Episode 8: No Education? No Experience? No Problem! – with Austin Belcak of Cultivated Culture

Cultivated Culture founder Austin Belcak takes us through his process for identifying and acquiring the qualifications and experience needed to land just about any job, regardless of education or career background.

Today’s guest

Austin Belcak of Cultivated Culture

Website: Cultivated Culture

LinkedIn: Austin Belcak

Instagram: Cultivated Culture

Medium: Austin Belcak

Contact: austin@cultivatedculture.com

Austin graduated with a Biology degree before going to work in healthcare.  Which he hated.  He was putting 1,500 miles on his car a week, could barely afford to eat Ramen for breakfast, and was swimming in over $10,000 of credit card debt.

So he taught himself Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing and offered service as a freelancer, improving his skill set and applying to any and every job he could find.  Soon, he was interviewing with companies like Google, Uber, and Twitter before landing his dream job at Microsoft.

Austin founded Cultivated Culture to help people land the career of their dreams and make more money while they’re at it.

What you’ll learn in this episode

  • Why companies are reluctant to pay to train someone from scratch (and what you can do about it)
  • How you identify the skills you need, how you acquire them and how you turn them into real world results
  • Why you don’t necessarily need to go back to school to learn these skills
  • Why you should only take advice from people who already have what you want (and why LinkedIn is your best friend to do this)
  • The importance of not being “me-centric” when asking for advice
  • How to take advantage of the fact that people like to talk about themselves
  • The importance of taking action over doing research
  • How to learn all the information you need for less than $50 and then get paid to learn 
  • The definition of an “expert”
  • How to showcase your newly acquired skills
  • The difference between motivation and discipline, and which matters more

Resources mentioned in this episode

Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a small commission in the event that you make a purchase.  This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.

To see the resources recommended by all our guests, visit the Resources page.

Episode 8: No Education? No Experience? No Problem! - with Austin Belcak of Cultivated Culture

Austin Belcak
I think at first you just start applying for these jobs. And then you start getting the rejections and people are telling you don't have enough experience. And it's tough because you've built up this reputation in your current field and you know that if somebody would just give you a chance that you would be able to do this other job. But the problem is companies out there...

Jeremy Cline
This is Austin Belcak, who started out with a career in healthcare, but now has his dream job working for Microsoft. Having made the change, Austin realised that in fact he could help other people with similar career shifts. And now he's going to tell you how he did it. I'm Jeremy Cline. And this is Change Work Life.

Hello, and welcome to Change Work Life, the show that's all about helping you beat the Sunday evening blues. So I've been working now for about 18 years. And there are jobs now, which simply didn't exist when I was starting out. And frankly, I don't see that I've been working for that great length of time. But there are jobs now - especially in the tech industry - programmers, web developers and so on that, you know, these jobs and these careers just didn't really exist, at least not in the same way as when I started out. So what happens if I like the idea of doing one of these jobs? What happens if I want to become say, a web developer? Do I need to go back to college? Do I have to start over? Do I need to get into debt by pursuing another qualification? Well, my guest this week is Austin Belcak and he gives us the story about how he did just that - he moved from healthcare to working for Microsoft and his dream job in New York. Austin is also the founder of Cultivated Culture, which is a website where he helps people to get their dream jobs, even if it's in an area where they've got no qualifications or experience. And in this interview, Austin will share the process that you can use to do just what he did. Hi, Austin, welcome to the show.

Austin Belcak
Hey, Jeremy, thank you so much for having me.

Jeremy Cline
It's a pleasure. It's good to have you on. So for those who don't know you, can you start off by telling us a little bit about what it is that you do?

Austin Belcak
Definitely. So I have a couple big projects going on. First would be my full time job, which is at Microsoft in New York City. So I work in partnerships there. Then outside of that, I founded a company called Cultivating Culture.com, which is essentially a resource to help teach people how to land jobs they love without traditional experience, without prior connections, and without applying online. So I started that about three years ago and it was based out of my experience of changing industries, making a jump away from my traditional background into a brand new field, and ending up with interviews and offers from Google and Microsoft and Twitter. And I had a number of people come up and ask me how I did it. So I started Cultivating Culture about three years ago. And since then, we've had about 30,000 people come through the doors for the community and many thousands of them have gone on to land jobs they love at some of the world's biggest companies, the ones I mentioned before, you know - Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Apple, Deloitte, Goldman Sachs, ESPN, SpaceX - really across the board. So what I'm doing now, I'm basically spending my days at Microsoft, and I'm spending my nights trying to get as much value as I can out there for people who are looking to level up their career change industries, all that good stuff.

