line and about an hour in I see my guy. I see Stan standing 50 feet away from me. The way it works is Stan takes 20 people at once in line, sort of like herding cattle, puts them all in a row and walks down the line one by one ask them questions.


What’s your name, where are you from, what do you do? What’s your name, where are you from, what do you do? And before you know it, Stan is standing right in front of me and he’s like what’s your name, where are you from, what do you do?


I’m like, “Hey, I’m Alex. I’m 18 years old. I’m a pre-med.” And he goes, “Pre-med, you must spend all your time studying. How do you have time to watch The Price is Right?” And I’m like, “Oh, is that where I am?” No laughter. The joke just falls flat.


So, I notice his eyes darting as if he’s ready to move on, and I had read in a business book during my life crisis that said human contact speeds up a relationship. So, I had an idea. I had to touch Stan. Now, he’s like 20 feet away from me so I’m like, “Stan come over here, I want to make a handshake with you.” He’s like, “Oh, no, no, it’s okay.” I’m like, “Come on.”


And very reluctantly he comes over and I teach him how to pound it and blow it up and he laughs a bit, and he says, “All right, good luck,” and he starts walking away.


Now, what you need to know about Stan is he has a clipboard, but it’s never in his hands, it’s in his assistants hands who sits about 20 feet away from him, and that’s the list that gets passed on to the undercover producer.


As Stan starts walking away from me I notice he doesn’t turn around to his assistant, she doesn’t write anything on the clipboard, and just like that it’s over. And I don’t know if you’ve ever had one of those moments where you can literally see your dream walking right away from you, almost like it’s sand slipping through your fingers.


And the worst part is you didn’t even have a chance to really prove yourself. So, I don’t know what got into me, but I started yelling at the top of my lungs, “Stan, Stan.” The whole audience shoots their head around and Stan runs over thinking I’m having a seizure and he was like, “Are you okay? Are you okay? What’s going on?”


I have no idea what I’m going to say. And Stan’s looking at me, I’m looking at him, the audience is dead silent. This random 18 year old kid was shouting at the top of his lungs and again, what you have to know about Stan, he’s very typical Hollywood, turtle neck, red scarf, goatee.


And I just look at Stan with all the seriousness I can and I’m just like, “Your scarf.” And now I really don’t know what I’m going to say next. And I just look at him, I just try to be as serious as possible and I just look at him dead in the eyes and I’m like, “Stan, I’m an avid scarf collector. I have 362 pairs in my dorm room and I’m missing that one. Where did you get it?” And he starts cracking up because I think he finally realized what I was actually trying to do, and he just smiled and took his scarf and put it around my neck, and he was like, “Look, you need this more than I do.” He turned around, winked to his assistant and she put my name on the clipboard.

Pete Mockaitis
Hot dog. Well you know, Alex, we usually don’t spend this much time on the kind of fan fact background ice breaker. But I think that this is important because there’s really some lessons here.

Alex Banayan
Thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
In terms of one, you were so persistent that you went to the 23rd page of Google, and that’s the ancient, I don’t know if it’s ancient. Google is not that ancient.

Alex Banayan
The ancient Greeks talk about the 23rd o of Google where all wisdom is. 

Pete Mockaitis
Well I guess the marketing joke is where is the best place to hide a body, the second page of Google because no one ever looks there.

Alex Banayan
Right, right.

Pete Mockaitis
But so you exhibited exceptional persistence in going deep into getting that as well as some courage. You didn’t know what you were going to do, but you knew that your window of opportunity was slipping and so you just did something and then you adapted real time.


So, I think that there is some excellent lessons there. So, then you won The Price is Right, you got the sail boat, you sold the sail boat, you had some funding now for your project. And your dream book then was to interview hyper achievers and figure out what they got going on.


So, tell us how did you in fact manage to get these folks to speak with you because you soon learned that it wasn’t as easy as calling up Bill and he says oh, hey Alex. So, what did you do to get them to talk?

Alex Banayan
Yes. To my surprise Bill Gates does not do interviews with random 18 year olds. 

Pete Mockaitis
Lessons learned.

Alex Banayan
Yes, very important lessons learned. And that’s really when it took off. So, it took two years to track down Bill Gates, it took three years to track down Lady Gaga and when I had started, like I said, I thought it would be this very simple straight forward process.


But every single interview was completely different. So, on my list were people from all industries. So, for science, Jane Goodall, for poetry Maya Angelou. Computer science, Steve Wozniak, Larry King, Quincy Jones, Jessica Alba, Pitbull, Warren Buffet.


It really went across all industries and each interview was its own adventure. So, with Larry King I chased him through a grocery store. With Tim Ferriss I had to hide in a bathroom for 30 minutes. So, each one was … With Steven Spielberg I almost died in the south of France. It was … With Mark Zuckerberg I almost got the police called on me.


So, every interview was its own mini quest and what I did learn across the board though, what I learned not only in the process of getting the interviews but even more importantly in the interviews themselves is while every story was different, every adventure to get the interview was different and every person who I interviewed on that surface were more different than you can say.


Maya Angelou grew up in Stamps, Arkansas. Bill Gates grew up in Seattle. At their core, and I don’t know if you’re a big music fan, but it was almost like there was a common melody to every conversation I was having. 


And the analogy that came to me, because I was 21 at the time, is that life and business and success is just like a night club, there’s always three ways in. 


So, there’s the first store, the main entrance where the line curves around the block where 99% of people wait around hoping to get in, that’s the first store. People are just standing, holding their resumes out in the cold hoping the bouncer lets them in. That’s the first store.


Then there’s the second door, the VIP entrance where the billionaires and celebrities go through. And for some reason school and society have this way of making us feel like those are the only two ways in. You either wait your turn or you’re born into it.


But what I learned is that there’s always, always the third door, and it’s the entrance where you jump out of line, run down the alley, bang on the door 100 times, crack open the window, go through the kitchen. There’s always a way in, and it doesn’t matter if that’s how Bill Gates sold his first piece of software or how Lady Gaga got her first record deal, they all took the third door.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, that is so meta there. So, you are going through exceptional, unique efforts to access these people and then they’re telling you stories about their own accessible unique ways that they access their successes and opportunities.

Alex Banayan
Not by design.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s pretty wild. So, I want to dig into a couple of these luminaries insights. But so can we hear some of the particular? So, I guess you had different adventures each time. So, I’m putting together some themes already for The Price is Right.


There is persistence. I don’t know if I want to call it shamelessness, but it seems like you’re not easily embarrassed or you are, you don’t let that stop you.

Alex Banayan
I think it’s … So, the latter I think is super important. Not only just reflecting on my own journey but I also think anyone with their own careers because if you, Pete, if you ask my sisters what it’s like growing up with me, they would tell you I was the most scared kid you would ever meet.

Pete Mockaitis
No kidding.

Alex Banayan
And I can still remember to this day standing outside The Price is Right, right before I was going to get interviewed just completely terrified and embarrassed and I remember literally closing my eyes and telling myself you can either just succumb to this fear and lose this entire opportunity or you can push through it.


What I realized when I started interviewing people for the third door, when I sat down with all these leaders, is that my big question for them was how did they become so fearless because I definitely was consumed by fear every step of the way.


And my biggest realization after doing every single interview was that not only were people like Bill Gates scared in the beginning, they were terrified the whole way through. And that didn’t make any sense to me.


And what I learned is that it wasn’t fearlessness they achieved, it was courage. And while the word sounds very similar, the difference is critical. And this is super important whether it’s in your personal life or in your career or in the workplace, fearlessness is jumping off of a cliff and not thinking about it. That’s idiotic.


