How to Start a New Career in 4 Original, Actionable Ways
May 29, 2018
Why is it so damn tough to start a new career you love? How do you get the job you want and earn enough money to stop worrying about the next paycheck?
This week we’re joined by Jennifer Dzuira. She’s the founder of GetBullish.com and the annual Bullish conference, where she dishes out advice on feminism and careers.
We explored the steps toward developing your career path in the corporate world and navigating the road to entrepreneurship. If you’ve ever struggled to discover what job is right for you, take note of this one.
Listen to this Episode:
In this episode, we discussed:
- Why most companies won’t design a career path for you
- The real reason success in entrepreneurship isn’t about what you want to do
- Why the daily format of your work is more important than the duties
- Where to find the right business idea when you’re clueless
- How to create your ideal full-time job when it doesn’t exist yet
- The counterintuitive approach to networking for introverts
- Why your ideal target audience is wealthy people
- Where to search online to discover problems you can solve
- How to land your first digital marketing job (with no experience)
- Get Bullish
- Bullish Conference
- The Best Business Strategy is One That Makes You Money by Jennifer Dziura
- Marketing: Subreddit
- The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
- Lean Analytics: Use Data to Build a Better Startup Faster by Alistair Croll
- The Bullish Society
- Customer Journey Mapping: Get Started in a Few Steps Episode 54 with Georgiana Laudi
Louis: Bonjour, bonjour, and welcome to another episode of EveryoneHatesMarketers.com, the marketing podcast for marketers, founders, and tech people who are just sick of shady, aggressive marketing. I’m your host, Louis Grenier. And today we’re going to talk about the problem of finding a job and designing a career that you can be happy in. Especially in a tough economy where there is a lot going on, where the competition to find jobs is fierce, where working for big companies like Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and all of the other is something that a lot of people want to achieve. We’re going to try to go through a step-by-step methodology to do just that. To find a job that you can be happy with but also designing a career that you can be happy with. And my guest today is kind of big deal because she has her own Wikipedia page, so that’s something.
She’s the founder of GetBullish.com, the annual Bullish Conference, and she has an online shop selling ironic feminist gift items, one of them is a wall art that says Fuck the Glass Ceiling, which I think I’m going to have to buy for a lot of my friends out there. She believes you can make money and influence the world without being a jerk, she believes in starting businesses on zero dollars, selling expensive things to rich people, doing real things in the world rather than trying to manifest your dreams. She writes a lot about class and gender issues in business, sexual ethics, multiple income streams, and the value of women talking openly about money, careers, privilege, and influence. She also worked as a director of marketing for a social network and a lead curriculum developer for an education company. And finally, which is a bit of a trivia fact, but she has co-hosted over 300 adult spelling bees with the Williamsburg Spelling Bee, the nation’s most popular adult spelling bee. So, Jennifer Dziura, welcome aboard.
Jennifer: Thank you so much. What a fantastic introduction, thank you for having me.
Louis: Right. So let’s get started on the problem, shall we? Why is it so damn tough to design a career to get the job that you want?
Jennifer: Why is it so tough to design a career to get the job that you want? Well, obviously most careers that people find themselves in are not created for your benefit, they’re created for the benefit of a company and companies are not loyal to you or designing a career path. They’re not thinking about your future, they’re thinking about fulfilling a need, and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that if everybody understands what’s happening. But I always like to talk about wanting to even out that balance of power. If you were working for a company that sees you as a way to generate more income, and you know I can see both sides of this because I’ve worked for companies and I have hired people and if you’re going to hire somebody who makes a certain amount of money, you need to be able to generate approximately 3x the amount of their salary in revenue. And that’s tough to do. As an entrepreneur, it’s really hard to make a job where you can pay someone a certain amount of money and generate 3x that much money from the labor that they perform. So that’s the goal of an entrepreneur, the job of a quote-unquote job creator, is to create systems that make that possible.
So, that is the situation from one side. But from the other side, if you are that employee and you say, “Okay, so someone else has made this system, I’m being slotted into it.”
There’s nothing wrong with that as long as you understand the situation, but it might behoove you, it might be good for what you want in your own life, to diversify your income streams, to have multiple income streams, to have levels of redundancy. What I mean by levels of redundancy, sometimes people are doing really well in their traditional job, they really like it and they don’t really … I get this question a lot, like, “Do I have to have multiple income streams? Do I need to have a side hustle if I’m a really successful lawyer?” And my answer is like, “No, you don’t have to,” like be brewing your own beer and trying to sell it to people, that’s probably not even legal. But, better example, no you don’t have to be certainly driving an Uber after work or something like that. You don’t have to do any of those things.
But when I say levels of redundancy, if you are a very successful lawyer, okay great, but when I say levels of redundancy, I mean you should be well known enough in your field that if something catastrophic happened, like say you were accused of something you didn’t do and got unceremoniously fired from your job, maybe even blackballed from your whole industry, what if something like that happened? Would other people in your field snap you up right away? Like there are people who say, “Oh, I’ve always wanted to work with her, so amazing, I’m going to grab her right now.” Like do you have that network? Does everyone know who you are? Are your skills apparent? Can you prove your skills? Can you quantify what it is that you can provide to others? Do you have documentation of projects you’ve worked on?
