How A Shy Kid Like Me Learned to Negotiate

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I grew up with a group of brilliant and strong women all around me, but they all struggled with something I think a lot of people deal with — they could not negotiate. And neither could I. My mother’s a professor with a science Ph.D. One grandma was a doctor in the 1940s. Her sister was as well. An aunt had been a dentist in the 1910s in Minsk.

My sister went from a fashion background to an MBA and business ownership and quickly learned the ropes.

I married a brilliant and strong woman who negotiates like second nature — and for pay, to great effect. The contrast, in some ways, could not be stronger.

The pain — tears from being passed over for promotion, for an increase, slights (perceived or otherwise), the silent anger and resentment due to words or acts by bosses who were inevitably all male — still sting today.

How could it be? I work SO hard! I know I am the smartest and best worker with the most ideas and publications, plus the most industrious of all of them — and still this.

And as a boy, all these aggressions were magnified. The women in my life had lived and managed through the hell of Soviet Stalinism and anti-Semitism, the compound stresses of an emigration and assimilation, plus divorce and worse.

How could it be that in America, the land where all of us are equal, they had lost their voice? Year after year, month after month, I was frustrated by the evil men I hardly saw.

Uncover Hidden Scripts

As for my own development, it took big system shocks to get the ship to sail upright and straight. I didn’t learn negotiation from my law school studies or from years in finance. It didn’t magically absorb from reading business books or blogs.

It took unpacking baggage from my childhood — with all its Soviet Jewish norms of culture and behavior — to uncover all the hidden scripts I had controlling my existence from afar. Selling was stigma, self-promotion being the lowest form.

Negotiation was beneath us — shameful commercialism. We were too cultured, too polite, for that. We suffered silently as martyrs but upheld ideals and moral rectitude. The world was turned against us and we couldn’t trust anyone.

But I also started seeing the benefits of asking for a better price, of asking for a better starting salary and title, of making small talk to ingratiate myself, of doing research on the person I was dealing with.

These were the sorts of small “infringements” I’d found so dastardly before. Once I had called a spade a spade, I’d had enough of martyrdom and misery.

In my wife’s culture, bargaining’s like hygiene. If you don’t practice it, you’re shunned and disrespected. The paradigm of shame is quickly turned up on its head.

If you don’t bargain and negotiate, you’ll be a failure, plain and simple. With this in mind, how can I possibly abstain and stay behind? For what? To please a set of vague ideals? No, thanks. Now, where’s my discount?

Practice Negotiating in Any Way

At first, to bargain was as pleasant as a kidney stone. I practiced in a market in Morocco, then in Israel. It worked! Success begat success, and I got bolder.

Soon — unemployed — I dared to bargain for a higher starting salary with my new boss. I brought the facts and numbers to the table and firmly asked for $10K more, plus changes in the contract. Next thing I knew, I got exactly what I wanted!

Another time, I turned a contract role into a full-time gig (with benefits, 401(k) matching, paid cell phone and more) with one quick call directly to the CEO. As it turned out, he is a masterful — and merciless — negotiator. I learned a ton from working with him and then negotiated huge discounts on rent and software for the company.

Another factor is necessity, that mother of invention. When you have student debt the size of icebergs and you call Manhattan home, you quickly start asking always for a better, cheaper, faster way to do things — NOW, not later, not tomorrow.

The Answer Will Often Be “Yes”

The urgency takes hold of you and steels your confidence. Why not? If you don’t ask, the answer’s always no.

Quite often, actually, you get a yes. This may be because others have an expectation bias and have already committed to the cheaper sale. Maybe the person has the mindset that negotiation is a sin, just wants to let go and wash their hands of it.

With salary and benefits, there’s often extra money budgeted for you. A title can be fungible, depending on the context. When making deals with vendors, you do often find more leverage in unexpected places.

Ask, and you often will receive — some extra benefits for cross-promotion, a strategic partnership or other smart win-wins. It is your job to be creative.