Courage on the other hand is acknowledging your fear, analyzing the consequences and then deciding you care so much about it you’re still going to take one thoughtful step forward anyway.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, there you have it. So, you sort of take a look at the real, I guess, consequences and probabilities like okay, here are the options, I can do nothing and get nowhere, or I can do this and which might get me in jail or embarrassed or a sail boat. So, that’s worthwhile. I’m going to go ahead and do that because that’s more important to me.

Alex Banayan
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. 

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well so then … And I guess you say you have wild tales and adventure for each of these people that you interviewed. So, can you share any sort of general themes? It seems like one of them is you’re persistent over time. 


Another is that you sort of just figure out where they’re going to be and be there. Anything else with regard to your messaging or invitation of winning over assistant publicist gatekeepers?

Alex Banayan
Well, yes, there are a lot of themes that to my surprise the themes that helped me get these interviews I’ve also learned through my research are also the same themes of the most high performing sales teams and the most high performing business development teams.


And what I’ve … And you know there is macro themes and also micro tactics. Even starting on the micro which are very useful for anyone no matter what their job is there is a right and a wrong way to send cold emails.


And in the year 2019 we’re almost into 2020, cold emailing is one of the most effective ways if you can actually do it correctly. So, I learned this during my interview with Tim Ferriss. He gave me a cold email template which he hadn’t shared anywhere else that not only changed my entire life and helped me get interviews for the book and get mentors for my journey, but it also my favorite thing is since the third door has come out, thousands of readers have written in saying that it’s changed their lives.


They’ve gotten in contact with people like Sheryl Sandberg or Malcolm Gladwell, all through this cold email template.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, you’ve got my attention Alex.

Alex Banayan
Okay.

Pete Mockaitis
What does this consist of?

Alex Banayan
All right, so this is how it works. It’s super simple but again, you really have to follow it to a T. So, it starts like this, Dear so and so. I know you’re incredibly busy, and you get a lot of emails. So, this will only take 60 seconds to read. Boom, that’s the first paragraph.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Alex Banayan
Then you move on to the next paragraph. The second paragraph is where you put one to two sentences max of context of who you are and why that’s relevant to the person who’s reading this.


So, again, this is not where you put your bio, your life story, but you pick a couple sentences that’s relevant to that person. Boom, next paragraph.


Again, one to two sentences max of a hyper specific question that they can respond without thinking too hard about. So, what should I do with my life is a bad example of a question. But what is one book you recommend to an aspiring writer is a great question.


Then the final paragraph is the contour. You go I totally understand if you’re too busy to reply. Even a one or two line response will completely make my day. All the best, Alex.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So then they gave you a book, which is nice. But you were interested in a little more. So, what then?

Alex Banayan
Bingo. So, I got the follow up advice during my interview with Bill Gates. Bill shared a lot of incredible advice about sale secrets and negotiating secrets. But one of the things he really emphasized is if you get someone to like you and to be invested in you, you don’t really have to negotiate that hard.


One of the things he did very early on in his career, which was very surprising to me is he would do exactly that. He would … Let’s say he was in the beginning of Microsoft doing a deal with IBM and wanted to create a relationship with the executives there.


When he would meet them he would ask them for book recommendations and then he said the key is he said busy people don’t have a lot of time to think, so what they do is they create frameworks whether they’re conscious of it or not.


And let’s say someone reaches out to you and says do you recommend a book? And you give let’s say three book recommendations. If that person gets back to you in a few months you might think, oh, that was a pretty smart person, they took my advice, that’s nice.


If they obviously don’t get back to you, you probably don’t even think about them again. But if someone gets back to you in one week saying I read all three books and the second one you recommended has completely changed my life and in these ways, I just wanted to say thank you.


All of a sudden that person creates a mental framework that you are a very good investment of their time. They just spent 30 seconds giving you advice and it’s already made a giant transformation in your life. And they also think that’s an incredibly hard working person who I want to get to know better.


Slowly it starts with an email, then maybe you next time you’re in town, “Hey, I’m in town. I would love to see you for 15 minutes if you’re available and if not totally understand.”


Then maybe you’re going through a challenge in a few months. “Hi, I’m sure you’re incredibly busy. I’m going through this crisis. Do you have a little time to talk on the phone?” It slowly builds and grows.


A mentorship isn’t something that you just sign on the dotted line. It’s a relationship that slowly grows with time and investment.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. So, then with these folks is that, well I guess 15 minutes is all you need for your interview in your book and what you’re trying to accomplish there or have you stayed in touch with some of these folks over longer periods?

Alex Banayan
Yeah, absolutely. You know it spans the spectrum. So, with some people they … With Quincy Jones it was three hours, a three-hour long interview. With some people it was a little shorter. For some people like Bill Gates the only time I’ve ever spent time with him was during that interview in his office.


With some people who I interviewed they’re some of my best friends now. There’s this great quote that I really love that always come to mind. It says … I can’t even remember who said it. It said something along the lines of respect the people who make time for you out of their busy schedules when you need them. But love the people who never check their schedule when you need them most.


I think what’s beautiful about this journey for the third door is it started as my journey to get advice to figure out how did the most high achieving people launch their careers. But what ended up happening is it also became this very personal journey where I was finding myself and growing up along the way and some of the people who I interviewed sort of transcended not only as an interview subject to a mentor, but to being like family members.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s beautiful. And so there was a lot there. Let’s just get a couple tidbits just to get a taste of the wisdom of some of these amazing folks. So, a couple that you mentioned to me that I’d love to get maybe just one minute. All right, Maya Angelou, how do you write good?

Alex Banayan
Oh my good. A part of me literally wants to open up the book and read directly, but I’ll paraphrase. But she, I would say also just to give her credit which she doesn’t need extra credit because everyone knows already how incredible she is. But she was the only interview subject where her words, I literally could just sit back and she wrote the chapter herself. 


Just you asked her a question and she literally gives the most gorgeous and beautifully written response out of her mouth. It was definitely a very, very big honor to speak to her.


When it comes to writing she said the biggest thing she recommends a new writer to do no matter your age, is to take the writing that you just wrote, find a quiet room, close the door, and read your writing out loud.


She said it sounds obvious and simple but almost no one does it. People don’t like to hear the sound of their voice, they don’t like to read things out loud. But she said the best form of editing is reading it out loud because only then can you hear the melody of the words. And writing, good writing, is much more than logically putting words in the right order. It’s about creating a melody that is easy for the reader to take in.


She shared a quote with me that I’ll never forget. She said, and I think the quote is by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the quote goes, easy reading is damn hard writing.

Pete Mockaitis
Agreed.

Alex Banayan
Right? Easy reading is damn hard writing. And Maya Angelou insisted that the inverse is true too, easy writing is damn hard reading.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s perfect.

Alex Banayan
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about Larry King and interviewing?

Alex Banayan
Oh my God. Larry I’ll give a tidbit but he taught me so much. He looked at me the first time we met or the second time we met and he said, he was like, “The problem with all young interviewers when they’re just starting out …” And again, this is interviewing whether it’s for a TV show or radio show or even interviewing in a hiring process.


He said, “They look at the interviewers they admire and they try to copy that.” They look at maybe Oprah who uses all this emotion or Barbara Walters who’s very strategic or even Larry himself, which is very straight forward and they try to copy that style. Larry said that is the biggest mistake you can make because you’re focusing on what our style is not why we have that style.


