On this episode, we chat with Melanie Feldman, a career coach and co-founder of Going Places who has built a successful career by landing roles at her top choice companies (i.e. Twitter, Uber) without ever applying for a single job. She shares the strategies she’s learned with us!
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[00:01:58] Now let's get this conversation started. On today's show, we're chatting with Melanie Feldman. Melanie is a career coach and co-founder of Going Places. She's built a successful career by landing roles at her top choice companies without ever applying for a single job. After her first role, she authored Bold: Get Noticed, Get Hired. A book that provides both inspirational stories and the techniques of people who set themselves apart to land their dream jobs. It is now used in college curriculum courses at Lehigh University and Carnegie Mellon University. In addition to her work as a career coach, Melanie is also still climbing the corporate ladder at one of Silicon Valley's top tech companies.
[00:02:45] You all know how I typically feel. The career coach conversation. I feel like I'm always talking about this and that's partially because I'm inundated with coaches and this conversation was different and unique for me. And I loved it because Melanie is coming from a completely different perspective.
[00:03:07] She has a skill set that she's learned along the way of actually thriving in her career and being able to go from top company to top company and learning some really key takeaways as to how you can make these strategic moves and not actually apply for a job. So I think you're gonna enjoy this chat.
[00:03:28] Let's get started with you telling us what your very first job was and what you were doing in that job?
[00:03:35] Absolutely, so my first job was at a company called Undertone, an advertising network in New York City. And I was a media coordinator to be honest. I didn't even know advertising networks existed I just watched mad men. So, I thought that's where I was getting myself into.
[00:03:52] Part of the reason that I wanted to chat with you I think you have an interesting story and journey because you are also a nine-to-five employee right now as well. And so share with us a little bit more about how you got into this career coaching space and how you're navigating your career right now?
[00:04:13] You know, what's funny is I never woke up one day or, you know, through college was like, I'm gonna be a career coach, it's actually, yeah, it's actually kind of funny how that started and I'll take it back. I graduated from college, almost 10 years ago now, and I flew back to Hawaii where I'm from. And I was like, okay, I'm gonna work in New York City. I'm gonna crush it. You know, I just felt like on top of the world.
[00:04:39] I was a finance and marketing major. I played a division one sport. I had three internships and I thought, okay, I have this in the bag. Mm-hmm. And I applied to a hundred jobs a day only to get automated responses saying, no, thank you. And I just remember these like pain points probably around three months in.
[00:04:58] And I remember my mom just being like, how can I help you? Like, do you wanna go to Barnes and Noble and find a book or something? You know, it was like, yeah, I just, I realized like, did I ever learn how to apply for a job in college?
[00:05:11] Like, I don't think so. And so I'm completely struggling. And four months in, at this point, I catch a webinar on LinkedIn by Louis House. He said I challenge you to reach out to someone you never think you can get in touch with. And I was like, okay, you know, I never really thought about this.
[00:05:29] I've just been applying for a million jobs. And I ended up cold reaching out to a sportscaster at ESPN because I was like, okay, I wanna work at ESPN. I played a sport and I was a business major. So that's the only company I wanna work at, which who knows why I was thinking that now, but it's that mentality when you get outta college, you no clue what you wanna do.
[00:05:50] And I sent that email off, put 25 different emails attached to it, and didn't think anything. Cuz I had no idea what his email was and I was like, okay, Neil dot Everett and Everett, like I just threw it out there. And nothing happened. And I was like, okay, I'll pause on that.
[00:06:05] I didn't expect anything. But at the same time, I started just thinking, wow, maybe I should. I mean, I have to change something up at this point, applying online, isn't doing anything. And so I started just messaging so many people on LinkedIn, and through email and trying to leverage any part of my network I possibly could.
[00:06:24] And the funny part, Ahyiana is I got every interview I ever wanted from every single job that I had on my list. I was like, oh my gosh, I was the same person, no one ever responded to any of the resumes I had sent out. And all of a sudden I'm getting responses, which was crazy.
[00:06:41] Meanwhile, one month later, Neil Everett calls my phone and he's like, how did you get my email address? I was like, Neil, don't worry about it. But so the funny part was he got on a call with me and the next day I had an interview at ESPN. Was that interview a result of that phone call?
