Why it Pays to Take Risks in Your Career, with Joymarie Parker

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Transcript

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life. I’m Mac Prichard, your host and publisher of Mac’s List. I’m joined by my co-hosts, Ben Forstag, Becky Thomas, and Jessica Black from the Mac’s List team.

This week we’re talking about why it pays to take risks in your career.

Professional success doesn’t happen by accident. It takes effort and risk. This week’s guest expert is Joymarie Parker, co host of the Joblogues podcast. She says to get the career you want you have to do things outside your comfort zone. We talk later in the show.

A cover letter can make or break your job application. A past guest on our podcast, Liz Ryan, says you should write what she calls a pain letter. Talk about the employer’s problem, says Liz, and what you can do to solve it. And send your note by old fashioned US mail. Ben has found a blog post by another career expert who disagrees with this approach. He shares the post and his own opinion about cover letters in a moment.

How do you do find and meet people inside a company where you have no contacts? That’s our question of the week. It comes from McKenzie O’Malley in Portland, Oregon. Becky offers her advice in a moment.

First, as always, let’s check in with the Mac’s List team.

So we’re all at different points in our careers, though I suppose, Jessica, you and Becky have about the same number of years of experience. Ben, you have a few more years and I’m definitely the longest in tooth here.

Ben Forstag:

You have a few more years than I have.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah. But along the way, we’ve all taken our share of professional risks. I’m curious, tell me about one of the biggest chances you’ve each taken in your career and how has it paid off?

Jessica Black:

I can go first.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, jump in, Jessica.

Jessica Black:

I guess my…I don’t know if this counts as a big risk but it was pretty risky, especially at the time. I’ve done this a couple times, working for free, essentially. Or doing work, unpaid internships or various things, without having another source of income at the same time.

Mac Prichard:

Not even unemployment benefits?

Jessica Black:

No. Yeah.

Mac Prichard:

Okay.

Jessica Black:

They were short term and I had some savings, a little bit, and I cut down all my expenses. But sometimes you don’t always…I’m an eternal optimist, I know I have said that before. I always think everything’s going to work out and that “I’ll take this unpaid internship for three months and then right after that I’ll get a real job and I’ll be able to pay my bills and it’ll be fine.” So it was risky in that way, knowing I will be able to pay for it later, but I’ve definitely gotten myself into trouble a few times, of having that length of time of not having the source of income coming in, a lot longer than I thought, or hoped, or expected it to be. So that was definitely risky, of taking that big chance, that I wasn’t going to be able to have that money coming in.

Mac Prichard:

So that was the risk, what were some of the benefits? Did it lead to new opportunities or directions?

Jessica Black:

It did. It really did. I mean, I’m here now. I am being paid which is wonderful and I’ve survived and all of that stuff, It did pay off. I did, I built a lot of skills, and I made a lot of great contacts, partially because I was doing a lot for free and I showed my initiative and I showed my work ethic that way, and it did pay off in that other people noticed it. They supported me along the way as I exited those internships and volunteer experiences. They saw the work that I was doing and helped me beyond that, to make new connections outside of them. So, it did work.

Mac Prichard:

Good.

Becky Thomas:

I resonate with that a lot because, I talked about this some in the last episode, but I left journalism as my initial career and I didn’t have a new job lined up.

Jessica Black:

Yeah.

Becky Thomas:

I think that survival mode makes you really hustle, and really go beyond what you would if you didn’t take that risk.

Jessica Black:

I’m definitely that person too, where like, I need the stress, I need the pressure. I can’t just look for a job while I’m comfortable. That definitely resonates too.

Becky Thomas:

Yeah. So yeah, I think that’s definitely important. Then, also, because you did good work, because I had so many wonderful contacts from my community newspaper experience, all these people in the community were like, “Oh we love you, we want to help you. My brother lives in Vancouver, and he knows people in Portland.” I got breakfast with these people, they’d become like my Portland aunt and uncle. All these wonderful things.

Jessica Black:

It makes a huge difference.

Becky Thomas:

Or like you, you work as hard as you can, you jump in and take that risk, and you see what happens on the other side. People do support you.

Jessica Black:

Yeah, they do support you.

Becky Thomas:

So it’s a good lesson.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, and I know we’ve talked about this in a previous episode, Becky, but you left a job as a reporter for a weekly newspaper and moved to a new state, Oregon, and you took a job. Needed to pay your bills, and we’ve all been there, and you took a job at a call center.

Becky Thomas:

Yeah.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, so that was a big change.

Becky Thomas:

Yeah, and you have to definitely change your lifestyle and be humble and be willing to take a less glamorous job in order to move forward and keep creating opportunities for yourself.

Jessica Black:

Yeah, do what it takes and sometimes those things that you think are random, that you may do just to make some money on the side, turn out to give you a connection as well. Or give you a skill you didn’t even think would be possible. You just never know.

Becky Thomas:

Yeah, totally.

Mac Prichard:

But your goal was to get here and to change careers and to get better at journalism and you’ve accomplished that.

Becky Thomas:

Yeah, here I am.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah.

Becky Thomas:

Sitting here with you guys.

Jessica Black:

Yay.