The truth is those are the styles that makes them the most comfortable in their chairs. When you’re comfortable in your chair, the person you’re interviewing becomes comfortable in their chair, and that’s what makes for the best interview.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. Well Alex let’s go meta here. How do I make you more comfortable in your chair? I’m in pajama bottoms right now, if that helps, but you can’t see them.

Alex Banayan
The fact that you are just asking things that you are genuinely curious about and it sounds like you’re having fun is making me have fun. So, I’m very grateful.

Pete Mockaitis
Well thank you. Well that’s true. I really do want to know these things and I’m curious, so thank you. So, very cool. Then this third door mindset here, which is there’s more than just the two options associated with the masses and the VIPs. There is a third door. 


So, what are some general questions or means by which you began to discover what those third doors can look like in any given situation?

Alex Banayan
You know what’s interesting about the third door is it’s not a recipe for success, it’s a framework for success. The difference is this is really a lens to view your challenges, a lens to view the obstacles that no matter what’s in front of you, no matter what challenges are in front of you, at the end of the day there’s always a way.


And again, it doesn’t matter if we’re looking at how Warren Buffet got funding for his first investments or how Steven Spielberg became the youngest director of Hollywood history, what the third door framework tells you is that you don’t have to sit back and wait for a boss or a parent or even a mentor to give you permission to go after your goals.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Alex Banayan
You have the power to make it happen yourself. And what I’ve noticed with readers of the book is it gives you a sense of possibility. What I’ve learned is you can give someone all the best tools and tactics in the world, and their life can still feel stuck. But if you change what someone believes is possible, they’ll never be the same.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. That really resonates in terms of what you believe is possible. You know what, I even see this in small ways. I’m thinking about boy it goes big, it goes small. It’s like what could be possible in terms of could it be possible to earn a quarter million dollars a year by working less than 20 hours a week? Yes. In fact, I know people who do that and I find that inspiring and I’m kind of building my business to accommodate that so I have more time for just docking out and reading long whole books and studies and being with my kids and exercising and what not.


But along the way I’m having so much fun that I just keep working. So, that’s cool too. But I think even in the micro sense, this has happened to me a couple of times with I’m thinking about home renovation. I know it’s so mundane, since we’re talking about huge dreams and life visions.


But I think that’s let’s say I get a quote from one vendor, and I go man, to rebuild those kind of loose bricks around the perapet walls they’re called, that extend above the roof and to get a new roof that’s going to cost $40,000 says one person. And I go, dang, I sure don’t want to spend $40,000.


But if I, even if I get just a little bit of benchmark research data from Homeadvisor.com or from another quote or for some people that I’m talking to, then I begin to learn what is in fact possible and then I say no, I don’t like that answer that I got, so therefore, I will persist until I get another answer I like.


And spoiler alert, I just hired someone who’s going to take care of our roof matters for less than half that price. So, yay. And if I had no idea of what was possible, I might be like well shocks, I guess that’s what it costs. Man, that’s expensive.


So, I think that your sense of possibility can be expanded with even a quick Google search like in your case.

Alex Banayan
Right, absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
Not a quick Google search 23 pages down, but you say oh, it is in fact possible to take an action that gets me selected for Price is Right.

Alex Banayan
Yes, yes, 100%. 100% yes.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. So, what are some additional means by which you recommend that you become aware of possibilities? So, one is huge, is finding mentors.

Alex Banayan
What a great question, that’s a great question. I love that.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, lay it on me Alex.

Alex Banayan
Because what I’ve learned is you should do what you can with what you have. You should do what you can with what you have. Now, for most people, look, if you’re listening to this right now, at the very least you have internet access. That’s how you’re listening to this podcast, right?


So, you already have access to YouTube, every podcast out there, and books whether you buy them yourself or you sign up for a library account and rent it on your phone. And when I was first starting out, and I think it’s really important to remember that I didn’t know anyone, I was an 18 year old college student. And my mentors at the time were books. I read Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness, CEO of Zappos and that became my mentor.


I read Pour your Heart Into It by Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks and that became a mentor to me. And in the beginning it was just books. And slowly with time I began to meet the authors of the books by going to author events and then I started cold emailing authors and started meeting them in person.


And of course the dream is for the people you look up to, to be able to help you in real time and real life but you have to start somewhere. And starting with YouTube videos if you’re interested in social media marketing. Type in Gary Vee on YouTube and just go down that rabbit hole if you’re interested in entrepreneurship. There is so much out there.


What happens when you start absorbing yourself very … And I love really going down that rabbit hole when you really absorb people stories is it shows you what’s possible, going back to your question how to do that.


And I think you have to be very proactive in the process because if you’re sitting back at your job or in your classroom, no matter where you are in life, and you’re just taking in the information that’s been given to you, your sense of possibility is very slim and very narrow.


But if you actively push yourself to read things that you normally wouldn’t read, talk to people you normally wouldn’t talk to, your life will never be the same.

Pete Mockaitis
I think we have to address an issue that can just short circuit the magic of that possibility becoming present to you, which is a tendency to, I don’t know what the word is.

Alex Banayan
I’m curious what you’re saying because I have an idea too.

Pete Mockaitis
Is it other, I don’t want to say otherize, but to form a wall or distinction it’s like okay sure, Howard Schultz could do that but he is Howard Schultz, you know? Larry King could do that but he is Larry King and I am not Larry King. 


So, that notion that that person is completely different from me and therefore that possibility is not real, I think that can just kill the magic. So, how do you inoculate yourself from that influence?

Alex Banayan
So, a book I would recommend is called The Magic of Thinking Big. It’s an older book, I think it’s maybe 50, 60 years old. The Magic of Thinking Big, and it’s very good at addressing that issue. 


And something I learned from one of the people who I interviewed is that you want to create a mental bank almost an internal bias of possibility. When I meet people who have that problem in a very severe way, what I recommend them do is do a 30 day challenge of every day for 30 minutes for 30 days in a row, they need to journal for 30 minutes every day on a moment in their life whether at home, at school, at work, where they had a giant obstacle that they overcame.


If you spend 30 minutes, you know even if nothing comes to you for five minutes, something will come to you at some point, and they could be something small. Like literally I was really thirsty and didn’t have any money for a vending machine and I ended up finding, searching the couch cushion, whatever.


It could be silly stuff, it could be big stuff like a health challenge or a relationship challenge. What you’re doing is reprogramming your mind, because I’ll tell you, no one is born thinking they can’t do it. Whether you are aware of it or not, there have been implicit messages and events that have created that outlook within you.


And you have to become proactive in reprogramming your mind. And even going to therapy is a good solution. I’ve been going to therapy once a week for five years now, and it’s really helped me reprogram old stories. 


At the end of the day our life is only as valuable and only as productive as the value and the productivity of the stories we tell ourselves. And it’s up to us to choose which stories we want to live with.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I dig that. So, the journaling about times you’ve overcome obstacles, then reprograms your brain such that when obstacles no longer seem permanent or immovable, it’s like oh, that’s just like those 30 other things that I overcame. All right, well, let’s figure it out.

Alex Banayan
Exactly, exactly. 

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Well also, I guess I’m thinking now about … Let’s use some examples of obstacles and overcoming just because if … I think that’s probably the hardest part of the 30 day challenge is your very first day or two it’s like oh, I don’t really know, nothing will come to mind.


Because sometimes I think that conjures up an image of really dramatic stories of I’m thinking of motivational speakers here. I was broke and on drugs and on the streets and all.

Alex Banayan
Right, it doesn’t have to be that dramatic.