Jeremy Cline
Fantastic. So what were you doing before you moved to Microsoft?

Austin Belcak
Sure. So I was doing two things. When I graduated from university in the US here, I graduated with a degree in Biology, and I didn't have a whole lot of professional experience, and I had a job in healthcare. And so I wanted to make the jump from that field - from healthcare, from science, from medicine - to technology. But you know, it's not so easy to do that when you have no background. So one of the first things I did was teach myself digital marketing, essentially. And I really focused in on SEO, Search Engine Optimization, and SEM - search engine marketing. So if you go search for something on Google or whatever, and the ads show up, that's basically what we're talking about. So I taught myself, you know how to do that. And then I started freelancing my services. So I would find these small businesses in the US and I would kind of pitch them and eventually landed a couple of clients. And I leveraged that experience to get my first job in New York, which was an account manager job at a small company, small startup. And then I used the combination of that experience plus the experience of my own freelance work to get the job that I have today at Microsoft.

Jeremy Cline
And so what prompted you to go this direction in the first place, why sort of move out of healthcare and into technology?

Austin Belcak
Sure. So a number of reasons. I'd say the biggest reason overall, was the fact that I'd always wanted to be an entrepreneur, have my own business. And I saw the people who were doing that and also living the lifestyle that I wanted to live, were basically just experts in online marketing. So my whole ethos with Cultivated Culture - I don't take investors, I don't plan to take investors - my goal isn't to sell the company to somebody else, or a bigger entity. The whole goal is to have it be run by me and a team and provide as much value as we can for job seekers. And so in order to get there, I needed to gain the experience to get something like that - a website that nobody's ever heard of - off the ground. And so when I look to see where all these people who are doing cool things - where they had been and what they'd done, you know, a lot of them had either risen through the ranks at places like Google or Microsoft, or these tech companies, Facebook, Twitter - they aligned their full time job with what they wanted to do outside in terms of marketing. So I figured that I wanted to do the same thing. And I knew that that was my long term goal. But when I graduated from college, the first job I had was terrible. My boss did not treat me very well, putting it lightly. And on top of that, I was getting up super early, and I had to drive, you know, hundreds of miles to get to these hospitals, because my job was basically to be a backup sales representative or consultant in the operating room. So if we covered the span of two very large states in the US, and I was sort of in the middle, and if somebody at either end of the state called the night before and said, Hey, I'm sick, or I have to take my kid to this thing the next day, I can't make it can you cover, I would have to be up in time to be at the hospital by about six o'clock in the morning when surgery started. So I had about a two, two and a half hour drive, I was regularly regularly getting up at two, three in the morning, my boss was treating me terribly, and I was just not getting paid what I'd hoped. So I ended up racking up about $10,000 of credit card debt in the first couple of months. So that really galvanised and motivated me to try to make that jump as quickly as I could. And I figured you know, if I'm going to go for it, I might as well shoot for the moon. So I set my sights on like Google and Microsoft etc. And just worked towards it.

Jeremy Cline
So you mentioned wanting to become an entrepreneur, setting up your own site - and you said, you've done that, you've done some freelance work, you've done some work for some smaller companies - so would you say that you're still on that journey, and that Microsoft is part of that journey? I mean, how does working at Microsoft fit in with this desire to be an entrepreneur and have your own business and that sort of thing?

Austin Belcak
Sure. So I think the most valuable part of Microsoft is in terms of just strictly speaking about the entrepreneurial path, they're incredibly supportive. So they know all about the business that I run on the side, I post on LinkedIn almost every day or pretty regularly, and they're very supportive. If I get my stuff done, and all's well with the full time job, they are more than happy to let me do my thing on the side. I don't think that that's the case that most companies, so I feel incredibly lucky to do that. But then outside of that Microsoft has really opened my eyes to different people's career paths and journeys. The team that I work on now is the most diverse team that I've ever worked on, which is fantastic. And the people are awesome. They're all incredibly smart, we all push each other to be better. And so a lot of the lessons that I take from my full time job, are applied to the side business all the time. So I feel really, really lucky to be able to do both.