[00:06:56] Yeah. So I said, Neil, I, we just, we hit it off on, on the phone. I was telling him, you know, I'm from Hawaii, you worked in Hawaii. And he was like, all right, what, what do you want from me? And I was like, all right, well, can I get an interview? And, and he called the HR department and he got me an interview the next day and everything after that changed for me, because, you know, I just realized it's all about human connection and no one teaches you that in college.
[00:07:23] Long story short, I ended up getting a job in New York City. So I ended up cold emailing the CEO's assistant. She got me an interview. One week later, I'm flying from Hawaii to New York city, starting an advertising, knew nothing about the space or anything.
[00:07:38] And, what really interest me was, did everyone else land their jobs like this? And I, I was so curious and so I ended up writing a book called Bold: Get Noticed, Get Hired, which was a complete interview series of like 30 people around the world who I thought did really cool things and I was interested how you landed your first job.
[00:07:57] So mm-hmm, that, that was a really interesting start to just being in the space and, you know, naturally I was speaking a lot of colleges after I had launched my book and I would just get message after message from college students saying, can you help me with my job? Can you help me land a job? And I realized that gave me a ton of energy to help people navigate their careers. And so long story short somehow I fell into the space and it's something I just absolutely enjoy.
[00:08:23] It seems like you were crafty with trying to figure out what Neil's email address was. Mm-hmm and you were also crafty with probably seeing that there was a job posting available at this advertising agency and then going after the assistant because they're usually the gatekeepers.
[00:08:39] Is there something that typically comes up for you when you are recommending for people to take certain actions or certain steps when they're trying to get their foot in the door without a resume?
[00:08:50] Absolutely. So I think there's a few things. One, in particular, is this mentality of asking people for things, you know, I don't know about you, but for me, it's like I get a lot of LinkedIn messages where people are just asking me to do things and I've never even met them before.
[00:09:07] Yep. And it's one of those things where like, yes, you're gonna carve out time to help people, of course, but it's this weird offputing thing when someone's asking for something and you've never met them. I think the first thing that I try to train people on in terms of a mentality, especially from a young age, like, even in high school is don't ask people for things when you're creating a network and you're building a network from scratch, which, you know, is the core to getting referred into a company and, and getting your foot in the door.
[00:09:35] It's about how can you do research on that person and add value. And the only real ask is can I have 20 minutes to talk about you and ask you some specific questions that I have because I find your background so interesting and so inspirational. And so I try to get people out of this mentality of, hi, can you refer me to this company?
[00:09:56] you know, mm-hmm, it's like, it just feels a little off-putting and I don't think they get the results that you want. And so, yeah, that's the first thing I usually talk to people about is like, we're gonna build this from the ground up and mm-hmm you never are gonna ask people for things, even, if you wanna get introduced to someone, you're gonna write that introduction so all they have to do is press one button to send it off.
[00:10:16] So tell us, how did you get your current position? We know that you are doing other work you're employed outside of the career coaching work that you do. How did you land this position?
[00:10:29] Yeah, absolutely. So for one, all of the jobs that I've ever had in the advertising space, I've never actually applied online. I really believe like landing your first job is, is the toughest because it's, it's so competitive.
[00:10:42] And so mm-hmm for me, it's really been about. Doing the best work I possibly can. And, creating a network around me and, and always having conversations with people and always asking about them and learning about them because ultimately that's how I've gotten every job. It's, you know, we started at one company, people left to other companies and they're like, oh, there's an open role at their company.
[00:11:04] And they're like, oh wow. Melanie would be a really good fit for that because I, you know, I try to put my head down and, and show that I do quality work because. At the end of the day, your network is, is what you have. And, and so you want people to see you in the best light. So yeah, it was, it was through my network.
[00:11:21] It was someone that I had worked with previously who reached out to me and said, Hey Melanie, are you interested in this role? I think it'd be a perfect fit. And I was like, all right. Yeah.
[00:11:31] So in the book, Bold: Get Notice, Get Hired. What did you figure out? Was there a common theme that you were able to come up with or was there anything surprising that you figured out from speaking to the people that you spoke to for the book?
[00:11:46] It was really interesting because I chose people with all different backgrounds. It was people who were engineers and in advertising. And, you know, I tried to really pick different industries and what I realized were two things. So one, not everyone is extroverted. A lot of people aren't extroverted and, and don't feel comfortable like reaching out and having tons of conversations.