So, levels of redundancy can mean that you get your income from a lot of different places, it can mean that your business has a wide, not just depending on a few clients, but your business has a broad customer base, and for someone in a more traditional job, that level of redundancy or diversity of income streams can mean that maybe you have a super cool job but if that job went away tomorrow, you would be totally fine. You would have many other options immediately available to you. So
Louis: So let me catch you right there. I think you’ve talked about a lot of things already and we’re going to go through this step-by-step. But I think it’s important to talk about the hustle or this pressure to hustle, like coming from a lot of people, like Gary Vee, as you said–
Jennifer: Oh, that is a mental illness, sorry Gary. I have watched some of his videos and first off, my audience, I have an audience of ambitious, feminist, career-oriented people, and it’s literally my organization is called Bullish, that’s my audience, and I just don’t think I know anybody who wants to watch these Gary Vee videos and be like, “Hustle all the time every single minute.” This is a neo-liberal sickness, is what this is, this is what happens when capitalism takes over every single aspect of our lives and we’re trying to monetize things that, even just every moment of our lives and thinking of everything in capitalist terms. I think that that is an illness. So, that being said, I think that everybody, people need a good butt kicking from time to time, so I think there are plenty of people who maybe watch a few of those videos even if they don’t totally believe in it, so sure, if you’re feeling a little lazy, maybe you go watch a Gary video and then you go kick butt. But you don’t really believe all the things he said, sure.
Louis: So the point was, you’re going to feel a lot of pressure to do that and, yes, if you’re a successful lawyer making a lot of money, you don’t necessarily have to have a side also like every other people in the world right now seem to have. By the way, just for you listening at home or going to work or whatever, or even cooking, I have listeners who listen to us who are cooking, so that’s another subject, if you hear from weird noises, that’s because Jennifer is actually working and I’m recording this episode from her warehouse, literally. Believe me. So there might be some weird noises, but you’ll be fine, it’s not going to be a big deal.
So, going back to designing your career by forecasting the worst, basically, like how to make sure that you can get a job if you get redundancy, if you get redundant, how can you make sure that you can survive or even make good money on the side, especially if, I think, if you are minority? I’m very lucky, and I know to be like a white male, I was born in Europe in a nice middle-class family and I know that a lot of people don’t have this chance. And so, I think for minorities even more than for me and for people who look like me, it’s so important to be able to really secure your career and find jobs that you can be happy with and make money without having to worry about the next paycheck.
Jennifer: Absolutely. So, running your own business is, of course, one way to get outside of traditional power structures. So I think that that’s good advice for anybody, especially for a lot of people who have marginalized identities or a lot of people with chronic illness manage to make it work by running software companies or running companies that don’t require you to sit in a chair at the same time for eight hours a day every day. So absolutely. That being said, I got a question one time, so people do write into me for advice and they sometimes write a Q&A, and someone wrote about job hunting as a gender queer person, someone who probably uses the pronouns they and them and doesn’t identify as being male or female. And that’s a real tough one, so a lot of the advice I would give to someone in that situation is the same advice I would give to anyone, but I specifically talked to a hiring manager at a big company, I said, “What if the perfect candidate came in and this is someone who says that they don’t identify as male or female, they want you to use the pronouns they and them … ” In my kind of personal community, the people I know, this is totally fine, it’s pretty normal. But, in a traditional work environment, that’s difficult.
And so the person I talked to, the hiring manager, said, “Oh, wow, well, if I tried to hire that person, I’d have to really argue it to my higher-ups. I’d be spending social capital to make that hire happen.” And I said, “Wow, that’s hard to hear.” But that’s the reality. And so what I’m going to say about that is that if you are a member of a marginalized identity, you’re going to have a hard time in life anyway, oh, my God, you might as well aim for the stars. Like if people are going to be assholes to you, can I say assholes on your podcast? You can bleep me.
Louis: Absolutely, please.
Jennifer: Great. So if people are going to be assholes to you, seriously, would you rather have people be an asshole to you while you’re raising venture capital or have people be an asshole to you while you are working at The Gap? People are terrible to service people, there are horrible out there who are bad to service people, so if you’re going to be in a situation where your life is going to be a little bit difficult no matter what you do, you might as well go for the big rewards. So I mean that was where that article went when that person asked me that. And yeah, I think that’s my answer here. A lot of the advice that I would give to people who are marginalized in the job market is the same advice I’d give to anybody, although it might be a little harder to carry out and I always have a lot of empathy for that.
Louis: Alright. Let’s go into a step-by-step methodology, this is something I like to do in this podcast, so let’s take the example of a person who’s looking to design her career in a shape that will enable her to have significant income, to be protected should anything happen, so trying to design that. How do you advise this person to go about it step by step? What is the first step that you usually advise?
Jennifer: Sure. Okay. This is my life here, I’m so happy to talk about this. So, when you want to design your career, you want something that works for you, that works for your life, that is actually enjoyable, that allows you to do any domestic work or caretaking you need to do, so on and so forth. You want all of that. But the way to make that work financially is to make it less about you, like your lifestyle should be about you but what you’re selling should not be about you. So what a lot of people have as a problem is that their business is like the thing they always wanted to do, it’s too much about them. I wrote an article about the MVP methodology, which I am a big fan, so minimum viable product, I’m a big fan of applying the minimum viable product to things that are not software.
So if you wanted to start a daycare, something that’s the furthest from software that I can really think of. So you want to start a “swimming lessons for kids” business or anything like that, MVP is a great way to go about that, like actually before you invest a bunch of money, before you do a branding campaign, dear God, figure out what people actually want and just give them that. Don’t try to impress people with the cool idea you had, find out what people actually want and give it to them.