Jeremy Cline
Wow, that's fantastic. And I think you're right, I don't think there's many companies that would be so enlightened as to allow that. So that is absolutely fantastic. Let's talk about your your area of expertise, and how people can make these changes. So you've got someone who... they've been through college, university, whatever, they chosen a profession, and they've actually got pretty well established in it. They've been in it for 10 or 15 years, you know, you're starting to get pretty well established. If it was a law firm or accountancy firm, you're getting to a sort of a junior senior level - start to think about partnership, that sort of thing. But you're at a point where you're kind of looking ahead and thinking, I've been doing this for 10 or 15 years, I'm not sure I want to do it for the next 25 or 30. And so we'll assume that someone has started, you know, they've done done all their introspection, they've thought about their strengths and weaknesses, where they want to get to. And they have concluded that they want to do something completely different for whatever reason, maybe it fits in with their skill set. Maybe it fits in better with their lifestyle. Maybe it's something which didn't really exist at the time when they were starting down the road but now they're thinking, actually, now that's something I'd like to do. But they've got zero qualifications in that area, they've got zero experience in that field. How does someone like that think that they've got a chance to make this change and succeed without having to do tonnes more study, potentially having to get more debt if there's cost of tuition involved? How do you overcome all those sorts of obstacles of starting something from scratch?

Austin Belcak
For sure. So it's a great question, because I think the stat, at least in the US here - about 80% of people are currently working in a job that doesn't relate to their original field of study when they first went to university. So it sounds like a lot of people are making a shift like this at some point in their career. But when you're thinking about it, when you're starting out, it can seem incredibly overwhelming, because I think at first you just start applying for these jobs, and then you start getting the rejections and people are telling you you don't have enough experience. And it's tough because you've built up this reputation in your current field, and you know that if somebody would just give you a chance that you would be able to do this other job. But the problem is companies out there, don't want to pay to train somebody from scratch. Their hiring is the company's largest expense. But it's incredibly, incredibly expensive for companies to bring on and train a new person. So if you think about the cost to especially, if we're talking to somebody who's 10 to 15 years into their career, those people tend to be paid, you know, obviously much higher than entry level folks or younger folks. And so first, you're thinking about, okay, we need to hire some recruiters to go out there and source candidates. And then on top of that, we have to take people - it's hours of people's time, whether they are managing the hiring process, whether they're actually interviewing the person, whether they're sitting in a meeting to discuss candidates, you know, those hours add up, and they cost the company a lot of money, but then once we hire the person on the training is really resource intensive. So first off, the person coming on is not going to operate at 100% out of the gate, right, there's that ramp up period to take them from zero to, you know, hundred percent in terms of their ability to drive results. And so the company's losing money, versus somebody who would already be operating at 100% there. And you have all these people who take time away to train that person, etc. So my point is, it's really, really expensive to hire somebody. And so even if you know, the company, or the person feels like, hey, if we did give you a chance, maybe you'd be able to do it, that's not quite enough evidence for them to stake, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars to potentially take a chance on you. So if you're in this position where you want to change industries, essentially what you need to do is you need to figure out which skills you need to build, you need to go out there and build them. And then you need to turn those skills and the knowledge that you've built into real world results. And that last step is really key - because anybody can go out there and read a book, anybody can go out there and take a course, anybody can go out there and get a certification. And you can put that on your LinkedIn, you can put that on your resume. But that's not necessarily indicative of your ability to succeed. Especially with some of these courses that are out there today that aren't necessarily held at a, I guess we could call it like a traditional financial - sorry not financial - but traditional institution, like a college or university or whatever. There are no grades and things like that. So it's very hard - companies see a pass or fail, you took the course or you didn't, you read the book or you didn't. But as we all know, there's a spectrum of ability within people who take courses and perform jobs and professions and things like that. And so you need to show the person why you've learned already and why you're able to get these results. But that's totally possible to do without going back to school. I personally don't recommend, especially in the US here where tuition costs for something like an MBA are close to, if not more expensive than an undergraduate degree, you know, several hundred thousand dollars. And not only are you paying that out of pocket, but there's the swing of potentially losing your salary, if you let's say, leave your job to go get an MBA, you no longer have an income, you're also paying a couple hundred thousand dollars, that can sometimes be like a $3-400,000 swing. I personally don't recommend that because first of all, from what I've seen people coming out of those types of programmes that they don't necessarily learn the skills that will directly apply to the next role that they want. Now, don't get me wrong, if you want to become a lawyer, you have to go to law school, if you want to become a doctor, you have to go get your MD or your doctorate or whatever degree is required for that profession you want to do and and that is sort of an understanding that you need to go get that if you want to go into that career. But if you're looking to transition within the world of I would say you know, traditional business roles, so maybe HR to sales, or finance to marketing or marketing to sales, or even into a technical role, like a software developer or whatever, you absolutely don't need to go back to school to do that. And honestly, if you took even a fraction of the money that you pay to go back to school, and you put it towards some of these skills, you would be in much, much better shape because you're building those tangible results. So I actually have a specific framework that we can walk through for how people can approach this. It's the same one that I used myself. And it's the same one that I teach all the people that I coach and who come through my audience. But we can absolutely walk through that step by step.