Stop Believing Negotiation Myths

It is a fallacy, assuming always that the other side won’t budge. You’ll often find that humans are just human in the end. They often want to please, be nice and helpful to you, but you have to ask.

It’s also foolish to keep thinking that to bargain is unprofessional. Think of it as a trial project for your boss. If you can stand up for yourself and bargain with him, then you’re showing:

  • Confidence
  • Business sense
  • Thoughtful preparation
  • Interest
  • Commitment

If these are not the very traits your boss is looking for, then don’t go work for him!

Winning Negotiation

The key to winning a negotiation is an understanding of terms of business and in yours and others’ motivations and desired results.

First, know exactly what you’re worth to bosses, vendors, clients. Do research on your market, the true price and markup. Ask people in the industry.

Be bold, take risks — but do it smartly and with preparation. The boundaries when making deals are often far beyond your mind’s own limits on yourself.

Take paper and a pen and write down what you want to get across. Note your thresholds and stick to them — the more specifics and real numbers, the better.

Now, find a partner who you can practice with beforehand. Ideally, this is a friend or spouse who’s been a boss or vendor rep or business owner and a devil’s advocate.

You want someone who’s people-savvy, observant and experienced, with sense of body language and your weaknesses and strengths. Get him or her to tell you how you come across.

After this, work to fix the problems your friend has pointed out. Then, go in and get what’s yours.

Develop the Negotiation Mindset

The negotiation mindset, when compounded daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, has a tremendous upside. Practice negotiating in your everyday transactions — at your grocery, your coffee shop, on Craigslist.

Find coupon codes online, use Amazon to check for the cheapest price. Once you attain this mindset, you will find that others cannot take you for a ride. You sniff out scams and don’t fall prey to marketing so easily.

Granted, it can be daunting at first to speak up and to overcome your limitations, but immensely powerful. You’re losing absolutely nothing in the back-and-forth and often winning self-respect and boldness to achieve much greater things.

Know what things really cost. Set concrete terms. Be confident. You will be shocked how often you will win.

After a while, negotiation is a pleasure and a habit, much like brushing your teeth. The only things you have to lose are misery, frustration and your own stumbling blocks.

The money in your pocket and a healthy sense of self are great fringe benefits as well.

Don’t Leave Money on the Table

With this in mind, it is imperative for women (and men) to bargain and negotiate. Ten thousand dollars left on the table now can mean $500K abandoned over a career.

A lower title can slow one’s growth and progress by a magnitude. Take ownership of how you come across to bosses and executives, as well as business partners and your clients.

Often, the very thing you dread (negotiation) is precisely what the other side is looking for. In other words, you often can’t afford NOT to negotiate this time and every other time.

Do all the hard work now. Then practice, practice, practice, and you’ll reap the benefitsimmediately.

Now, to get back to all the brilliant and strong women in my life. Among them are war journalists, executives, top scientific experts and consultants, engineers, high-end lawyers, bankers and VCs, product managers and others.

Time after time, I’ve heard how in “The Talk” with Mr. Boss, Executive or Client, they just freeze.

Meanwhile, males with worse degrees and grades, work ethic and experience would leapfrog them, negotiate and win big salaries, promotions, titles, contracts, deals. They did all of this despite appalling manners, sexism and a nauseous basket of fraternity behavior.

Stand Up for Your Worth

Over the years, these women have turned to me with their frustrations about men at work — male managers, executives, etc.

How much frustration, tears and disappointment (and time) could easily be saved through simple training and unpacking baggage, plus a little research? Hundreds of thousands left at the table, better titles, better lifestyles, plus a sense of worth and fairness?

Ladies, lift up your heads! There’s nothing alpha-male, shameful, risky, or arrogant about acknowledging your true worth and sticking to it in negotiation. Like all good things in life, it takes determination and a plan.

