A Zoom University Diploma

If I was 18 years old all over again, I would not go to college this fall. 

You couldn’t convince me online college offers the same social experience. Just like you couldn’t convince me the price tag makes sense. Not to mention mandatory attendance at one-sided online lectures sounds like an incredible drag.

But let’s put all those arguments aside for a minute. Because there’s a more important reason why I wouldn’t go. It involves a more fundamental question than the “features” of college. It’s a simple question. Really. 

What is the point?

  • There are better, faster, and cheaper alternatives to learn.
     
  • There are safer, healthier, more deliberate ways to build a professional network. 
     
  • There are more direct, practical routes to a meaningful career and financial success.
     
  • There are more effective methods to discover your life purpose.
     
  • There are less financially risky opportunities to gain independence, escape your parents’ nest, transition into adulthood, or leave your hometown. 

Most (if not all) of the tangible benefits of college could be had by anyone willing to work hard, get creative, and take their future into their own hands.

So what’s the point again?

The point is that the alternatives won’t include a credential you can hang on your wall or put on a résumé. 

Choosing an alternate route means foregoing a third-party institution’s stamp of approval. It means that in order to convince other people you’re worth hiring or taking a risk on, you’ve got to show them something else. Something better.

Fortunately, with the technology that’s at our fingertips today, it’s never been easier to build a better signal.

And that’s why I wouldn’t go to college today. But I can only choose for myself. 


Originally published in a weekly newsletter where I cover the latest on the changing landscape of higher education and how to build a self-directed career (without college).

Success vs. Fulfillment

I think it’s difficult to find real success unless you prioritize fulfillment.

Sure. You can get rich. Gain status. And win the praise of others. But if you’re unfulfilled, does it even matter?

When I think about my own life and how I’ve defined success over the years one thing seems constant – the goal posts always move.

Each achievement challenges further achievement. Incomes goals, career goals, status goal…you name it. Anytime I’ve been prioritized “success” over fulfillment, I’ve found it fleeting.

On the flip side, when I’ve prioritized fulfillment, I’ve found something altogether different to be true – an ability to be content without sacrificing future ambition.

A Personal Tale

When I graduated college I set a pretty ambitious goal for myself: double my income every year.

It was easy at first. Year one. Year two. Even year three. But as you can imagine it became more difficult in time. Through my first five years in the real world, I almost succeeded too. But then I discovered something I didn’t anticipate. More money did not make me happier.

As obvious as this might sound to you, it was actually difficult for me to understand. Because I had a wrong notion about success. I believed success was a function of keeping score.

That belief really led me astray for quite some time. It had me looking out into the world at what others were doing. Comparing myself. And then beating myself up over all that I had not yet accomplished by my age. Which honestly got pretty exhausting after awhile.

Two Steps Back, One Leap Forward

A few years back I left an awesome job at a company I loved. I’d been there awhile. I’d climbed the ranks. And I was making great money.

But something had gone missing. I’d lost the fire for my work.

For awhile I tried to rediscover it. I tried working harder. I tried working less. I tried journaling. I tried therapy. I tried changing up my schedule. I tried changing up what I was working on.

But the more I searched the less vigor I felt for my work.

After months of battling with this, I found a new outlet – an opportunity to go work on something entirely different. To leave behind one opportunity and pursue the next. A new challenge, if you will.

It scared me. But (thankfully) after some prodding from a friend, I made the leap.

I went from big fish in big pond to a small pond where status had no bearing. I took a +40% pay cut. I left a team where I’d been around longer than almost everybody to a team where I was very much the new guy. I went from a role where I knew exactly what it took to succeed to a role that I was larger learning everything on the fly.

And a surprising thing happened – I rediscovered my fire for my work.

Somehow my status and income had both declined but my happiness increased. Who knew, right?

How To Find Fulfilling Work

Roman Krznarick has an awesome book on this topic you should check out. It’s called How To Find Fulfilling Work.