Pete Mockaitis
Addicted to everything. But then I pulled myself up and blah, blah, blah. So, it’s like okay. But give some more examples of hey, challenge overcoming. There might be even mundane just to get a start at it.

Alex Banayan
I think what’s really easy is when I tell people when they do have problems finding examples, I always tell them think back to high school because of high school every day we had a different silly challenge that we found and created a solution for whether you didn’t study for a test and you had to cram by creating a last minute study group where you all exchanged resources.


Or for me I remember not, this is a really preposterous situation, but there was a teacher that was the meanest teacher in the school and I got assigned to that teacher on the first day of school. And I realized that I didn’t want my whole year ruined because that teacher is very notorious.


And I ended up just sitting outside of the guidance counselor’s office for six hours doing a sit in until the guidance counselor would meet with me. Literally preposterous silly things even because the point of this exercise is to show you that in all aspects of your life, whether it’s with a romantic partner or with a parent, when you had obstacles you had the skillsets within you to figure it out. 


And what you’re really doing is you’re helping yourself trust yourself more. That’s the difference between confidence and self-confidence. Confidence is external and self-confidence is internal.


What you’re doing is you’re building your internal self-confidence, your trust in yourself of what you’re capable of.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And it’s just so fun. When you were talking about high school, you were bringing back memories to … I thought it would be fun to participate in the musical we did for Grease. 


But I, at the time and still to this day, I’m not really that great in singing. So, then it became clear … I can read the lines. I talk pretty well. And then it was like then we had to singing. So, I remember this guy Jordan who just has an amazing voice, he was like bring him home. Everybody was like wow. It was like all this.


But what I did know is that I had a lot of enthusiasm and there was one tune I thought was deeply embedded within me, I kind of sang to myself at times. So, it was from a commercial and so I just went for it and said it doesn’t matter what comes, fresh goes better in life. With Mentos Fresh and full of life nothing gets to you. Staying fresh, staying cool. So, I’m singing the Mentos commercial.

Alex Banayan
Right, right. 

Pete Mockaitis
And because there was emotion and it’s not that complex of a tune in terms of number of notes and range, I made a decent impression and I got the part, which was modest. I was in Danny Zuko’s crew.

Alex Banayan
Very important, very important.

Pete Mockaitis
And Sunny I believe, yeah, Sunny was his name.

Alex Banayan
Cool leather jackets.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, yeah. I had one line like tell me more, tell me more, could you get me a friend. Which is tricky because it’s a high note, and I didn’t do super well. But I got the part and had some fun, and it really set things up in some cool ways in terms of making some great friends and being engaged with activities and I stuck with it.


So, while I haven’t thought about that in a long, long time, but you brought it up and it was fun to remember. And I do have a greater sense of possibility not so much from a source of oh, I’m getting pumped up because let’s do a motivational program or I have the tiger or whatever.

Alex Banayan
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
But rather it was like oh, that was a real thing that happened. And there was a good result and there can be more of that in my life. It’s powerful.

Alex Banayan
Yeah, absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
Well Alex, good stuff, tell me anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about a couple of your favorite things?

Alex Banayan
I think you’ve really nailed it because when I think of everything we’ve talked about so far has this common theme of really looking within yourself and the answers are in there. And the whole point of the third door is not only to equip people with tools not only to change what they believe is possible but really at the end of the day it’s to liberate yourself because whether it’s at work, whether it’s at home, our real goal is to try to be most us version of us, right? The most you version of you. And the third door is really a mindset to liberate yourself.

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

Alex Banayan
I was reading a book and there was a Warren Buffet quote that I just really loved yesterday that I said we don’t have to be smarter than the competition, we just have to be more disciplined.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you.

Alex Banayan
I really like that.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Alex Banayan
Oh my God, so many. I would say something that comes to mind right now is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. 

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

Alex Banayan
This is a great tool and it’s not a tool. It’s the airplane mode function on a phone. If I want to be productive, there is only one way to do it, by putting my phone on airplane mode. Silence doesn’t work. 


When I’m writing, I will literally not only turn of my phone, I’ll hide it in a drawer on the other side of the room to use my laziness against me.


But if I just want to do something very thoughtfully for even 30 minutes, I have to go on to airplane mode.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Alex Banayan
Meditating twice a day.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you use an app or just breath or what’s your approach?

Alex Banayan
I went to … I use a thing called transcendental meditation, which there’s a lot of teachers all over the world who’ll do these three days workshops. But I really believe any kind of meditation is good as long as it feels good for you.

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

Alex Banayan
Yeah. There’s one quote from the book that I see quoted often, which is when you change what someone believes is possible, you change what becomes possible.

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

Alex Banayan
The book is everywhere. Books are available whether it’s Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Audible. And if you end up getting it, let me know so I can say thank you. Instagram and Twitter are all the same, it’s just @AlexBanayan.

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

Alex Banayan
Great question to end with, yes let me think about that. Let me make that thoughtful. Ask yourself the second, actually no, not the second this is done. Ask yourself some time today where you actually have some time to yourself, what are you the most afraid of at this point in your life right now? Because I think in that answer lies some of your destiny. 

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Alex this has been a treat. Keep on living big possibilities and good luck to you.

Alex Banayan
I am so grateful. This was a ton of fun, thank you.

 

Next: Ron Price talks about becoming an influential leader.

503: How to Get a Meeting with Anyone with Stu Heinecke

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 Stu Heinecke shares unorthodox approaches to win the attention of strangers.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The simple trick to exceeding a 100% response rate
  2. Do’s and don’ts for composing your personal messages
  3. How to turn executive assistants into allies

About Stu:

Dubbed by the American Marketing Association the “Father of Contact Marketing,” Stu Heinecke is a Wall Street Journal cartoonist, hall of fame-nominated marketer and the bestselling author of How to Get a Meeting with Anyone (2016) and Get the Meeting! (10-2019). Stu is also the founder of Cartoonists.org, a group of WSJ and New Yorker cartoonists who donate their art to help charities raise funds.

Resources mentioned in the show:

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Stu Heinecke Interview Transcript

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

Stu Heinecke
I am delighted to be here with you, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m delighted to have you. We dorked out about AV a good while. But I want to hear about your cartoons. I know it might be hard to pick a favorite, like a favorite child, but is there a particular cartoon that you think is extra hilarious or that you think back and chuckle at your own work years later?

Stu Heinecke
Yeah, there are a bunch of them actually. That’s good as a cartoonist. That’s a good sign. But there is one that is just my favorite and it probably has great relevance to today. So, what it is, it’s this little child, this mischievous little child in the foreground and he’s wiping his arms back and forth, he’s sitting in a high chair but at a table. He’s wiping his arms back and forth and his bowl of cereal is overturned, the cereal is all over the place, and the box of cereal is knocked down. And in the background, his mom is washing the dishes, and she’s turned around, you can see she’s rather tired of this and she’s saying, “Roland, you’re acting like a Democrat.” But it could easily be changed to, and makes as just much sense, to say, “Roland, you’re acting like a Republican.”

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly.

Stu Heinecke
And, in fact, it’s my favorite because you could put almost anything in there. In fact, if you put all these together next to each other, to me it really illustrates the, well, let’s say at least the futility of politics, particularly today, they’re horrible. They’re just awful today and everyone seems to think that the other one is the worst, and I think it’s all that. It’s just awful.

So, here’s the funny thing or interesting thing about cartoons and humor in general, it’s really about truth revealed with a twist. So, when we laugh at something, we’re often saying, “Oh, my God, that’s so true.” It is like that. I know someone like that. So, it’s actually about truth. And that Roland cartoon is wonderful if you take several versions of it together and put it into one frame, I think it makes all kinds of sense because actually no one’s got a monopoly on the truth.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s a good point. I think there’s a standup comedian who was talking to his audience in responding to them saying, “It’s so true.” He said, “Yes, it is so true, and that’s why it’s funny.” It is true, hence funny.