[00:12:08] One thing was everyone kind of figured out what their passion was and what gives them energy. And they honed in on that to then focus on that as they were getting creative with, with how they got discovered. And, and like, what I mean by that is. Some people coded websites. And so that was like, you know, they made these cool websites to put their resume on and like showcase it
[00:12:29] One girl loved Legos. And so she created this amazing Lego of the logo of the company and shipped it over to them and was like, can I have a call? Like, will I get an interview? It was just interesting. It was like, you don't have to be good at one specific thing, but everyone's generally interested in something. And it's like, mm-hmm how can you turn that something into something that helps you stand out? And the other piece was, and this is something I speak about a lot and it's, it's the elimination of fear of rejection. All of these people when I talked to them and I heard their story you could easily have said, are you embarrassed to do what you did? Like there were guys standing with a, a desk on wall street and, and was handing out his resumes like a lemonade stand and, and everyone could have easily said, are you embarrassed to do these things? And no one would ever say that because they're all really successful now.
[00:13:20] And so I, I realized they removed that fear of rejection and they just went with it and they didn't care what anyone else thought. And every single person I interviewed had that commonality. And so it made me really think a lot about that. And I was like, wow. If, if I wanna be successful, if anyone wants to be successful, you really have to, you know, come straight up with rejection and say, I'm okay with it.
[00:13:43] Rejection is definitely a big thing. And I think it holds so many people back. Is there anything that you can think of that maybe somebody can do to get themselves more comfortable with rejection?
[00:13:58] So one of my favorite quotes is you can ask a hundred people out on a date and if you get 99 nos, that means you have a date it's like, okay, you got 99 nos, but you have a date and you're excited, right. Cuz you have a date. And so I always say like, it's so easy to look back and say, oh, I'm so glad that didn't work out cuz I wouldn't be here or, you know, really think of rejection as redirection later on mm-hmm. But if you can, like in the moment, which is so hard to do, it's like I have to remind myself of this all the time, because life is just a series of rejections.
[00:14:35] It starts really young. Right? And it's like everything it's like asking someone to prom, getting into college, getting in a friend group. You're just being rejected. One thing after another, and the sooner you can come to realize that the if the worst thing that's gonna happen is a no. And you're like, all right, well, I guess I'm okay with that. All of a sudden, it's like this weird lift off your chest and you're like, all right, what's stopping me? And I, I feel like so many people fall short of what they can do because they're so scared to fail. And, you know, I talk with a lot of parents of students in high school, and I say, be that support system for your kid while they're going through that, push them to fail. So they get used to it, you know, and I think the earlier we can start failing the better we're gonna be as we get older and grow into our careers.
[00:15:26] Can you think back to a time where you had to make a difficult decision in your career and what was that?
[00:15:33] So I worked at Twitter three companies ago now. Yeah. And I was you know, on the sales team and I had this just amazing job. And I loved who I worked with. And one of my clients actually, which was a small startup of probably around 20 people. I, I was working with them for over two years and they had finally come to me and said, do you wanna come over here and you know, kind of lead our brand sales? Mm. And I thought I have the most stable job. I absolutely love my company. I feel so secure. I have the best friend group here. Why would I ever leave that? Mm-hmm, I usually rely on my gut to make most decisions. In the sense of, I get that feeling and if I doubt myself, I usually just overthink it.
[00:16:18] And so, okay. This one took a really long time because mm-hmm I had to think through it and I ended up. Making the jump. And I went to a startup which is funny. They actually, this year got acquired by Twitter. So it was almost this circle situation. But you know, I was completely out of my comfort zone.
[00:16:35] I remember I just showed up the first day and there was just a box on my desk and it was the computer and they were like, Okay. Go. I'm like no big HR orientation, no big, no packet. But, you know, what, if I never made that move, I don't think I would be where I'm at today in my career or.
[00:16:53] I think it's important to get outside your comfort zone and do things that might not always feel safe. Mm-hmm because that's how you grow and get better. And the exposure I had at that, that startup, which grew so quickly transformed my career. And I'm so thankful that I went with that and felt so uncomfortable in that situation to make that move
[00:18:29] Has there ever been a time where you thought to yourself? I need to step it up. And if so, what did you then do? Yeah, that's a, that's a great question. I'm trying to think because it, it generally happens very often for me. I'm trying to think because you know, it's funny because you say like that, that generally happens very often for you, but I'm sure somebody listening to this is like, Oh, my gosh, she worked at Twitter, she worked in advertising.
