Ep356: Austin Belcak – Get Help from Someone Who Is Where You Want to Be

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Quick take

BIO: Austin Belcak is the founder of CultivatedCulture.com, where he helps people land jobs they love without traditional experience and without applying online.

STORY: Austin made two mistakes. One was to take a terrible job without evaluating if it was indeed a good fit. Two, he spent so much time following jobseeking advice from family and friends who had no experience in the field he was interested in.

LEARNING: Successful careers are built from networking and building relationships. Find creative ways to showcase your value when searching for a job. Seek advice from people already doing what you want to do.


“Go find people who have already been down the path you want to follow and who are now working in the places that you want to work.”

Austin Belcak


Guest profile

Austin Belcak is the founder of CultivatedCulture.com, where he helps people land jobs they love without traditional experience and without applying online.

Austin’s job search system stems from his personal experience transitioning from a new grad with a biology degree, a 2.58 GPA, and a job in healthcare to landing interviews and offers at Microsoft, Google, and Twitter.

His strategies have been featured in Forbes, Business Insider, Fast Co, and Inc., and he has helped thousands of job seekers land jobs at places like Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and many more–without applying online.

He also hosts The Dream Job System Podcast, where he shares bite-sized, highly actionable career advice.

Worst investment ever

When it was time for Austin to go to college, he did not know what he wanted to do. But he chose to be a doctor because it made his parents and their friends happy. So he went to college with the plan to become a doctor, but deep down, he knew that’s not what he wanted to be.

In college, Austin spent his time doing all manner of things other than studying. Consequently, he graduated with a 2.58 GPA. Now he could not become a doctor.

No desire for work

Austin had no interest in joining the formal employment world. He never interviewed for a job and only took an internship because it fell on his laps. The company then offered Austin a job, and he took it no questions asked. He did not even negotiate his salary.

Working the worst job

The job Austin took was horrible. He was selling medical devices, and sometimes he would have to drive over two hours to deliver the devices to hospitals as early as 6 am. His boss was the worst, and he’d keep telling Austin that he was not good enough and had no future. This was quite demoralizing.

On top of the bad working conditions, the salary Austin accepted was barely enough for rent, car insurance, groceries, and other expenses. So he ended up racking up about $15,000 in credit card debt in the first couple of months out of school, just trying to make ends meet

The start of his worst investment ever

Austin knew that he had to quit this job. His goal was to work in tech, but he had no experience. He went to the people we always go to for advice; parents, friends, and career counselors. They all told him the same thing; to tweak his resume and cover letter and apply for jobs online.

Austin spent hours and hours of his time online searching for a job without any success. In the first month, he applied to about 100 companies, and not a single one got back to him.

Going back to his advisors

Austin went back to the people he had asked for advice. He asked them what he could be doing wrong since they were all successful and he was doing what they told him to do, yet he was unsuccessful. They said to him that it was a numbers game and he just hadn’t applied to enough jobs, and he just needed to continue applying.

This advice did not sit well with Austin, considering that these people all had different experiences. His parents, for instance, had not searched for jobs in decades, and his friends were all working on Wall Street, so they had no experience working in medical or tech fields.

The feeling of betrayal

Austin felt a little betrayed by his family, friends, and the people he was getting advice from because this advice clearly didn’t seem to work. He also felt betrayed because he invested so much money into college, and that did not seem to be delivering on the promise he’d always have an opportunity if he had a degree. Austin felt left out by the companies he wanted to work in. He started thinking he was the problem, that something was wrong with him.

It was not until he had coffee one day with someone from his alumni that he realized things were not working because he sought advice from the wrong people. He now started seeking advice from people working at the places he wanted to work at.

Lessons learned

Networking and building relationships are the secrets to building successful careers

If you are looking to elevate your career, it comes down to networking and building relationships.

Quit the ‘me’ mindset

When reaching out to people, instead of making a direct ask for them to refer you to recruiters, focus on the other person and what value you can offer them.

Find creative ways to showcase your value

Instead of the usual style of sending a resume, send a direct illustration of what you can do to add value. This gives you higher chances of getting hired.

Andrew’s takeaways

Know what you are good at and offer it

Some people are good at exploiting opportunities, while others are good at solving problems. Think about what it is that you are good at and why someone would want to hire you. Either you’re going to help them exploit an opportunity or do something more with it, or you are going to help them get out of trouble. So show recruiters how you can help them.

Find alternatives to job marketplaces

The problem with applying online is that you must optimize your job search to the marketplace you are using. Step out of marketplaces and look for other ways to get jobs.

Be very careful of traditional advice

While there is some value in traditional advice, it will often get you traditional results.

Actionable advice

Reach out to one person who is already doing what you want to do. These are the kind of people who are going to be the best mentors.

No. 1 goal for the next 12 months

Austin’s number one goal for the next 12 months is to find a little more balance. Now that he has a business and it is his only focus, Austin wants to use some of this time to find balance.