If you don’t change, you will forever be a slave to your own doubts and hidden scripts. It is a heavy — and unneeded — burden.

If (and when) you do, the world is yours, no matter if your debt or unemployment or the other circumstances seem to hold you back. To paraphrase Hillel the Elder, if you don’t stand up for yourself, then who will stand up for you?

And being yourself, who are you if not for yourself? And if not now, then when?

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[This is also a post on WorkAwesome.com]

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Yuri Kruman is a healthcare entrepreneur, published author and blogger at BlueprintToThrive.com, based in New York.

12 Strategies Women Must Know to Nail Their Year-End Review Negotiations

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It's nearing your year-end review. You're really good at what you do, but when it comes to your negotiation skills, you freeze. You might have even taken one of those negotiation courses back in business or in law school, maybe even college, way back when. But what's the use? You feel you have no leverage. You're in the company maybe a year or 18 months, or maybe even less. You'd hate to rock the boat too much.

You've always kept your nose clean, done your work and then some. You're not one of those alpha dogs, always obsessed with self-promotion. You feel that good things come to those who do great work, work well with teams, collaborate, not steal the show.

Congratulations, you've convinced yourself - out of potentially $500K over the course your career, perhaps a handful better titles,  more responsibility, advancement of the type you've always dreamed.

You've fallen prey to hidden scripts - those nasty little parasites that feed on insecurity, uncertainty and fear inside your head. Don't feel too bad - all of us have them, often since our childhood.

Now that you're an adult and savvier about the "real world," it is time to stop the madness. There is too much at stake NOT to negotiate. Plus, it is neither rocket science nor impossible for introverts, the risk-averse, the modest and the shy, plus those without "the guts."

I'd know a thing or two about this paradigm. Before I ever went against the grain of childhood shyness and low self-esteem, I viewed negotiation as the province of the alpha male, the Middle Eastern market, the car dealership, the back-room politician.

In business, these illusions quickly withered. When I transitioned to the finance/operations function for a startup, suddenly it was my role to drive down prices, to negotiate with vendors and the landlord. I started trying to bargain at the market on a trip to Casablanca and then Israel.

I then successfully negotiated with the CEO (a master negotiator himself) to go full-time, instead of contract, with a $15K bump in salary and benefits, plus more responsibility that at my prior job. While there, I managed to negotiate down $45K (23%) from a vendor's original offer for an ERP system and $17K (6%) on rent over 5 years for our new office. This, after being too shy and scared to bargain for an apple at the market just a couple months before.

After a while, it was an actor's game, except with higher stakes. The first and most important rule is simple - if you never ask, the answer's always no!

Over the years, since I was young, the many (brilliant, fearless) women in my life would come to me with their frustrations about bosses, lack of meritocracy and inability to get past fears and insecurities and all the rest, especially with negotiation. The men would simply never go admitting it.

Here are the strategies I've counseled them to take. I have used them myself with great results.

1. Write down your hidden scripts. Make sure to name all of them, spare none. Once you acknowledge having them ("I can't negotiate," "I'm not cut out for it," "I'm simply never good enough," "I do not want to rock the boat," etc.) you start to understand that these are just opinions, hardly facts. Are these scripts carried down from family or friends? Are these based on past episodes that are no longer relevant?

Now, you can start to change these harsh opinions on the subject of yourself. Ask friends what you are good at. Write down the tasks at work that make you feel more fulfilled. Write down the favorite role you play out of all your work responsibilities. Are you always making sure others are thriving? Are you at your best when delegating to others and managing them? The subject matter expert everyone consults? Focus on outlining and hammering your strengths before you lash out at yourself for (perceived and real) faults. This way, you will be better balanced and equipped to eliminate your negative scripts.

Keep one critical point in mind. Your performance at work does not equate to your performance as human being, whether it's good or bad. Being a good human doesn't guarantee being a good worker or team mate. Being a good team mate and worker doesn't make you a good human being. Both take work, but don't mix them. Business is business and your personal life is personal.