[00:18:54] She, you know what I mean, for somebody, your career trajectory is probably their dream, right? So when you are thinking about like telling yourself to step it up, like maybe it's not even about a specific instance, maybe it's just about how you approach life in your career. That keeps you jumping from one big gig if you will, to the next.
[00:19:18] Yeah, no. And you know what, as you're saying that it really makes me think about things because, so like you said, right, you're like someone would see a Twitter on a resume, see these different companies and say, wow, that's my dream job. And I think for me like when I think about stepping it up like 10 years into my career, it becomes more about how could I do more things that give me energy and make me feel good in my day-to-day than less, you know?
[00:19:43] So if I can feel 50% of that more than 50% of my day doing things that I enjoy and just, and usually those are the things that I check off my list first. Right. Because it's easy. I, I get it done. And then, you know, they have those items on the list that I never get done because I don't love them. And, and for me, like stepping it up really is in that sense, because it's how can I grow my career? How can I keep moving forward? So my life eventually is just made up of more and more of those things. And, and I just think it's funny that you cuz you were talking about dream job and I think it's so easy for people to think like. Oh, this name company, I need to do this.
[00:20:20] It's gonna be my dream job. Mm-hmm and then you get there and you're like, wait, why did I think that again? no, it's just like, what, what about this? My dream job. Yeah. So, you know, I think for me, it's like, I enjoy helping people grow their careers. That's something that like, I, wake up outta bed and I'm like, oh my gosh, I can't wait to do that.
[00:20:42] And you know, I incorporate that in my nine to five. I incorporate that in going places and it's like, you know, I know I love working with clients and, and doing those types of things. I, I usually challenge myself and like I, every so often, probably every six months, I, I put a list together of what's giving me energy now and what's draining me.
[00:21:04] And then I try to focus on, on how do I do more of the energy piece. And it's, I think it's important for people to identify that every six months because your life changes so quickly and yeah. You know, what, what would be on my list 10 years ago is very different now.
[00:21:20] Right? You just made me think of something in terms of the work that you do nine to five with relation to the work with going places.
[00:21:31] How does the work that you do when you're nine to five impact or maybe how has it aligned with the work that you're doing with going places? It sounds like you work with clients on both sides. So is there any crossover, is there anything maybe in your nine to five that helped set you up for the work that you do with going places?
[00:21:54] Yeah. So, and I might take this in a slightly different direction because I have this, this thought around it and it's, mm-hmm, in college, you can only think about what you wanna do, and then you get your feet wet and you're in the company and you start getting experience.
[00:22:08] And I think the piece that I realize, which helps me quote, unquote, coach people through their careers and help them navigate and, and all that is. I actually realized how companies actually hire and what that process looks like. Mm-hmm and, and it was something that I think I did, I don't ever remember learning.
[00:22:28] I didn't know. And you know, I've hired people at companies that I've worked at. I've been on that side of the, of the curtain and it, I think what's so interesting to me. And I don't know if you feel this way too, Ahyiana. But you're, you're led to believe when you're in college and when you're graduating, mm-hmm that if you get your four-year degree and you send your resume through, you know, online mm-hmm you have this fighting chance. Mm-hmm and there's a chance that someone's gonna see you. Yeah. And I only learned that it wasn't the case when I got jobs and when I was in the workforce and I was hiring people. And what I realized and this is something I try to educate people on.
[00:23:06] This is why I feel like I really connect with people as I'm helping them navigate and inspiring them to, you know, hand the job that they want is actually it doesn't work like that. Mm-hmm and the way it works is there's an open rule that manager sends an email out to everyone and says, Hey, you know, do you have a great candidate for this role?
[00:23:28] Send me referrals, send me referrals. Mm-hmm and everyone sends 'em through because. One, you know, you wanna send good people through, but two there's an incentive bonus for that. Every company does it, right? Yeah. You know, you, you make what you can make like $20,000 at some companies. I'm sure it's not like that everywhere, but you can make a lot of money if you get a candidate hired mm-hmm and then the, the manager gets this massive stack of resumes on their desk.