Parting words


“Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn and definitely take the risk assessment.”

Austin Belcak


Read full transcript

Andrew Stotz 00:01
hello fellow risk takers and welcome to my worst investment ever stories of loss to keep you winning in our community we know that to win in investing you must take risk but to win big you've got to reduce it and i bet you're exposed to investment risks right now to reduce it go to my worst investment ever.com and download the risk reduction checklist i've made specifically for you my podcast listeners and if this checklist is based on the lessons i've learned from all of my guests fellow risk takers this is your worst podcast host Andrew Stotz from a Stotz academy and i'm here with featured guests austin bell psych austin are you ready to rock

Austin Belcak 00:46
andrew let's do it thanks for having me

Andrew Stotz 00:48
yes i'm so excited because i never wear a black shirt and today i wore a black shirt and you're wearing a black shirt and that tells me it's gonna be a good interview

Austin Belcak 00:58
you're on the same wavelength for sure

Andrew Stotz 01:00
exactly alright so let me introduce you to the audience austin valcyte is the founder of cultivated culture.com where he helps people land jobs they love without traditional experience and without applying online austin's job search system stems from his personal experience transitioning from a new grad with a biology degree a 2.58 gpa and a job in health care to landing interviews and offers at microsoft google and twitter these strategies have been featured in forbes business insider fast company and inc and he has helped 1000s of job seekers land jobs at places like microsoft google amazon and many many more all without applying online he also hosts the dream job system podcast where he shares bite sized highly actionable career advice each episode is between five and 15 minutes and is released three times per week fosston take a minute and play further tidbits about your life

Austin Belcak 02:16
yep that's pretty much it andrew so i mean you know we're gonna get to the worst investment right but shocker it's going to be job search focus because that is essentially where my my career got its start and the trajectory that it's been on but yeah so you know back when i was in college i had no idea what i wanted to do and i really struggled with the search and so i had to develop my own system that eventually led me to microsoft where i worked for five years as director of partner development and i also started cultivating culture about six months into that job so cce has been around for about five years i built it alongside of my full time job and then i recently left in october to take it full time and it's been a lot of fun to do that so now we get to spend more time hanging out with people like you and helping people get jobs but a lot of it is rooted from my personal experience which definitely stemmed from the worst investment that i ever made for sure

Andrew Stotz 03:11
well i'm excited to get into that and before we do i think you know it'd be interesting for the listeners to learn about how you manage this life of kind of having a full time job and a side hustle i mean it's the dream of everybody


did you do it

Austin Belcak 03:25
absolutely i think that it was it had always been my dream to start my own thing that was my goal from an early age and i knew i knew that i had no idea how to make it happen and i think a lot of young people tend to suffer from this sort of mental this mental image of what a business must be right we all want to create the next facebook or the next you know insert giant company here when entrepreneurship is so broad right people are out here making money and you know making a living doing so many different things and that's not something i realized until later on so i had a lot of failed ventures i started about four or five different projects that all kind of went went down the toilet at one point or another and none of those were still my worst investments i would say but i essentially decided to start a side hustle that was sustainable or that became sustainable when i needed to transition industries right so i was working in healthcare and i wanted to get into tech and i had no experience in the tech space so i had to go build my own experience and i did a lot of that through freelancing so that's essentially where the side hustle was introduced for me and i never i never didn't have a side hustle after that i essentially was always working two jobs basically until i left microsoft in october and i think there were so many benefits to that that i didn't see in the moment and looking back you know they're they're also very clear but side hustles are wonderful because you get to scratch an itch that you may not have in your nine to five right you get to expand your skill set you can make more money but also you have the ability to play the long game and build the business without the risk of you know taking a big financial hit or wondering you know where the next paycheck is coming from because you still have that full time salary right so for all those reasons you know i'm so grateful that i ended up going down that path and in that direction and i also learned so much working full time at microsoft that that impacted the the side hustle that i started that eventually became the business it is today

Andrew Stotz 05:30
well i have another question about that but before i do i just explained you know my own situation in thailand i came from cal i was a graduate from cal state long beach and then i went to work for pepsi in los angeles and i did my mba at night so i was busy my first couple of years but once i got that done you know my work day was just like a typical workday and then i went home and when i moved to thailand i was like oh my god there's so much going on it was like 1992 the economy was booming businesses were booming the stock market was booming and it was like there's just so much opportunity so by the time i was you know a few years into it i already had built a successful career as a as a financial analyst at ahead as a head of research at a broker but also i had a side hustle in the sense that my best friend and i set up a coffee roasting company that's now 25 years old so at nighttime all that we would meet and i take care of accounting and stuff like that he'd run the business while i was working as an investment banker and then i was teaching finance almost every weekend or many evenings so i literally had one from no side hustle in the us the two side hustles in in thailand and i just you know that that's the first thing that i really kind of realized was that it's easy particularly in america it was easy for me to just kind of rest on my laurels and and here in thailand and maybe in asia they just so much opportunity that you know i just don't want to miss it but my question to you is how do you know when you're ready to quit your job i mean obviously everybody who starts a side hustle their dream is to quit their job but how many people have we heard that have said i got my side hustle i've been doing it for a couple of months i'm putting in my resignation at my job tomorrow and you're thinking oh so how did you know when to quit your job

