Overcoming Career Change Challenges, with Travis Puckett

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Find Your Dream Job, Bonus Episode 21:

Overcoming Career Change Challenges, with Travis Puckett

Airdate: September 9, 2019

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, find the career you want, and make a difference in life.

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps professionals find fulfilling careers.

One of the best ways to get good at job hunting is to talk to people who do it well.

That’s why once a month, I interview a Mac’s List reader who found a job they love.

Our guest today is Travis Puckett. He’s a portfolio analyst at Vacasa. It’s a vacation rental company here in Portland, Oregon.

Travis Puckett believes in using data to find solutions.

In a story you can find on the Mac’s List website, Travis shares his approach to job hunting. He used a mix of research and networking. And Travis says once he understood his job search goal, it became much easier to find contacts who could help.

Travis also discovered that an internship could give him the opportunity to build the skills he needed to make a career change. In fact, an internship at Vacasa led to the job he has today.                                                                

Well, Travis, welcome to the show. You’re a portfolio analyst at Vacasa. Why do you love your job?

Travis Puckett:

Well, for a lot of reasons. Number one is, it’s just a great office space. Vacasa’s got everything that you could possibly want with a job. We have our computers and we can access by VPN and so if you don’t love the office space, you can work at home. We’ve got great peers there. I love all the folks that I work with, and then the job itself. I love working in data and we have so many data points with homes and regions and all the different metrics with marketing and sales and revenue and stuff like that. There’s no end to the data and so it’s a lot about storytelling and just bubbling up inside to the surface for managers.

Mac Prichard:

I could tell you were excited about the data and I would imagine in that business, there’s just so much information that needs to be managed and interpreted and you’re kind of in hog heaven, aren’t you?

Travis Puckett:

A little bit, yeah. If you don’t like data, the job might seem a little overwhelming but I definitely love all the numbers, so it’s a good spot for me.

Mac Prichard:

Tell me more about why it’s a good fit for you, besides the office and the work you do.

Travis Puckett:

Well, the company’s growing really quickly. There’s definitely a need for collaboration, so I think the office is kind of set up for collaboration. Additionally, I come from a little bit of a leadership background and so I’m not afraid to drive conversations and bring people into a room. And I know I don’t always have the answer but I think that I’m not shy to bring the people into the room who might have the answer or who might ask the right questions. And so I think that’s a really good fit as well. And, so that’s part of what transitioned me from the internship to the full-time job, is that they realized I wasn’t somebody who was going to be overwhelmed by all the data.

Mac Prichard:

Well, let’s talk about your search, how did you get clear about your job search goal, Travis? So many people, including me early in my career, struggle with that.

Travis Puckett:

I think, with my prior job, I think it just presented itself early and it kept reinforcing itself that it was really important for me to have a job where my schedule at work would wind up with my schedule with my family. And so, for me, the job search was about finding a job that put me in a traditional time slot. You know, the Monday to Friday, 9 to 5.

Mac Prichard:

Your last job before Vacasa was working at a brewery here in Portland, wasn’t it?

Travis Puckett:

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I was the general manager at Brigside Brewery for close to 8 years.

Mac Prichard:

That can be a very demanding schedule with a lot of evenings and weekends, I’m imagining.

Travis Puckett:

Yeah, absolutely. It’s very, very fun and the people are great but definitely, it’s really hard. You know, that toll that it takes on the family, you can’t…you push it down a little bit because that’s what you’re doing for a living but then you realize that there are other jobs out there and so you just have to kind of free yourself from attachment.

Mac Prichard:

You left that job without having another position lined up. Tell us more about why you did that.

Travis Puckett:

I had a lot of faith in myself. I had a lot of belief in the history of my resume and I understand that it was a long 10 years that I spent at the one job. And so I had the one bullet point that gobbled up a lot of years, and so just knowing that I could go back and I could kind of dig into some of those past experiences and some of that prior skillset and sell that to a new employer was enough for me just to feel really confident.

Mac Prichard:

Did you know the sector that you wanted to move into? You knew you wanted to leave the brewery, you wanted to do something different. Did you know that you, aside from a traditional schedule, that you wanted to work in data analysis, for example?