Stu Heinecke
That’s it. That’s the whole deal. Yeah, that’s exactly what it is.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Well, I want to talk about one of your areas of expertise. You’ve got a couple books about how to get a meeting with anyone and getting that meeting. So, could you maybe open us up with a cool story of maybe someone who was trying something to get a meeting or a series of meetings, having no luck, but then they tried some of your cool approaches and had a transformation?

Stu Heinecke
Oh, man. Well, that’s brings up really two stories to mind. I could either tell you about how I got started with it. A tiny campaign went out and it got amazing results and launched my business. It was worth millions of dollars and it cost me $100, so that’s one. Or the other version would be to tell about Dom Steinmann’s story because Dom was having…I think that’s what I should really tell you because that really directly answers your question.

So, Dom got in touch with me after my first book came out, How to Get a Meeting with Anyone and he was saying, “You know, I’ve just got to share my story. When I was in college, I was recruited by this big late-stage startup in Silicon Valley to work as a sales development rep, and I was thrilled. But then when I got to work and started working with them, well, I found out that their expectation was that we would make 100 phone calls a day, and these were all cold calls.” In other words, they were calls to people that they didn’t know and there was no relationship, there was nothing. They were just calling out of the blue.

And he said that, “Out of a day’s worth of 100 phone calls, you might have one conversation that was even worth having. The rest of them were just slams of the phone.” So, he was telling a friend about this at dinner and lamenting the whole problem, and the friend said, “You know, you ought to get this book How to Get a Meeting with Anyone.” And so, he did. And from there he used what I would call, actually I call it this in the new book, deep personalization as opposed to wide personalization.

So, he started researching the people that he wanted to reach. So, he was still doing the hundred phone calls a day, but then he would research some of the people that he thought would be really worth breaking through to. And so, the first one was a fellow who he discovered through a profile scrape, that is a lot of research of social media profiles and other information that can be found on the web. But what he found was that his target executive was really interested in family, cooking, and technology. So, he ordered an apron, looks like a barbecue apron, and had it embroidered with a Stanley C. Clarke quote, something to the effect that technology, sufficiently advanced, will appear as magic.

So, they had that embroidered on the apron and sent it out. Well, lo and behold, this guy responded right away. And, by the way, this first one was someone that no one in the company, a lot of people had tried to reach him but no one was able to reach him through cold-calling, but by sending that gift, boom, all of a sudden, this fellow actually called back, they had a quick conversation, and they ended up with a six-figure deal pretty quickly.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool.

Stu Heinecke
And that’s pretty cool. Then his cohorts started realizing, “Oh, my gosh, Dom is getting through, we’re not getting through to anyone. Dom is selling, we’re not selling anything. So, Dom, how are you doing this?” And he told. “Would you help us?” “Sure.”

So, the next example of this was one of his cohorts said, “Okay, I’ve got a guy, another guy that we haven’t been able to reach. Nobody from our company has been able to reach him.” And so, Dom said, “Okay, let’s take a look. Let’s see what’s in his profile.” And what they discovered was that this fellow was really involved in falconry, so they went to a falconry site and talked to the owner, and they said, “What can we give someone who’s really involved in falconry as a gift?” And the fellow said, “This beautiful glove.” In falconry, they used these beautiful ornate gloves so they can hold the bird by the talons and not have their hand mangled.

So, they said, “Great. We’re going to send that, or we’re going to buy that.” And, meanwhile, they downloaded the picture and sent him an email immediately to the prospect to say, “Hi, I’d like to get in touch with you. I just want to let you know I’m sending you this falconry glove. I hope you enjoy it.” Again, this is another person they hadn’t been able to reach at all, no one from the company had been able to reach him, and he said, “Okay. Well, look,” the fellow responded immediately. He said, “Hey, that’s really cool. Thanks so much. But I’m not really a prospect, but thanks anyway.”

Well, then the glove arrives and everything changed. It was a flip moment. Everything changed. he communicated right away to say, “Oh, my God, I just got the glove. This thing is so cool. I’ll tell you what, remember when I told you I’m not a prospect? Well, I’m not, but I know three CIOs who are prospects for what you do, and I’m going to make introductions right now.” Well, he did and another six-figure deal ensued.

So, now the management was saying, “What’s going on down there? What are you doing down there? And who’s responsible for this?” They all pointed to Dom. So, Dom was promoted to sales manager as a result of that. All of a sudden, that company was sold to, I think it was Cisco for $4.7 billion. So, a year out of college, just from reading the book and using contact marketing, Dom went from probably washing out as a sales development rep to becoming a sales manager for a multinational $4.7 billion company.

Pete Mockaitis
Stu, that is an excellent story. You’ve nailed that. Well, thank you. That’s really thought-provoking in a number of dimensions. So, my favorite part of the story was they learned the guy liked falconry, didn’t know what to do with that, so talked to a falconry person, said, “Hey, what’s a cool gift?” He said, “Well, let me show you.” And then that went there. And even though the person wasn’t a prospect, that deep need to reciprocate is there, so he wanted to do something for them, and like, “Hey, I’ve got some introductions.” So, that is really cool.

So, I know a lot of your work is well-received and loved in the sales and marketing communities. I’d love to get a kick out of hearing maybe some examples of folks who were getting meetings outside of sales, like maybe they’re selling themselves, like with regard to getting a job, or maybe they are trying to connect with someone to get some really great advice or information that will help them with what they’re working on at the moment. Any of those tales come to mind?

Stu Heinecke
Well, I think what’s interesting is that, well, I’m now on my second book about this. When I wrote the first one, How to Get a Meeting with Anyone, I thought, “Okay, I’ve got it all done,” which was foolish. “I’ve got 20 categories of contact marketing campaign types. I’m sure this is it.” And as soon as it came out, I heard from all these people who said, “Well, I’ve got another way to do this,” and another way, and another way, and another way.

And so, some of these stories, well, that’s what led to the new book Get the Meeting! but some of the stories had to do with job search. And, in fact, there’s enough of them that it maybe where I go for the next book here’s the thing. We all sell whether we have the word sales in our titles or not. We all sell. I mean, that’s sort of the nature of human existence or how we work together because we need things from each other, and we get those things by selling.

So, I know that there are a lot of uses of visual metaphors like a medical kit, and I’m going to help, and then the copy that goes with it is something about “I’m going to cure some of the things that are…” that’s not a really great example though, because if you’re writing to someone saying, “I’m going to cure what’s wrong with your company,” that may not be the best, message to put out there.

But I’ve used it directly. I’ve used some of my own devices, my own contact devices to help friends to get interviews even though these devices are used generally in sales. And what I mean by that is usually I’ve been using my cartoons my whole career to break through to people I should never be able to break through to, or at least that’s they way it felt, maybe I should because I have.

So, I’ve worked with, well, my sister, for one, who told me once, actually she was applying for a job, it was a sales job, and she was a little worried about whether she’d get it. And one of the things she said was, “They’re going to ask me to do cold calls. I’m not really very comfortable with them.” And I said, “Well, I’m glad you called me because I love doing them because I’m talking about sending cartoons out first and it’s almost like an ambush. I love doing them. Why don’t we try this? Why don’t we just use one of my,” I call them big boards, or an 18×24 quarter inch thick foam cardboard. So, one side there’s a cartoon about the recipient, in this case the person she was interviewing with. And on the other side there’s a message from the sender to the recipient explaining why they should meet or why something should go forward.