Mac Prichard:

Right. How about you, Ben? What was the biggest risk? Biggest payoff?

Ben Forstag:

I guess I would say in general I’m following the same script as Becky and Jessica here. Where I’m someone who really get’s kind of trapped in inertia a lot of times. Several times in my professional life, I’ve had a job and I’ve not been happy there but, “Eh, it pays me a good paycheck, it’s relatively okay here.” So I kind of get trapped there even if I’m increasingly unhappy with the experience. So what I’ve found is, like Jessica, I have to put my feet in the fire by literally jumping and hoping something good’s going to happen.

Jessica Black:

Yeah.

Ben Forstag:

It’s always worked out. I’ve done this a couple times. Most of these experiences I think I’ve shared on past shows, but when I think about them now, I think, “Wow, I’m pretty reckless sometimes.” So I announced to my boss that I was quitting in four months. I just told her, “This is going to be my last day in four months, and I’m gone.” I was committing myself to leaving the job and that was when I was going to move to Portland. I did a similar thing when I moved to Spain, I just asked my boss, “I want to transfer. I want to go to Spain.” I didn’t speak a lick of Spanish, I just wanted to go try something different.

Mac Prichard:

Were you working in DC?

Ben Forstag:

No, I was working in rural Pennsylvania at the time, for the YMCA, but I asked for the transfer to the Spanish YMCA.

Mac Prichard:

That’s a big change.

Ben Forstag:

It was a big change.

Mac Prichard:

But it happened, you got the job didn’t you?

Ben Forstag:

Yeah, yeah.

Jessica Black:

And you made it work.

Ben Forstag:

I did. Yeah. And then my most recent experience, the job I had before coming to Mac’s List, I was not very happy at, and it got to the point where I just realized I had to quit my job in order to give myself the room and energy to find something else that I wanted more. That’s a tough call when you have a wife and a child and a kid on the way. Fortunately I was in a situation where I could afford to do that and I had the support from my wife to do that. Yeah, it’s just like taking a leap of faith that this is going to work out and I’m going to make something happen. I guess in my life I’ve been fortunate enough that things have happened.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, well I”ve moved to new cities three times and I know everybody around the table has moved to at least one, probably several cities. Two of you have moved overseas, you, Jessica, and, Ben. I think another big risk. But by taking that risk, moving to a new place where I often didn’t know anyone, there were so many doors that opened for me. So many professional opportunities that became available and that was the benefit. But it’s hard and you need to have, if you’re in a relationship, your partner has to be there for you, too. So, I’m grateful that I’ve always had that.

Jessica Black:

That is really nice and I will say that I didn’t have a partner during my struggles, although my parents supported me a lot, but you find ways to just make it work, and live for free or live off of tuna fish sandwiches, whatever it is.

Ben Forstag:

I’ve been there.

Jessica Black:

Yeah, right?

Ben Forstag:

Last week, when my wife was out of town.

Mac Prichard:

I’m not sure that’s a hard luck story, Ben. Yeah.

Jessica Black:

That’s not exactly what I meant.

Mac Prichard:

Well, we’ll talk more about this with Joymarie. I know she’s got great insights about what’s involved in taking risks, but also the benefits as well.

Jessica Black:

That’s right.

Mac Prichard:

Let’s turn you you before we get there, Ben, because you’re out there every week, poking around the internet, looking for tools, books, websites, our listeners can use in a job search and in managing a career. So what have you uncovered for us this week?

Ben Forstag:

So, regular listeners to the show might recall a few weeks ago I was geeking out on cover letters.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah and it went into resumes.

Jessica Black:

Yeah, I remember that.

Ben Forstag:

Yeah, that trend continues. My wife was actually asking me, we were watching tv and I also had my head stuck in a Smart Phone and she said, “What are you looking at?” And I was like, “I’m just reading about cover letters.” This is like eight o’clock on a Thursday evening, she’s just rolling her eyes like, “Why are you doing that?” That story is not the resource of the week though, that’s just context.

So this resource comes from the Ask A Manager blog, which is done by Allison Green, who I’ve also referenced some of her other content in the past. It’s all about pain letters, and if you remember back on episode 81, Liz Ryan, one of the core strategies she was espousing was the pain letter.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, it’s a very popular episode. We’ve gotten a lot of downloads on that.

Ben Forstag:

Yeah, so a traditional cover letter is mostly about providing a narrative of your career and expressing your interest in the position. A pain letter is a little different in that you’re outlining a problem that you think the employer is experiencing. This is their quote, “pain” and then explaining how you can solve it. The other two big key differences here is, one, you’re supposed to hard mail a pain letter by mail. You want it to be on their desk as a physical object. Also, often pain letters are written when there’s not even a formal job opening, like, you’re sending this to a potential hiring manager with the idea that, maybe they’re going to say, “Oh my god, this is just the person I need. They get it. I’m going to create a job for this person.” I’ve always found this idea very intriguing; in fact, I think I’ve coach some people sometimes, like, “This might be something you want to do.”

But I came across this post from Allison Green and I’ll tell you, she’s decidedly against the pain letter.

Mac Prichard:

Why is that, Ben? What are her objections?

