Scott, would you please start off by telling us about yourself and how you started Happen to Your Career?
My story starts back in college. I was one of those people who had no idea what I wanted to do. I started in studio recording and made my way over to computer science. I decided I didn’t want to write code in a closet and migrated over to business. Seven or eight major changes later, I realized, “Hey, this is something I can sink my teeth into.”
I still didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. I just started to resonate with business. In my program of study, you had to have an internship. My friends had terrible internships. Just terrible. They had to get coffee and donuts. They worked on projects that didn’t give them any experience. I decided, “If I’m going to do this, then I want to do something that will give me experience and prepare me for a career.”
Be careful of what you wish for. I came home with a small business that satisfied the internship credits. That was my introduction into the business world.
It worked out great because I was able to use what I was learning in my business the next day. Unfortunately, I got a normal job after college. I had just married Alyssa and it seemed the responsible thing to do.
I sold off the business assets and took a job that wasn’t a good fit for me. I began having anxiety attacks on my way to work, and it was wretched. Sunday nights, I would stay up late watching TV. I thought I was avoiding going into work the next day—your mind deludes you when you’ve got an undesirable situation.
Eventually, they realized how terrible I was at the job, and they fired me. That was the best thing that ever happened to me. First of all, I ended up moping around for a couple of days. After that, I decided, “Look. I don’t ever want to do this again.” That was when I decided I would never again do work I couldn’t be great at and work that I didn’t enjoy.
Over the next eight years or so, I went through many career changes. I was forced to do it initially. But soon I thought, “Hey, this is something I’m good at. Every time I want to make a job or career change I can make it happen. It’s not that difficult.” Soon people heard my story and began to ask for help with their career transitions.
I began to meet with people and discuss their careers over coffee. At first, it was all about helping friends. I also really like coffee and knew I was going to get free coffee out of the deal.
It began sinking in that I had something of value to offer these people, and I was actually helping them. They wrote me thank you notes. They sent me gift cards. They offered to pay. It was a while before I accepted money. I applied the coaching I was doing for my day jobs to these conversations. I helped my friends through major career transitions.
My wife, Alyssa, and I decided we didn’t want to keep pursuing the corporate path. But what would we do? As we went through that exploratory process, we realized we wanted to start a business again. We wanted the flexibility to be with our children. We built a business model that let us help people make major career shifts—either from job to job, or from job to starting a business.
That’s how Happen to Your Career (HTYC) was born. It was a ten-year project, but I recently put in my notice to go full-time.
Your podcast is an encouragement to me, so you’re doing something well.You teach us that just because a career doesn’t feel like a fit, that doesn’t mean we have failed. People sometimes try a career, and when it doesn’t work, they think it’s their fault.
I think you’re right on. By the way, thanks for listening to the podcast. I appreciate it.
Even while you were in college, you thought like a business person as opposed to an employee. Why do you think that is true?
When I look at my childhood, on the surface, it isn’t much different from anybody else. But as I was growing up, I had experiences that caused me to do things differently and gave me business skills.
When I was young we had lots of garage sales. Summer would roll around, and all three of us children would know garage sale season was on its way. We would make cookies, and we would get our unwanted toys ready to sell.
As we priced our toys, we would deliberate. We’d spend a lot of time on this. It sounds funny now. We would figure out, “Okay. If I’m pricing at this, what does that mean? Does that mean that people are going to buy it or they’re not going to buy it?” Since we had so many garage sales, we became pricing experts.
At a garage sale, most people don’t want to pay the listed price. They are like, “I see you have this priced for 25 cents. Would you take seven cents?” They negotiate with you.
That’s where I got my first negotiation experience. When you’re doing that as a six-year-old, you have a different outlook on things that scare other people. I’m not afraid to ask for raises in jobs.
Over the last 7 years, I’ve made about $300,000 extra by asking for raises. I wouldn’t have made that money otherwise.
I think we pick up mindsets from our parents and from our early experiences. Your story reminded me of a book called Business Brilliant. Have you read it?
I haven’t. Tell me about it.
Lewis Schiff wrote it. He interviewed average middle-class people and millionaires who started as middle-class. He asked worldview or perception questions about their values, fears, and beliefs. He compared their answers and looked at the differences.
The self-made millionaires believed others didn’t have their best interest at heart. They expected others to give them less than they deserved. They just looked at situations like, “If I just take this passively, it’s not going to be what I need.” As a result, they negotiated for everything. But the average middle-class person does not negotiate for anything. That one of 17 takeaways from the book that challenged me.
I have a different view of negotiation if I’m understanding what you’re saying.
It sounds negative, but what he’s saying is pretty simple. It sounds negative, but what he’s saying is pretty simple. He interviewed hiring managers and found they offer about 18 to 20% less than they’re willing to pay. They are just waiting for people to negotiate.
If you’re offered a job, it’s not likely you are being offered the full market price for your labor. Negotiating a better deal is a critical skill.
That is interesting, the way that I approach negotiation is very much win-win. Sometimes, negotiation is very quick. Like in the garage sale example let’s say, “Hey, would you take a $1.50?”