2. Write down your work accomplishments throughout the year (and before that, as applicable) in as much specific detail as possible (e.g., saved the company $100K, trained 5 new employees in Excel, saved your manager an hour a day by automating 2 reports, improved client retention by 20%, increased revenue by 15%). Imagine that negotiation with your boss is actually an audition and a chance for you to demonstrate your value. This will be your biggest "leverage" in the negotiation.

Managers and executives see your impact on team and company through the lens of concrete numbers, not how nice a person you are or how much everyone loves having you around. Speak their language and they'll take you more seriously and include you in the club of people who "get it," one of "them." This makes it easier for them to make decisions raising your salary, promoting you and otherwise pushing you up and through to the next level.

3. Know your partner (not "opponent") in negotiation better than you know your best friend. Was he or she a frat brother or sorority sister in college? Is your manager married or single? Kids or no kids? From Ohio or New Delhi? Likes his coffee black or with a little milk? Went to the same college as you or in Australia? What motivates him or her - money? family well-being? women? men? fame? customer satisfaction? cheaper/better/faster work? technology? What is the person's culture? What is their negotiating style? How does he or she view women? How do they view you based on the language (both spoken and body language) they use with you? How about your peers? How does your manager relate to you in comparison with the others on the team?

Without appearing to pry, these are things you should already have bothered to learn and understand by asking your manager directly or observing through their interactions with you and others, through social media presence, etc. No human is a complete mystery and most are actually quite boring, conventional and predictable.

The goal here is four-fold:

a. to create a real rapport with your manager based on shared background, interests and goals. This requires demystifying your manager and ingratiating yourself on a real human level with the person without appearing to pry, pander or "suck up." In the end, it's all about making yourself appear and sound (and act) like a partner in your manager's success, not his or her opponent or roadblock.

b. to tell them what they need to hear from you in a way that's cooperative and non-threatening, showing you have incentives aligned with his or hers and that what you're asking is both reasonable and in the best interest of the team, company and manager himself (not just your own selfish interest) and

c. to find the manager's trigger words for success in what you're asking. When you know his or her specific goals, you can then frame what you're asking in a way that shows clearly how giving you what you want will concretely help your manager to achieve what he or she wants.

4. Be clear about what you're asking. Is it higher salary? Higher title? A higher bonus? All three? More responsibility? Chances to prove yourself? Be as specific as possible when communicating. Show evidence (see #8 below) to back up your request.

If the answer is no (never presume it will be! When you actually ask, unexpected doors often open for you.), what will you ask for as a backup? If you can't have more than a set raise, perhaps you want more days off or better perks or better health coverage? If the answer is no, immediately ask what are the specific steps you need to take to earn that higher salary, title, bonus, more responsibility, etc. This shows you're not just asking to ask, but are committed to making it happen, helping the company

5. Proactively take the sting out of the coming review. Review yourself first! Take criticism from your manager in stride. Nobody performs flawlessly. Before the negotiation, you should know (and have written down) your own weaknesses and strengths, things you've done well and things you haven't. Anticipate where the challenge will come and have a ready answer for each point.

Coupled with your highly specific achievements during the year (See #2 above), this will help you parry your manager's words, stay on your feet and continue with your objectives in the negotiation.

Most importantly, remember that (within the realm of the possible - see #8 below), granting your wish for a higher salary or title or bonus or better benefits/perks, etc. is often a very easy decision for the manager. Just asking often opens the door to getting what you need.

6. See the review for what it is - a DIALOGUE, NOT a monologue (like your interview to get in the company). Be ready for any scenario. If you believe the dialogue is not going to go well, then start opening up new windows for opportunity. Contact recruiters, if you have to. Talk to friends in other companies where you may want to work. Even if you come nowhere close to switching companies, you will give yourself psychological breathing room. This will help you parry whatever feedback you receive, whether negative or positive, and continue with your objective in the negotiation.