And so, I wrote this article about MVP methodology and there were some people who, a lot of people who read this who had never heard of it before because I was presenting it outside of a software context, so that was cool. But then I got a comment from someone who said, “I just don’t know how this applies to me as a children’s book author.” And I’m like, “Yeah, it doesn’t if you’ve already decided you’re a children’s book author.” Like my point here, if that’s what you really want to do with your life, then you may or may not be financially successful, I don’t know a lot about it, but the whole point here is take a step back. Like what’s your real goal? Do you want to make children happy? Do you want to be recognized as an artist? Do you just want to get paid and you happen to be good at children’s book illustrating? Do you want to make people laugh? Like what’s the goal? And then maybe talk to people that you want to make laugh to talk to children or talk to parents of children and then say, “How can I give people exactly what they want, that they’re able to pay for, and ideally that they are already Googling?” And then give them that.
Louis: Right. Let me catch you right there because you go through a lot of interesting stuff. So step one is actually to figure out your goal, right?
Louis: Alright. And you’re taking examples here about like starting your own business, that kind of stuff, but do you think it also applies to when you want to find, you don’t necessarily want to be a business person, you maybe just want a very nice job that pays well where you can have a lot of freedom, Right? So–
Jennifer: I would love to … Yes.
Louis: Go on, sorry.
Jennifer: Okay, all right, so I would love to talk more about the lifestyle side of designing your own career, and I feel very strongly about it in that I remember when the book Lean In came out, so this is … That was a lot of prepositions when the book Lean In came out. Anyway, so I remember when that book came out and it was this women’s empowerment sort of extravaganza with everyone reading this book and I remember reading it and thinking how joyless it was, just utterly joyless, like this Sheryl Sandberg was talking about getting to ride on a private jet with her company but she has brought a child and she is removing the child’s head lice on the jet. And at no point in this book does Sheryl Sandberg drink a glass of wine or travel for pleasure, there’s just no pleasure in this book at all. And as a French person, perhaps, we can be on the same side of this.
Louis: I knew you had to say it, I knew you had to mention it. It’s not nice. Not nice at all.
Jennifer: Oh, come on. Laughs.
Louis: I’m joking. Laughs.
Jennifer: So, I remember reading Lean In and thinking, “My God, this is a vision of having it all where the all is literally a nuclear family and a job and that’s it,” and I just don’t know anybody who that’s all they want from life. So there are just so many more aspects to life, including enjoyment and education and travel and creative expression. So on and so forth. And so, where I’m going with this is that I think that a lot of times people choose what they want to do for a career based on the content of the work and they’d be a little happier if they chose what they were going to do based on the format of the work. For instance, maybe you love marketing, or maybe you love yoga, so on and so forth, whatever it is you love you might think, “Oh, I love this, therefore I should do it for a living.” I think it would be better to say, “Do I like to sit or stand most of the time?” Like, “Do I like to move around or do I like to stay in one place? Do I like to talk to people constantly or do I like to be left alone? Do I like to be able to concentrate for long periods of time or do I hate being left alone for long periods of time?”
I personally am obsessed with physical freedom. Like I cannot handle it if someone tells me where to sit. Like I just can’t, like an assigned desk where I’m required to sit, I just can’t. And I think that a lot of people just don’t care as much as I do about it, but just the whole idea of … I had an intern working at the company one time, she was a teenager, and she was astounded, literally astounded, because kids in public schools are just kept in lockdown, she was astounded … Well, I mean, I went to a public school, here’s where I’m going, bathroom passes, you know, in a public school, you typically need a pass to go to the bathroom, you have to ask for permission in front of everybody, and oftentimes you get kind of yelled at about it, like, “Can I have a bathroom pass?” And the teacher’s like, “No, you don’t really need to go to the bathroom.” That’s absurd.
And so in an adult environment, of course, if you’re in a meeting and you really have to go to the bathroom, you just slip quietly out of the meeting and you come back. It’s not a big deal. Like everyone kind of understands the social cues related to that. Anyway, I had an intern working in the office and she was astounded that I would just walk out of the office without saying anything, like sometimes to get coffee, sometimes to go to the bathroom, like to go to the post office, whatever, I would just walk out and say nothing. And I was like, “It’s my company. I don’t have to say anything.” And she kept asking me for permission to go to the bathroom, as well, and I was like, “Please stop doing that. Just go to the bathroom.”
But anyway, physical freedom is very important to me and so that’s been something that’s been really key, I think that’s so much more important to me than the fact that, frankly, I sell a lot of socks on the internet, I don’t care what I’m selling on the internet. I mean, I do enjoy designing products, like the ones that you mentioned, a lot of our best sellers right now, I have key chains and mugs and things that say We Will Dance on the Graves of the Patriarchy and Drink the Bitter Tears of Mediocre Men and I’m pretty proud of that. But I also sell less hilarious items that I sell socks on the internet and a whole bunch of other, key chains and notepads and so on and so forth, and I don’t really care what I’m selling so much as the fact that I can wear whatever I want and sit wherever I want. And oftentimes I decide to come in at 11:00 because I spent the morning with my kids or something like that.
So, deciding about the format of the work that works for you is really important and I’ll add one more thing here, something that really in terms of career design is really important for me. So, Bullish is an e-commerce store, it’s also an annual career conference going into its sixth year and there’s an online membership society and there’s a blog. So there are all these aspects of the business that I run. It’s very important for me in designing my own career that I’m able to mix things that require high concentration, which I just don’t have a lot of these days, with things that don’t require high concentration. So, dealing with e-commerce never requires high concentration. I could optimize things for Amazon all day long, I can work on a Shopify site, I can tell people what to do on a Shopify site, I can tell people what to do with my Amazon situation, we also sell on Etsy and other platforms. So I can direct people to do e-commerce activities with zero concentration, whereas writing a blog post is actually very difficult for me these days. Planning a conference certainly requires some concentration.