Austin Belcak 07:21
yeah for me i you know i had heard all the stories of those same folks right and i think one of the biggest things i realized through building cultivated culture was that creating an actual business and putting the foundational you know elements in place that you need it requires so much more time and energy and inertia then i think we initially expect right i think that mindset that you just called out of the people who say well you know i've been doing this for a couple months or i haven't started but i think six months from now i can quit i think that that is you know people reading the headlines and reading the case studies and you know one of them we are talking in the pre show one of the things i love about your show is that we don't we focus on the mistakes right and the failures and the potential shortcomings instead of you know so many podcasts out there bring somebody on and they're like you know how did you make this happen then and people are you know i can tell you that you know we grew our following 600,000 people on linkedin in the last you know year but what i'm not telling you is that i spent four to four and a half years writing content every day that nobody ever read before we got there right and so i think there's there's there's this period right where you get started and you're putting in the work and nothing's really happening and so you just have to have faith that you're playing a longer game what you're doing is going to work and so that but that's how you start a successful business the people who show up and every decision is about the next dollar that's where a lot of the failures stem from because you can't play a long game and there's your point andrew there's so much opportunity a lot of people have jumped into that that space right the internet makes it so easy for anybody to do anything and get started for effectively free if they wanted to that you need to find a way to differentiate yourself and you need to play a longer game if you want to succeed so for me you know my goal was to have some foundational systems in place i wasn't as focused on revenue and i was more focused on do i have the foundational elements in place that i need to scale very quickly and those are things like an audience those are things like funnels those are having the right stack and technology set up and making sure that you know if i decided to offer a product or a service everything was in place to make that happen and a lot of the business could continue to run itself while while i reallocated time to you know the financial aspects of the business so you know not to say that that there wasn't you know some financial involvement but at the same time you know i really was focused on hey i'm going to try it i have this great opportunity and set up at microsoft my team was amazing I was amazing, I absolutely loved it, there was no need for me to rush out of there, I felt it could only benefit me to stay longer and, and reinvest, you know, some of my salary into the, into the business and to really put those foundational elements in place. So that's what I was mostly focused on. And then once it got to the point where I just, you know, from a time perspective could not manage both. That's really where the decision was made.

Andrew Stotz 10:26
I mean, it's something that really resonates with me, and I, it's not my worst investment, but it definitely is close in the sense that I had a lot of ideas when I started my, my, my research company, basically, when I left investment banking and went out on my own, but what I didn't really have was the selling process. And, you know, what you've described is the following is one part of the selling process, the funnel, offered offers great things, some free stuff, some, you know, some minimally paid stuff, then some more expensive stuff for those people that really like it and they need more, I didn't have those things, and I'm a big guy on on kind of writing down what we want. And I have a system that I teach in a course I have called achieve your goals. And it's called Building belief. And it's just building a mantra, and you just try to hone in on what's the problem that you have, and then where do you want to be. And I can remember walking in the park two years ago, saying, All my products have an easy to follow buying system, all my products have an easy to follow buying system, because they didn't, as I said, at that time, you know, you'd have to work my customers had to work really hard to buy from me. And so now I've got those things in place. And you know, they're, they're just getting in all that that whole process. So I really respect the fact that you saw that and you built that, you know, before you jumped, I jumped and then later I had to build it.

Austin Belcak 11:58
I lucked out, you know, I was very fortunate a lot of people are not in a situation where you know, they can they can hang around for, you know, some additional time either they have a bad manager, they have a toxic, you know, work environment, they don't like their job and not getting paid enough, I was very fortunate to be in, you know, what I consider to be my dream job. And so I think, you know, I'm pretty privileged to have been able to start a company in that situation. So I don't blame anybody else for jumping a little earlier than I did. But if you are in a good setup, you know, there's no no reason to not wait and reinvest.

Andrew Stotz 12:33
Yeah. And to close out this section, you know, for the listeners out there, I really want you to think about the idea that if you are starting a side hustle, you're starting a business, really, I challenge you to sell your product, just start selling the product, because the selling process will force you to develop these systems to a certain extent. Now, you don't want to expand your business so fast that your internal systems can't keep up with your sales. But that's probably not going to be your, in the beginning, start selling your product. And if you can do that, then that forces you to start to create that sales system. And that would be kind of a little bit of my takeaway. I think, you know, you've set up that system. I didn't set it up that well, and it definitely hurt and it set me back. So that would be my takeaway from that little section. All right, well, now it's time to share your worst investment ever. And since no one ever, ever, ever goes into their worst investment thinking it will be. Tell us a bit a bit about the circumstances leading up to it, then tell us your story.