In the book he highlights five dimensions of fulfilling work. Here they are:

  • Earning Money (Extrinsic)
  • Achieving Status (Extrinsic)
  • Making a Difference (Intrinsic)
  • Following Your Passions (Intrinsic)
  • Using Your Talents (Intrinsic)

Basically, we all have our own motives for doing what we do. Krznarick explains how some of those motives originate by watching people – see also mimetic desire. Krznarick called these extrinsic motives. These are the things we all usually think about when we define success – like money, titles, where we work, who we know, etc.

But in the stories Krznarick researched, in most cases, people who pursued extrinsic factors actually ended up less happy. They were missing something.

Krznarick argued that the motives that come from within – which he calls intrinsic factors – are actually the key to unlocking fulfillment in our work and lives.

He tells stories about people who left 6-figure consulting jobs to work in non-profits. Or left their high-status jobs to pursue their art. And a whole collection of other examples where people “traded down” (lower income and status) to become happier.

People became happier as the moved closer to roles that used their talents, made them feel like they were making a difference, and stuff they were passionate about. In most cases, they made less money and did less glamorous-sounding work (at least at first).

As surprising as it might sound, Krznarick’s theory suggests it’s actually not the money or status that makes us happy. Rather, it’s the stuff that makes us come alive that leads to real success – success from fulfillment.

Searching For Your Own Answers

It’s nothing new for people to be searching for answers. What’s the meaning of life? How can I be successful? How can I live a happy life?

Questions like this have challenged people centuries. Thankfully a lot of people have kept good notes. And there’s so much we can learn from exploring other people’s struggles on these same topics.

I’m very much still on my own journey of personal development. But I’ve found a lot of answers – and a ton more questions – by digging deep into how other people have approached questions like these in their own lives and careers.

Here are a few resources I’ve found useful throughout the years:

How to Find Fulfilling Work By Roman Krznarick

How Will You Measure Your Life? By Clayton Christensen

Outwitting the Devil By Napolean Hill

Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World By René Girard

Start with Why By Simon Sinek

Do What You Are By Paul & Kelly Tieger & Barbara Barron

The War of Art By Steven Pressfield

You Don’t Need a Job – You Need Guts By Ash Ambirge

There are countless other good resources out there for exploring questions about success, happiness, fulfillment and the like. It’s a personal journey. And these are tough questions to wrestle with. But it’s worth it.

How Will You Measure Your Life?

A decade ago, legendary thinker Clayton Christensen delivered a powerful commencement to Harvard Business School grads. His speech came only months after overcoming the same type of cancer that had taken his father’s life — which gave extra pause for reflection.

Sadly, Christensen lost his battle with cancer earlier this year.

But he left behind a rich legacy of insight through writings like The Innovator’s Dilemma, The Prosperity Paradox, and many other best-sellers. Christensen spent the better part of his career asking important questions about how we can build better businesses and more fulfilling lives.

The past months, our team at Praxis has written about big changes impacting the future of education and careers — like ballooning student debt, degree inflationchanges in job requirements, the rise of online learningno-code tools, and more.

Today, I want to share why we believe changes like these matter for young people thinking about their futures. And how the ideas Clayton Christensen left behind offer a roadmap for approaching our lives and careers in light of many major shifts happening in the world.

In his book, How Will You Measure Your Life?, Christensen describes two types of strategies people use in planning: deliberate and emergent.

  • A deliberate strategy, Christensen described as the process of planning for anticipated opportunities. In other words, a deliberate strategy involves planning for a specific outcome. (Like going to college to pursue a particular occupation.)
  • An emergent strategy, on the other hand, continuously evolves as new, unanticipated problems and opportunities arise — more of a “work hard and play it by ear” approach.

Ultimately, Christensen suggested the best way to approach our careers is by following an emergent strategy — continuously experimenting with new opportunities — until we discover a path that both fulfills us and meets our needs.

Christensen’s advice aligns well with our philosophy at Praxis.

As we think about the future, we continue to aim to design an experience that enables young people to approach their futures emergently. By rapidly experimenting with new types of work, gaining context for their skills, and increasing their exposure to different opportunities, Praxis participants expedite their discovery process.