7. Control the negotiation yourself from the start. Speak first to build confidence and take the initiative. Begin by thanking your manager for sitting down with you to discuss your performance. Restate your commitment to the team and company, your love of working with the team to solve problems and create value. This will already blunt the impact of any negative feedback and will enhance any positive feedback coming your way.

8. Do careful and diligent research on your company's average salaries for your position, the average progression to the next title, average bonus figures (and how much of it is based on personal, team and overall company performance) and any other relevant industry, city and state averages. Use Glassdoor.com, Salary.com, speak to others in the company that you trust to know these things.

How much room is there within the company for the boss's discretion to increase your salary, title, bonus, perks, benefits, etc.? Make sure not to ask for things that that the manager can't give you. Only ask for things that are within the real of the possible. Make it as easy as possible for him or her to say yes to your request(s).

Invoke authority - someone higher up in the same organization, average salary at your title in the industry and at competitors and other specific figures in your negotiation dialogue.

Know your company politics down cold. What is the expected time for a promotion and expected raise? How does your review compare with that of others on the same scale?

9. Start working on your body language ASAP. Perception is reality. When your posture is bad, you don't speak up, you're overly emotional or overshare your personal life with co-workers, don't smile sincerely and don't project confidence, you are sabotaging your own daily performance and how others perceive you. It's a slippery slope, but luckily, it's also reversible.

Practice standing up straight with your shoulders open, stretching your arms up and out, lifting your head up and smiling. Close your eyes and imagine doing something outdoors that you really love and makes you happy - walking in the wilderness, skiing on a mountain, whatever it may be. Imagine doing your favorite activity that you're better at than anybody you know. Is it writing? Running quickly? Drawing? Put yourself there and run through the activity for at least a minute or two.

Create space for yourself to be in control. Breathe in and out slowly and deeply. Invigorate your lungs. Do this right before going into the negotiation - in your closed office or bathroom stall. Always put yourself in the best of frame of mind possible right before you negotiate.

Breathe in and out slowly and deeply for a minute before speaking. This lowers your voice and makes you feel and seem more authoritative.

Prepare yourself to look and feel confident RIGHT before the negotiation by standing up straight and tall with your hands on hips or arms spread open in a position of power (e.g., in your office or restroom stall). This shoots up your endorphin level, making you feel instantly more confident and putting you at ease. Try one of these power poses.

Lastly, practice smiling regularly (and sincerely). Work hard to consistently find the positive in people you have to work with and overlook the negative. Remind yourself regularly of activities and people that make you feel good about yourself. Do these activities and re-connect with these people often.

Appear friendly as much as possible without watering down your position or confidence therein. The two are never mutually exclusive. Find the happy middle ground and practice being friendly, even while maintaining your ground.

Throughout the negotiation, maintain good posture, without dramatic posing.

10. Work on the words you speak. Be clear and concise and remain upbeat and down to business, as much as possible, but never humorless. Nobody likes to have Debbie Downer around. Get the cynical humor, high emotion and gossip out of your system and keep away from others around you that do.

Let others assign you to positive stereotypes (hard worker, "gets it done" every time, nice person, clean nose), not negative ones (gossip, depressive, etc.). Always appear well-balanced and relentlessly positive, above all. Don't give your manager or anyone else the tools with which to write you off, keep you down and under-paid and under-utilized, as well as below your own potential.

Always make sure to finish what you start. Don't let negative feedback knock you off your horse (you've now prepared yourself to hear it - see #5 above). Just keep going and finish your list of objectives in the negotiation. Make sure to get in all your points and finish on a positive note, thanking your manager for the feedback and looking forward to creating more value for him or her and the company.