And in Christine’s case, my sister, we created a message on that side that talk about how much she wanted to work with them and look forward to the next interview. So, that was delivered. It’s packaged in some really interesting corrugated cardboard packing with cartoon art all over it and it get sent by FedEx, and so that was delivered. And she got the job. She got the next interview obviously, but she got the job. When she came in, the big board was up over her new boss’ desk, and it blasted her right through.

And I know others have just used, I mean, we can also use the same trick, the personalized cartoon, on a card, just a little greeting card. One of my friends borrowed one of those things from me and got a job as well. So, I just think there’s such great parallels between sales and getting jobs. Even if you’re not in the sales field, you’re still selling, and the outcomes and the methods are still the same.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, as you’re going through these stories, I’m reminded of a story in which I was working with someone to prep for some interviews, and he told me, “Oh, man, I’ve been doing everything to try and get the interview with McKinsey & Company,” which is a selective strategy consulting firm. And he sent them a birthday cake for the whole office on his birthday, and said, “It’s my birthday, and all I want is to work for McKinsey & Company.” And that was actually effective in terms of like, “All right. We’re going to have a look at your resume closely. Sure enough, you have earned an interview,” and then he took it from there, so that’s cool to see in action.

And we talked about the medical kit, right now my wheels are turning, like I’ve got one of my favorite tools is a ratcheting multibit screwdriver. It’s just so elegantly wonderful. And so, if you say, “Hey, I can cure the problems.” It’s like, well, you fix the problem with the tool. And so that’s cool. Well, maybe we could zoom out a little bit and talk about this process. So, you call this whole approach contact marketing. So, can you maybe define that term and the steps and the process for us?

Stu Heinecke
Yeah. Well, contact marketing is, the definition of it is a fusion of marketing and selling that uses microfocus campaigns to produce contact with high-level, high-value prospects and accounts. So, roughly, that’s the definition of it. Well, I can tell you though, when I first started out, although I used contact marketing to launch my business, my business was I was creating direct mail campaigns a long time ago for publishers, for magazine publishers.

And in the direct marketing field, I used to hear that people used to say 1% response rate was pretty common, pretty standard, although there’s really no such number. I mean, it’s like there is no common or standard number, but let’s use 1% for a moment. If you look at lots of forms of other kinds of marketing, let’s say digital marketing, you find that response rates are at the thousandths of a percent so it’s really quite low. In contact marketing, these response rates are going as high as 100%. That’s pretty bizarre.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s as high as it gets.

Stu Heinecke
Well, no. Actually, I found one that was getting 300% to 400%.

Pete Mockaitis
Like referrals and like trial stuff? Oh, wow.

Stu Heinecke
Exactly. Yeah, it was so astonishing the thing that he was giving out that it was being shared, and then that sharing ended up pulling more people into the campaign and more responses to the campaign.

Pete Mockaitis
What was that thing? Now, I’ve got to know.

Stu Heinecke
Well, it relates to something I wrote about in the book called pocket campaigns, it’s a replacement of business cards. And so, I was studying, I was looking for what are the coolest business cards out there, because we’ve all gotten cards that you got them, you say, “Whoa! Oh, my God, I didn’t realize a business card could be like this, and that’s just so cool.”

Well, one of those stories was this fellow who had his card printed on sheet rubber, it’s still the same standard size of a business card, 2 inches by 3.5 inches, but it’s this real thin sheet of gum rubber, it was a tan rubber. And before they printed it, they put it on a jig so it was stretched on a jig, then they printed the contact details. And once the ink had dried, they take it off the jig and, of course, that would mean that when it returned to its regular shape, that meant that all of the details that were just printed now got squeezed together.

He told me that He’d go out to a pub, and he’d get into conversations with people at the bar, and they’d say, “What do you do?” “And what do you do?” And they’d eventually exchange business cards. So, out comes his floppy little business card, it’s like an ambush this floppy little business card as they’re exchanging cards. And the recipient is saying, “Wow, what’s that?” They grab it on both ends and stretch it just naturally because otherwise you can’t read it.

Well, then it reveals it’s Poul Nielsen’s card. He’s a fitness trainer. And guess what? He already has you exercising. Then they would say, “Oh, my gosh, can I keep this?” “Sure, yeah.” So, they keep it and they’d bring it. They kept it in their pockets probably. They brought it to the office and just anywhere they could talk to someone, they’d be saying, “Hey, you’ve got to check out this business card I just got from this guy.” They’d show it, pull it out, the person would stretch it automatically, “Just look at that. He’s a fitness trainer and he already has you exercising.” And they’d have a good laugh and they’d say, “Wait a minute. I want to write down this guy’s number.”

And so, this is stunning because Poul said every time he would hand out a business card, he would get three or four new clients. That’s a stunning result from a business card because usually they’re thrown away. I have cool ones. They have cartoons all over them and so on. I have never handed someone a business card and gotten a sale because of it.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Boy, that’s so cool. So, that’s what a pocket campaign is then is something that you can put into your pocket. Any other examples of things that you can put in your pocket in a card format?

Stu Heinecke
Well, yeah, the pocket campaign. They’re a little bit more involved than just having a cool business card, or, really, I should say an involvement device. Poul’s stretching card is an involvement device. It’s an invitation to play. And from there, as marketers, we would then include a jump offer, something that pulls people to a webpage where we can set a tracking pixel, and then from there we run a remarketing ad or retargeting ad just like any. If that term is not familiar, it’s what’s happening whenever you go to, let’s say, the L.L. Bean site and you’d shop for shoes and then you leave, and then those ads start showing up wherever you go on the web about L.L. Bean shoes.

Well, you can actually do that. That actually is part of the pocket campaign model. But for job search, I would think you could just use the first part of it, just an engagement device. Still something you pull out of your pocket, it’s just like a business card, but it’s totally different from the other cards because other cards generally it’s trying to make us look important and fancy almost. I don’t know. With gold, with foil stamping, and embossing, or maybe they’re engraved on bamboo or metal or carbon fiber, it’s all meant to make us look impressive and it doesn’t work. It’s not working. But the cards that are actually involvement devices do.

So, here’s another example. One of the people that I’ve interviewed for the book has a card that is stamped metal. So, it’s credit card size piece and the stamping knockout cutouts so that the piece actually operates as a multitool, if that makes sense. The cutouts in different size wrenches.

Pete Mockaitis
Screwdrivers and bottle opener.

Stu Heinecke
Yeah, bottle opener. But it’s actually meant to be used on bikes to repair them out in the wild. And this card was for the owner of a bike repair shop. So, there were no logos on it or anything like that. It just had his name and his contact details stamped on the piece but it was this device that bike users or bike riders would say, “That’s really cool. I love that. I’m going to keep that in my wallet, keep it with me wherever I go because I just never know when I might need to use that.”

And so, that’s a great example of a pocket campaign or, let’s say, at least the engagement device portion of a pocket campaign. I think that you could use all kinds of things for pocket campaigns and for engagement devices that could be terrific for jobs. I remember a comedian had a really cool one, it was a flipbook. I don’t know, do you remember flipbooks?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah.

Stu Heinecke
So, it’s a bound stack of cards actually and on each card was a facial expression of lots of different pictures of this fellow who was a comedian. And when you flip the book really quickly and you flip those pages really quickly, his face changes really quickly and it’s really funny. And it’s a great metaphor for what it is that he can provide in terms of value up on stage. That would be a great card to use in a job search, I would think.