“No, I wouldn’t, but I would take $1.75.”
In larger negotiations, it’s about getting enough information to create a massive win for both parties. Sometimes 1 plus 1 equals 3.
In every situation, I try to find a larger win that’s not always evident. But if not everyone is looking for a win-win it’s sometimes difficult to pull off. I’ve made hundreds of job offers, and the reality is less than 30% will come back with a counter-offer.
If I know that as a hiring manager, am I abusing that situation? I don’t know. Perhaps it creates a win-win even though those people could have negotiated better pay? Is that still a win from their perspective?
What you’re pointing out is that the systems that every business puts in place favor the business. That’s what Schiff points out. When you negotiate, you’re just realizing that.
You’re not being cynical. You’re not being angry. You’re just saying, “I know that what’s going to happen by default is not as good as I could get.” It’s still a job. Still be thankful for a job, but remember you can do better just by asking.
Yes. That’s interesting. Hopefully, I’m not derailing the interview, but this is an interesting subject for me. I always love talking about negotiation.
I think this is one of the critical differences between successful and average. Of course, that depends on how you define success.
Do you believe that HTYC lets you leave an imprint on more lives than you could in an HR management position?
I do. I’ve discussed this with Alyssa. I directly impact more than 300 people in the HR role I’ve had for the last four years. Alyssa always reminds me that I can positively impact their lives and make a real difference in their world.
I live in the future. That’s my natural style. It’s one of my strengths, and it also annoys my friends and family. I think two, three, four, five, or even ten years ahead about how I want to positively impact the world. Sometimes, I forget about the present. I do believe that HTYC is going to give me a larger platform. It already has.
Thousands of people listen to our show. We have about the same number of people on our email list. Both listeners and subscribers are growing rapidly. So I am making an impact. But probably the biggest impact I want to have on the world is improving how people do work.
I believe people’s skills are drastically underutilized especially in U.S. businesses. People land a job that is not suited to their strengths. They aren’t doing what they have the potential to be great at. So much productivity is wasted. So much unhappiness that is caused by this mismatch.
From an economic standpoint, so many resources and so much potential output is wasted. It’s never realized. I want to help organizations do business in a different way and affect how people get to do their jobs. That’s what I’m after, and HTYC is a big part of it right now. It’s probably a small part my mission in the scheme of things.
Just look around at your average corporate job. Walk around. Look at the cubicles. See what people are doing. Few people are engaged in what they’re doing. Finding meaningful work is a tough thing—finding organizations that want to create meaningful work. Maybe it’s not so hard to find organizations that want engaged employees. But in practice it seems hard to do. I don’t know why it’s so hard for employees to figure out what they need. It seems harder than it should be.
We accept it. I think that’s the biggest reason. Collectively, globally, societally, we accept it to be okay. I just don’t think it’s okay.
Yes, I agree. How do you deal with uncertainty? Please share a story about a time you couldn’t determine the outcome of a decision but still had to choose. Does that kind of choice require faith?
I don’t talk about this much because it’s a bit embarrassing. It’s not the advice I would give everybody.
I used to work for a large U.S. retailer called Target. For about four years, I did HR management for them. I loved that job for quite a while—about three of those four years. Then the company started changing my role. It had been a dream job for me, but much of what I enjoyed started getting not taken away.
The company had to evolve away from the things I did best. They made the right move, but for me it started getting hard. It turned from a dream job into something that I no longer enjoyed.
When I got the job, we bought our dream house. We also bought two expensive vehicles—our dream cars. At the time, I loved an Infiniti G35, and I thought that I had to have it. It was a sweet car.
The car came with a big chunk of debt. So we had debt, and we had been paying it off for several years. When the job started to go bad, we still hadn’t paid it all off. One day, my son got sick. He had an allergic reaction, and I couldn’t leave the store because I was responsible. I was supporting day-to-day operations, and I couldn’t leave. I left anyways. I could have been fired for that.
I decided then that I needed to leave Target. About a month later, I left. I didn’t have another job yet.
It could have been a terrible situation. We put our debt payoff on hold, and for a little while we lived on cash savings intended for debt payoff. That put a ton of stress on Alyssa. That leap of faith paid off big dividends in the long run, but it was stressful. It put a lot of stress on our relationship because we didn’t have enough money to live forever.
I believed everything would turn out okay, and over the next six months it did. I got five job offers. Two of those were a good fit, but could have turned out otherwise. I wouldn’t advise others to do that.
That was my big leap of faith. I knew I had to do it after my son almost died. It was the final straw, and so I left my job. Don’t follow my lead unless you’re in the same circumstances.
Each of us has our own path. This is uncomfortable to talk about, and that’s because it was risky. It felt frightening.
Do you have any special offers that can help us learn more about managing our careers?
The best thing that we offer is our eight-day mini-course that helps people figure out what they want in life. When you have that type of clarity, you can make amazing things happen. Most people lack clarity so they don’t have measurable goals.