11. Drop any illusions that negotiation is the same, being a woman rather than a man, regardless of whether negotiating with a man or a woman. Humans stereotype instantly and often have strong biases based on background and experience (hence, the need for careful research - see #3 above). This simple human fact is hardly an automatic impediment, but it does present different ways of getting to where you need to be in the negotiation. You absolutely don't need to obsess about "thinking and acting like a man," although certain elements of effective behavior may seem similar to male behavioral stereotypes.

Be aware of the silent stereotypes and prejudices hovering in the background - and transcend them or use them to your advantage! If your boss sees you as a threat to take his or her place, go out of your way to show your commitment to the team and company and his or her success. If your boss appears to think you're a "feeble and helpless woman," it can actually be a big advantage when you impress him or her on the spot with confidence and negotiation ability with the best.

Women tend to better in negotiations when they are seen (and see themselves) as negotiating for a group of people, not themselves (unlike men, for whom this is completely expected). What group do you represent? Under-paid women in your company and industry? Negotiate for the good of a group, not yourself. This will strengthen your position and decrease push-back. Invoke authority whenever possible - someone higher up in the same organization, average salary for your title in the industry and at competitors.

12. Practice, practice, practice the negotiation and get feedback from people you trust who will be frank and honest with you. First, cultivate the thick skin to take the advice as helping you to progress well beyond where you are now. It's a process and won't happen overnight. Start the process as long before your review as possible.

Beware asking close friends or family for frank and honest feedback. They will often hold back for fear of offending you or making it seem that they look down at you. The best alternative is to find an experienced coach specialized in giving frank feedback and teaching the methodology to overcome your fears and hidden scripts, create good habits of self-perception and outward appearance and to negotiate with confidence, knowledge and insight into what works well for women in your industry specifically (plus, armed with any information on company, team and your manager, specifically).

Record yourself in the practice negotiation, if possible, so you can see for yourself how you look and sound. Discount your own bias to put yourself down. Ask for feedback from someone else who can give you an honest opinion (and always take it in stride).

Prepare a detailed list of accomplishments and points you want to get across in the review.

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Now, when you go in for your end-of-year review, you will be armed and ready with the information and the confidence you need to blow your manager away. I'll be rooting for your success, as always!

Are there other important strategies you’ve used to negotiate effectively as a professional woman? Please share them with the Community in Comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

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Yuri Kruman is a Healthcare Product Manager, published author, blogger at BlueprintToThrive.com and health tech entrepreneur based in New York.

*The views expressed herein are his own*

 

How to Find Out What You Are Meant To Do in Life

DeathtoStock_NotStock2 The vast majority of people – likely yourself, included - are not happy with their job and not engaged at work. You’ve seen Venn diagrams galore about the sweetspots between what you’re good at and your passion and what pays well and the like. Maybe in college or in high school, you took ASVAB or another long assessment that spits out ten possibilities of jobs you might want to consider.

And yet, you’re sitting in your cubicle and wondering what is it that you’re meant to do in life. What do you want to be when you grow up? Your mother’s voice rings in your head. Yet still, you have no magic answer. At times you seriously doubt there is an answer possible.

A part of you, in fact, just never wants to grow up and to focus on one thing. Deep down, you never quite believed in that annoying maxim that your parents and your teachers drilled into you, that says you have to choose and stick with your profession for your life or drift away, become a failure. There is a wisdom there and also folly, equal in their measure.

As we well know, Millenials pursue portfolio careers – they can be product managers and writers or risk analysts and DJs. There is no simple definition of profession anymore, as well. Most people change careers and jobs like gloves. There is no longer a straight path to glory or fulfillment, save for a few fields. There’s no such thing as meritocracy. Your personality and sense of politics are equally (if not, in fact, much more) important for advancement than your brains and execution.

Allow me to propose a heresy - life’s meaning doesn’t have to stem from work! It is a paycheck and an occupation and a means to learn, contribute and perhaps enjoy. There is no biblical commandment for your job to be your all-consuming purpose. There is your family, your hobbies, church or synagogue, non-profit work, whatever it may be.