Jeremy Cline
Yeah. I mean, you broadly described a sort of a three stage process, identifying the skills to build, building those skills, and then taking steps to ensure that the skills that you've built up are then recognised to employers. So yes, if your sort of step by step goes through those three stages are absolutely love to deep dive into those a little bit more.

Austin Belcak
Sure, absolutely. So one of the best pieces of advice I've ever gotten, actually came from my wife. But I think it was a big part of the reason I was able to make my career jump. Well before I met my wife, she kind of found the right words for it. But it's essentially to only take advice from people who already have what you want. So when I was going through my job search and transition and all that, I was taking advice from from people that we normally go to advice for - my parents, my friends, professors, career counsellors, online blogs, and articles with like career gurus and experts - but the problem was, most of them all said the same thing. So they told me, you know, tweak your resume, tweak your cover letter, apply online, rinse and repeat. But the major problem, and the reason I hit such a big roadblock was because those people had never done what I was trying to do, they'd never broken into an industry from a non traditional background, let alone get into a company like a Microsoft or Google, not to say they weren't successful in their own right, but they just never walked down that path. So their advice was based on their experience. So I needed to go find people who had actually broken into the roles that I wanted and came from a similar background. So that's the first step for anybody who is looking to make a career transition. And LinkedIn is your best friend. If you can go out there and you just type in the target role that you want - so let's say you know, you're in human resources, and you want to be a project manager, you can go to LinkedIn, and you can type in Project Manager. And if you have specific companies or a specific industry you're after, you can also filter for that. And then as soon as you hit search, LinkedIn is going to populate what you can effectively think of as a list of prospects. So every person on that list is somebody who is working in the role that you want. So they're going to have some good info. But you have to take another step, and actually look at those people's profiles and try to find the ones who have come from a non-traditional background. The jackpot would be - keeping or continuing with our example - if you could find somebody who came from HR and became a project manager, that person is going to have the absolute best info because they were where you are right now. And they have successfully made it to where you want to go. So that's step number one, then getting on the phone with that person, you know, you can just send them an email, you can send them a cold LinkedIn message and just say, you know, I really admire you for your ability to make this transition. I know, it couldn't have been easy. I'd love to learn more about how you did it, and the challenges you faced and all this good stuff. And then once you get them on the phone, you can talk to them about that. And you can say, you know, if you were starting over again, what three things would you prioritise? What books would you be reading? What courses would you be taking? How would you prioritise these skills? You know, there's so many out there that you need to learn? What order would you learn them in, and you can get all this info from somebody who's doing that thing right now. So they'll help you avoid mistakes, and they'll help you avoid wasting time. And they'll really give you a clear roadmap of where where you are now and where you need to go. So that's step one.

Jeremy Cline
And have you found that people are receptive to those sorts of requests, you know, sort of a random message from somebody you don't know on LinkedIn that people were happy to say 'yeah, sure'.

Austin Belcak
Yeah, so there's a key piece to that, which is essentially making the outreach about the other person. A big mistake that job seekers or career changers make is they, they they perform the outreach with their palm out, so to speak. So they say, Hey, I'm looking for a job in a new industry, or Hey, can you review my resume? Or can you refer me in? Or lot of this 'me-centric' ask, and that's not going to work. Because when a total stranger reaches out to you, and they're asking for something right off the bat, you're not going to be very inclined to help them. But if you reach out to these people, and you make the outreach about them, you say, Hey, your backgrounds, really impressive. I really admire what you did, your LinkedIn profile really stood out to me for x reasons. I'd love to have you tell your story, I'd love to learn more about your journey. If you make it about them, those people are really going to buy into it. And I see strong, strong response rates. That's exactly how I landed my roles. And that's the exact method that I teach the people that I coached and the response rates are high, if you take that sort of 'you first' approach.

Jeremy Cline
Is there ever a case for being able to offer these people something? I don't know what that would be? But I suppose coffee or something like that?

Austin Belcak
Well, absolutely. So if you can get them in person, coffee's great, buy them lunch - lunch can sometimes be a big investment - but even if it's over the phone... so I like the coffee example. And I always recommend you know, whether the person asked for it or not, you could send them like a $5 Starbucks card, or something similar, just a small token to say, Hey, thanks for taking half an hour to chat with me. I think that that's a fantastic way to continue the relationship and show that their time was valued. But there are a bunch of other different ways to kind of offer them something as well, you can think about who you can potentially introduce them to in your network, you can think about what you bring to the table that this person might be needing, if you do a little bit of research about them. But honestly, I think that in most cases, given if you're trying to move into a new field, the amount of leads that that you'll have just searching on LinkedIn are going to be massive. So I don't think you need to put in too too much effort just yet. On the second round, if you find that people that aren't responsive, and you really want to talk to them, maybe they're like the perfect person or whatever, then absolutely try to step it up, try to add more value, continue to follow up. But overall, if you just are polite, and you make it about the other person, you show genuine, authentic interest in them and their story, they'll be happy to talk and honestly just letting them tell their story for half an hour and then following up with questions, you're going to get all the info that you need, same as you would - actually probably better results than you would if you just said, Hey, can you review my resume? Or can you tell me how to do this?