Ben Forstag:

So she doesn’t like them all. She says, “It’s basically a cover letter but with lots of added salesiness and a serious dose of presumption.” I think her idea here is that you’re guessing what the employer’s pain is even if you do a lot of research. You’re still trying to get inside their head and it can be really hard to do that and it carries a high risk of coming across as really insulting, or condescending, or uninformed, or both.

She also says, and I thought this was the most interesting point, the hard copy, you know sending that actual letter, can be really difficult for the hiring manager. Even if they like your letter, even if they think you’re a great candidate, our application systems nowadays are so automated and their so digitally based that if you don’t apply through that formal mechanism, it can be hard for a hiring manager to actually get your paper resume and application into that electronic system. It’s a hassle and sometimes it’s not even worth it for them, they just chuck it, right?

So I thought this was an interesting point and I was wondering, maybe we could expand this conversation a little bit…is there some middle ground here? Between the Liz Ryan kind of all in approach, and the Allison Green, all out approach. Can you think of maybe a middle ground, Mac?

Mac Prichard:

I would say that the key is you need to find out what the employer’s problems are and show how you can solve those problems. I remember from my conversation with Liz, she wasn’t encouraging people to guess; she said you need to do your homework and find out as much as you can and do that through research. I think that the middle ground might be this, it’s just both tapping into and growing a network inside a company where you want to work and getting clear about what the problems are at that employer. Through either in-person meetings, or in a letter, I think actually an in-person conversation would be best, confirming what you’ve learned  by asking lots of questions, listening, and adapting your response to what you learn. When you do that, you also have the opportunity to follow up with some written documents, maybe a letter or other material.

I haven’t talked to either one of them about this, but I like to think they would both agree, Allison and Liz, that the key here is to understand the employer’s needs and to show how you can address them.

Ben Forstag:

Yeah, and I think maybe one of the natural synthesis points here is, if you’re going to do this approach, you really, really need to know what the pain is. You can’t guess at it, you can’t make an informed guess, you need to absolutely know, “This is what their pain is because I was told this by a friend of a friend who works at the company.” That kind of thing. Don’t go in kind of willy nilly based on a quick Google search and throw something out there.

The other thing I thought was maybe you could integrate some of these pain point ideas into a traditional cover letter, so making it more than just a general narrative or interest in the job, but say, “What really drove me to this job is I see that you’ve got this issue that I’m really good at solving.” It’s kind of the soft pain letter. It’s the itch letter, maybe.

Jessica Black:

Yeah. Well I think that’s really good and I think that the incorporating all of what you guys just said, I think is fantastic. But then doing the Liz Ryan hard copy, in terms of a thank you note, or maybe not a thank you note, some kind of a note, but then following up with the online application system. Do both. We’ve talked about that before with the, getting your resume to the hiring manager, of doing it officially and unofficially. I think that can be the same kind of route you can take, of, the pain letter would be unofficial, but you do have to make it official at the same time.

Ben Forstag:

Thanks guys, I think everyone’s got their own ideal, but I think in the end, you do what’s most comfortable for you, and I think a mixture of different approaches is almost always the best way to go. So if you are like me and you’re sitting around Thursday evenings at eight o’clock, and you’re not really interested in the television that’s going on, check out this link. It’s Do Pain Letters Really Work and it’s from Allison Green’s Ask A Manager blog, and we’ll have the full url in the shownotes.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, and I think we had Allison scheduled to come on the show last year and then we had a schedule change. We’ll need to give her another try in the new year because she has a lot of great ideas to offer, including this.

Ben Forstag:

It’s one of my favorite blogs to go to.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, I like it a lot too.

Well thank you Ben, and if you’ve got a suggestion for Ben, please write him. We’d love to share your idea on the show. Ben’s address is ben@macslist.org.

Now let’s turn to you, our listeners, and Becky is here to answer one of your questions. So Becky, what’s in the mailbag this week?

Becky Thomas:

So this week’s listener question came in via email. It comes from McKenzie O’Malley of Portland, Oregon. She says:

“I would love to explore the possibility of potentially working at Under Armour’s recently established Portland-based office in some kind of administrative role (of which I have 3+ years of experience, primarily in nonprofit settings), but I do not have any direct contacts or even potential connections via LinkedIn.  I was wondering if you had any additional advice, insights, or individuals in mind that I could possibly connect with to see if I could even get a small foot in the door with the company.”

McKenzie, good question. I love how specific you’re being, gives us a lot of context to give you advice. This is a tough one when you don’t have any direct, or even second-hand connections, to those folks. I would definitely double check and make sure you don’t have any second tier connections on LinkedIn. If you can have anybody even an acquaintance introduce you to somebody, that will be better than a cold informational interview request or something like that. So definitely double check on LinkedIn, but it sounds like you’ve already done that initial research.

So one of my suggestions would be to think about industry events. Under Armour, is definitely, like, a hot company right now, especially in Portland. They just opened a new office, as you mentioned. So see if there’s any events that are going to be hosted at their facility, if they’re going to be attending or a representative will be attending any networking event that you could check in on and meet somebody that works there. Think about that approach to meet people, you know, out in the world, because there are people out in the world who work there and would be happy to hear your story and things like that. So definitely go that route.