Travis Puckett:

Yeah, for me it was about 2 things: it was either about customer experience or data. I love the experience of making a customer happy, I love the experience of taking numbers and crunching them into something useful, and so I knew that those were kind of my 2 avenues. And so everything that led into my job search was about finding something that fit in with one of those 2 lines.

Mac Prichard:

Managing a restaurant and a bar, it’s a demanding job, it’s very different from doing data analysis, so you changed careers. What challenges did you face when you were talking to employers like Vacasa, when you wanted to demonstrate, for example, that your skills were transferable?

Travis Puckett:

Yeah, I don’t know. I wish I could be in the shoes of a potential employer interviewing a GM of a restaurant. I think that, maybe, the prevailing thought is that I would want to get up and run around and pick up dishes or just go shake hands or do something like that instead of sit down at a computer and see a problem all the way through to a solution. I think that kind of selling more of my drive to problem solve and more of my drive to create wonderful new work experiences was greater than my drive to be out and about and be active and be engaged. Because I think that restaurants are definitely more of a social job, and working at a computer is a little bit more of an isolated job.

Mac Prichard:

When you were interviewing with Vacasa or other companies, were the questions raised about the transferability of your skills? And how did you address them?

Travis Puckett:

Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s like the first conversation that you have when you’re sitting down for a job like this, and really it is about finding those kinds of soft skills or those intermediate skills that kind of live in-between the bullet points on your resume. And actually being able to say things about how you problem-solve, or how you view numbers, and so I think for Vacasa, what they really liked was just the way I thought about revenue. I thought about each chair, each square foot of the restaurant, each tabletop was an opportunity for revenue. That kind of speaks to what Vacasa’s trying to do with nights, so each night is a revenue opportunity with the homes and so there’s a similar, philosophical background there and I think that they understood that I had that philosophical grounding, and they could teach me the skill set, the data skill set or the reporting skillset.

Mac Prichard:

How did you know how to make that connection when you were talking with people at Vacasa to show that link between your past experience and position that you were talking to them about?

Travis Puckett:

I think it was just natural. You know, I think being in charge of the restaurant, it was my job to make it profitable and we live in an environment here in Portland where pay wages are going up and minimum wage is rising and for restaurants, it’s extremely hard, and so you really have to work the other side of the equation which is the revenue side. And so I actually work on the revenue team at Vacasa and so I think it was a little bit fortuitous as well that I was actually talking to a revenue manager when I was interviewing and so, he definitely saw that right away.

Mac Prichard:

Well, changing sectors is always a big challenge, were there other challenges that you faced in your search?

Travis Puckett:

Yeah, I think kind of the typical challenge of just dealing with rejection and kind of going through the churn a little bit. And so, you know, for me, I just kind of kept with meeting with people even if it didn’t pertain specifically to my job. I would meet with people who also were looking for work because I just wanted to learn more about what people were doing, what people were looking for, and I would bounce some of my talking points off of other folks and see how they responded to it.

You know, an informal session is really nice because it’s a little less tense, and so you can kind of try more things and say a greater variety of things and just see how people respond to it.

Mac Prichard:

What’s your best advice for dealing with rejection? It’s inevitable during a job search, you’re going to hear no probably more than yes.

Travis Puckett:

Yeah, I think, think about it as an opportunity rather than a closed door. You have an opportunity to create a data point, you have an opportunity to look at, you know, you watch the face of the people when you say something and if you feel like maybe they didn’t really jive with what you just said, that’s a data point for you. Don’t say that and those types of things.

You get the opportunity when you fail to learn about why you failed, and for all you know, you’ve learned a little bit about what you want as well and you could kind of shape your ethos just a little bit and understand exactly the, kind of, the perfect job so when you do go into that perfect job interview, you’ve got all the right talking points.

Mac Prichard:

In your article for Mac’s List, you shared that you asked people on LinkedIn for informational interviews and how did this help you?