Jeremy Cline
Hmm. And I guess, once you've lined up your appointment - whether it's on the phone, or a coffee, or whatever it is - you want to make it a one hit. So I guess there's a certain amount of planning in making sure that you get the information from them that you need. And you touched on that sort of saying, you know what skills you need and in what order do you do them and all that sort of thing?

Austin Belcak
Exactly. So you want to make sure that you have, you want to do some background research on them, you want to understand where they came from so you can show through your questions that you did some due diligence, you did some research - people really appreciate that. But then really, you want to get people talking about themselves, there's a lot of research that shows that people really, really enjoy talking about themselves on a biological level. So like pleasure centres in the brain are lighting up same as they do for, you know, a great meal or something like that. So it does go down to like a scientific molecular level, if you can get the other person to speak about themselves at length. So I usually aim to, to push the person to talk about themselves and their journey and all that for as long as I can. And then I try to spin the conversation back to me and and my needs. And that's when you can ask these questions, and the person will be a little bit more open, they'll be a little bit more warmed up. And you can say, you know, you were in my shoes - what advice would you have? What are the first couple of steps you take? What would you prioritise in terms of action items? What courses would you take? What books would you read? That's where you can start firing off some of these questions and getting that information. And the person will usually - if you've let them talk about themselves for a good amount of time - they'll use it be pretty receptive to answering those.

Jeremy Cline
Okay, so my next question was then going to be how you go about acquiring those skills. But it sounds like you're already a good chunk of the way there if you've actually asked specifically, what sorts of qualifications or courses or whatever you might need. So is that something where you really try and get as much detail as to which of these courses is the right one, I mean, if it's - I don't know - project management, I'm guessing there's probably thousands and thousands of qualifications or courses that you could do out there. So you, you'd really try and hone in on that with the person rather than trying to fight through that yourself?

Austin Belcak
Yeah, so I definitely think that the people will have the best information around that sort of stuff they'll be able to give you - if there are sometimes industry standard resources and tools that you can use, which are usually a good start - they'll be able to give you specifics, and help you not waste your time on things that aren't going to be relevant or aren't going to be helpful. That's one way to go about finding them, you can do some research online to see what courses are out there. And I mean, even simply going to a site like Udemi.com or Coursera - those sites have ratings, and you can read what other students got out of them. And you know, how they felt about the the overall, you know, experience taking the course. And I think a combination of that is probably your best bet. But the biggest mistake, or one of the big mistakes you can make is doing too much research and kind of putting off taking action. So I personally think I mean, if you go through a course and it's not for you, you can always stop one. But you can't, you know, if you keep pushing stuff off, you're never going to learn just by understanding what courses to take, you have to actually go out there and do it. So my my advice or my recommendation would be as soon as you know, the first couple people give you a pulse on something that sounds good - be it a course or a certification - just start diving in and continue having the conversations concurrently. And at that point, you know, once you've had, the more conversations you have the better idea, you'll have what you need to do, but the more relationships you'll build that will potentially benefit you. So I recommend starting that first, but then continuing it throughout this process. And then once you have an understanding of what you need to do next, and the roadmap, it's really just putting in the time to learn. So taking those courses, reading those books, and you can do a lot of this for free. You know, public libraries tend to have a lot of the books that will be mentioned. If not, you can usually find them online somewhere, something like thriftbooks.com will sell them to you secondhand for pennies on the dollar. Amazon's like used, pre-owned section usually has books for a penny, or $1. So you can find them there. A lot of these courses, like I mentioned before, like Udemi will have big sales. So they'll give you pretty much any course you want if you're a new user for 15 bucks, so you can get like a $500 course for 15 bucks. You can usually make this happen for less than $50 if you're smart and frugal about how you go about learning information. But that's mainly step two is building this foundational knowledge. And I usually recommend starting broad because you may think that you want to do something and then you start digging into the actual meat of it, you have these conversations, you start taking courses and you realise, oh, this isn't what I want to do. And so if you start with a, like a broad sweep of the ecosystem for your first course of your first book, you can get that sense of whether you like it or not. And then you can start going a level deeper. So you know, let's say for me, I transitioned into marketing. So I took an all out marketing course. And then I thought, well, the search engine thing sounds interesting, because you can get recurring traffic and you can get it for free. And it's not pay to play - you actually have to... like it's a puzzle that you kind of have to solve. So I sort of drilled down deeper into that, because it was interesting to me. But I also learned about all these other fields that I would not have known about had I not taken that course. So I definitely recommend starting with the top down approach. And this will probably take a couple of months to really get your foundational knowledge in a good spot. But that's sort of step two and that's the middle. The most important part is, as I mentioned before, taking that knowledge, taking those skills and turning it into real world results. And there's many, many ways to do this. One of my favourites that I always recommend which you can get away with for most fields, I'd say, but freelancing your skills. So if you're not really a salesperson, or if you don't know where to start on that - totally fine, you can go to a site like upwork.com. And Upwork is basically a freelance marketplace where people come and look for the skills that you have. So a lot of those leads are warm, you can have your profile on there, it's just a great way to get started. But essentially, the definition of an expert is somebody who knows more than the person they're speaking to.