Austin Belcak 13:43
Yeah, absolutely. So we have to rewind back to, I think, really, we have to rewind back to you know, when I was a kid, and when we were all kids, because we're asked from a very early age, you know, what do you want to be when you grow up? And the answer when you're younger is is whatever you want, right? And I fell quarterback, I want to be a digital nomad, I want to be the next, you know, Bill Gates and everybody, you know, there's so much support, right? Yes, you can do anything you put your mind to? That's a great answer. But then the question persists as we get older, right? And at the same time, the scope of acceptable answers really starts to narrow. So all of a sudden, you know, you wanted to be a writer, and that was celebrated. But now you're being told, you know, that's not realistic, you know, you'll never get a job doing that you're not going to make any money. And so then we're funneled into, you know, or at least we're restricted on our options, but nobody really gives us the tools needed to explore what else was out there. Right. You know, for me, I didn't know I could work at Microsoft without, you know, knowing how to code. And I didn't even know the job title of you know, partner, manager or account manager existed. You know, I thought you could be a doctor or a lawyer or an accountant or an investment banker, right, like these careers that were familiar to us. So I think doctor because you know made my parents happy and their friends happy and my teachers happy wasn't necessarily what i wanted deep down but i didn't know what i wanted so i went to college and i i had my plans to be a doctor but then there was also this other side of college where there were you know several 1000 other people my age with no parental supervision and you know beer kegs right down the road and so very quickly that that became more of my unofficial major than then the initial major that i set out on which is biology so i failed chemistry initially i failed france the french the next semester and that set the tone for college you know i ended up not really investing in my in my studies i was pretty poor student i got out of there with a two and a half you know 2.5 gpa c minus equivalent and i didn't know what i wanted to do so professionally i didn't apply to any companies i didn't interview anywhere i took an internship that essentially fell into my lap and they offered me a job i didn't think about cost of living i didn't ask about trajectory i didn't ask any of the questions we should ask i just accepted it sight unseen because it meant that i didn't have to do more work so hence begins my worst investment ever so essentially what happened was i jumped into this job and the job itself is awful so i'm working in medical device sales i'm getting up at 233 30 in the morning because i was based in charlotte north carolina and i had to drive to whatever hospital needed coverage that day and sometimes they were two hours away and surgery started at 6am right so i had to be there and i was up super early and i did that five to six days a week so that was miserable but on top of that my boss just you know he didn't treat me very well he kept telling me i wasn't good enough i wasn't smart enough i didn't have a future and that was pretty demoralizing and then on top of that between my car payment my rent you know car insurance groceries and then the salary i had accepted i basically didn't have much to live off of so i ended up racking up about $15,000 in credit card debt in the first couple of months out of school just just trying to make ends meet so this was really a perfect storm of just like awful awfulness and i felt horrible so i knew i had to get out and this is really where the investment piece comes in so i want to make this transition and i want to work in tech that that's kind of the goal right because i am tired of explaining what i have to do i want to work for a cool company right and so this was 2013 you know sort of the golden age of tech you know there aren't any of these issues that they were there but they haven't bubbled up to the public eye around privacy and you know you know how we're treating users and any of this other stuff not to say that those companies still aren't good to work for but that's where i want to go and i had no experience so i went to the people we always go to for advice right parents friends career counselors the internet and they all told me the same thing which was to tweet my resume tweet my cover letter and apply for jobs online so this is where i invested and i invested hours and hours and hours of my time into this every day essentially i would come home from my job at around you know 2pm or so to 3pm and then i would work for another six hours or so on the job search and the problem was i wasn't getting any results so for the first month i had applied to about 100 companies and not a single one of them got back to me i got rejected from all of them and that was a lot of time invested so i go back to the same people and i said you know what's the deal like you all are the people i trust you know you've all been successful in your own right you know why is this not working and they came back with the same answer they said you know look it's a numbers game you just haven't you haven't you haven't applied to enough places yet and so you just need to get back out there and that was a big red flag for me i sort of took a step back and i thought about what was going on here and so one these are people from all different walks of life like my parents they hadn't jobs searched in over a decade if not more my friends all worked on wall street and i was you know in healthcare trying to get into tech some of the career services folks i was talking to had never worked at you know a tech company let alone any other job outside of career services yet they were all recommending the same thing and i thought that was a little a little strange and then on top of it it didn't make sense to me because i didn't understand how anybody could be in control of their career if the process that we are told is just a numbers game and it's essentially like basically playing roulette at the casino is what it felt like so that was weird but i i still gave everybody the benefit of the doubt so i said i'm gonna i'm gonna double down i'm gonna i'm gonna apply to 200 companies over this next month i'm gonna see what happens so that's exactly what i did and twice as many hours same results no interviews no offers no nothing so i had to come up with a different system before you go into