Just talk about your interest in Under Armour to people you know and everybody you meet. You never know who’s got a connection. A lot of times, even personal connections, people who aren’t professional networking, people in your networking community, they might know somebody. Ask your aunt and uncle, ask your neighbor, you never know. Just be open about your goal, because it’s a totally legitimate goal and it sounds like you’re in a place where you could get in there.

So just keeping diligent and keep thinking about ways to meet folks at that company, out in the world; be active in that industry, and become known. Be helpful, volunteer where you can in the industry, join groups that are within that industry, and you’ll get in there. You’ll start meeting people and you’ll make yourself known. Any other thoughts, guys?

Jessica Black:

Well I think that was really comprehensive. I think that you covered a lot of it. But I do want to just note, McKenzie, that I think what you’ve done here with emailing us directly to ask for support, I think that that is really good referencing of, talking to everyone you know, and asking for connections. I think that that’s a really good route of talking to people that you think might have connections  somewhere or that are far along in their careers and have a lot of connections. Reaching out to your network, because I think that’s always the scariest part, is when you are looking for a job. It can be very isolating, and it’s easy, I know for me, I’m not very good at that side of things. Asking for help, or telling people about what I’m doing, or what I’m looking for. I think that it always helps, so I’m kind of reiterating what you said, Becky, and commending you for reaching out to us.

I know I don’t have any personal connections there, but I think that, like Becky said, informational interviews, talk to people that you know volunteer there, or in other capacities related to that, that can help you get a foot in the door. Don’t give up, stay really tenacious, and strive for that. Don’t give up striving to work for Under Armour, but also maybe look at other sporting goods companies or other related industry companies or organizations that will give you those skills that you can build off of, and eventually get to Under Armour. But it may not be that first step, but I think building up.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, Ben, it looks like you have a thought.

Ben Forstag:

Yeah, so we had a similar question a couple months ago about Nike, and it makes sense because Portland is kind of blessed, being North American headquarters for several large athletic brands. I think Under Armour is actually based in Baltimore but they’ve got  a big office here as well. But we’ve got Nike, we’ve got Columbia, we’ve got Adidas, they’re all in Portland. So the good news here is a big company like Under Armour is going to have an HR department that is tasked among other things of finding talent. So you’ve got like a natural contact point there. I would go on LinkedIn, I would search for Under Armour in Portland, and start digging through profiles and see if you can find a contact in HR, a recruiter or someone like that. That’s like the easiest entry point there, if you’re looking for a job, and they’ll pretty quickly be able to tell you if you’ve got the skills they’re looking for right now.

The other option here is if they don’t do recruitment in-house, they use an outside agency for staffing, do a little research and try to find out who their staffing agencies are, who they’re using to find talent, and go approach those folks, and say, “Hey, this is my goal, I want to work for Under Armour. Here’s my skill set. Are there any openings right now, or keep me in mind of the right kind of opening opens up where my skills could be used.”

So I think it’s a little bit easier than when we’re talking about a small organization or a small nonprofit. Big companies like this have folks and vendors who sole job is to make contact with the right candidate and those are the people you should be reaching out to.

Becky Thomas:

Good point.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, I would also say, all the advice we’re giving here, while specific to Under Armour could be applied to any company, any town.

Jessica Black:

Yes, absolutely.

Mac Prichard:

So keep those principles in mind. Becky, just a huge shoutout for bringing up the value of telling people, friends, family, acquaintances, neighbors, that you want to work at a particular company. Because I think about…we’re recording this in August, at our June event, one of our panelists was a person, a lady who worked for an association here in Oregon, but her dream was to work for Mercy Corps International, which has its headquarters in Portland. She shared her story about how she told people for two years that she wanted to work there and somebody’s…a neighbor’s brother…

Jessica Black:

It was like five connections deep.

Mac Prichard:

Do you remember this, Jessica?

Jessica Black:

Yeah, something like, her mom’s co-worker’s brother’s neighbor, or something like that.

Mac Prichard:

Worked in Finance at Mercy Corps, and said, “Well, I’ll meet with you.”

Jessica Black:

Right.

Mac Prichard:

She had a completely different skill set, but they had a conversation and he was impressed. He said, “Well coincidentally, there’s an internship coming up, you should apply for that”, and she did.

Jessica Black:

Through that connection. He was able to support her.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah. So, don’t discount the value of that, and then, three quick tactical tips, and you touched on this as well, Becky.

Every industry has an association where people hang out, and go on Meet Up, find out in this case, what the Sports Apparel groups are on Meet Up, in the Portland area, or nationally, and I guarantee there are Under Armour people coming to those meetings.

Jessica Black:

Along that same line, sometimes when you’re looking on LinkedIn and you find someone on LinkedIn, you can see what groups they’re in, and sometimes there will be some local events and that sort of thing within those groups as well. Kind of position yourself well there too.

Mac Prichard:

Second quick tactical tip is, you may not know anybody at Under Armour, but maybe you know somebody else in the sports apparel industry on LInkedIn, who’s a first or second degree contact… we’ll say Adidas or Nike or one of the other companies in the region. You can ask them, in an informational interview, if they know anyone at Under Armour and that could be your introduction.