Jeremy Cline
Yeah.

Austin Belcak
So when I started out, and I was doing digital ads or digital marketing, I came in and I was not even close to like an average digital marketer, or search engine marketing specialist, but I knew a lot more than the people who I was talking to who were running these small businesses who were in their 50s, or whatever. And digital wasn't - they weren't fluent in the language, so to speak - they didn't really know how to get out there. So I knew substantially more than they did. And I wasn't charging what the experts were charging. So I kind of struck a balance there. And the beauty of offering your services as a freelancer is you can get paid to learn, which is exactly what happened to me. So I started with a few clients for free. And I used those case studies to then sell into more clients for actual money. And then I kept raising my prices. And I effectively got paid to get this real experience that I could then put on my resume, I could say, Yeah, I have 10 clients and here are the results I've gotten for them, and I did all the selling and I managed the campaigns and I was the support person. And I was the accounting person, I did the whole thing. And that's real experience. Those are real results.

Jeremy Cline
So how do you get that first person or those first few clients to take a chance on you because even if you're offering them a huge discount or doing it for free, if someone you know, they're a small business owner, and they want advice on marketing, or they want a website built for them - how do you convince them to get you to do that work, if you don't have any portfolio or anything, anything you can point to other than this qualification you've got from Udemy, or Coursera, or whatever it might be?

Austin Belcak
Sure. So this ties in nicely to a strategy that I also recommend to all my job seekers, which is called like a value validation project. And it's essentially going out there and building something that shows what you bring to the table if the person were to invest in you. So typically, you know, if you're new at something and be it, you know, you're applying to a job, you don't have an experience in or you're trying to get freelance clients, the conversation is going to be a lot about your past and your lack of results and experience all this. So if you create something that basically shows them that you can do the job, you shift the conversation away from those doubts and those concerns and more towards the future. And that's really what you want to talk about. So when it comes to freelancing, you know, one of the best things you can do is go out there, and you have to get creative. But there are specific things like doing a competitive analysis is a great thing. That's something that I used to do. So there are a lot of free tools out there for search engine marketing, that will show which of your competitors are currently getting traffic from SEO or paying for SEM ads. And they'll show you how much they're spending and how many clicks they're getting. And so that makes it fairly easy for the marketer side of things because I can go to these people and say, Hey, four of your biggest competitors are all using paid ads, and you're not and you're losing out on all this traffic every month. So that's one way to do it. Another way is to do something to showcase your skills. So you know, if you're a software developer with no previous experience going out there and building an app is a great way to showcase your skills. Once you have something built, you can point to it. You know, if you're a graphic designer, and just starting to create designs, and maybe you just designed something new for fun. So if let's say you know that the new Sonic movie is coming out, and the studio got some pretty heavy backlash that Sonic was very poorly designed and kind of creepy. So maybe if you're trying to get into graphic design, you create a new design for Sonic and you say, you know, this is just for fun, but it's an illustration of my skills, and it's relevant and topical. So trying to find ways where you can build a portfolio or kind of showcase that you can do what you're saying you'll do, that's the best thing that you can possibly do. And then for a lot of these guys, if you do it for free, I mean, you can just start doing the job. So if you want get into - if you want to write content, or if you want to, again, be a web designer or something, if you want a client, you could create a mock up of their site, you could write an article for them, you could go and source leads for them, you could actually go do a little bit of the work and then show up and say, Hey, here are five leads, I can get you 500 more if you're if you want to work together, or here's a mock up for your site, it's half of the homepage, I'll do the other half if you want to work together, etc, etc - just getting creative about how you show your value to these people. And it's a snowball effect, but that you're going to have to put in some work to create this tiny snowball at first. But as you keep pushing it down the hill, it's going to gain momentum, it's going to get bigger. And before you know it, you're going to be you know, charging well beyond what you thought you did. And you're going to have this amazing portfolio and you're going to be able to make it happen.