And so I have two small children, I have a three-year-old and a one-year-old, and I’m running a company and I have people to manage, and so for me if I had tried to have a career where I had to sit and concentrate and write things all day long, I would feel like a failure and I would hate my life. I am able, instead, to feel successful and to enjoy my career because a lot of the things that I’m doing, they are reactive. I’m just dealing with stuff that comes in and sending it back out to other people to do things. I’m managing, I’m kind of at the top of that pyramid looking at all the things that are happening. And that really works for me. So again, I don’t really care what I’m selling, I care what are my daily activities and how do I feel and where am I sitting when I’m doing them.
Louis: So, step one sounds like you kind of have to figure out your goals and I would advise to go through very practical, very tangible goals, like in five years, in 10 years, I would like that, and that, and that, because visualizing it makes it a bit easier when you have days that are you feel down and you don’t really know why you’re doing what you’re doing right now and you just remind yourself that this is why you’re doing that. And step two, from what you just said, seems like you need to understand yourself, you need to know yourself so that you know what you enjoy doing and how you can use your strengths better and how you can use the way you deal with stuff. I’m pretty much the same than you, I have trouble concentrating, but I very much enjoy talking to people and getting to know them and asking tough questions and trying to drill into the different subjects.
But I also love my freedom and I like to be able to work from anywhere and this is why I have a full-time job at Hotjar that is a fully remote company, this is why I have my side project which is this podcast where I can interview very interesting people, which energizes me. So, I think step two sounds like you need to really understand who you are, what you enjoy doing, what you’re best at, before moving onto the next step, no?
Jennifer: I definitely agree and I would say, though, instead of imagining a goal, I think because sometimes people have a goal just because it sounds virtuous or socially acceptable, like, “My goal is I want to be partner in a law firm.” Instead of trying to imagine that, because becoming partner in a law firm is like a one-time activity, it’s like there’s one day you’re appointed partner, congratulations. But, it would be better to imagine if you want to be partner in a law firm, is it because you want a fancy office with a door that closes and you spend all day thinking about deep concepts? Or is it because you want all eyes on you in court? What is it … When you imagine your day as partner in a law firm, what’s great about it? Is it that people think you’re important, they do what you say, or that you don’t have to do what other people say? Is it that all eyes are on you or is it that you ca hide off and do something with deep concentration? And so, imagine what you’re going to be doing. What are you going to do all day? Where are you going to sit? How are you going to feel? And that’s probably going to make you happier.
Louis: Right. So, I think people are thinking right now, “Okay, that’s all well and good but how the fuck do I find the job I want to, then?” So, or, “How do I start this business?” And you started to hint about it with the MVP approach, which is really keeping things simple and breaking them down into very smaller chunk and getting in front of people very fast, right, it seems like this is what you were heading, so in term of finding the job that you want to, how do you advise people to go about it?
Jennifer: Sure. So, let me get back to the MVP idea. When people are stuck and they say, “I don’t know how to make this perfect job for myself or how to start a business that would make me happy,” I think that a good thing to do is to say, “Hey, this is actually an advantage that I’m open-minded. I don’t know what to do because I’m open-minded. I’m ready to listen to people who are going to pay me.” And that’s great, that’s a great place to be. It’s people who are really dedicated to my thing is that I am going to rap about math and people are going to love my math raps so much, they’re going to pay me. Like if that’s the one thing you’re committed to, that might be your purpose in life but I can’t give you a lot of advice on getting paid for that.
So, if you are in kind of an agnostic position like I don’t know what I need to do, I don’t know what I want to do, great. That means take an area of interest and go talk to people. So here’s the thing, I think that sometimes people have something that they love and then they pursue it kind of in a too literal and direct way and the problem is most people like the same things. What do people like? They like food, they like yoga, they like video games. Just things that everybody likes, pretty much. So for instance, say you love yoga, therefore you should become a yoga instructor? Like yoga instructors, first off, that’s a profession that some people are willing to do for free, like that’s a thing. Like people who teach yoga just literally for good karma. So you can’t compete with free. And yoga instructors who get paid, they don’t get paid very well, and so on and so forth, there are too many of them, they’re glutting the market. So because you love yoga doesn’t mean you should just go to yoga teacher training and become a yoga instructor.
What you should do is go talk to people who take yoga or who are interested in taking yoga and really talk to them. So what could be better about yoga? What about the richest people at yoga? Do they want it to be different? Do they want some premium experience? Or what about people who have never tried yoga, why haven’t they? They want to but they’re scared in some way? Like they feel like it’s not for them? Like they want to do yoga but they’re always traveling? Okay, great, so talk to them and find out what they really want or what they really need or what the barriers are to getting what they want. And then try to solve that. So, again, it’s taking what you are thinking of providing and really listening to people who can pay you and giving them what they actually want.
My big philosophy, I’m going to tie it up with this, my big philosophy in any kind of business is try to make things, I mean everything’s more complicated than you think it’s going to be, everything is harder than you think it’s going to be, and that’s not terrible. That means your competition can’t chase you so well because they have the same problems. But everything’s more complicated than you think. So try to make things so easy it feels like you’re cheating, and it’ll still be complicated. So, try to make things so easy it feels like you’re cheating.