Andrew Stotz 19:51
that tell me how you felt after that i mean you how did you you know what was your feeling when you started to probably doubt the advice you were getting you probably think am i doing this wrong you know and what what's going on how did you feel can you remember a particular day or particular moment though you started to feel like something's not right here

Austin Belcak 20:12
there's there are so many days and so many moments and i think that the toughest part about the job search is that our jobs and our i think you know our careers what we do for a living is so closely tied to all of our identities right you know when we look at the data people who lose their jobs are as emotionally and mentally affected as people who have lost you know a relative or you know a friend and and it's devastating right and so our jobs mean a lot to us like i love what i do i assume you love what you do right and somebody who's working in a specific corporate job that they enjoy you know they like what they do and so it's so important for us to find work that we enjoy doing that when you're suddenly told by all these companies you know no we take it so personally even though it's not you know it's usually you know that person just looked at 100 other resumes and yours was number 76 and you know they they press the no button but for us it feels really personal right so i felt frustrated on a number of levels one i felt a little betrayed by you know my family and friends and the people i was getting advice from because this clearly didn't seem to work i also felt betrayed by the fact that i invested you know all this money into college and that didn't seem to be delivering on the promise of i'd always have an opportunity right if i had a degree and then i felt sort of betrayed or you know left out by these companies and i didn't understand i thought it was me right what is wrong with me like what why why am i you know deficient when all these other people who have jobs you know seem to be seem to be okay and so there was so many of those moments and i think for me you know specifically the one that i remember was i did end up getting an interview not necessarily through the applications but through a sort of a friend of a friend if you will into another medical device sales company and they even came back and told me no and i was like i had to pull my car over to the side of the road on the highway i was like crying and punching my steering wheel and i could not like understand why i couldn't even get a job in the industry that i was in that i hated it so badly wanted to get out of and so there were those feelings that was a daily that was the worst one of the worst days but but you know we were pretty close to that on a near daily basis and so that's when i i figured you know this isn't working i have to do something else

Andrew Stotz 22:41
wow all right so how to tell us how it how it changed

Austin Belcak 22:46
so i had coffee with a you know i started looking at my alumni network and i was i was looking for people who you know were working at the places i wanted to work at pretty pretty loosely not very intentional and i found a guy who worked at uber and i got a coffee with him and he essentially said you know austin look like you're you were a bad student and you have a degree in biology and you work in medical device sales and you're telling me that you want to work in tech but you're taking advice from from all these people who have who have no affiliation with any part of that journey so you what you need to do is go find people who have already been down this path who have come from a similar background and who are now working in the places that you want to work so that was a massive lightbulb moment for me and and you know summed up in a more eloquent sense he is essentially saying you should only take advice from people who already have what you want so i went home and i wrote down a list of criteria and i said you know okay my dream job is going to be i'm going to be living in a major city like in new york or an la or maybe a bangkok you know i want to be working for a major tech company like a google or microsoft i want to be making six figures a year and i also want to be you know flexible with you know when and where i work so i took all those criteria and i went to linkedin and i tried to find people who not only met those criteria but who also had come from a non traditional background and i talked to as many of them as i possibly could and that was a life changing period for me because all of these people essentially blew the doors off the traditional job search process and said look you know i went through the same thing you went through it doesn't work here's what i did instead and so they essentially gave me a roadmap which was rooted in two core principles essentially none of those people had applied for the job that they had online they'd found some sort of referral or they built a relationship with somebody and then each one of them had gone above and beyond or found a creative way to illustrate their value and they didn't just rely on a resume or a cover letter so that with that in hand you know with those learnings in hand i basically set out to create my own system that was rooted in those two principles and that was the same system that led to my interviews and offers at google and microsoft and twitter but you had i had those conversations earlier and had i just looked at the data you know if we look at the data it's so clear that online applications are such a low your chances of success are so low versus referrals they make up 40 to 80% of hires and that data is everywhere but i think for me i was just so afraid of building relationships and networking like i was an introvert i still am but i've gotten better at doing the extrovert thing but i just didn't i felt so scared of talking to strangers and putting myself out there and but i had to do it right and so if i had just kind of swallowed that pill earlier and looked at the data and had some of these conversations i could have avoided you know not only hundreds of hours of online applications that led nowhere but also i could have gotten in these roles earlier and what we tend to see is essentially as is true with investing across the board right when you play the long game you know the earlier you can put $1 in your 401k the earlier you can put $1 into you know an etf or whatever it is the more time you let it sit you know that compound interest is worth so much more than $1 you invest 510 years later same is true for your base salary right the earlier you can get it bumped up and you know the more frequently you can get it bumped up you know you reset your baseline and those the compound interest of the salary you know kicks into place there and so i was lucky enough to overcome that that hurdle if you will by by getting a nice salary at microsoft but for the most part i think a lot of people are putting themselves in a position where they're behind the curve simply because they're sticking with the traditional process even though they know that it doesn't work