Travis Puckett:

Yeah, it’s just getting out. When you’re stuck at a computer or you’re sending your resume to a bunch of different inboxes, and you may never meet the person that you sent it to but if you just talk to somebody or anybody in that company, you know, you might actually make an impression or you might actually…you know, that person might actually go and say, “Hey, you should check out this guy.” It might be the 7th resume and they were only looking for 6 but I think when a company really wants to hire somebody, they’re going to do their due diligence because there’s a lot of resumes that they get that they don’t think are the best one and could be the best hire and vice versa.

Mac Prichard:

I know that in your article, as well, you mentioned the importance of…or rather how knowing your goal helped you get clear about who you should reach out to. Can you talk more about that?

Travis Puckett:

I think about the question, and you get it a lot in interviews, they always ask, “If you could name 3 companies that you would love to work for, who would they be?” And I used to just hate that question and I was like, well, what happens if I apply to those 3 companies and I get rejected and I don’t get my dream job?

Mac Prichard:

Right.

Travis Puckett:

But I think that by studying that question, by actually answering that question, you get to understand what you’re looking for. You understand the ethos of what you want and so I think, have that question, have that answer ready, just know what that question is, and revisit that question you know, after you’ve gone in 10 interviews, and ask yourself that question again and you can kind of come to understand what it is that you’re looking for.

Mac Prichard:

I’m curious, how did you answer that question? Because it sounds like you struggled with it, I think that’s normal, I’ve certainly struggled with it and I know many a listener has as well. What did you have to do to get that clarity, Travis?

Travis Puckett:

You know what? It’s actually quite easy these days. You know, LinkedIn is an amazing resource that we all have at our fingertips, and you know, you find thought leaders in the things that you love. And so I found though leaders in customer experience and data and I followed their threads and I saw the people that they liked and I kind of read a little bit more and learned a little bit more and it kind of helped me understand like, what companies really do have great customer experience? And then you study the company and then the same with data. What companies are really driving big data? And Vacasa really is one that is driving big data in our city and so I knew that this was a company that I really wanted to work for and so I went really hard after it.

I sent them both resumes for one listing and I also met a friend who I knew worked for them and she was even like, “Are you sure you want to work for Vacasa?” Like, she kind of came at it from the angle of, “Here’s the bad part of the job. Do you still want the job?” And I did, and so I stuck with it and I was very diligent.

Mac Prichard:

You took an internship at Vacasa and you’re not a college graduate, a recent graduate; you’re, I’m guessing, about 10 or 15 years into your career, so I don’t meet a lot of people in their late 20s or early 30s who are doing internships. What inspired you to do that?

Travis Puckett:

Well, it was a strategy piece for me to make a jump and I know there’s a lot of people out there who…working restaurants is unsustainable over time, especially as you get older. You’re on your feet a lot, you’re dealing with stress a lot, you know, you’re eating bad food and so making that jump is really, really difficult. And if you stick to the idea of just landing a traditional job, going straight from one job to another, it’s going to be really hard to make a big jump. And so, you know, we all have bills to pay and an internship is really hard financially but I needed to make that decision early on, that if that was the decision I was going to make, I had to make that decision right then and there or else I was going to drop my job search too long and it wouldn’t be financially viable. And so it’s an extended interview, is kind of the way I think about it and it gave me an opportunity to show the company that, yeah, I am somebody who can learn, somebody who can achieve, even in this environment, and I’m somebody who can show that I really like the job.

That answers all the questions that they might have about somebody like me.

Mac Prichard:

There was risk involved. There was no guarantee that when you took this internship, I think it might have been 3 months, that it might lead to an offer for the permanent position you have today, was there?

Travis Puckett:

Yeah, there wasn’t a guarantee and I kind of pushed a little bit to be honest. I was in a cohort of about 6 other interns and I put together a slide deck of everything I did for the internship and I made sure to present it. I invited a bunch of people to the presentation and so I got to put myself out there in front of a lot of people. I think I got a great response, I still hear people always talk about the presentation I gave at the end of my internship. I don’t think it was necessarily on the schedule but I kind of pushed for it, so it happened, and I think that was a really big part of me getting it.

Mac Prichard:

There were 6 people in your group, were you the only one who did a presentation like that?

Travis Puckett:

There was one other.

Mac Prichard:

Did they get an offer, too?

Travis Puckett:

Well, that person was a traditional intern so he actually went back to school. This year he graduated and he’s now with the company.

