#9 5 Ways Anyone Can (and Should) Grow Their Careers #SteerYourCareer

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My goodness, was that ever a good saying from comedian Steve Martin. I heard that quote, specifically the part where he says, “Be so good that they can’t ignore you,” many years ago. I use that even today to build a successful career and now brand with Brasa Peruvian Kitchen.

I’m Michel Falcon. Welcome to episode nine of the People First Culture Podcast. Speaking of Brasa Peruvian Kitchen, we are going to be hiring for our growth. I expect to open a couple more stores. The first one is now launched. If you live in Toronto, if you know somebody who lives in Toronto, please put them in touch with me, get them to email me, Tweet at me, DM me on Instagram. Whichever way is best for them. This episode is on growing a career. The five ways anyone can and should grow their career.

This is not theory. This is exactly what I did to grow my career, which started off in a call center working for a medium sized organization based in Vancouver. I was promoted five times in five years, earning raises each and every time, which was the foundation of my career. So I’m really looking forward to sharing this.

My friend Clay Hebert helped me craft a message called Steer Your Career. You’re going to be hearing a lot of that from me in the coming episodes. One of the most joyful times in my career now is helping other people grow their careers, see them get promoted, see them find kind of their purpose, their enlightenment, earn more money so that they can support themselves and their families. That’s all very meaningful to me. So let’s get into the five things that I’m recommending to anyone regardless of age, regardless of industry, these are all very applicable. You’re going to notice that all of them literally cost you $0 to do, and I like doing things in a very cost effective manner. Back when I was growing my career, I didn’t have money. So I couldn’t be spending money that I didn’t have. So these are the things that you can do.

Number one is be your own mentor first. I’m often asked, “How do I find a mentor?” And my response is, “Be your mentor first.” What I mean by that is identify what your weaknesses are. You know what they are, or at least you should be very intimate in understanding what your weaknesses are. Now, I wouldn’t recommend creating a laundry list of nine to 11 things. That could be overwhelming and a bit demoralizing. Identify three things that you want to work on and prioritize them. Which one needs to be resolved first? Don’t focus on the second thing or the third thing until you’ve started to see improvement with the first thing.

Now, once you’ve understood what those weaknesses are, then start gathering your questions around those weaknesses because the next step is when you’re going to reach out to individuals. For me, my strength doesn’t reside within finance. I know how to read a PnL and a balance sheet. I understand budgeting and forecasting. But it’s not my one A, it’s not my natural expertise, but I know that I have friends of mine like [James Carens 00:04:04] and [Aleen Muhammad 00:04:06] who I can go to when I need to ask a question. I regularly reach out to them and I have been in growing my next business Brasa Peruvian Kitchen.

The second step is once you’ve gathered your questions, you need to identify people around you who can help you answer those questions. For me, I mentioned it James and Aleen. Maybe you have a friend or somebody you’ve worked with in the past. Maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s someone that you follow or connected with on LinkedIn. That is a repository of people that can help you grow your career, but you have to do the work first. You have to reach out to these individuals to be able to ask for their expertise.

Now, here are a few ways of doing it, the right way in reaching out to individuals that you may or may not know. So perhaps you don’t know them at all, but you are connected with them on LinkedIn or maybe you know them because someone you know knows them. You can get a warm introduction, but let’s pretend like you don’t know them at all. So this is the harder way of getting somebody’s attention. Let me unpack this.

One, use LinkedIn as the medium or channel to get in touch with somebody who is going to help you with your weaknesses, which will ultimately grow your career. Let’s call this person. [Janet 00:05:42]. You reach out to Janet by direct messaging, you’re on LinkedIn. The message must be extremely short, no more than three sentences in why you are asking for this individual’s time. Do not send them a long winded message because it’s going to come across as spam. Anybody that’s listened to this podcast that wants to get a hold of me, I will not read your message if it’s longer than three sentences. You may say, “Well, Michel, how do I communicate what I need in three sentences?” You don’t have to communicate your whole story. Just get my attention first, and you’re going to do that by three sentences. You can unpack everything else on another conversation if I do respond, and I’m more likely to respond if the message is three sentences.

Now, within those three sentences, you have to be very clear on what it is you’re asking for their time. So what do you need from this individual, in one sentence. The second sentence, why you need this? And within that sentence of a why, include that it’s going to help you grow your career. Anybody with any compassion or just is a good person, that’s going to resonate with them. Because individuals like myself and others who mentor people find happiness in doing this. So you need to kind of string that cord. You didn’t need to hit that nerve. The third sentence should be when. When are you looking to chat? Now, do not say in the next 48 hours. Our schedules are booked for a week or two in advance. Put it out there. Could you speak, and be specific on the when. Could you chat with me on the 17th of August at 2:00 PM or 4:00 PM Eastern standard time. I only need 15 minutes of your time.

Now what you’ve done here is you’ve considered their schedule. That you’re too busy right now, I bet. How about two weeks from now on this day, specific, at these times? Give them options. For 15 minutes. Don’t this book anybody you don’t know for an hour. They’re not going to do it. You should be prepared enough to be able to get the information that you need within a 15 minute conversation with just individual. Okay.

So to recite and recap what I just said. Three sentences to anybody that you’re trying to get advice from. What you need for them, why you need it, when you need it. That will get you… Watch what happens. Follow that to a tee and watch what happens. You completely stripped the individual from saying no. Now I’m not, I’m not guaranteeing that a hundred percent of people are going to say yes, but I will. That works on me. So if you have to get ah old of me, follow those steps.