Andrew Stotz 26:36
okay so what lessons did you learn from this experience

Austin Belcak 26:40
the biggest ones are that you know really it comes down to if you're looking to elevate your career it comes down to networking and building relationships and the biggest lessons that i learned in there are one you know the big mistake that everybody makes is leading with what i call a me mindset so reaching out and just making a direct ask you know can you refer me into this job can you review my resume that's a pretty self centered move and it doesn't tend to work so when i took a step back and i said you know how can i add value to this person right they have so much and i don't really have anything to offer in terms of you know convincing them to help me how can i get creative here how can i add value to them so that this relationship can get started so when i focus on the other people and when i focus on adding value to them that's really when i was able to get in the door with a lot of these folks and then the second big lesson around that that sort of creative value add what i what i realized was that you know my resume my cover letter i was never going to be able to compete on those things because i didn't have the traditional experience so instead yeah i really stopped trying i had a resume and it was fine but i would say okay i'm applying to this company let me create a pitch deck that shows them exactly what i bring to the table so for google i put together a whole pitch deck that basically you know i it was it was a sample sales pitch deck because i was going for a sales role so people kept saying to me in that process i don't think you have enough experience and i said why don't you book a 30 minute meeting and i'll come in and pitch you as if you were a company that you know i would be pitching to if you hired me and that made my experience so much more clear and same at twitter when i was interviewing there this was back in 2015 so they hadn't quite figured out the monetization piece yet and their stock was not where it is now and so i drafted up five five ways that they could better monetize their existing audience without a massive investment on their side and that's what i brought with me it was just a one sheet and i brought it to my interviews and i sent it to people ahead of time and that helped me stand out because it was a direct you know illustration of what i can do and the way that i thought versus having to constantly defend my past and so the combination of those two things the referrals and then finding creative ways to showcase my value those are two major lessons that that 100% contributed to the success that i saw

Andrew Stotz 29:00
wow so let me maybe i'll summarize a few things that i took away from it i mean i want to tell a story about a guy a friend of mine here in bangkok his name's russell and russell had lived in thailand he was the american citizen and he came to thailand a little bit after i came i was already an analyst at a broker and my boss was a head of research and occasionally he met analysts but he was very very picky so he's not going to hire somebody you know straight off the street or something like that and russell had some experience in the us in investment banking but not really as an analyst where you got to dig and find ideas and recommend stocks to sell so russell i didn't know him from any i didn't know him at that time but he walked into the office and i saw he went into the conference room and then my boss went in and i knew by this time i figured it was a job interview and then my boss walked out russell walked out and i said how did that go and he says i hired him as like i never would have expected my boss who is a very, very even keeled kind of guy to just hire the guy. I said, Well, why did you hire him? He says, Well, he showed me his portfolio of 10. Stocks, he explained exactly why he owns each one. And then he spent the money to go out and get an audited report from Ernst and Young, of his performance in stock picking. And it was clear that this guy knows how to pick stocks and how to explain them. And that's the job of an analyst. So he's hired. And, you know, it's just the, I think that leads me into kind of another lesson that I learned from what you're talking about, I think that, you know, when you think about business, we have two things that we're trying to do. First, we're trying to exploit opportunities. We're trying to take our products or services relative to our peers, find a customer need, get that thing there and get to that opportunity before our competitors get there. So that's the kind of the aggressive way of business and then the other way is defensive, we're trying to solve problems. And you know, some people are good at exploiting opportunities, and some people are good at solving problems. So, you know, maybe you want to think about what it is that you are, but then why is this person want to hire you, they want to hire you, because you're either going to help them exploit an opportunity, or really do something more with it, or they're going to help you, you know, you are going to help them get out of trouble, you know, and fix a problem. So if you can go into it and say, here's how I can help you do this. That's exactly what they want. You know, they don't want to hear this than that. So I think that I, you know, when I look at people, and I look at hiring myself, that's what I want, can this person take my business forward? Now, there's a couple of other things, you know, the problem about applying online is that it's the typical marketplace problem. You know, if you want to create a course, online course, and you want to sell it on a marketplace, like Udemy, as an example, it's going straight down to $10. And now you're in a hyper competitive environment. Now, the only way you can really survive in that environment is that you really optimize for that system. And then you try to scale, you know, and get as many students from that system as possible. But the majority of people in our marketplace like that are just getting wiped out. And so what you're talking about is stepping out of the marketplace, and looking for other ways to get into it. And that's the other piece that I take away is this idea of traditional advice. And I have another story. I was in Hong Kong, and I was asked to give a speech about careers in finance and stuff. And I went through a bunch of stuff. And then at the end of it, someone came up to me and is a group of students around me. And this lady said, This young young girl said, I studied accounting, but I want to work in finance. But you know, someone says, you know, someone told me that it's hard to make that transition. And I said, Who told you? She said, Well, I, someone you know, Baba Baba, who? And why do you ever listen to them? If you want it, just go do it. And so that's the last part that I take away, is the idea of, you know, be very careful of traditional advice, there's some value there. You don't have to completely ignore it. But traditional advice will oftentimes get you traditional results. And if that's what you want, that's where you're going to get, but sometimes you've got to go outside of tradition. So those are some of the things I take away anything you'd add to that.