Mac Prichard:

Good.

Well, what’s your number one job hunting tip, Travis?

Travis Puckett:

You just can’t get down. You can’t get down on yourself. You know, I think meeting with friends was a big thing because it just reinforced that I was an important person and that I was a contributing member of society. And when you meet with your friends, they’re going to share with you all the great things, all the delightful things about yourself and that’s important. Just to stay active, stay out there, don’t get down on yourself because you’re going to find your job and it’s going to be a great job.

Mac Prichard:

Well, thanks so much for sharing your story, Travis.

To learn more about Travis Puckett’s job search, visit macslist.org/stories.

And check out the Mac’s List website for dozens of other success stories.

On the second Friday of every month, we add a new interview with a Mac’s List reader who has found a dream job. Go to macslist.org/stories.

In the meantime, thank you for listening to today’s bonus episode of Find Your Dream Job.

The decision to make a career change can be full of challenges. Rejection, lack of focus, and ignoring networking opportunities can make the transition even harder. On this bonus episode of Find Your Dream Job, Travis Puckett and I discuss his move from the food and beverage industry to data analysis. A desire for traditional work hours and a love of number-crunching motivated Travis to pursue an internship rather than a full-time, traditional position. Travis shares how he got clear about his goals and how faith in himself gave him the confidence to try something new. Learn more about Travis’s career history below in this installment of our Success Stories series.

What do you do for a career? Who do you work for?

I work in analytics. It’s my job to distill our database into usable information for managers and directors. Data is power!

The company I work for is called Vacasa. Vacasa is a vacation rental management company. We take a deeply analytical approach to bringing more profit to homeowners looking to maximize their rental investment.

How long did it take you to find this job?

I began looking for a new job while still holding my previous employment. After 2 months of juggling both, I decided to terminate employment and go into the job search full time.

I took an internship that started in June. When the internship concluded I was offered a full time job with the company. It took 6 months to land the internship, 8 months for the full time gig.

How did you find your job? What resources did you use? What tool or tactic helped the most?

EVERY RESOURCE! I took a very active approach to the job search, and can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed the process (rare, I know!).

For me, it all started with LinkedIn. As a platform, it has everything you need: job postings, connections to people in every industry, and insight on the job market. I would look around the site and find professionals whose jobs looked cool, and I’d invite them to coffee. (Yep, complete strangers.)

Secondly, I called or emailed anyone I knew who was career-minded to meet up. Chatting with people I knew was less formal- mostly, it just got me out of the house. If I could give any advice, I would stress the importance of staying social and not letting the search get you down.

Lastly, I attended some networking events. Mac’s List put on a terrific event at Simple called “How to Land a Tech Job in Portland.” There was a panel of experts and one panelist stuck out for me, Grace Andrews. She said that she had never worked in tech, but sought out intern positions in the industry as a way to get a foot in the door. Now she’s a Solution Engineer after starting entry level at New Relic. It’s a hard step to budget for, but it’s a terrific way to transition into an entirely new type of job.

What was the most difficult part of your job search? How did you overcome this challenge?

The most difficult part is the inner voice. You spend so much time and energy building your legend on a resume, and when you don’t hear back…it can chip at your morale. At the end of the day, your morale is the most important trait you can bring to a new company.

I’ve alluded to it before, but reaching out to my village was how I overcame this challenge. Connecting with former colleagues and friends sparked a joy in me that allowed me to let go of the outcome and appreciate the journey.

What is the single best piece of advice you would offer other job-seekers?

Start persistent and stay persistent. After you’ve finished writing your resume, refine it. After you refine that resume, build another one in a different format (skills based vs chronological). Network with people in your desired industry. Network with people in unrelated industries. Work an odd job or two (there’s a ton of temp work out there). Connect with people even if you don’t think they’re going to influence your search.

Persistence will open doors to a hidden job market.

Why do you love your job?

I love my job for so many reasons. Mostly, because I have access to a ton of talented people with varying skill sets. Plus, my team is amazing. I also think the job is pretty neat because it’s all about numbers. Any time I am surrounded by volumes of  loosely related numbers, I get excited to start connecting them. That’s basically what I do for a living.