Our world is being reshaped rapidly. Computing power continues to expand exponentially. The growth of data continues to climb. Starting a business is becoming ever more affordable. Technological shifts are creating, eliminating, and changing our jobs (and how we do them) at an unprecedented rate.

These changes have dramatically increased the opportunity cost of waiting to gain experience in the real world (especially if waiting also involves accumulating debt). And in many cases, delaying experience means gaining theoretical knowledge or skills that may no longer be relevant once you enter the real world.

At Praxis, we recognize the pressure many young people feel to have their entire lives planned out before they get started. And we want to change the narrative.

We believe the most effective way to discover the kind of work that makes you come alive is by running experiments in the real world — until things click. But until then, don’t stress about having it all figured out.

Christensen said, “What’s important is to get out there and try stuff until you learn where your talents, interests, and priorities begin to pay off. When you find out what really works for you, then it’s time to flip from an emergent strategy to a deliberate one.”

If you’re still in school or early in your career and feel the pressure to have it all figured out, take a breath. Everything will be just fine. And if you want help coming up with a strategy — don’t hesitate to reach out.

Onward.

Mitchell


This post was originally published in our Praxis weekly newsletter, and has also appeared on the Medium publication: On Breaking The Mold.

Should You Stay or Should You Go?

Imagine yourself at the bottom of a set of stairs. This is you at the beginning of your career.

Your ideal career scenario stands at the top of the staircase.

For me, it’s the freedom to create a life on my own terms and a reputation strong enough to unlock the opportunities I aspire for.

The stairs represent the challenges and steps you must take to get there.

Each step gets you closer to your goal. Each step unlocks a little more of what you’re after.

The idea of the “company man” – where you work the duration of your professional life at one corporation – has long timed out. Today, the average tenure has dropped significantly – roughly 4.2 years.

The cost of information has dropped significantly, too. Meaning, it’s much easier to discover new opportunities, for companies to learn about you, or for you to start your own business – even if that’s as a freelance service provider.

Leverage

This means you have more leverage today as an individual than your parents or grandparents had.

You’re not beholden to one organization. The more skills you have and the stronger the reputation you have at signaling those skills, the more leverage you have.

Your journey isn’t limited to climbing one corporate ladder. It also means you’re not limited to climbing steps one at a time.

In the world we live in, focus on doing good work and the reputation you build will open opportunities for you.

Many of the best opportunities aren’t things you apply for – but the types of things that allow you to skips steps and get closer to your end goals.

Don’t worry about whether you’re staying at a company too long or moving around too quickly. Instead focus on

  • Adding value where you’re at however long you’re there.
  • Learning and engaging in meaningful work.
  • Refining your option set – by removing or avoiding the kinds of work you hate.
  • Documenting your work and learning – by building a digital portfolio or body of work.
  • Creating lasting relationships with people who push you to be better.

Your career is a discovery process. Go out and do what you need to do to discover and build a career and life that brings you fulfillment.

__

*This post was originally published on Quora in response to the question Is staying at one organization for a long time good or bad for one’s career? Why? It’s received over 110,000 views in the past month.

The Ugly Truth About Burnout

The lights were off. It’s how I liked to work.

A faint glow from two 27” monitors and a MacBook Pro reflected off my glasses. Beneath my hoodie, the steady mind-numbing pulse of screamo bass outpaced the tap-tap-tapping from my keyboard.

I forgot how long I’d been there. I’d woken up around 4:30 am and I’d be there well until the evening hours.

Half a dozen years into my career, this was a typical day.

At least, until the day I had my first major health scare…

I stacked 80–100 hour work weeks regularly. No one made me. There was no formal “work hours” policy. Success was about results. But in the breakneck pace of a hyper growth company, there is never a shortage of problems or projects to get lost in.