But no, come on, you say. I’m young and smart and energetic and I know that I can be successful if I only knew where to apply myself. That may be true. Even if you are not a prodigy from childhood, you can easily still bloom much later and succeed beyond your wildest dreams. Think Warren Buffett and Ray Crock, Mark Pincus and a thousand others who created famous brands and giant value late in life.

You may be in your twenties, thirties, even older, if you’re reading this. Many of us pursued name brands of companies, degrees and fancy titles, but are unfulfilled. There has to be a better way.

Here’s my approach:

1) Beyond the many tests of personality and culture fit, there is the question of your role. A role encapsulates what motivates you in a given situation.

What role – that is, opposed to title - do you really, truly, actually enjoy in any situation?

Are you the expert who excels in giving consultations on in-depth details and who analyzes trends?

Are you the silent helper in the background who makes sure the others are on track and doing well?

Are you the planner that can carry off the complex project plan?

Are you an inborn manager and delegator, telling people what to do and how?

Are you the Type A CEO who lives by mission and are hell-bent on achieving it?

Or are you the observer who enjoys his writing far removed from business action?

You may be all these things in some capacity, but which one gives you real enjoyment in the moment?

 

2) Once you have narrowed down a favorite role, you can move on to adding value.

In what capacity can you help others best and thrive? In what capacity would it be easiest for you to make things cheaper, better, faster and kick ass and come home happy after a long day?

Are you a stickler for the right word in the moment? Then try marketing or writing.

Are you in inborn salesman, full of energy, who loves convincing other people that it’s time to buy, buy, baby? The sky’s the limit, GO AND SELL!

Do you enjoy forecasting profits or new trends? Then maybe you should be a data scientist in your favorite field.

Do you see years ahead of everyone and outwork all the rest to get to where you want to be? You might be the right person to go off and start something yourself.

 

3) Once you collect the evidence to show yourself what you enjoy the most, you can go on to mapping it to function in a company by title. Don’t fixate on the title, but on job description. Will this involve a lot of things that get you up all bright and early, thrilled to run to work? If not, keep looking.

 

4) Next, industry makes sense by what you value most. Everyone likes to say that they enjoy helping people. Those in the medical professions want to cure, improve their patients’ health. Investment bankers want to raise the capital for companies to grow. Climate researchers want to turn the tide and save the planet. Sometimes the industry is not so terribly important.

What medium or context is it that excites you most for doing your best work?

You could be crunching data in a healthcare startup, just as well as finance or at Uber.

 

5) Next, go and research companies where you might want to work. It doesn’t have to be the Googles, Apples, Ubers of the world – at least not right away. Often, your break can come inside a tiny startup or established, boring player, where the degrees and fancy titles carry much less weight than motivation, problem-solving skills and good experience.

The best way to get information is, once more, from people on the inside. These are the folks who get your resume directly past the tracking system and into the hands of the HR / recruiter. They are the ones who know interview questions, preferences of the hiring manager, the team dynamic and company culture. NEVER take the company’s own marketing at face value. Read Glassdoor and other reviews, keeping in mind that most reviewers tend to be either quite pissed or drunk with Koolaid. Stay skeptical until the end – at least until the ink is dry on your new contract with the firm.

 

6) Now that you’ve done your research and reflection, you can start to strategize.    

What is the shortest path to get to that specific role inside your chosen industry?

First, focus on the practical. Can you get in a sponsored hackathon and then get hired directly? Great, go for it.

Or can you take a General Assembly course for it? It might be worth the money, then.

How about taking MOOCs for credit – would that show your interest and dedication to potential employers? How about being active in industry groups on LinkedIN and in real life?

Depending on what role you want, you may be able to network your way into a job without much (or any) prior experience. Ask questions on Quora to get a straight-forward, no-nonsense answer from high-end professionals in the field.