Then finally, I know I’ve talked about this before, but don’t discount the value of your University Alumni Database. Dig into it, see who works this particular company, and if you’re an alum, they will make time to see you and give you an informational interview.

Ben Forstag:

And employers go to colleges when they’re looking for talent, especially if they make a lot of hires, which a company like Under Armour which is new to town is doing. They go to college and look for talent there, so the career service offices there might be an in-road to get there.

Mac Prichard:

Well great, well thank you all, terrific advice. Thank you, McKenzie, for the question.

If you’ve got a question for Becky, please send her an email. Her address is: becky@macslist.org. You can also call our listener line, that number is area code, 716-JOB-TALK – or send us a tweet. Our Twitter handle is, @macs_list If we use your question on the show, we’ll send you a copy of Land Your Dream Job Anywhere .

We’ll be back in just a moment. When we return, I’ll talk with this week’s guest expert, Joymarie Parker, about why it pays to take risks in your career.

Now let’s turn to this week’s guest expert, Joymarie Parker. 

Joymarie Parker is a marketer and the founder and co-host of Joblogues, a podcast and platform that offers candid career conversations with multicultural professionals and entrepreneurs.

Originally from Maryland, Joymarie now lives in Brooklyn where you can catch her exploring the restaurant scene or planning her next vacation.

She joins us today from New York City.

Joymarie, thanks for being on the show. 

Joymarie Parker:

Thanks for having me, Mac. I’m so happy to be chatting with you and connecting with your audience today.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, it’s a pleasure.

Now, our topic today, Joymarie, is about the benefits of taking risks in our careers. Tell us more about this. Why are you a fan of this?

Joymarie Parker:

Yeah, so I think a lot of times, when we’re thinking about our careers and our development, naturally it’s very calculated, we want to plan things out, make sure we’re making safe bets. Considering and exploring all the options before we do something. But I think a lot of times, while that benefits us, there are definitely benefits that I’ve seen personally and professionally to taking the non-traditional risk and going the unconventional paths.

So I think we’ll get into it in a little bit, but I’m thinking particularly of a few areas, like when it comes to salary negotiation and talking about money and stepping outside of your comfort zone, to also just the opportunities that you’re open to exploring and what you target. So I really think it’s something that everyone should consider at some point in their career. I think it’s a little bit easier when you’re younger, but really throughout at every point in your career..having an open mind to taking risks.

Mac Prichard:

I particularly want to talk about salary and promotion, but there are a couple of others that come to mind too. I know sometimes when people think about taking risks in their careers, they might include switching careers or fields, or starting a business. Are there other risks that come to mind when you think about this topic?

Joymarie Parker:

Yeah, absolutely, those are certainly great. I think also relocation and thinking about where you’d want to move and go. On our show, actually, on our podcast, Joblogues, we’ve recently interviewed someone from Hired.com, who, they had published something called The Global State Of Tech Salaries, and their findings actually found that in many instances candidates who were open to relocating got higher, more lucrative salary offers. So I think it’s even areas like that, just where you might work next. I think there’s a lot of conversation, too, around millennials and how long we stay at companies. It’s a little bit shorter than traditionally, historically, others did in the past. So even taking a risk sometimes in terms of being open minded to maybe leaving a job that’s not a good fit within six months or a year. I think that has a lot of benefits that we don’t always think about. So those are definitely some of the additional areas I would add to that.

Mac Prichard:

I’m glad you brought up relocation. Before our interview, I had a chance to chat with  my co-hosts and there are four of us around the table here, Joymarie. Two of us had moved to Europe for a job and I think three of us all moved to Oregon; in two cases, all the way across the country.

Joymarie Parker:

Oh wow.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, and one of us from the West, but still, it was a brand new city. So we talked about both the risk involved and the benefits we got from those experiences.

Joymarie Parker:

Yeah, exactly. That’s a prime example; we have living, breathing proof right here.

Mac Prichard:

Well, so let’s talk about the benefits, and you mentioned money and asking for more, either in a negotiation or perhaps when you’ve gotten a promotion or when there’s a job offer on the table. Why are people reluctant to take risks like that? To ask for more money and not just accept the first offer? What should they do about it?

Joymarie Parker:

Yeah, I think there’s certainly a lot of reasons for that and when you start to take a look at the breakdowns between women, and you start to look at ethnicity and racial backgrounds and things like that, I think there are lots of institutional reasons. I do think a lot of it has to do with education and awareness. So many of us didn’t grow up knowing or realizing that you could negotiate your salary or that was something that was even up for discussion. So I think the more transparency and the more we have conversations like this, where we’re just open about the fact that one, you should always be negotiating your salary and really taking a look and recalibrating your worth based on the new opportunities and your experience over time. The more we have these conversations the more empowered, hopefully, others are to do the same.

So I’d say as a rule of thumb, always negotiate salary. Anytime you’re faced with an opportunity to look at a new role, or even if the scope of your existing role has changed significantly; maybe you started one role and it’s been about six months and now you find yourself doing double the work, or picking up for someone else, definitely have those conversations with your boss, with your leader, with the hiring manager, to take a look at salaries that are progressive, that feel appropriate for the amount of work you’re exerting.