That kind of environment is addicting, dangerous even. There’s an almost pornographic appeal to putting in long hours. Even when you tell yourself you’re having fun – which I was – eventually your faculties erode. The warning voice of conscience “you’re overdoing it” fades the longer you allow workaholism to prevail.

It doesn’t have to be this way. And probably it shouldn’t be. But it’s a picture of what life had become for me.

I ate like sh*t. Burgers. Pizza. Tacos. Fast food.

I rarely exercised anymore. Unless switching from standing to sitting or pacing on calls counts.

Not to mention the excessive intake – coffee to kickstart the day and alcohol to shut the mind off most nights.

Health took a back seat to work – both mental and physical health.

Then one day it went too far.

Not unlike any day, I rose early and slammed several coffees before anyone else made it to the office. But I remember it was a particularly stressful day.

That’s what set it into motion, I told myself: the stress.

It started as a small ache in my side. It slowly intensified through the morning. By 11 am, I was doubled over in pain, clutching my left side.

By 11:30, my entire chest felt tight and I was gasping to breath. Fearing the worst, I called for help.

I spent the rest of the day in the emergency room, doctors running tests. Fortunately, they determined it was not a heart issue. But it was clear my lifestyle had created the conditions for this scare.

Not even 30 years of age, my extremist workaholic lifestyle finally reared it’s ugly head…

When a doctor warns you that your work lifestyle is putting your life at risk, it’s sort of a wake up call that’s hard to ignore.

I felt the only real choice I had was to reevaluate everything.

Starting with my diet, exercise, and sleep routines – like cutting back from 12+ cups of coffee per day to 1–2 max, and prioritizing healthy eating. Then prioritizing regular exercise and 8 hours of sleep. These all made big impacts quick.

But they weren’t sustainable alone. I had to set boundaries and get mentally fit, too.

It was not easy.

I began weekly counseling and engaged with my boss. This was no way to live. I needed help and accountability.

Over the subsequent year, I experimented. I tried a number of different schedules and routines. I iterated often.

I fought a guilt trap – where working less made me feel paranoid, or like I was underperforming. It took consciously combatting this to overcome it.

The withdrawal from working aggressive hours also sent me into a minor state of depression. Because I had centered my life around my work, it was extremely difficult to begin finding meaning in other areas of my life again. But I made myself explore things outside of work. Eventually, this worked, too.

The countless experiments ultimately resulted in my removing a bunch of bad habits and replacing them with intentional decisions.

In time, I discovered how much power I had in deliberately designing my life – where I could find fulfillment in and out of work and everything else.

I don’t regret a single hour I put into the work I did – that ultimately pushed me to burnout. I truly loved my work. Instead, I just wish I’d have realized how important it is to have more than just work going.

The surest way to burnout is by not allowing room for any other meaningful activities in your life.

It happened to me. May you be wiser.

__

*This post was originally published on Quora in response to the question What are some tips for avoiding burnout in a highly stressful career?

Your Student Debt Isn’t Fair

Get good grades. You must!

Why?

To get into a good college, of course!

What happens if I get into a good college?

You’ll be able to get a good job, naturally!

What if I don’t want to go to college? Isn’t there another way?

That’s nonsense! College is the way.

Sound familiar?

A Narrative Trap

College owns the narrative. For so long college has been the de facto next step, people take for granted there are other options.

It’s so embedded in our social paradigm it’s become an almost expected conversation topic. If you’re under 25, chances are somebody’s going to ask about it – and not even who you’d expect.

Where are you planning to go to college?

What are you studying?

Where did you go to college?

What are you going do after college?

But you know who’s not asking – employers.

That’s right. Fewer employers care each day. Instead of a degree, they want to know you have skills, the ability to show up, and the willingness to dive in and work hard.

Still, the barrage of questions from your parents, friends, relatives, and guidance counselor can make it feel like your option set includes college or bust.

Information Costs

The cost of all information – except bad information – is rapidly on the decline. Today, you carry around more knowledge in your pocket than the combined intellect of every previous generation.

Whatever you want to learn, you can access with the proper Google search. In this age, asking good questions is actually a more valuable skill than going to college.