Jeremy Cline
It sounds like it's not just being creative, but essentially being quite - how can I put it politely - taking the initiative being quite pushy, almost - you know, kind of identifying someone who you think you've got a skill and you could improve and you go up to them and say, 'Hey, I've already done this a little bit better than you, do want to talk about how I could do it much better for you?'

Austin Belcak
Yep.

Jeremy Cline
I can see that in itself is going to be a quite a struggle for people. So how do people overcome... I mean, maybe it's something we get more in the UK than in the US. But you know, we're all quite reserved, don't like blow our own trumpet. So how do you encourage people to get over that hurdle and actually start banging on those doors and ringing up these people and saying, hey, look at me, you've never heard of me, and I've never really started but I've done something and I can help you?

Austin Belcak
Sure. So one way is to reach out to us Americans who don't mind if you do that. Nothing wrong with that! But then that's another big reason why I mentioned that site upwork.com, because it takes a lot of that sales or need to sell out of the picture. Because I mean the whole thing with sales is there's the idea of the funnel, right, and the closer or the further they are down the funnel, and the closer they are to pulling the trigger, the more likely they are to pull the trigger or close the deal with you. And so a site like Upwork is, you know, people show up to Upwork because they know that there are freelancers who are willing to do a service for dollars, if they pay them. So the people showing up to that site are ready and willing to pay somebody to do what they need. So if you're on that site, and you know you have a portfolio with stuff you've created. So again, let's say that it's, you know, if you want to be in SEO and you haven't had a client, you could you could do an audit for a site, and maybe like export a PDF and share that with people. Again, if you want to be a graphic designer, or a web designer, whatever, you could create mockups, and you could add them to your portfolio, but you kind of flesh out your portfolio there. And then you go bid on jobs and you say, Hey, I can do this, you know, here's my experience, you give a little pitch and your hourly rate or whatever is right up there - and those leads are going to be warm. Because if I go to Upwork and type in content writer for careers, and all these people pop up, you know, I'm sitting here, I'm ready to hire somebody to write career related content for me. And now I have a list of people. So I'm much further down the funnel and much more likely to say yes, then I would be to somebody who just pitched me out of the blue, and is like, Hey, I heard you need content or looks like you might need content, you've never heard of me but here you go. So it just is why I always recommend that people start on a platform like Upwork if they're not comfortable with sales. But if you want to build that muscle or experience selling, which is always a great thing to have, you know, you can totally reach out to Americans who are more than happy to, to do stuff like that. Because at the end of the day, if you can target some of these smaller businesses, which is what I went after to, you don't need massive clients, you just need somebody who's willing to pay you a couple hundred bucks a month to do some of this stuff for them. And there are tonnes and tonnes of small businesses out there across the world who don't have the money to pay the experts or even sometimes the average guys. And so they're willing to take a chance on somebody who is easy to work with, communicative, promises results, who's half the price, you know - that's going to be your way in. You deliver on the service and like the client experience ahead of time, and then hopefully you get them signed on or you say, Hey, I'll do the first project for free and then we'll take it from there or whatever. And then at least you can build some of those results that then you can spin up into more of those paid deals.

Jeremy Cline
Does this work for every career change? Or is it principally technical ones? You've talked about SEO and that sort of thing. But to go back to one of your examples, you talked about moving from say marketing to HR - is this, you know, that sort of traditional non-tech kind of change - is this something that you can apply equally to that as well?