For instance, find some people who really want to buy something and they can’t find it and they have all this money and they’re ready to throw it at the thing but the thing does not exist. And then just make that thing. And then get the money thrown at you. It’ll still be more complicated than that but try to do something. It’s kind of like if you’re getting in a relationship with someone, like people say, “Oh, relationships take work.” Well, okay, fine but they shouldn’t on a fifth date, if you’re on a fifth date with someone and it’s a lot of work, oh, my God, don’t marry them. It should be easy on the fifth date. So when it’s time to do the work in 10 years, you like them enough. So your business should be like that, too. It should be something that … At least aim for something so easy it feels like you’re cheating and then it’ll get complicated and you’ll still have challenges to deal with.
Louis: And does this approach work for when you’re looking for a full-time job when you don’t think about necessarily having a business per se right now and you just want a fulfilling job?
Jennifer: You know, where I would say that that applies is it’s very difficult in any aspect of life, looking for a job or trying to get a scholarship or anything else, it’s very difficult when you are competing with a bunch of people for an opportunity that already exists. Meaning, by the time a job has been listed on a job board, that job has been thrown to the wolves. My God, it’s on monster.com, you know how many people are blasting their resume at that? And that’s a dead opportunity at that point. By the time it’s listed on a job board, I mean, good fucking luck there. So, people sometimes say, “Oh, well you need a personal connection.” Okay, well, you don’t have a personal connection, that’s why we’re having this conversation, so sure, it’d be great to have a personal connection but let’s say you don’t. I think that the place to go from here is you want to create that job that doesn’t exist, you want a job that’s made for you.
Jennifer: And sometimes that can begin with, say, you’re not at the top of your field where you feel like you can just do that, I don’t know, sometimes you can. So for instance, whatever your profession is, I mean, say … I talked to somebody who wanted to work in, I think it was marketing for museums, she was making museum tours and marketing, she wanted to make museums cool for younger people, I guess. So it was something along those lines. And she wrote to me because she was trying to get an internship and I listened to what she had to say and the ideas she had for marketing museums and I said, “Why go for an internship and compete with a bunch of interns? Why not instead of just saying, ‘I’m an intern, do what you want with me,’ why not write a proposal for a fricking museum? Literally, like go to a museum, look at their website, do all the research, and find the right person, and then be the only applicant for that job. You’re going to make that job up, you’re going to say, ‘Here’s what I think I could do for your museum.'”
And all you need to do, I mean, easier said than done I guess, but all you need to do if you want to work for a museum and you want them to pay you $50,000 a year, show them how you’re going to make them at least $100,000 or $150,000 a year. So here’s my proposal, pay me $50,000 a year, you will make at least $150,000 a year, and there you have a job.
Louis: Right. So this is why what I was hinting at by asking you this question and I’m glad you answered it this way. I guess a lot of people are very passive in the way they apply for jobs, right, and exactly as you mentioned, they go through the job boards, they apply, they blast their CVs essentially to everyone. I think from what you just said, I can imply that a much better strategy’s actually to focus on one company you really, really want to work for because you agree with their philosophy, the vision, their mission, their product, you love their products, you love their services. And you have, I think, personally, and you’ve kind of confirmed it, you have a much better chance to be hired there if you work your ass off to create an application that is just 10x better than anything out there, like any other CVs, right? And as you said, really act as if you have this job and do your proposal to get your budgets or something like this and you have a much better chance to get noticed. In term of, let’s say I’m an introvert, let’s say I struggle to get in touch with people, I’m quite shy, the fact that I have to talk to people is like giving me headaches and migraines and everything in between, how do you advise people to go about it when they are introverts?
Jennifer: You know, here’s the thing about being an introvert, I identify as an introvert, as well, I’m not a phone person, but here’s the thing, a lot of other businesses and positions of authority are run by other introverts. Just fill your network with introverts who also, they don’t want to talk to you on the phone either, we all hate phones. So you can often tell by people who write kind of long emails, like anybody who sends you a four-paragraph email, that’s an introvert, they didn’t want to call you, they wrote you a four-paragraph email because they never want to hear your voice. And that’s okay. So, it’s not like you’re the only introvert in a world of extroverts, there are other introverts, they can be your network, it’s great.
So, you want to focus on other people who kind of connect in that way and if you send a really well-written proposal and someone writes you back and they really engage with your email, then great, you can do a lot with text and email, especially when the position that you’re actually applying for would involve those things, as well. Would involve writing or anything kind of along those lines. I also would say you mentioned focusing on one company, I think you could probably do … If you’re talking about really researching a company and writing a proposal for them, you could do at least one of those a week if you’re a job hunter. So rather than blasting your resume to 50 companies a day, yeah, you could send out an amazing proposal maybe once or twice a week. And I think that would probably have a real good chance of success.
Louis: I’ve been on the other side of the equation like I used to have my own business, I hired quite a lot of people in my young career so far and I can guarantee that these get noticed. Many times over have I received application that were made this way, like very, very interesting proposals that the person clearly took their time to research us and how they can add value to it and I can’t recall any time that where I received such an email or such an application where I wasn’t sharing it with my colleagues and at least considering this person for the next stage of the process. It works. If it’s done well, it works. Yes, it takes time, but that’s your competitive advantage, isn’t it?
Jennifer: Yeah. Absolutely.