The decrease in cost of information also means knowledge is no longer esoteric in nature. To paraphrase wise words from my good friend T.K. Coleman – “The age of the school of mystery is over.”

You don’t have to pay some institution for secret information that unlocks some parallel universe where you’re successful. Why would you pay for what you can access cheaper, faster, and more personalized to your goals?

Today, you can design the universe of your own success deliberately and at a low-cost.

Choose Social Debt, Not Student Debt

If you’re dying to go into debt at a young age, then go into social capital debt. Go ask people for advice. Offer to buy them a coffee or lunch. Then ask all your burning questions about life and take notes. (Pro Tip: always send a handwritten thank you note after)

If you have ambitions about a particular type of role, then seek an expert out. Be respectful of their time and come up with good questions. But don’t be afraid to approach them.

No one starts out with all the answers. Everyone starts somewhere.

Even if you’re contemplating college, do yourself a favor and do some due diligence on what opportunities might interest you.

After you’ve done your research, be honest with yourself: is college the best way to get to where you’re trying to go?

If it is, then power to you. If not, then don’t put up a bunch of hurdles for your future. Serious.

It may seem like a great idea now, but when you graduate and the jobs in the industry you thought you wanted to go into have disappeared, and you’re making $35k per year…$350 per month in student loan payments becomes A LOT OF MONEY FAST.

It’s Your Story

The world wants you to believe you need college to live a successful story. But that narrative is bullshit.

Your story isn’t dependent on some third-party riding in with a silver bullet to save the day.

It’s not fair and it’s not honest to say your success depends on some other institution.  It doesn’t.

Your success depends on your makeup.

Are you willing to do the hard things?

Can you get up early, show up on time, and stay late?

Will you give up some nights and weekends to be successful?

In a world where everyone else walks one way, take hold of the advantage of going a different direction.

You owe it to yourself to at least consider your options first.

 

The Temptations of Burnout

The lights were off. It’s how I liked to work.

A faint glow from two 27” monitors and a MacBook Pro reflected off my glasses. Beneath my hoodie, the steady mind-numbing pulse of screamo bass outpaced the tap-tap-tapping from my keyboard.

I forgot how long I’d been there. I’d woken up around 4:30 am and I’d be there well until the evening hours.

Half a dozen years into my career, this was a typical day.

At least, until the day I had my first major health scare…

I stacked 80–100 hour work weeks regularly. No one made me. There was no formal “work hours” policy. Success was about results. But in the breakneck pace of a hyper growth company, there is never a shortage of problems or projects to get lost in.

That kind of environment is addicting, dangerous even. There’s an almost pornographic appeal to putting in long hours. Even when you tell yourself you’re having fun – which I was – eventually your faculties erode. The warning voice of conscience “you’re overdoing it” fades the longer you allow workaholism to prevail.

It doesn’t have to be this way. And probably it shouldn’t be. But it’s a picture of what life had become for me.

I ate like sh*t. Burgers. Pizza. Tacos. Fast food.

I rarely exercised anymore. Unless switching from standing to sitting or pacing on calls counts.

Not to mention the excessive intake – coffee to kickstart the day and alcohol to shut the mind off most nights.

Health took a back seat to work – both mental and physical health.

Then one day it went too far.

Not unlike any day, I rose early and slammed several coffees before anyone else made it to the office. But I remember it was a particularly stressful day.

That’s what set it into motion, I told myself: the stress.

It started as a small ache in my side. It slowly intensified through the morning. By 11 am, I was doubled over in pin, clutching my left side.

By 11:30, my entire chest felt tight and I was gasping to breath. Fearing the worst, I called for help.

I spent the rest of the day in the emergency room, doctors running tests. Fortunately, they determined it was not a heart issue. But it was clear my lifestyle had created the conditions for this scare.

Not even 30 years of age, my extremist workaholic lifestyle finally reared it’s ugly head…

When a doctor warns you that your work lifestyle is putting your life at risk, it’s sort of a wake up call that’s hard to ignore.