Austin Belcak 33:32
No, I really, really loved what you said. And I think you know, the best summary is, is just, you know, for anything that we want to do in life, it's all possible, right? You know, somebody out there has done it. And so it's really up to you to make it happen. But the problem is, a lot of times the things that we want most require us to do, things that we're scared of, and things that we're uncertain about, and things that we're unfamiliar with. And so the people who are willing to take action, in spite of that fear are the ones who tend to win out. And also the folks who are really good at understanding the system, and then rewriting the rules or, you know, stepping into a totally different field where they kind of own the whole field, right. And so if everybody's doing, I, one of my favorite quotes is from Twain and he said, you know, if you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's it's time to pause and reflect. And I think that's so true in anything that you're doing, you know, if everybody's, if everybody's buying GameStop, you know, maybe go look and say, Why is everybody doing this? What what are the intricacies of what's happening here? And do I then want to do the same thing? Is there another opportunity where with all this craze about GameStop, is there another opportunity that other people aren't seeing that I could potentially find or exploit? You know, this is true for investing. This is true for your career. This is true for business, like anything that you want to do. If everybody is doing something, one that only makes it harder for you to stand out. But then to that typically means that there are openings that other people are missing simply because they're either too scared to go down that path, or they're just, you know, happy to follow the herd. So if you can take that contrary, in mindset and and at least do your due diligence before, you know, jumping off the bridge with everybody else you're going to be, you're going to be finding a lot more opportunities. And you're going to also find, you know, that the path can get a little bit easier.

Andrew Stotz 35:23
You know, the great thing about doing podcasting in these types of interviews is I get to meet people like yourself, and it helps me, you know, I mean, now I know that listeners love listening in, but truthfully, it helps me, I do want to highlight an episode with Chris Reid, he was Episode 236. And he's the only CEO with a pink Mohawk. And it was him that really got me thinking about, you know, what is my uniqueness? And I challenged the listeners today to think about, you know, what is your pink Mohawk? What is your uniqueness? Because it's that that's the tool that's going to allow you to get out of the convention, and stand out compared to just being another person out there. And I gave male I decided that mine would be the worst podcast host. And the thing about it is I get emails, now I get messages on LinkedIn. And people say, Why do you call yourself the worst? And I said, because you wrote me. You know, you got to stand out in some way or another. So I think, you know, what I'm hearing from you is just following convention. It's just not going to get it. So I think for the listeners out there, think about, you know, how you can break out of that convention and come up with a different angle. So I really appreciate that. I love it. Yeah. So now, based upon what you've learned, you're an interesting interview, because you've developed solutions, as a business to the specific problem that you face. Not everybody's done that. So now you may have a different answer than a typical person would have to this question, but based upon what you learn from this story, and what you continue to learn what one action would you recommend our listeners take to avoid suffering the same fate?

Austin Belcak 37:19
I think it's simple. And in that action is Go Go reach out to one person who is already doing what you want to do. And then rinse and repeat that action every single day. So you're gonna email 365 people maybe, you know, take the weekends off, be nice 240 ish people you're gonna reach out to or whatever the number is, of those 240, you know, maybe 10%, I'll get back to you, but you're gonna connect with 25 or 30 people who are doing what you want to do, right? And those people are going to be the best mentors. And you don't need to have you don't need to ask this person to be your mentor, anything, just get on the phone with them. And you know, tell them, you know, hey, your background is so impressive for these specific reasons. And I'd love to ask you a couple questions, I'd love to learn more. And then you know, I'll do it over the over email, do it over the phone, make it easy for them, but if you can get in the habit of emailing people if you can understand the expectations that most of them won't reply, but also that the upside is you connect with some people who can really help you accelerate, that's really all that it takes. And the best part is you know, if you start today, networking is you know, best done over a long timeline right? And a lot of people come to me and they say Austin, I need a job in 60 days you know, what do I do is networking going to work? How do I build a relationship in 60 days and you know, there are some shortcuts and we can kind of make it happen but you know, the longer time horizon you give yourself the easier this will be and so if you get in that habit and you understand you know if you write down those criteria for yourself you know, I had my dream job criteria What are your criteria you know, if you're running a business or you want to run a business What does life look like when that business is successful? If you want a job what is what is life look like when you have that dream job you know, if you want to be you know a sub whatever it is three hour marathon runner what is life look like when when you're a sub three hour marathon runner and then go find people who meet those criteria and just talk to them about their experience and ask them questions people love to share advice and they love to be looked up to as a teacher or a mentor right and so that's value in and of itself and if you can find those people you were your your life is gonna change it truly well. I mean, that's how my life changed. I assume that you've reached out to plenty of people on your own Andrew and your life I mean, this podcast is is a testament to that so most people are just scared to send the email they're scared to get the no they're scared to not hear back they take it personally the same way I took the job search you know rejections personally, and I totally understand that but the reward is is so worth the risk. And once you realize that the risk is really nothing at all because sending an email and getting a no is the same situation is not sending the Till the end of the day, so once you realize that and you get a little more comfortable with it, that's, that's a life changing move.