Louis: So you mentioned, to go back, we are doing kind of a ping-pong match at the minute, we are going through a few subjects at the same time, so you talked about getting a job and finding a fulfilling job and before that you mentioned starting a business and talking to people, right? So, as an introvert, as well, you said talk to people, let’s say you talk to this person who’s into yoga–actually, my younger brother, one of my younger brothers, is really into rugby. And actually recently, he really wanted to be a rugby player and he realized for many reasons that he couldn’t be. And now he’s stuck. And this is exactly what I’m going to tell him as soon as you finish saying it, which is talk to people and figure out the angles that you can use to be in the field of rugby but without having to be a rugby player. So, as an introvert, again, how do you go about finding people to talk to?
Jennifer: Sure. You know, I think that when people imagine, “Go talk to people,” they’re really picturing taking a million people individually out to coffee and interviewing them in person with a clipboard and it definitely doesn’t have to be that way. You certainly could do something like make a really good web form and offer people $5 Starbucks gift cards for filling it out, that would be fine. Also, Reddit, Reddit is totally a thing. There is a subReddit for literally every hobby and you can go there and I would say contribute for a while, lurk for a while, become a member of a community, just be a normal person before you dig in and start asking questions for yourself. And sometimes you won’t even need to ask questions because you’ll be reading enough stuff.
I did a workshop one time, here’s a little story, I did a workshop for a group of Girl Scouts on how to start your own business and I was talking about how to start a business with virtually no money, with under $100. And I think the woman who had the most, I mean, she was probably 14 years old but she had a great idea and it was because she had been participating in an online community. So she wanted to breed rare fish in her bedroom, in her parents’ home, and she was a member of a number of online forums for people who are interested in rare fish. And I asked her some questions, I don’t know anything about breeding fish, and I said, “Well, can you find,” assuming this is a somewhat expensive process, I don’t know, “Can you find a buyer who’s interested before you breed the fish?”
And she said, “Absolutely, there are people who are really interested in this, you can talk to them online. People who want to buy something and then you can,” I don’t know how long it takes to … Probably not long, they’re fish, right? Anyway, but the point here is this is someone, this is a 14-year-old girl who’s participating in a rare fish breeding web forum from her childhood bedroom and she’s talking to people who are willing to buy. They’re looking for something really specific and this is not like she had to go do some seminars about it. If she can provide the fish and she obviously knows what she’s talking about, people are happy to buy.
Louis: You have this concept that I like quite a lot which is to sell to rich people.
Louis: How do you find rich people?
Jennifer: You know, you just have to find a couple and then they have friends. The wealthier people are, the more they function on a referral basis, and they will hire the same person for everything kind of regardless of their qualifications. Here’s an example, so I have done a lot of GMAT, GRE tutoring in my lifetime, I’m a test prep expert, and there are a lot of websites where people list themselves for tutoring. There are Thumbtack and things like that, where if you want a $20 an hour Spanish teacher, that’s a great place to go, you’ll find that. But when you’re talking about people who are experts and people who are at the higher end, any of these online forums are going to be kind of a race to the bottom in terms of price. No offense to Thumbtack, it’s a nice website.
So, you need to get in with a few wealthy people, they will tell their friends, and here’s where my example was going. I remember I was helping a young woman with her SATs and then with her college applications and I just ended up talking to the family for a while and the mom tried to hire me as a personal trainer, which I am not qualified to do. I just happened to … I was just talking about exercise and nutrition, kind of on a personal level, and someone tried to hire me as a personal trainer and I had to say no to that. But, in any case, wealthy people tend to function on a referral basis much more so than people who are kind of purchasing services off the internet. So that’s one.
The other thing I would say about trying to sell to wealthy people is just that in a sense that we all have an amount of money below which something doesn’t matter. So for instance, when I’m on Amazon, I’m just shopping for whatever on Amazon and I see some kind of add-on item that costs $4.50, that’s a non-amount of money to me, like that amount of money does not matter. So if I’m mildly interested in the item that costs $4.50, I click “Add to Order” and if it doesn’t work out, I don’t feel bad about it. $4.50 is like a non-amount for me. So, there are people where their non-amount of money is like $200, like they spend $200 on something, it didn’t work out, they don’t care and that’s a great customer base to have.
So like I was saying earlier, try to make everything as easy as possible and it’s still going to get complicated. So you might as well start with customers who can actually afford what you’re selling and can afford it easily. Like they don’t have to ask you an hour worth of questions before they buy, they just buy because their time is important. Start with those customers, things will still get complicated but at least try to make it easy at the beginning.
Louis: Yeah. Your threshold of what money, like what the value of your own money is, like 1,000 euros, $1,000, is different than any other people out there. As you said, especially like rich people might have thresholds you wouldn’t even dream of having. So, sometimes feeling that 50 euros or $50 is expensive, actually it might not be for the right people. So that’s a great advice. Before moving on to the next part, I’m going to challenge you to summarize what we said in 5 or 6 steps. So, step one, figure out your goals, step two …
Jennifer: Okay. Let me try to summarize everything right here. Life, the universe, and everything. Okay, so I would say step one, try to imagine the life you want to have on a day-to-day and minute to minute basis. So, what do you want to eat, when do you want to wake up, where do you want to sit, how many people do you want to talk to in a day, how many new people do you want to talk to? Do you want to use a phone? Do you want to be sitting in front of a computer? Try to imagine what your actual actions would be like.
I’d say step two is find a way that having that kind of lifestyle can be lucrative and the way you want to do that is by talking to people and finding something, it could be a customer base or it could be a company that you want to work for, but finding someone whose needs that you can fulfill. So, you want to talk to people till you find something that people genuinely already want and already have the money for, don’t make it about you, make it about them.