I felt the only real choice I had was to reevaluate everything.

Starting with my diet, exercise, and sleep routines – like cutting back from 12+ cups of coffee per day to 1–2 max, and prioritizing healthy eating. Then prioritizing regular exercise and 8 hours of sleep. These all made big impacts quick.

But they weren’t sustainable alone. I had to set boundaries and get mentally fit, too.

It was not easy.

I began weekly counseling and engaged with my boss. This was no way to live. I needed help and accountability.

Over the subsequent year, I experimented. I tried a number of different schedules and routines. I iterated often.

I fought a guilt trap – where working less made me feel paranoid, or like I was underperforming. It took consciously combatting this to overcome it.

The withdrawal from working aggressive hours also sent me into a minor state of depression. Because I had centered my life around my work, it was extremely difficult to begin finding meaning in other areas of my life again. But I made myself explore things outside of work. Eventually, this worked, too.

The countless experiments ultimately resulted in my removing a bunch of bad habits and replacing them with intentional decisions.

In time, I discovered how much power I had in deliberately designing my life – where I could find fulfillment in and out of work and everything else.

I don’t regret a single hour I put into the work I did – that ultimately pushed me to burnout. I truly loved my work. Instead, I just wish I’d have realized how important it is to have more than just work going.

The surest way to burnout is by not allowing room for any other meaningful activities in your life.

It happened to me. May you be wiser.

*This was originally published on Quora in response to the question What is your advice for avoiding burnout in a high stress career?

 

Interviews, First Dates, and Red Flags

Bob is excited.

He hasn’t been on a date in a while and Alice was pretty enough he told himself.

Bob’s mom had told him to just keep being himself and eventually the perfect “one” would come along. Is this the night she’s right?

No. Bob’s mom is wrong again.

Alice is nervous.

Alice gave Bob her number after meeting him at a bar last week. He seemed nice enough – and nothing looked too creepy on his instagram.

Alice has been on so many bad dates she stopped getting her hopes up.

In other words, the bar for a good date in Alice’s book is REALLY low.

But Alice is about to be disappointed again.


RED FLAG NUMBER 1*

When Bob first saw Alice, he was half-buzzed at the local sports bar. He elbowed his buddy Jim, “Hey, Jimbo, smoke show at 5 o’clock, checker out!” Before Jim could stop him, Bob made a beeline for Alice.

Only God and Alice know what he said, but to Jim’s surprise, Bob came back with her number.

A few days later, Bob told Jim he and Alice were going to dinner.*


RED FLAG NUMBER 2**

Instead of offering to pick Alice up, Bob tells her to meet him at the restaurant. Bob chose a local dive bar that has great burgers. Alice has never been, but decides maybe it could be fun.

Bob has already been there for a couple hours. He’s sitting at a table with several other guys. Alice walks in and Bob does one of those awkward hand gestures in the air to motion her over. When Alice walks up, Bob tells his friends, “This is the girl I was telling you about.” When Alice walks up, Bob high fives her.

Alice, polite, plays along.


RED FLAG NUMBER 3***

Alice tries to make polite conversation with Bob. She figures she’ll give it a chance. But Bob doesn’t get it. Instead of reciprocating questions, Bob talks. And talks. And talks.

Bob drones on about everything from his ex girlfriend and his fantasy football roster to how much money he makes and how cool his friends think he is.

Bob doesn’t ask Alice any questions. Instead, he tries to impress her by talking the entire time.


RED FLAG NUMBER 4****

After an hour and a half nonstop soliloquy, Alice interrupts Bob to attempt an exit. Bob hardly takes notice at first and keeps talking. Alice has to stand up from the table for Bob to break his stream of consciousness.

Bob – thinking the date went great – invites Alice over for a night cap. She politely declines.

Bob: “We should do this again sometime.”

Alice: “I don’t know if that’s such a good idea.”

Bob: “Really? I thought we had a great time.”

Alice: “Thanks for dinner, Bob. I really better be going.”