But I think the risk taking piece, for me, comes in a little bit more than that.  I know an example for me personally was, I was…when I first started my career I was an entry level coordinator at an advertising agency, and I think I was making like fifteen dollars an hour temping. I’d done that for about a year. I tried to get converted to full-time and negotiate with my boss, and it really didn’t work out. So after awhile I started putting feelers out there, and looking. I remember I was working with a recruiter at a talent agency and I told her, “Based on my experience and my education and all the work I’ve been doing, I’d like to target marketing roles within a sixty to seventy thousand dollar range.” At the time, if you do the math, fifteen dollars an hour, converts to thirty thousand dollars a year. So I remember her distinctively just laughing at me and kind of being like, “That’s sort of a ridiculous amount.” But I was very confident. I knew that I had a few years of work experience and that the level I was operating at really was more in that range of sixty to seventy thousand dollars.

I did some research on Glassdoor. I think this is about being calculative, and doing an amount of research. But then I took that and I upped it. I went up to that sixty to seventy K, which was a stretch. But what I found was that I started attracting interviews and job opportunities that were more in the eighty, ninety, hundred thousand dollar range. Even though ultimately I ended up with, the next role that I got ended up with right around seventy-five thousand dollars a year, I would never have attracted those opportunities if from the very jump I had said, “I’m making the equivalent of thirty thousand a year so let me just look at forty thousand dollar jobs.”

So I think when I talk about risks in salaries and negotiation and knowing your worth, I think it’s really about being comfortable taking a leap of faith and sort of stretching those amounts and going for the higher end of the spectrum. I think that’s really what I’d love to encourage your listeners and everyone listening today to do.

Mac Prichard:

Well that’s a big jump, from thirty thousand annually to seventy-five thousand. So congratulations on making that move at that point in your career.

Joymarie Parker:

Yeah, thank you.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, I’m curious about two things. One, what inspired you to do that, Joymarie? How did you decide that you were going to ask for those higher figures?

Joymarie Parker:

Yeah, so I mean, I think in that specific example I was undervalued. So that’s an example where I probably should have been making closer to that fifty K, but I was just so excited to get in the field and get that experience. At the time I was much younger, so I was open to the opportunity at the less pay and I think I was supplementing that with other types of jobs. It really just came from realizing that I was operating at a level where I should have been getting paid more. So I think I came to that just by taking a look around myself; at the time I was actually exposed to hiring other people and recruiting other people for the company, so I knew what they were asking for and I had insight into what other people were making. So that was really helpful, and I think that’s the piece that I am adamant about, transparency, because if you don’t know, you’ll never be able to price yourself and ask for that amount for yourself.

So I researched stuff like Glass Door, like Hired.com; all of these resources online that are now fostering more salary transparency. I’m a huge advocate of it. So, I think it starts with you, and knowing what people are making, knowing what’s competitive in your market and your industry. Then also taking an audit and looking at the work that you’re doing. If you feel like you’re really operating at a higher level, I think some ways of assessing that are, are you picking up slack for multiple team members? Are you doing the role of two or three other people? Is the working you’re contributing actually valuable to the organization or valuable to your boss? Are you saving other people time? Because I think a lot of times, we don’t think about time efficiency as a form of currency, but it really is if you’re saving others time by even doing administrative tasks, or filing files for your boss, so that their job is a little bit easier when they come in. Those things all have value, so I think just staying ahead of the market and keeping current by using the resources, but also just auditing what you’re doing and making sure that you feel like you’re being paid competitively, not just appropriately.

Mac Prichard:

Well, I love the steps that you outlined there and the process involved in doing that research. Getting clear about what the market is paying, what the dollar value of what you’re offering is, and then walking into a negotiation with those facts and those accomplishments in hand. I can imagine listeners saying, “Well that’s a lot of work”, but I also, the numbers you’ve shared show that paid off with a huge return on investment. To go from an annual salary of thirty thousand, in this case, to seventy-five thousand, that’s a great return on the dollar.

Joymarie Parker:

Yeah, it is a lot of work, but if you want the salaries and you want more money, you have to show that value, like you said. So I think you have to be willing to do that work, but ultimately, it’s a work that’s an investment in yourself, because as that salary raises for yourself, you continue to be able to demand more. So if you’re in an environment where you get a raise, I would say the majority of raises are typically percentage based, right? So it might be something like a one percent, two percent, five percent raise. If you’re base salary is low, then that percentage, over time, it’s compounded, it’s an effect. So the more that you negotiate these things for yourself, and you really should be building it into every development conversation with your boss, every opportunity when you’re transitioning a role, just thinking about how you can continue to progress in that salary, so that over time you’re raise is everything associated with that salary rise as well.

Mac Prichard:

Well let’s talk about other risks besides asking for more money.

Joymarie Parker:

Yeah.

Mac Prichard:

What are some other risks that come to mind, Joymarie? I think we talked about switching careers for example. How do you recommend people prepare for that and then what are typical risks involved and how should people manage those risks?