Andrew Stotz 40:07
That's great, great advice. And I think also, you know, LinkedIn has been providing more and more tools like audio, and video. And so, recently, if I see people that I want to reach out to, I may just do a quick audio, or I may do a video and you if you do that, and it's thoughtful. And you know, as a, you know, something like, you know, I'm sitting here on my balcony in Bangkok, Thailand. I like what you do, you know, I read this post that you made, and I love the, you know, focus on quality or whatever, I'd love to, you know, get you on the show. And I find that, you know, I mean, how many times when you get an audio or video clip in LinkedIn, it's not that often that you just say, I'm not going to push it. I'm not going to see I'm not going to present you Oh, yeah. So you know, again, try to break free of the convention. So all right, last question, what's your number one goal for the next 12 months.

Austin Belcak 41:00
For me, it's really finding a little more balance. You know, as we talked about the last 567 years of my life, it really been, you know, a massive push to get to the goals that I had for myself, and, you know, initially that's working at a place like Microsoft, and then it becomes, you know, starting my own thing, and now we're here. And so, you know, I feel very lucky to have my business and it being at the level that it's at. And so something that I want to do is find some better balance around, you know, because something I've also realized through this is that once you check those boxes, you know, that's, that becomes your new norm, and all of a sudden, you know, the goalposts moving your expectations are reset. And so the happiness doesn't really come from you know, an extra however many dollars or getting that feature, or, you know, whatever it is, it really comes from other stuff. And so for me, that's, that's been a big focus over the next 12 months is understanding, okay, now that I do have my own business now that I only have one thing to focus on one calendar to manage, how can I use some of this time to find some balance, I'd love to read more, I brew my own beer at home and make my own hot sauce. So I want to do a little bit more of that, you know, spending more time with my wife and our friends, especially, you know, that's something that the pandemic has, has really brought to the forefront. So I want to find a little more balanced, I think, and get comfortable with, you know, the work that I'm putting in every day is enough. And I you know, you don't have to work 24 hours a day to have, you know, something that makes you happy. So that's the big focus for me, I think easier said than done, for sure. But, you know, taking it one day at a time.

Andrew Stotz 42:35
Well, we're looking forward to hearing about the more balanced awesome 12 months from now, and I'm sure we will. So listeners, there you have it. Before I end this. Actually Austin has been a very humble guest. When I asked him, you know, what one piece of advice would you recommend? He gave you his piece of advice, but I'm going to give you the piece of advice that really I think you should follow to is that go to cultivated culture.com because he's provided like solutions for this. And you know, the headline right here, as I'm looking at the sites is sick of applying for jobs online, land referral in 14 days with my free job referral toolkit. The point is, he has developed a lot of great tools. So I highly recommend that you go there. Well, there you have it another story of loss to keep you winning. My number one goal for the next 12 months is to help you my listeners to reduce risk in your life. So go to my worst investment ever. Todd calm right now and download the risk reduction checklist list that I've made, and see how you measure. As we conclude, Austin, I want to thank you again for coming on the show. And on behalf of a starts Academy. I hereby award you alumni status for turning your worst investment ever into your best teaching moment. Do you have any parting words for the audience?

Austin Belcak 44:01
I just really appreciate you having me Andrew, this was an awesome, awesome episode. I really like to I'm a big fan of sharing my failures as well as successes. And I do a lot of that on LinkedIn. So I'm just grateful for the time. But you mentioned you know, a couple of things. If anybody wants to listen to the podcast, it's a cultivated culture.com forward slash podcast. LinkedIn is where you can find me most days I post pretty much every day and that's really where I get to engage with a lot of the audience so feel free to follow along and connect with me there but outside of that I'm definitely take the risk assessment as well that you called out because i think that's that's super important for people to understand and I really appreciate you having me.

Andrew Stotz 44:38
It's been great having you on and that's a wrap on another great story to help us create, grow, and most importantly protect our well fellow risk takers. This is your worst podcast host Andrew Stotz saying. I'll see you on the upside.


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About the show & host, Andrew Stotz

Welcome to My Worst Investment Ever podcast hosted by Your Worst Podcast Host, Andrew Stotz, where you will hear stories of loss to keep you winning. In our community, we know that to win in investing you must take the risk, but to win big, you’ve got to reduce it.

Your Worst Podcast Host, Andrew Stotz, Ph.D., CFA, is also the CEO of A. Stotz Investment Research and A. Stotz Academy, which helps people create, grow, measure, and protect their wealth.

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