Assuming the candidate isn’t an axe murderer and brings it up in the interview – the above scenarios cover a number of the most common red flags to run away from. If you’re a hiring manager and have ever felt like Alice, God bless you.

*RED FLAG NUMBER 1:

Let’s pretend Bob is the candidate. He doesn’t know anything about the company – but he heard it sounded cool. He does no research before showing up. He took no notes on his initial phone screen call. Bob treats this role and company as if it’s no different than any other company.

Bob’s approach to the job hunt is like a drunk guy on a bar hitting on girls – with a quantity over quality approach. If Bob just hits on enough girls, surely one will talk to him.

This often comes out in the interview quickly. Look for key phrases from the candidate like, “What do you all do here?” or “I just thought the company sounded cool.”

**RED FLAG NUMBER 2:

Bob shows up to the interview unprepared. It looks like he rolled out of bed and made no effort to present himself. Plus, he’s behaving way too informally – acting chummy like everyone is an old college buddy.

He talks about the position as if it’s already a foregone conclusion. He’s not making any extra effort to stand out.

***RED FLAG NUMBER 3:

During the interview, Bob drones on and on. He takes 5 minutes or more to answer every question. He talks only about himself. He overshares information. He talks poorly about former employers and co-workers. He blames other people for mistakes. His best examples of experience are things that don’t indicate he has a depth of knowledge or expertise in.

Bob also asks no relevant questions himself. Bob takes no interest in the interviewer, the company’s mission, or the results that drive the role he’s applying for.

Bob does not reference how he can create value for the company – and seems entirely unconcerned with value creation. Instead, Bob focuses solely on himself.

***RED FLAG NUMBER 4:

Bob demonstrates he is socially unaware. Both from his interactions with the people he’s encountered while on site and the way he phrases some questions.

Bob borders on inappropriate with some comments. Something strange about Bob just gives you a creepy feeling, too. Bob tries to extend the conversation beyond the point it has clearly ended – suggesting he’s not aware nor respectful of others’ time.

Bob is also over-assuming. He behaves as if the interview is nothing more than a formality to get the job.

Don’t be like Bob.

*This post was originally published on Quora in response to the question What is the biggest red flag to hear when being interviewed?

What is the best way to get a job easily?

This is a story about Jack.

Jack wants a job. Any job. He needs money because allowance from his parents isn’t paying the bills anymore.

But Jack has never had to apply for a job before. So he did what most people do. Jack Googled “How do I get a job?”

After getting lost reading several dozen how-tos and subreddits Jack got worried. None of the advice told him what he could do today.

Jack was sad, confused, and still broke.

Jack doesn’t have any experience. He doesn’t have a resume – let alone a “good” resume. He still needs a job and his online reading made him feel like an unqualified loser.

But Jack wasn’t going to give up that easy. He decided he’d go visit some local businesses in-person to see what he could do.

The first place he visits is the grocery store, where he’s greeted by a manager. Jack asks him about the now hiring sign he saw outside – “How could I work for you?”

The manager tells him that he’s looking for people who will work hard and show up on time. He asks Jack if he can do that.

Jack tells him he’s never had a job before. “I’m willing to give it my best try.”

The manager tells him he’s leery of anyone who has never worked before. “I’ve had a lot of people applying for this job, son,” he tells Jack, “Why should I hire you?”

Jack doesn’t know, so he tells the manager the only answer he can think of – the truth.

“Honestly, sir, I don’t know why you should pick me over anyone else, but I’m willing to do whatever it takes to learn.”

The manager tells Jack to come back Saturday for a test run. “You get one shot to prove yourself, don’t be late.”

On Saturday, Jack showed up early.

He got a new haircut the night before, and picked out clean clothes. His shirt is tucked in and he’s wearing a belt.

The manager greets him again. He tells him he’d like Jack to sweep the floor to start and points him to the back room where the brooms are kept.

Jack doesn’t wait for instructions. Jack races to the back room. He grabs the dust mop and he sets off around the store.

When he encounters guests, Jack politely waits for them to move.