[00:23:53] And then all of a sudden they're doing interviews. And then, you know, maybe a week later, the job's posted online. And, and so what I realized is there's this issue, right? So one, if you apply online, you're competing against thousands of people. And if you right happen to be seen, if your resume lands in front of someone, you're behind the ball, because you're competing against people who have had multiple interviews and they've been referred mm-hmm And so I think for me, what excites me outside of just like what I do in my, you know, in advertising and all that is. I wanna teach people that you're not just worthless because you're not hearing back.
[00:24:33] You're actually never seen. And I think, you know, part of building a more diverse and inclusive workforce amongst all companies, it starts by creating that, that pool of candidates through referrals and. And I, and so I try to teach people, you know, if you wanna get your resume in front of someone, you need to build that network from scratch, develop rapport with people, to the point where they're incentivizing, they're gonna wanna refer you in.
[00:25:01] Sometimes with referrals, it can create this environment where everyone's the same because they're all referring their friends and yeah. You know, and, and so that's, one of my missions is like, I want people to learn how to navigate this and know that this is how it works. Mm-hmm so then that way they can, they can start this early in college. You're starting to build that network because, you know, you need that golden ticket for someone to like, hand your resume over.
[00:25:26] Has there been any advice or helpful business tips that you've received throughout your career that may be stuck with you? Yeah, there's a couple things. Actually, my old manager gave this to me when it comes to you're actually in the job.
[00:25:40] And I, I just always remember this advice and she said if you ever want. You know, a promotion or a raise mm-hmm, package it up like a birthday gift and send it to your manager with a bow on it, you know, wrapped up and, and it, this, this advice kind of clicked for me because I realized when, when you're looking to do something like grow your career within your company and get a promotion or, or grow.
[00:26:06] You know, your manager's working with so many different people and it's actually a lot of work to to help them get a promotion and, and to get a raise. And there's probably a lot of paperwork involved with that. And so one, you know, it made, it clicked for me when I was like, oh, okay.
[00:26:19] Like, if I want this, I need to find out how they are submitting this and I need to basically submit it for them. And so it, it was interesting cuz I was like, oh, I've never asked the manager what the process was like, you know? Right. to get a raise, like what do you have to do? What's the heavy lifting mm-hmm and then the second piece to that advice was.
[00:26:40] Have your manager work with you on the process six months before. So, most people go into a review and they're like, Hey, like, you know, I, I wanna raise and it's probably already been decided at that point. And I think it's important to have your manager be on your team and say, listen, this is what I'm trying to achieve.
[00:26:58] How can I get there and then asking questions, like, what is the submission process on your end? Like how can I do some that heavy lifting? So it, it was an interesting, you know, just advice and I, I try to like teach people this as well as like, it's good to ask those questions early on to figure out what your manager has to do. Mm-hmm so you can do as much of that as possible.
[00:27:18] Let's talk a little bit about negotiating a salary increase. Now you have the job. Everybody is working from home or let's say a lot of people are working from home and there is this connotation. I feel like with working from home, it's more lax. You have more free time.
[00:27:38] Maybe you're not working as hard. And so there may be people out there think. Well, am I in a position to ask for a raise I've been working from home. I have all this flexibility that I didn't have before, so they might not feel like they have sort of like a leg to stand on, to be able to ask for a raise. What are your thoughts about that? And thoughts about negotiating a salary increase, especially in these times.
[00:28:05] I never felt like I could negotiate. And this was so much of my career. I, I, and I, I realized this, talking to my coworkers that, you know, one day I, you know, you develop rapport with your coworkers.
[00:28:16] And I had the, one of the guys was the same exact position with the same exact years of experience as me. And I asked him, you know, I was like, okay, let's just tell each other what we make. And he made $10,000 more than me. Oh. And I was, yeah. And I was like, how did you get that? And he's like, I, I asked, I asked mm-hmm I asked mm-hmm and I thought back and I go, I never even asked.
[00:28:38] So I, I launched a course called get hired and, and one of the, the last chapter of my course is salary negotiation. And I, I built that program because I hate negotiating and I wanted to discover how to negotiate properly and how to get what you want, not even get what you want, get what you're worth, get, what your value is because mm-hmm, that that's a difference.