Next, read all the books you can about the path the leading lights have taken to start out and grow, excel at the particular profession that you chose.

Before you rush to spend your hard-earned money (or take student debt) for a degree, for courses or for boot camps, go online and find the high-end free resources recommended by professionals (see Quora).

Contact the people in your network in the field who do exactly what you want (over LinkedIN, through  alumni network or another way). Take them to coffee and prepare good questions about paths to get there and the tasks and functions of the job, then companies and titles, then how to interview and what to know, etc.

This is the crucial process of intelligence gathering. If you don’t do it well, you’re liable to get the wrong ideas, spend too much money and get lost. Those working in the field (not academics in the field) generally have their nose to ground, a set of realistic views and expectations.

That said, beware of doctors hating medicine, those angry, burnt-out lawyers, bored accountants and the other misfits who are stuck – naysayers, who are not your friends. Talk to the doers, people with large networks and portfolio careers. They generally have the clearest and most sober view of things. Get second, third and fourth opinions, always, as a rule.

 

**DISCLAIMERS**

It is worth noting that at different stages in your life, you’ll likely want to be in different roles. You’ll find completely different things enjoyable when 22 than when you’re 30, 35 or 45. Exiting college, you are hungry for experience through solid training. You may already know exactly what you want from life or you can struggle through crap jobs, self-doubt until you’re sick and want to change direction. This easily can happen at the age of 30, 35 or 40, even later.

Consider this example. At 22, John starts his job at Google as a Junior Product Manager. At 24, he moves to LinkedIN and there gets his break, leading a team to build an awesome feature that affects a hundred million people, At 27, he’s recruited as VP of Product at a healthcare startup and begins to take the plunge. Here, he begins to build a team to take on cancer through great diagnostics. At 30, his equity stake is worth $3 million and he cashes out after the IPO.

After 2 years, he moves into the dark side, a VC firm, Kleiner Perkins. From his new perch, he is an expert and thought leader, now investing in healthcare and tech. He gives TED lectures and advises startups on their product strategies. After 5 years investing and an awesome record, he plunges back and starts a company with friends from college. He’s got 2 kids, a wife.

His interests, priorities and worldview have completely changed – several times - since 22. Once he got married and had kids, family's meant the most to him, his job taking a backseat.

Each person's finances and circumstances, personality and motivations may be different and change with time. The key's to keep things in perspective. It's great to love your job, but not at the expense of family and loved ones - or your health. Life is a trade-off, but a lack of balance brings great harm.

Not all of us (frankly, quite few of us) can have a straight path as our friend John mentioned here. Most of us will go from job to job and career to career until we reach apathy, complacency or maybe a small share of transcendence along the way. The bliss is really in the journey, often hard and bumpy, crooked as in Snakes and Ladders.

It gets quite hard and harder to amend directions in your life once you have family and kids, so try to get your stuff straight earlier. That said, it’s never quite “too late.” Think of those Buffets and Ray Crocks, Mark Pincuses and all the other fabulously successful late bloomers.

Enjoy the ride, stay humble and stay firmly on the ground, Marty McFly!

I’m rooting for you!

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Are there other tips and strategies you’ve found useful in finding your ideal job or career? Share them with the community in the Comments section below.

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Like what you see? Visit BlueprintToThrive.com for more great strategies and tips for better health and wealth, plus improved productivity.

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Yuri Kruman is a Healthcare Product Manager, published author, blogger at BlueprintToThrive.com and health tech entrepreneur based in New York.

*The views expressed herein are his own*

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***SHAMELESS PLUG: A good life coach can make a tremendous difference in your life (and quite quickly) by identifying the root causes of your mental pitfalls and helping you to work quickly and effectively to attack your problems intelligently and in a sustainable manner, for life. Get in touch if I can help you break through your limitations and improve your life, your job situation or anything else that's in your way to a successful and meaningful life.

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