I think all of these would actually be a terrific way. I mean, the multitool could be a great way of saying, again, without saying “You’re broken” to the business owner, “I’ve got the tools to help you succeed,” something alone those lines. I mean, there’s a metaphor there, and you can use that in your note.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s cool. Thank you. Well, we have so much fun with these stories. We’ve got a process here that starts with a research, and can you walk us through this?

Stu Heinecke
Well, yeah, I guess the first thing you need to do is you better find out who it is you want to reach, so that would be step number one. And then once you do that, or while you’re doing that anyway, you’ve got to create something, some sort of device that’s going to get you through. So, this could be something tangible that you send, we’ve talked about a bunch of these already. The pocket campaigns are all tangible pieces, the cartoon pieces, and so on. But it can also be, “Well, look, we’re doing a podcast together.” Podcasts are a great device for connecting with people, aren’t they?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah.

Stu Heinecke
You get to connect with a lot of really interesting, I’ll not putting myself in there, but you get to connect with a lot of really interesting people. And so, a podcast or I guess we should just broaden it out to some form of media exposure is really nice. There are even interesting ways to use email to break through if you time it correctly. Most of the people that are, I should say, important people who are very busy are pretty tough to reach using email during the week.

But what if you waited until early Saturday morning before they got their weekend started because I know that executives, many executives, and let’s just go all the way up to the CEOs, they get up early, and before they start up their weekend activities, they check their email and they get a little bit of work done. Or at the end of the weekend, Sunday evening, when they’re preparing for the week ahead, also a great time to reach out to someone who’s generally really well-guarded by executive assistants and you can break through.

And there are great examples of things that are done that are way, way, way over the top that are some of my favorite stories but they’re expensive. One person used a, I guess this wasn’t expensive. Someone sent a pigeon to, I can’t say the name, I’m restricted from saying the name, but he’s no longer with us, he was probably the most famous CEO in the world at the time, he’s really tough to get through to.

And so, someone sent a pigeon in a box with airholes and handwritten notes, and sent it to this fellow and said, “You know, I’ve been trying to reach you. I’ve tried everything I can think of. I’ve been talking to your engineering department. They love my solution but purchasing won’t talk to me so I’ve sent you faxes and emails and letters, I’ve called. I’ve done everything I could think of and, really, this is my last resort. So, if you would, inside the box, there’s a pigeon. And on the pigeon’s leg is a capsule, and in the capsule is a little slip of paper. And so, if you take that out and write the name of your favorite restaurant, and the date and time, and then release the pigeon, actually put it back in the capsule first, of course. Release the pigeon. I’ll meet you there.”

And it actually worked. And they had lunch and the fellow walked out of that meeting with a $250 deal, sorry, $250,000. So, there are just all kinds of ways of breaking through and they can be non-tangible or tangible. I think the one thing, the one caution I would throw out there is that if you’re only reaching out on social media, I don’t think that that one, if you connect with someone on LinkedIn, for example, that one action alone is not enough to actually create a relationship, and you’ve got to do more than that to actually show up on their radar screens, so to speak.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, then we’ve got the research, and then we’ve got the intriguing device there. I guess I’m curious a little bit about the research phase and the crafting of that ideal message. So, you mentioned that you’ve checked out their social media profiles. And how do you go about building up that profile so you have that hunch for what would be ideal for them?

Stu Heinecke
Well, you know, I have a great shortcut. There is a new company out there called Seamless.AI. And Seamless is an AI-powered search engine that produces dossiers on anyone. And, in fact, you can sign up for a free account and get 100, I think it’s 100, but maybe it’s 50, but we’ll call it 100 free searches. And so, it uses AI to just scour everything to find out all of the person’s contact details, so their email address, their phone number, their address, and then a lot about what it is they’re interested in, and you can do that in seconds. That’s pretty cool.

Pete Mockaitis
Hotdog, yeah.

Stu Heinecke
Makes it kind of easy, or I guess you can comb the news and just be observant and watch for stories about people who are doing interesting things, somebody you might want to work with or for, those are   great too, so you’ll see them in the news and so forth. There are lots of ways. I think there are actually lots of ways to find the people. But if you’re going to job search, I guess you probably have some idea of what it is you want a job to be and then where maybe the best places are to have that sort of career, so you got to start there I suppose. But then you can also use, for example, Seamless and other tools to find out how to reach them and what it is they’re involved with.

You really do want to know something about these people because, when you reach out, there are a bunch of things you need to consider. One is you really want to humanize yourself. We’ve been talking about ways to do that. I think using a lot of these techniques does personalize you because it causes you to stand out or humanize yourself. But then you also want to be careful about how the messages are crafted because they really need to be highly personal. And you might be saying, “I noticed in the Forbes article last month that you were quoted in, that you said this.” So, you know something about them. And if they’re saying something, then you’re paying attention to what that is, and maybe that’s what you’re responding to as your reason for reaching out to them.

I think the last thing, we’re creating sort of a list here so I don’t want to use the word last, but the thing you want to avoid is you don’t want to sound promotional I think. You don’t want to sound like you’re talking at them. You want to sound like you’re one person connecting with another because that’s actually what it is. But you wouldn’t be saying, “Hey, so-and-so, if you contact me within the next 10 minutes, you’re going to get a freebie or something,” and that’s very promotional and is very off-putting in one of these messages.

In fact, personal goes far. It reaches, I guess, one of the ways to make that message personal would be to actually write it up by hand. And, in fact, a lot of the really successful campaigns or contact campaigns that I’ve written about and found in my research they’ve included handwritten messages. So, you’ve got to be relevant and timely. And I think another really big consideration is you really got to be respectful of their time. So, if you happen to be reaching out to the CEO of a company, keep your message really short and succinct. Don’t ask them to wade through a lot of detail.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. And I also want to hear, are there maybe any key phrases that we should avoid entirely? So, you mentioned in particular the super promotional type stuff. I don’t know about you but when I read an email that starts with, “Just following up,” that kind of turns me off.

Stu Heinecke
That’s true. Yeah, “Just checking in.” That’s true.

Pete Mockaitis
And I understand that is what you’re doing, and it’s honest, you’re calling a spade a spade, but that just already reminds me that either through my negligence or by willful decision-making I have ignored your previous communication. So, that one doesn’t do it for me. I don’t know if it’s a personal for me or if that’s kind of universally discouraged. Any things that you would point out, like, “Don’t say this”?

Stu Heinecke
Well, I think I would avoid the use of the word free at all cost because it just sounds like a promotion. But I love what you just suggested there about, “Well, I’m just checking in.” It’s easy enough to go and find something of interest so that when you’re reaching out, you’re not just saying, “I’m checking in,” because that’s wasting their time. Or maybe you’re saying, “Yeah, in fact, I enjoyed this article,” or, “I was at an event last week or last month, an industry event, and I wanted to share with you a couple of impressions because I think they’ll have an impact on your business,” something like that. At least you’re offering value instead of just, “Hey, I’m just checking in,” because I don’t think those ever lead anywhere or lead anywhere good.

Similar to that, maybe, “Pick your brain.” I don’t know that anyone wants their brains picked, you know, “Hey, let’s go out for lunch and I’d love to pick your brain.” Well, why? Perhaps the person on the other end of that sells what’s in their brain, I’m sure they do, but maybe they’re consultants, who knows, or they could be the CEO of a company, they’re paid thousands of dollars a minute. And so, why are they going to allow you to take them to lunch to pick their brain? It’s sort of uncompensated work on their part.