The third thing in being able to grow your career is think long-term. This might not be a popular opinion, but work for free. When I was working at 1-800-Got-Junk, my first role was I was a call center agent. I was not a manager, I was a frontline employee answering a hundred calls a day. But I knew that if I was going to get promoted, if I was going to be so good that my managers couldn’t ignore me and one day promote me, earn more money and advance my career. I knew that I had to be the best at what I was currently doing at the time, which was a call center agent answering a hundred calls.

So what I would do is I identified who are the best call center agents right now. One of them was someone that I’m still in touch with named [Eric Sammy 00:10:12]. He was one of the highest performers. So what I do was if my shift was from 4:00 AM to 12:00 PM in the afternoon, which was actually one of my shifts for a period of time. I would stay until about 12:45. So 45 minute or 60 minute period after I was not getting paid, and I would listen to Eric take calls and I would document notes. I know it goes against probably any labor laws for me to say “Work without getting paid,” And I’m an employer. But it works. It worked for me. It’s advantageous for you if you’re trying to grow within the company.

Now I took those notes that I learned from Eric Sammy, And then I would apply it the next day. Guess what? I got better at what I was doing. The outcome of that was attention from my managers, me eventually getting promoted into a next role and earning any more money.

I was once told recently by someone that younger people are entitled and they will never do that. That’s a huge generalization. There are people of all demographics that are going to want to do just the bare minimum. Ignore those people, pave your own path and achieve your own goals.

The fourth thing is listen to podcasts of people that you admire for inspiration. Go for a walk, throw on some headphones and listen to a podcast. It could be anybody. It could be Oprah, Sara Blakely from Spanx, Beyonce. For me, it’s Jimmy Iovine, Howard Schultz, and Bob Iger. I listened to the same podcast that they’ve been on literally. And you can ask my fiance [Sophia 00:12:09], because I usually throw it on when we are in the car.

I listened to these podcasts dozens of times. The Defiant Ones, which describes Jimmy Iovine’s career. I’ve literally watched that 12 times or more. So this helps with career development because if you have idols, people that inspire you, regularly listen to them. By listening to their podcasts, it almost feels like they’re speaking to you directly. You can take that enthusiasm and apply it in your career. What I do is when I start my day and I take my dog for a walk in the mornings before I’ve started working, I will put on a podcast, take the dog for a walk and listen to individuals that inspire me. I take that motivation into the day. Now it’s not always. Sometimes I don’t feel like being inspired. Like today, I didn’t feel like thinking about work on my walk this morning. So instead I listened to music. Either or, whatever is best for you on that given day.

Number five, and this is going to be unpopular, but I’m comfortable with being unpopular. Accept that there is no such thing as work-life balance if you really, really want to be successful and grow your career. Anybody that says… Be careful who you pay attention to and listen to. Anybody that says achieve work-life balance. Guess what? They’re already rich. They’re already, well-established. Now I’m not suggesting that you have to work 80 hours a week to have a nice life, but a nice life is subjective. My definition of a nice life is different than the next person I’m currently working anywhere between eight and 14 hour days every single day as I’m building this next bread. Why? Because my definition of success is getting to 100 stores very quickly, so that I can build the company that I’ve always dreamed of. My career is a huge part of my identity and I am proud of that. That is my life, it is the way that I’ve chosen to build it.

Now, today is Sunday morning. I’m not too sure what day it is, August something. It’s August 8th. I wanted to clarify, 2021. But guess what? On Tuesday I’m taking Sophia, my fiance, out on a date. Just like I make time for other things. My life is comprised of three, four things. Sleeping enough, seven to eight hours. Exercising at least an hour and a half a day. Working a lot because I love my work. And my family. That’s enough for me. I don’t spend time really drinking or partying, or socializing for that matter. I have enough friends. My life is… I love it.

So work-life balance is subjective. But if you’re only working 40 hours a week, let me put it this way. Did Michael Jordan or anybody that really excels at their craft. Whether it’s art, business, or sport work the bare minimum to excel? I don’t believe so. I believe there’s a combination of working hard and working smart. You have to do both. So if you really want to grow your career, you really got to understand and be clear on what your definition of success is.

I know individuals that use definition of successes as, “I want to travel more than anybody.” That’s fantastic, all the power to you. It’s not my definition of success. I don’t think you’re any lesser or greater than me. We’re just different and that’s fine. Accept it, be comfortable with what you want. Not what other people are telling you. Don’t wake up at 4:00 AM because you read a Forbes magazine article about all the successful people do. Only do it if you actually like it and see value in it.

Those are the five things that I’m recommending to anybody to grow their career. It’s worked for me quite well. I’m always re-evaluating things. These five things have worked for me in the past. If they work for you, please let me know. I’m not suggesting that you try to do all five right away. Start with one, gain some momentum, gain some confidence. Move on to the next thing.

I’m Michelle Falcon. Thank you so much for listening to my little rant. You’ll notice that my pitch and my speed and my tone a lot higher. I don’t know if it’s because it’s the morning and I’m well rested and I’ve had coffee, or it’s this. It’s probably this. It’s because I really care about this stuff.

Steer Your Career is a message. You’re going to be hearing and seeing from me a lot more often. If you work for a company or you own a company that is looking for a speaker at a virtual or in-person event, you know who to reach out to. Anything company culture, customer experience, or employee related is my expertise. In career development, also. Let me know. I am @michelfalcon everywhere. My parents blessed and christened me with this unique name. And @brasaperuvian is my newest brand. If you live in Toronto, I would love if you came in to support. I would love to feed you. The feedback has been fantastic. Subscribe to the podcast so you’ll be alerted when I release my next episode. Thank you for listening this far, and I will see you in the next episode.


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