Joymarie Parker:

Yeah, so I think switching careers is very interesting. I think you have to take a look at what exactly what you want to focus on switching. So you can always switch industries, which is what I did in that example I shared as well, was also why I was able to come into higher salary. I switched to a different industry. You can switch functional roles, you can switch the scope of the actual work you are going to be doing and what you are going to be contributing. Depending on what kind of switch you’re making, it’s going to inform how you prepare.

So if you’re taking a look at switching industries, which is something I encourage people to do when it makes sense, especially when you’re younger in your career, just to get a feel. Whether at the internship or entry level of different industries, and how they operate. If you’re switching industries, I think it’s a little bit easier because your role, what you’re functionally contributing to an organization could be the same. So as an example, if you are a marketing professional like I am, marketing is something that exists, and finance, it exists, and law, it exists, and medicine, it exists, in every type of industry.

So it’s really taking look at what are my transferrable skills, whether I was a marketer on the advertising side and now I’m looking to be a marketer in nonprofit that deals with health care. What are the common skills that I can take from job A, like my ability to take a look at competitive trends, and bring that back to my company and tell them why it’s relevant and what we should be thinking about. Or my ability to do research and pull insights that are relevant to the organization.

That is something that would benefit me in both industries, whether it’s the nonprofit or the advertising. So, really taking a look at what are the transferable skills I can take over into a new industry.

Then being willing to take a risk and maybe look at some industries you hadn’t considered. I think when you can, play around with start ups, play around with nonprofits, look at for profit organizations, try big organizations, small organizations, because all of them have different flavors and you really get a sense of what you like and don’t like by exploring. So that’s one risk I encourage people to do.

Then the second is, when you’re transitioning your actual job role, so that’s your function, maybe I have been a marketer, but now I want to get more into law or the legal field. That is an inherent difference, so I think it’s a little different to transfer the day-to-day skills. But ways I can start to make that transition and do that research is by talking to people that are lawyers, in the legal field. Connecting with them, maybe connecting with people in a graduate program that I am interested in potentially applying to, asking them about their experience, how they studied, how they prepped, how they were able to land opportunities. And then kind of developing a roadmap for myself and my career, based on what I’m hearing them say. I can also shadow people, I could do apprenticeships, I can reach out for informational interviews with people who are already in that field and do that job. Even dabble and sort of dip my toe into it, even if I’m not ready to really go into it head on.

Then what you can start to do is you can start to bring elements of that role potentially into your existing job and industry and do a slow transition, or make more of a drastic transition, like going to grad school or something like that. So, those are two examples that I’d say.

Mac Prichard:

Those are great examples. I particularly like the detail in the second example. Are there risks that people should avoid in their career? Things that we should absolutely not do?

Joymarie Parker:

I do think so, yes. I do think that when possible, try to avoid risks that include burning bridges. So I’m not a proponent of, if you’re in a negative work environment, just leaving on a bad note, telling everyone how you feel about them, burning your bridges.

Mac Prichard:

Right.

Joymarie Parker:

I don’t think that is the way to go, because in my experience, you always run into people that you used to work with, work for, whether it’s through a third or sixth degree connection. So you never want to burn bridges. I think that’s always a risk to avoid.

I also think some risks, like, we all have bills to pay, so that’s a very real thing too, so making sure that the risks aren’t going to adversely impact you in terms of your ability to survive, pay your bills, get food, support yourself.

I think some risks you can develop a plan for. If, for instance, you want to go back to school, you know that you’re not going to be making money while you’re in school, you can take a look at a savings plan, while you are currently working to build up to that, or maybe if you have a support system like a family or spouse, a significant other, they can help you out. That’s a conversation that the two of you can have together. But you don’t want to go into something like that blindly without having that plan in place.

So I do think it’s important to be calculating to a degree. Don’t burn bridges. Where possible, try to avoid risks that will very adversely impact you financially, and just, your ability to survive on a basic level.

Then, I’d say also being cautious of taking a risk for risk’s sake, if that makes sense?

Mac Prichard:

It does, yeah.

Joymarie Parker:

I think a lot of times, a smart risk is staying put. A smart risk can be saying, “You know what? I really want a new job, I really want that higher salary, but I am going to tough it out for six months at this job because I know that it’s going to give me health care benefits and some great experience. It will also give me time to find my footing, and figure out what industry I want to step into.” So I think sometimes a smart risk is also taking no risk.

Mac Prichard:

Okay. Well, Joymarie, it’s been a great conversation. Now tell me, what’s next for you?

Joymarie Parker:

Yeah. So I will continue to co-host Joblogues; hat is my career show that I co-host with a good friend of mine, Courtney Cleveland. It’s really fun, we have a lot of great segments, there’s exciting content coming up for the remainder of the year. So you can check us out on iTunes, on

Joblogues.com, at Joblogues everywhere around the web. But we really love what you guys are building here, Mac. So thank you so much for having us, and I think that if your audience loves this kind of professional development, personal development content, they’ll really like our content as well.

Mac Prichard:

Well, I’ve listened to a number of your episodes and it’s a great show. I encourage out listeners to check it out, and I hope next year, we can get Courtney to come on our show as well.