I think, just in general though, it really has…I think that if you are doing a lot of talking about yourself, I mean, I guess you’ve got to tell a little bit about yourself, but if you’re doing a lot of talking about yourself and not about the person that you’re reaching out to and why you want to reach out to them and perhaps how you think you can help them, then I think the whole message is probably off.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, this is a great lineup. Stu, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Stu Heinecke
Well, yeah, maybe one thing. Executive assistants are, that’s kind of an interesting thing. They’re usually thought of as simply a barrier to the person that people are trying to reach. And here’s the thing, I mean, a lot of salespeople, and I know your audience isn’t sales-oriented, but still I think there are great parallels here.

So, a lot of salespeople will ask me, or they’ll say, “I’m looking for a way to circumvent the executive assistant. How do I do that?” And my response is, “You don’t want to do that at all. You want to involve the executive assistant. You should be thinking of them as VPs of access or talent scouts. You need to plan your call, your communication with the executive assistant as part of your campaign.” So, it might be helpful to give an example. Would that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure, yeah.

Stu Heinecke
So, when we send our big boards around, and let’s say I might use the same thing, and my clients use these as well. So, when I’m using it, I get to say to the executive assistant, “Hi, I’m Stu Heinecke. I’m one of the Wall Street Journal cartoonists. And I’m sending a print of one of my cartoons, it’s about your boss.” Well, that’s just a handful of words but already the executive assistant is leaning into the phone saying, “Wait, what? What did you just say?” because it’s about their boss, and it’s a cartoon by a well-known cartoonist, in a well-known venue, and this cartoon happens to be about their boss so, of course, they’re interested in pursuing the conversation further.

And so, I finish that by saying, “So, I want it to be a surprise to your boss but I don’t want it to be a surprise to you. Would you mind if I send you an email?” “Sure,” usually that’s the response. “Sure, of course.” “Okay. Can I get your email address? Great. And how do you spell your name? Great.” Now I’ve got executive assistants spelling of their name, their email address, and of course I know how to reach them. And then I’ll often follow up with a card. I have cards that I can produce really quickly, a cartoon about the executive assistant and it’s just a quick handwritten note, saying, “Thank you so much for your help on the phone. Greatly appreciate it.” And I sign it, “Stu.”

And then I also ask, “When the big board has a FedEx tracking number, would you mind if I get in touch with that as well?” And they usually will say, “No, not at all.” So, then what I have is, you know, I’ve got the initial phone call, I’ve got an email that went out right afterward, I have a card, and then another email with the FedEx tracking number. I’ve got four touches with the executive assistant before I ever even ask to speak to the person I was actually trying to reach.

So, I think that’s an important point. Executive assistants, they’re amazing. They’re probably some of the sharpest people in their companies. And if you’re talking to the executive assistant to the CEO, that person is really on equal footing, they wouldn’t agree but if you think about it from our standpoint as the person calling in, they’re actually on equal footing with the rest of the C-suite members because they report directly to the CEO. They probably have more dealings with the CEO than all the other C-level people.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s a great perspective.

Stu Heinecke
So, they’re incredible people and you really need to embrace them and look for ways to, I guess, just involve them in your campaign and recruit them to become an ally in your campaign.

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

Stu Heinecke
I knew you were going to ask me that so there’s one that just cracks me up.

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s do it.

Stu Heinecke
It’s by Winston Churchill, and he said, and of course I can’t do his voice, but, “When you’re going through hell, keep going.” I think that’s a great one.

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

Stu Heinecke
This goes back a few years. When I was a student at USC at Stanford, there was, I think it was at Stanford, there was a study happening with a gorilla named Koko. Have you ever heard of Koko?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Stu Heinecke
So, you know what it is. So, the researchers thought, “Let’s see if we can teach Koko American sign language.” And, in fact, it worked so well that Koko was inventing words. She wanted yogurt, she hadn’t been taught the sign word for yogurt, so she put together flower and sauce, she asked for flower sauce.

Pete Mockaitis
Huh.

Stu Heinecke
And then another time. She wanted a pet, a pet cat. So, they said, “Well, let’s try it.” And she took care of that cat and was really wonderful to the cat. So, I think that’s one of my favorite ones. Isn’t that interesting that gorillas, I guess just animals in general perhaps, don’t get the credit they deserve for their intelligence and emotional awareness.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite book?

Stu Heinecke
Just for fun I think my favorite book is probably Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, and that’s going back a-ways. But I love the writing of Tom Robbins. His writing is just so inventive and, for me, it’s inspiring. But for business, I would say Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen, which is an interesting dilemma because businesses that are market leaders, generally they go out of business.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite tool?

Stu Heinecke
It could be something that I use in business like I mentioned Seamless.AI and there are other AI tools like x.ai that is an AI assistant that sets up appointments for you. I love using Zoom for calls. And Spiro.ai is another one. It’s a CRM program with a layer of AI attached as well.

But if we were just talking about literally a tool, I’m thinking the tool I was telling you about, the ones that are credit card size, they’ve got different punchouts so that they can function as a ruler, I guess it’s not a punchout, but a ruler, a bottle opener, a letter opener, a wrench, and so forth. I think those things are really cool because they’re working their way into a lot of my clients’ pocket campaigns right now. So, maybe that’s my favorite tool.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. And a favorite habit?

Stu Heinecke
You know, I think the one thing that I think could make a lot of difference in everyone’s lives is if everyone was scrupulously on time. When you say you’re going to call at 2:00, you call right at 2:00. You don’t call at 2:02, you don’t call at 2:07. Because when you do that, it shows disrespect for the person’s time. And I think maybe that’s one of the nicest story or strongest compliments, certainly the strongest signal you can put out to someone that you want to connect with, that you respect their time. So, be on time.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, and as you say that, it even seems kind of fun, like I can watch the clock as the seconds tick away, and then push sort of like the last number of the phone number, like at the second that it turns to that minute mark. And it leaves an impression, it’s like, “Oh, okay. Here you are.”

Stu Heinecke
Yeah, it’s respectful and we’re talking about jobs here, so it says you’re dependable. It’s you do what you say you’re going to do.

Pete Mockaitis
And do you have a key nugget you share that really seems to get requoted frequently back to you?

Stu Heinecke
Well, perhaps. I have a headline that I use in my ads for my two books, How to Get a Meeting with Anyone and Get the Meeting! and that headline is, “One meeting can change everything.” And I believe that. And, in fact, when we look back on, all of us, when we look back on our lives, the things that have sprung us forward, that have been advances in our lives and in our careers, have all probably come from meetings or connecting with someone. So, that would probably be my favorite one, “One meeting can change everything.”

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

Stu Heinecke
Well, you could buy the book, that would be nice. And you can connect with me on LinkedIn. Just find me, my name is Stu Heinecke. And if you mention that you heard us talking on this podcast, that would be a big help and I’d know where you’re coming from, and I’m happy to connect. And I think, finally, I also run a podcast, it’s a weekly podcast called How to Get a Meeting with Anyone podcast. And I’m delighted to be talking to people who keep sharing these crazy things that they’ve been doing to get meetings.

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

Stu Heinecke
Well, I would say that find new ways to connect with people and build your network because that’s going to have a big effect on the scale of your career and your life. So, I would say find people that are, you think, not accessible, not someone that you could reach, and challenge yourself to go out and do it, and you’d be really surprised. You will connect with a lot of these people.

Pete Mockaitis
Stu, this has been a ton of fun. Please keep up the good work.

Stu Heinecke
Thank you so much for having me on. I really appreciate it.