Step three, I would say, is to actually make an offer. So I didn’t really talk about this but it’s a necessary step here, so don’t just put up a cool website and hope that people will come to it, actually ask people to buy. So say to this museum, “Here’s my proposal, will you hire me? I’d like to start next month.” Actually saying to your potential customers, “So, I think I provided … So now that we’ve talked about the kind of swimming lessons you want for your children, are you ready to sign up?” Ask people to buy and if they say no, ask them why. Just genuinely get information and change your operative to a thing they actually want. So constantly adjust and iterate and that’s a pretty big part of the MVP process. Or if your proposal to the museum doesn’t work, try to get as much information as you can before you try again with them or with the next company.
And I’d say step number four is diversify. So once you get one cool opportunity or one kind of client base, can you diversify in terms of what your company provides or if you are working at a job, can you diversify in terms of maybe having a side hustle or maybe just getting your name out there and becoming really well known in your field and doing networking, whatever way is comfortable for you. And if you’re an introvert that might be kind of on the internet or so on and so forth. But really creating that level of diversity and redundancy that makes you financially secure. Four steps.
Louis: Nice. Very nice. Listeners, enjoy this, you’re listening to this right now and I know you’re enjoying it. I got a lot of feedback from that this particular step in each episode, people enjoy having a summary like this at the end of a very practical session. So thanks for going through this exercise, I know it’s not easy. Moving onto another gear right now, you’re incredibly, you’re very successful, you seem to be very happy in your life, you’re doing things that are quite risky, should I say, a lot of people wouldn’t dare putting those kind of products online and being that, not controversial but contrarian, right? So, I always ask this question to contrary people and you’re one of them, I think, if you have to pick one event that made you who you are today, what will it be and why?
Jennifer: Oh, you know, I’ve always been contrarian and willing to say things that other people wouldn’t say and I think it relates to … My parents are really very introverted and didn’t socialize a lot with the other parents and so I kind of went to school as a child with no social norms, which was difficult. Not a lot of social norms and yeah, not a lot of need or desire or ability to fit in. And I think I just got used to being an oddball in that way. So I would say maybe kindergarten would be that event and I just quickly developed a reputation for smart but weird, weird but smart, and kind of rolled with it. By the way, I want to say, We’ll Dance on the Graves of the Patriarchy and Drink the Bitter Tears of Mediocre Men, I don’t have a problem with mediocre men, per se, most people are mediocre, I have a problem with mediocre men in unearned positions of power. I won’t name names, but anyway.
Louis: Yeah, if you start naming names, I don’t think this podcast is going to last an hour, it’s going to be probably 10 days nonstop.
Jennifer: A marathon.
Louis: So, you didn’t really have a lot of … You didn’t have a template, per se, of social interaction with other people, you didn’t really know how to behave and therefore you chose this very out there personality of some sort, you started to have this personality quite fast, even in kindergarten? Even when you are very young, yeah?
Jennifer: Yeah. Well, you know, this was really driven home for me when I was at Dartmouth, which is a very traditional university, and when I was at Dartmouth, I didn’t realize at the time that most of the people I was at college with were from very wealthy families, it just somehow was over my head. Dartmouth is very cold, it’s in the mountains, everyone’s just wearing polar fleece like rich people are not showing off their wealth in a way that would be apparent to kind of a lower-middle-class person who didn’t realize what the deal was.
So, I really just did not understand that most of the people I was going, or a lot of the people I was going to school with, like their fathers were investment bankers and they were going to become investment bankers, as well. And so people would say things to me like, “Wow, that’s so cool that you’re majoring in philosophy, I could never do that.” I was like, “Yes, you can. It’s available to anyone. Why can’t you major in philosophy?” And I guess they meant, “Because I need to make over $500,000 a year.” I guess that’s what they meant or like their parents wouldn’t pay for college if they tried to major in philosophy. My parents did not really know that college had majors. Like they were not … And it never would’ve occurred to them to tell me what mine should be. Nobody ever asked. I declared a philosophy major. I ran a company while I was in college, yeah. There you go.
Louis: What companies did you have while you were in college?
Jennifer: I started a web development company in 1998, halfway through college. And that was a time when the internet was just not obviously not super well developed and pretty large, for instance, organizations on campus would just hire any random student to make their website. So, yeah.
Louis: The good old days.
Jennifer: Because they didn’t think anyone was looking at it, so yeah, I made websites for all kinds of campus organizations and then companies and so on and so forth. So I ran my web development company from 1998 to 2003.
Louis: And what did your parents do then to be that unaware of what was going on in college and all of that?
Jennifer: They had a little bit of a … They were pretty strict when I was young but then they had a more hands-off approach once I turned 18. I think there’s a little kind of cultural and generational difference, right now in the United States, most millennials live with their parents until they are in their mid-20s and this is just really common, it’s not stigmatized at all now, it’s often considered just a smart way to get started in life and save money. So there are plenty of 26-year-olds living with their parents. When I graduated from college in 2000, that was really not as common and I definitely subscribed to this attitude that you are an adult at 18, 18 and you are out of there. And so, yeah, I didn’t live with my parents after college, certainly, even when it would’ve made a lot more financial sense to maybe try to do that. And so there was just really this idea that once I hit the age of 18, it was my parents had no expectations for me, they didn’t try to tell me what to do with my life. The only exception I can say to that when my first company failed, my dad said, “Well, maybe you should’ve gotten a job-job, maybe you should’ve gotten a regular job. Climb that ladder rung by rung.”
