The idea of building a personal online presence has been apparent to me for a while now. Although beyond a passive twitter presence and linkedin profile I have been basically non existant. This was mainly because I found it hard to narrow down to a specific field. Michael Ellsberg wrote an amazing article in Forbes called The Paradoxical Secret of Obsession Worthy Branding. This led me to his guest post on Tim Ferriss’ The four hour work week blog and eventually to start my own. In the guest post he proposes a challenge to follow the steps he outlined as a path to getting what you want without a formal education. In my case I’m currently in my last year of a Commerce degree, which all along I knew was basically useless so this was the perfect nudge to get started with my online presence. Then comes step 1: Picking a field of study. There are a lot of different topics I’m interested in and by nature I tend to jump around from subject to subject based on the day. Because of a project I’m currently working on (I’ll explain later in this post) and what will be most beneficial to me I’m not going to be specific. I will focus on the skills that it takes people to become successful in any business; SALES, marketing and leadership.
After reading Michael’s articles I needed to consume more. Yesterday Is when I discovered him, I watched a video of him presenting to the Thiel fellowship and marveled over his insight. Today instead of class I bought his book “The Education of Millionaires: It’s Not to Late and It’s Not What You Think” and read it front to back. It resonated deeply with me because of the project I’m working on now and my own non-ability to get a job.
The project: Last year having fallen into some consumer debt I decided to take evening classes and work full time to get back in the black. However up until then the only jobs I had were manual labour and construction. These paid great but didn’t lead to the office with a view job I was hoping a degree was going to get me. Avoiding the temptation of more money I tried desperately to find a “desk job” that would give me some experience and something I could put on my resume or give me an “in” with a company I could turn to once finished my degree. Impossible. Literally Impossible. The worst part was I know some fairly affluent people around the city I live in who I imagined would be able to get me a job no problem. Not the case. I ended up wasting basically a whole semester working barely part-time as a beer rep. During this period of frustration, as per most founder stories, I decided I needed to come up with a solution. A lot of my friends were facing this problem too. Every chat about business school seemed to end in “Yah my degree is worthless there are no jobs for management majors. I have no idea what I’m going to do after University”. These weren’t useless people either, smart, competent people (I would add myself to this group as well) who had plenty to offer companies, simply could not find placement. My solution, described using Michael’s theory of paradoxes, was to flip the script on hiring and try and associate an idea people are not accustomed to. Employee’s Picking Employers. The way I plan to achieve this is to scrap the conventional job postings. Potential employees make portfolios of themselves, their skills, their achievements, their work, anything that describes them. The difference is to show employers these things rather than just state them as claims in a resume. We will encourage these potential employees to show or teach us what they can do in videos. This service is aimed at the students entering college right now, unaware of the bleak outlook of the future job market. But also those kids in school already or just finishing who are forced to take low paying jobs just to pay the interest on their student loans.Yes, I am aware of LinkedIn and it’s business network. But what I’m attempting to do with this project is much deeper than a social network without jellow-shot pictures. Its personal, a community of students who in a way can help each other find the best jobs possible. This is possible by using student reps to represent the company offline on each campus. I believe this product can coexist with social networks and conventional job sites for 2 reasons. One, kids need jobs. And not spoon to mouth jobs, jobs that reflect their skills and ability and the compensation that comes with that. Two, resume’s are going the way of the dinosaur. HR people hate weeding through piles of them, and they don’t give an amazing person the chance to prove they’re amazing, especially when they have little experience. I will explain further in later posts but that is the just of it, I’ve been working on it for a while now and hope to have it out by the end of this semester (little more than 2 months from today).
Back to the book. It is great I would recommend it to anyone pursuing a career as an entrepreneur or thinking of heading to college. There are a couple quotes that stuck out for me “These days all employees are entrepreneurs- entrepreneurs in the business of you” and “Your own human capital, this is your greatest investment” . These two quotes are found on the same page in the book and are both very true. You can learn anything you want on the internet these days, you have no reason not to be great at whatever it is you chose. Just as a homeowner invests in their property, invest in your self, in your own education. At the end of the day it is all you have. Because as the book points out and we are all becoming aware of your piece of paper BA isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. Another very powerful quote form the book is ” You are not entitled to anything in this world until you create value for another human being first. Second, you are 100 percent responsible for producing results. No one else”. Powerful stuff. A few years back a mentor of mine gave me a piece of career advice. Do what you love, love what you do. So simple yet so profound. This book reminded me of those words. Had I not been solely focused on making money in previous business ventures I might have found success at an earlier age. The point about accountability is also huge. Excuses have got to be one of my biggest pet peeves. I try to surround myself with people who take accountability for their actions so that I will never fall into the habit of making excuses. This is sometimes easier said than done but I feel I am very self aware when it comes to where the responsibility lies for seeing results.
I’ll end with my own answer to a question from the book. The question is posed by Peter Thiel and reads “Tell me something that you think is true that very few people agree with”.
A. I believe passion trumps experience 9 times out of 10.