I recently gave a talk to a small class of coders in Phoenix on the subject of finding a great job. In this post, I'll share the content of the talk.
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But first, a bit of a backstory on why I was asked to speak on this particular subject.
Almost 10 years ago, I grabbed a couple of friends and an R.V. and hit the road to interview 300+ people about their career paths. I was just graduating from college and was curious about a stat I had read: "More than half of the American workforce dislikes what they do for a living."
My question was, "What were those people who loved their jobs doing that the rest of us weren't?"
I lined up interviews with everyone from Michael Jordan's shoe designer to the CEO of MGM Grand and a goat farmer. I asked them about how they got to where they are today. I documented their stories on a website, wrote a book, and have since delivered more than 100 speeches from Alaska to Miami Beach about the findings. After getting off the road, I started a digital marketing company about five years ago and have been part of the "minority" that enjoys what I do for a living.
And yet, as I prepared to give my talk to this particular class of coders, I veered away from the stump speech and revisited what I had listened to 10 years ago. Here's what I had to say to the class:
Advice for Landing a Great Job / Starting a Business / Running a Marketing Campaign
There's a pattern I've identified. The pattern, or formula, applies to finding a great job, starting a business, or running a successful marketing campaign. There are three elements to this pattern: story, skill, and network.
Every person I've met who has a great job or started their own business has these three things, and every successful marketing campaign I've ever been involved with has had them as well.
Let's start with story. Story is the reason why you get hired, why you start a business, or why you buy a product or service from a marketing campaign. People are so compelled by stories that they want to do business with you or hire you. Story is the differentiator and captures your drive.
Of course, some stories are more interesting than others – which is why you need to consciously and continuously create the story for yourself. The best exercise you can try is to write your bio as it is now, and then write your future bio.
Let's take me for an example.
My current bio:
Brett Farmiloe is the founder and managing partner of Markitors, a digital marketing company that moves small businesses forward online. He is the author of the book Pursue the Passion and has delivered more than 100 speeches from coast to coast on finding purpose in work.
This bio is fine – if I'm satisfied with a bio in the past tense. At the beginning of this year, however, I decided to write my fake bio. It included items that I wanted to be part of my story. Here's the fake bio:
Brett Farmiloe is a cereal entrepreneur, backyard farmer, author, mutual fund manager, World Pillow Fight Championship revivalist, and founder of a digital marketing company that moves small businesses forward online. He's the father of two, and has owned an R.V. three different times.
(Note: A brief explanation of the fake bio is listed at the end of this post.)
Moral of the fake bio: If you write it down, take it seriously, and move things forward, you will write the story that you've always wanted for yourself.
Action Item: Write a fake bio for yourself based on how you want your life to look and the story you want to be told about yourself. Instead of becoming paralyzed by contemplating what your purpose or passion is, writing a bio gives you a compelling direction to pursue.
Next part of the pattern is skill. Skill is what an employer or client gets when they hire you and/or what a customer gets when they buy a product/service from you. As someone wise once said, "You gotta have skills to pay the bills."
Not only did the people I interviewed on my cross-country tours have great stories that fueled them in their journeys, but they also had amazing talents that they used to reach the pinnacles of their professions.
Michael Jordan's shoe designer got kicked out of his art class as a freshman in high school because he drew better than the teacher did. A Hall of Fame basketball coach was an educator for decades both on and off the court. A celebrity chef plopped herself in the kitchen of one of the finest restaurants in France and spent years learning about the distinctions that make the difference.
As one person on the tour told us, "The average overnight success story takes 17 years to create."
It may not take 17 years to acquire the skills you need to succeed, but the point is that it takes awhile. Choose the skills that you need to make your story a success.
Action Item: Interview the people who are actually living the story you want for yourself. Find out what skills were absolutely vital to their success. Then, figure out a way to acquire those skills.
The final element of this formula is network. Network is, to put it simply, how you make it all happen.
With a marketing plan, you identify where and how you can market your product or service. Since you are your own product or service, you have to figure out how you'll market your story and skills to find a great job or start a business.
Most people we interviewed on the tour had a little help from their network along the way to get to where they are. Most people you probably know got to where they are through a referral or two from friends, family, and colleagues. The key is developing those referral sources to increase the likelihood that your network will help you achieve your story.
Everyone is accessible. Seriously. Everyone. I never thought I'd be sitting in the corner office of the CEO of MGM Grand, or sharing tea with a Nobel Prize winner, or listening to a jam fest with one of the best banjo players in bluegrass – but it all happened.
Action Item: If you want to grow your network, develop a targeted list of people you want to connect with. Find a way to connect with them, and then nurture those relationships.
That's the magic. Story. Skill. Network. Focus on those three things, and you'll find a great job, start a successful business, or execute a great marketing plan.
Extra: Brief Explanation of the Fake Bio Listed Above
- "Cereal entrepreneur" is not a typo. A friend and I always wanted to launch our own brand of cereal. Since writing the fake bio and discreetly publishing it online, we've put a prototype together.
- "Backyard farmer": Since writing this bio, I've built a chicken coop, acquired eight chickens, and built two large gardens. I felt like I had to live up to my ancestral last name, Farmiloe. We just got our first eggs this week.
- "Mutual fund manager": I've frequently heard about how purpose-driven companies outperform the SP 500. I decided to analyze the top 10,000 most popular companies on Glassdoor and group the 50 highest-rated publicly traded companies into a mutual fund. Now I'm able to test the truth of this statement for myself.
- "World Pillow Fight Championship revivalist": This was one of my favorite 4th of July events growing up. The event stopped about 10 years ago after a solid 40-year run. I decided this event needs to come back, and I'm currently in the process of reviving it for 2017.
- The "father of two" and "three-time R.V. owner" parts are true. Including both items in the bio just completes the story of who I am and what my priorities are.
Brett Farmiloe is the founder of Markitors.