[00:28:59] So, so my thoughts on negotiating, first of all, is you have to take the emotion out of it. And if you can remove emotion and it's all driven by research and almost like presenting a case, you're gonna be so much more successful. And this could be negotiating your salary, you know, to start a job or negotiating a raise mm-hmm it has nothing to do with what you want.
[00:29:22] It has nothing to do with what you think, you know, this is what my coworkers are making or whatever. it's about presenting your case in, in a very, you know, quantitative form to show here's the value that I'm bringing. Here's the research that I've done in the market. So I think it's important. There's a lot of resources out there.
[00:29:40] You know, you can look on Glassdoor and, and different places to figure out what are people making with my years of experience, in my location, in this industry. And I, and so I say, you know, do your research. Ask your peers who are similar years of experience and ask them to give you a range, you know, of like if they have a similar job or what they're doing.
[00:30:03] And so have one piece of that is this is my value and here's, here's the research to back it up here, here are the numbers. And then I think there's this other piece. So when you're working at a company, it's, you know, it's so easy to lose track of the work that you're doing over a certain period of time.
[00:30:22] you know, you, you might have a review session every year and you're mm-hmm. And so I always tell people, you know, keep a notepad on your computer that it's keeping track of your wins. But all in the form of, you know, what your manager cares about in terms of like, if you're on the sales side, how are you adding revenue to the company?
[00:30:41] Like, what are you bringing in and, and really capturing that to show. So when you're building your case out, it's not about, you know, working from home, it's not about a pandemic. It's about, here's the value that I should be making based on my research. And here is everything I've brought to the table and here are all the numbers behind it.
[00:31:00] Here you go hand, hand-delivered with a bow on it. And, and, you know, I think part of that too. So when you're working at a company, not only having that piece but like starting the conversation early is really important. Mm-hmm because there's a lot that goes into getting a raise outside of just having a conversation.
[00:31:18] And, you know, sometimes your manager has to find the funds and that takes months, but the one piece for me is always taking the emotion out because I would go to the table and I. Be so nervous. And I would almost tear up when I was mm-hmm trying to ask for what I wanted. And and then when I started just using numbers and, and almost making it like a case study, it was like, oh, that was easy because it's not emotional.
[00:31:41] So speaking of getting what you deserve and what you want, what does success mean or look like for you?
[00:31:49] So two years ago I was doing a lot of career coaching. You know, consulting, you know, people would hire me by the hour and I would coach them and I have a partner for my business going places.
[00:31:59] And, and she would do, the resumes and cover letters and everything. And I would do all everything else. Cause we, we have, different skill sets and we realized that we actually weren't getting energy from that because. We were helping only people of privilege, only people that could afford us, we couldn't scale.
[00:32:13] So we reframed everything. That's why we launched our course was because we wanted to actually work with younger audiences, like very much emerging young professionals. Mm-hmm. Success is me getting to have conversations, get people aware of how companies hire and, and help them figure out a pathway to, landing their job. Every time I have a conversation with someone who's in college or trying to find their first job or navigating I always just get off the call and I feel like I, I just feel like my tank is full and, and I just feel amazing.
[00:32:45] And, and what I've learned over the years is it's less about money for me. It's more about how can I do more of that because mm-hmm, it, you know, at a certain point it's like If I'm creating my day around things that give me energy and, and fill my tank. I'm so much happier and it has nothing to do with money.
[00:33:06] And so the more I can do of that into my life, the the more successful I would deem myself and, yeah, that's what I would say to that.
[00:33:14] Thank you so much, Melanie, for sharing some of your insights with us, you definitely gave me some light bulb moments. If everybody wants to look more into potentially working with you or follow your career or connect with you, maybe on LinkedIn, but not ask you for something how can they find you and keep up with you?
[00:33:33] So our website is YouAreGoingPlaces.com and our handle on social, @asyougoplaces, I would say follow us on social media because we try to put tons of career trips out there. And then, yeah, we, you can contact us through our website and book coaching sessions and, and buy our course on there.
[00:33:49] But thank you so much. It's been such a pleasure speaking with you and I I've followed this podcast very closely and absolutely enjoyed and, and, and very inspired by the yourself and the people that you, I. Thank you so much, Melanie, as always. You guys be good.