One guest stopped Jack. “Sir, do you know which aisle I can find the grape jelly?”

Jack doesn’t know, so he tells her the only answer he can think of – the truth. “No, ma’am, I do not. But give me one second to find out and I’ll be right back.”

Jack races to the front of the store, reading the signs as he moves. There, on aisle two, he spots it: “Condiments.” And he tears down the aisle, grabs a jar of Smucker’s Grape, and hurries back to the customer.

“Ma’am, I went ahead and grabbed you a jar, but the grape jelly is on aisle two, so you know next time.”

The customer smiles and accepts the jelly. She tells Jack how nice it is to meet such a polite young lad, and that she’d have to put in a nice word with his boss.

When the manager heard the customer’s story, he found Jack and told him he’d like to give him a shot.

Jack’s heart did cartwheels. He found a job! But he wanted to be sure why. So he asked.

“Sir, if you don’t mind me asking, what made you decide to take a chance on me? After all, I don’t have any skills.”

The manager told Jack he passed the test with flying colors.

“You told me the truth. You showed up on time. You jumped to get to work when you first got here. You wore a smile. You put the customer’s needs over your task at hand. You’re just the kind of person we want to teach.”

Jack beamed all the way home that day. He knew he had learned a valuable lesson.

Getting a job wasn’t as difficult as he first feared.

It was okay he didn’t know how to get a job – because he was willing to ask what it took, and go out of his way to prove he could do it.

It was okay that he didn’t have skills – because he was honest about it.

It was okay that he didn’t have experience – because he was willing to prove he’d work hard to learn.

Jack’s story can teach us all a lot. Regardless of what job we’re trying to land.

Jack’s whatever-it-takes attitude, paired with his commitment to proving it paid off for him.

And next time you’re looking for a job, it could pay off for you, too.

*I originally published this post on Quora in response to the question What is the best way to get a job easily?

From What I Need to What I Can Do For You.

The job market is not as scary as it seems if you’re willing to change your approach.

The easy approach is scouring job boards with a mindset that “I need an job” and blasting out resumes with generic cover letters. The mindset behind this usually overemphasizes the need.

But – this enhances the difficulty level of finding a job. Businesses don’t give two shits about your needs as an applicant. That’s harsh. But it’s true. They can’t afford to hire, let alone pay people on the basis of needs.

Instead of focusing on your needs – when applying, you should focus on how you can help a business meet its needs. How you can bring value to the enterprise.

Behind every business is a person or group of people. They all have needs, too. They all have families. They all have bills to pay. But if the business doesn’t make money, none of that matters.

So businesses look for ways to maximize the value of their time and dollars. This is especially true when it comes to hiring. Evaluating a candidate is often an evaluation of opportunity costs. In other words, everything a business says yes to means several things it says no to.

Consider a simple scenario:

A business needs help with bookkeeping, office management, and marketing. It has a $50k annual budget for these.

Sally has a family and a high rent. She needs to make at least $50k per year, but she has 10 years experience in a narrow range of skills. She also isn’t interested in learning new things. If the business hires Sally for $50k and she can only do bookkeeping and manage the office, it still needs someone to assist with marketing.

April is fresh out of college. Somehow she managed to walk out without debt. She doesn’t need a lot to live on and at this phase in her career she values experience more than money. She’s got some basic skills and an eagerness to learn. If the business hires April for $35k and she can take on some of the marketing and is willing to manage the office, then it still has $15k in the budget to go out and find bookkeeping help.

This isn’t meant to be a perfect thought experiment. It’s intended to paint a picture of the choices business face when they hire – and contrast the difference between an applicant’s needs and an applicant’s ability and willingness to create value.

It should be obvious that hiring the younger, eager, less expensive candidate and finding a creative solution for the other tasks is a better decision for the business.

It’s often easy on the job market to overlook that businesses are made up of people. It’s also easy to put too much emphasis on your immediate circumstances.

Fight the impulse. Instead, find a way to focus on the needs of the business.