And I said, “Dad,” I remember this conversation, he’s a military man, so he’s like there’s a very strict hierarchy in the military and that’s really the background he was coming from, and so he said, “Your company failed at the age of 23, maybe you should’ve gotten a regular job.” And I said, “Dad, every single time I get $10,000, I’m going to use it to try to make $1 million, every single time. So get used to seeing this for the rest of our lives together.” And that’s been true. My husband is more of a … My husband has a traditional job and he works in IT and so I feel like we have diversified as a couple, he provides stability but if we’re ever going to be, I don’t know, live a Beyoncé lifestyle, then I will be the one who makes that happen.
Louis: You’ll be the one spending the money, as well.
Jennifer: I will be making and spending the big bucks if that happens.
Louis: That’s what I want as well. I want a Beyoncé lifestyle. My wife, as well, I think, she’d be happy to hear that. What do you think marketers should learn today that will help them the next 10 years, 20 years, 50 years?
Jennifer: I think what marketers should learn that will help them in the future is what problems people are having and problems that people who are not like them are having. So, that could mean, especially, we’ve been talking about introverts, if you are really active on Reddit and just paying attention to what about people in the rare fish breeding community, but what about people who are looking to invest a little bit of money, what about people who want to get fit but can’t find something that works for them? So on and so forth. So listen to what problems people are having so that you can see those opportunities when you see a product that could be a match or a service that you could provide or a place that your business could go. So yeah, I think listen to groups of people who are not like you and that can just be lurking on the internet, which we can all do late at night.
Jennifer: It’s very achievable.
Louis: Yeah, Reddit is … I read Reddit everyday, I have it on my phone, and I go through a few subReddits that I like, marketing is an interesting one sometimes, but yes, you literally can connect with people from any background, any interest, literally any interest, you wouldn’t believe the amount of subReddits about very obscure subcultures that you wouldn’t even believe exist. So you will find people to talk to, even if you don’t know anyone, just going on Reddit. I completely agree with you on this one. And being curious about people, that’s a big, big thing, for marketers in particular. What are the top three resources you would recommend our listeners?
Jennifer: Well, I guess I’ll have to just say Reddit since we have talked about that so much. You know, let’s see. Oh, this is a tough one. Can I just say listening to people and listening to people again? This podcast, okay, Reddit and this podcast and, see, I’m just kissing your ass right there.
Louis: Yeah, and it doesn’t work.
Jennifer: Laughs. And yeah, and then I would say really just I think reading about MVP would be a great idea. So Google “minimum viable product” and get that idea in your head, please do not spend all of your time and money coming up with some brilliant idea without knowing that people will want it. So, and that’s a little bit of a vague list right there, but there you go.
Jennifer: Yeah, I have read Lean Startup, absolutely. And you know, all this stuff applies to things that are not software, I just really can’t emphasize that enough. Like if you are Sarah Blakely, the founder of Spanx, like still, you want to follow these exact same principles. Ask people what they want, solve a real problem that they have, and iterate, constantly iterate, give people what they really want.
Louis: Can you remind us about the online shop you have, the conference you’re doing, and all of the activities around your brand?
Jennifer: Sure, thank you for asking. So Get Bullish began as an advice column in 2010 where I was writing about careers and business from a feminist perspective and the first thing that I did that really made it a business and a community was founded, the annual conference that’s been taking place since 2013. It changes locations every year, this year in 2018, we’re going to be in Palm Springs, California in early October, that’s at bulishconference.com. And that is a women’s conference there, that’s a feminist career conference. We also have an online membership society, again, about women and feminism, and that is bullishsociety.com. And then the shop is for everyone, everyone can buy things, and so you know, the online shop, this is actually what I spend much of my day doing, when I first started the shop, I was originally just selling a few items kind of wish my logo on them. It was six items when I launched it and now we sell over 3,000 items.
About 50 or 60 of them are things that I have designed and by designed I often am kind of writing slogans and printing them on things. About 50 or 60 items are things that I designed and the rest, we are a retailer, so I work with a lot of brands, both handmade brands as well as larger brands, and we sell on a variety of platforms. So really, I’m in my warehouse right now and I’m really running a pretty substantial e-commerce operation at this time. And I love and enjoy that and you’ve heard some of our slogans, so yeah, I think a big … I have a dress with pockets, pockets in dresses are a real feminist issue, like they don’t put pockets on our clothes. Like literally, we just can’t carry anything. People want us to be really smooth and non-utilitarian. So anyway, I have a dress with pockets. Smooth, that’s what you want from women, right? Smooth and non-utilitarian. No. Anyway.
Louis: That’s a new slogan, that’s a new slogan right there.
Jennifer: Right, I write them all the time. So it’s a pocket dress that says Feminism Isn’t About Hating Men, But I Make Exceptions for Complete Fucking Assholes. So, that’s been very popular lately.
Louis: Nice. I have actually, I work in a coworking space most of the time and I know a few people in there who are really, really into this, who would definitely buy a lot of your products. I’m going to tell them right now just as soon as the interview is over. Jennifer, you’ve been absolutely a pleasure to deal with, it was really insightful. You were talking from your warehouse, literally, for the last hour and I can guarantee that this is the truth, there’s a lot of interesting stuff in the background. So thank you for doing this and thank you so much for spending the time with us.
Jennifer: Thank you for having me.