Joymarie Parker:

Yes, that’d be awesome.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah. Well, you mentioned your url, it’s Joblogues.com, and I know people can also find you on Twitterand Instagram, where you have the same handle, it’s @heymissparkerr.

Joymarie Parker:

That’s right.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, well, Joymarie, thanks for being on the show today.

Joymarie Parker:

Thanks, Mac. Take care.

Mac Prichard:

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio with Becky, and Ben, and Jessica. What were some of the key takeaways you all heard in my conversation with Joymarie?

Becky Thomas:

I really liked what she was saying about salary negotiation. I liked the amount of detail and personal story that she shared.

Jessica Black:

Yeah, that was really good.

Becky Thomas:

As far as being undervalued.

Jessica Black:

Yes, I think that’s huge.

Becky Thomas:

The fact that she was paying her dues, and young and okay with making little money, but then when she was ready to make a change and take a risk, she did some research, she talked to folks, she figured out what she was worth, and then she went after that.

Jessica Black:

She advocated for herself. Yeah.

Becky Thomas:

Yeah.

Jessica Black:

Because I think it’s really easy for you to start in a low salary because you want the experience and you just want the job, and you don’t know any better. Then you get stuck in that trajectory of, you never really get back to equal footing. But I like that she did all of that research, and she was like, “No, actually, I did start too low, and I should be up here.” I think that’s great.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah.

Becky Thomas:

Yeah, and those new employers don’t know that she was making fifteen bucks an hour at her last job.

Jessica Black:

Right. Nobody else would know.

Becky Thomas:

They knew she was doing really good work, it means they probably assumed she was making in that range anyway. So just to not shrink yourself down to what level you were at, but really understanding what level of work you’re doing, and it may feel like a risk to ask for that much more. But the fact that she had grounded in data and research, and the market value.

Jessica Black:

And was able to back it up with her skills too.

Becky Thomas:

Exactly. So that was cool.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, I love the process that she laid out about how to do that. Because the message wasn’t, “they’re not paying me a fair salary”, it was, “Here’s what the market pays, here’s what I’ve accomplished for you. Here are the skills I offer you.” She made a business case.

Jessica Black:

Aboslutely.

Mac Prichard:

She showed her listeners how to do that, so I thought that that was huge.

Jessica Black:

It is huge.

Mac Prichard:

Ben?

Ben Forstag:

I like how she qualified taking a risk here, which I think is important. Putting yourself in a position where you can take a risk, because frankly you’re not always in a position and not everyone is ever in a position sometimes.

Becky Thomas:

Yeah.

Ben Forstag:

So whether that’s planning ahead or saying, “I’m just going to stay in this job for six months and do what I need to do here, and then move on.”

Jessica Black:

Yeah, I liked that too.

Ben Forstag:

I think being pragmatic and strategic about the risks you’re taking, rather than just jumping all the time. At some point you need to have a little stability in your career, do your dues, get everything you can out of that opportunity, before you move on and put yourself in a position where you’ve got some fallback if you don’t find the next thing right away.

Jessica Black:

Yeah, I was actually going to say the same thing, of that note of, don’t take risks just for risk’s sake. Which is what Ben, I think, is referencing.

Mac Prichard:

Your career is not a bungee jump.

Jessica Black:

Right, and I think that point is really valuable because in this…I’m going to sound like an old person, in this day and age…

Mac Prichard:

That’s my job.

Jessica Black:

Type of thing, I think it’s really easy…our attention spans are so limited, and not just with what we’re looking at, or what we’re focusing on, but also I think it streams into our jobs. Sometimes I think people, they land a job, they love it for the first little bit, and then they get bored or they get restless and they want to jump careers again. Because that’s the stimulating part, is the looking, and the searching, and the interviewing. It feels like you’re doing something rather than just actually enjoying that job that you have and going into that deeper work of being good at your job. Which can be scary, and it’s deeper work, it takes a lot more energy, and it takes a lot more focus, and I think sometimes people don’t want to put the energy and time into that focus.

Mac Prichard:

I think a change sometimes can be a more attractive choice because staying, making commitment, can be harder, because…

Jessica Black:

It feels that way.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah.

Jessica Black:

So yeah, people get scared about being stagnant and they want to just jump right away, and I think that her point about, “Don’t just jump because you feel like you want to take a risk.” I thought that was really, really valuable.

Mac Prichard:

Good. Well thank you all, and thank you, Joymarie, for joining us this week.

Thank you, our listeners, for downloading today’s episode of Find Your Dream Job.

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Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job!

Big risks can deliver big rewards for your career, whether it’s switching industries or asking for more money. While change is scary, it’s worthwhile to take risks in your career if you have a goal in mind.

Joymarie Parker says you should be taking risks in your career, but only when you’ve done your research and have a solid plan. One risk you should definitely take: ask for more money when you know you’re worth it.

This Week’s Guest

Joymarie Parker is a marketer and the founder and co-host of Joblogues, a podcast and platform that offers candid career conversations with multicultural professionals and entrepreneurs.

Originally from Maryland, Joymarie now lives in Brooklyn where you can catch her exploring the restaurant scene or planning her next vacation.

Resources from this Episode