Dave Kerpen | How to Work It to Land Your Perfect Job
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How to Work It to Land Your Perfect Job

How to Work It to Land Your Perfect Job

When you think of an entrepreneur, you might picture someone who embraces risk, thrives under pressure, and lives for “the hustle.” When you think of a salesperson, you likely imagine someone with thick skin, endless tenacity, and exceptional people skills. But what if you don’t match the textbook definition of your dream job or tick all the boxes for a hiring manager?

In her new bookWork It, my wife, Carrie, explains that:

there’s no one definition of success, nor is there simply one definition of how to be a successful anything—whether you want to be a teacher, an engineer, a business leader, or something else completely.

In fact, this is a lesson that Carrie had to learn herself when she was going after a high-powered position earlier in her career.

Carrie tells this story in her own words:

“I started my career in marketing—and then took a chance on a sales position at Radio Disney. Radio Disney turned out to be one of the best career and life decisions that I ever made—not only did I learn that I had sales skills, but I also met my husband there! Eventually, I thought I would leave Disney to try my hand at sales management. In retrospect, this was not the best move for me—especially since I valued control over my time above all else (when you work in sales, you have a lot of flexibility if you’re making your numbers), and I always hated administrative stuff. But ambition is a powerful driver, and I wanted to grow in my career beyond just monetarily. I wanted to take on more, and gain new skills.

I went into the lobby of Cox Media, where I was applying for the sales manager position—and I did what I always do. I made BFFs with the receptionist. Soon we were talking about curly hair products, what she brought for lunch that day, and how she wanted to redecorate the front area. I saw an older man watching me from afar, with a sort of wistful, amused smile. I smiled back, and went in for the interview with the HR manager.

At Cox Media, once you were approved by the hiring manager, you had to pass a phone screener test. I was asked a seemingly endless series of random questions via phone by an outside sales consulting group. These questions were really bizarre:

“A baby is crying on an airplane that you’re sitting on for the next four hours. What do you do?”

“Do people have a right to their own opinions? If so, do you have a right to change them?”

I remember that last question in particular, because I thought I gave an amazing answer. Something about Oprah, and believing that people need to be their best selves. . . I was channeling my inner Buddha for these responses. I was going to be the best manager ever!

When I told my husband about the call, I saw his lip twitch a bit. “Carrie, people have a right to their opinions, but no matter what, it’s your duty to change them if you feel differently. That’s the answer they want.” It shows you’re a salesperson with high command—you own every room you walk into.

This made no sense to me. I’d built my sales career off of listening—and if someone felt differently than I did, I would work with them to come to a place of common understanding. I’m basically freaking Oprah here, why was my answer wrong? But I knew that Dave was more of a traditional salesperson than I was, so he was probably right.

The next day, I got a call from Julie Sells, the woman whom I would be reporting to if I got the job. She told me that I failed the screener. While I had high scores in many areas, ironically it was the area of “sales command” that didn’t meet the threshold for hiring. I wanted to hide my head in the sand. It took me seven years and over a million dollars in commission to feel like a good salesperson—and now a test from a sales consulting company confirmed my worst fear—I sucked.

After a brief pause, Julie spoke again:

“You know, even though you didn’t pass the screener, I am able to break the rules this one time and hire you for the position. My boss’s boss was in town on the day of your interview—and he saw you talking up the receptionist. He feels that is the true test of a great salesperson, and a great manager. Let’s do this.”

I took the job, managed my first team ever, and we beat our numbers by 30 percent that year.”

Although Carrie didn’t pass the test for what Cox Media thought they were looking for in a sales manager, that didn’t mean she wasn’t right for the position—and it didn’t stop her from getting it. Carrie’s experience demonstrates three important lessons about landing your dream job:

1. Treat everyone at a company with the same respect you’d show the hiring manager. You never know who might be influential in getting you the job.

2. No single data point can define your true abilities. Maybe you whiffed a question during the interview or perhaps you lack a certain skill—that doesn’t mean you’re not cut out for the role.

3. There’s no such thing as the “right” answer. There’s just your answer—always be authentic.

The above was excerpted from and based on Carrie Kerpen’s debut book, Work It: Secrets for Success from the Boldest Women in Business, out now! Order your copy here.

Now it’s your turn. How do YOU “work it” in your career? How have YOU landed your best jobs? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below!

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