Austin Belcak
Yeah, definitely. So you know, if you want to break into HR or whatever there's a number of things you could do. There are also different parts of HR, but you could go, you can always go ask to shadow somebody. That's step one, especially with some of these people that you reach out to, and you talk to on the phone and you build relationships with. You can always ask to shadow them. You can try to, you can intern, if you will, and just kind of show up and volunteer some of your time and just say, Hey, you know, whatever it is that you need me to do, or I can help with, I'll help, I'll show up to the office after work or whatever it is. And that can be tough for some people because it can feel like kind of a blow. But again, the only way that these companies are going to take a chance on you is if you actually go in and put in the hours to get the experience. So however you need to do that, it's going to be worth it in the end when you make this switch that you're happy about. And again, it works across industries. Obviously, there are some, like we talked about before - if you want to become a lawyer, you have to go to law school, there's no real way around that, you know, if you want to become a managing director at a financial institution, you'll probably need to go get specific certifications, etc. So in those cases, you might not be able to get around it. But for a lot of these careers out there, there are ways for you to go build the experience, or at least you know, get in the room and see what's going on with some of these people, but you just have to be creative about it. And that comes from doing your research about the new industry, that comes from talking to people there, that comes from trying new things. Knowing that not everything you do is going to work out. And if you do all three of those things enough, and you're persistent and consistent about getting out there and putting in the time, you'll be able to make this transition. I mean, I've worked with people across industries and across positions from healthcare and HR to, you know, moving to finance or moving to marketing or moving into research in a lab, or, you know, if you can think of it, I mean, I've had that person in my community at this point with 30,000 plus, and they've all gone on to take this framework and make it happen, it really is just applying it to your specific situation, and understanding exactly what you need to do to showcase the experience and prove out that you can do the job in a way that the company will buy into.

Jeremy Cline
I guess, a couple of questions that I'll tie in together - one is an impossible question to answer because I'm sure it depends on the field, but how long this sort of process would take? And then tied in with that is how you do all this, when you've already got a life. I mean, if you're, if you've been in a job for 10 or 15 years, that much mature, there's going to be a much greater likelihood that you've got family, kids, mortgage. So how do you advise people to go about fitting all this around what they do or making that transition so that they are able to pay the bills? And that also, well, do people need a safety net of kind of gradually going into this? Or is it a case of right, okay, you can do this in six months, you quit work, and then in six months time, provided you've taken all these steps, you'll be able to get your dream job at Microsoft.

Austin Belcak
Yeah, so I never recommend that people leave their job before they have something else lined up. It's just not usually a good idea. And it ends up being much more stressful than you'd want it to be. Despite, you know, no matter how much money you have in the bank and all that. It usually doesn't end up well. Those are the the exceptions to the rule for the people who make it happen. But what I will say is, in terms of timeline, it takes a long time. This isn't like just going and finding a brand new job, because you have to build the experience on top of it. So for me, I did I freelance for... it took me about two months to get a foundation and then start pitching these companies. And then I freelanced for about six months before I moved up to New York. So it took me about eight months total to kind of make the switch on my end into the field that I wanted. And then it took me, you know, I worked at that company for another year plus, and then I made the jump to Microsoft. But a lot of the people I see again, it really depends on the person, it depends on the situation, it depends on what field you want to switch into. You know, I've had people who worked at this for two years before they were able to make a jump and I had somebody who actually just emailed me today that she used to work in Fine Arts and now she just got a job at a tech startup, working in like a sales/account management role, which is a big jump from where she was before in operations and a total industry change - and she made it happen in three and a half, four months. So it really depends. But what I will say is, it is a big time commitment. So at the end of the day, you know, whatever you have going on, if you want to make this switch, then you have to put in the time, there isn't really a shortcut. And that's a very personal decision. You know, how people want to do it. You mentioned, having family and kids and stuff like that, I think, you know, quitting your job and crossing your fingers that something will work out in six months when you have a family and kids and a mortgage is probably not the best advice. So again, I think no matter how hard it is, and how gruelling and all that trying to stick it out, while you still have a full-time job is very helpful. And then the amount of hours you put in is is really, well, is is the main lever in the process. So the more hours you put in, the faster it will happen. But you know, if you're unmarried, if you don't have kids, if you have a lot of free time, you can make this happen much faster than if you have three kids. And you know, you have a lot going on and all this other stuff. But the important thing is that you just put in the time. So if you can squeeze in half an hour, every day, great. If you can squeeze in for hours every day, great. You really just need to be consistent, because at the end of the day, if you're not happy with where you are now, one of the worst things you can do is just say, Well, I put in 15 years, so what's another 20 or another 15. And you're just going to be miserable. And every day, it's going to get worse. And I found that every single person I've talked to that's put in the time and made it happen to make the jump into a new industry said it was 100% worth it. You know, we spend so much time at work, we most of us spend more time at work than we do with our families, which is super unfortunate. And I know, we tend to have a little bit more of an issue in the US than you guys do with that. But you should love where you work, or you should be excited to go to work because we spend so much time there - it's such a big part of your life. So I think that, you know whether it takes you four months or two years, it's going to be a grind, but it's going to absolutely be worth it in the end.

Jeremy Cline
And I think you've answered my next question. Because I mean, we could probably do an entire session on on time management, but you know, you got someone who, you know, they're doing a job which means that they have to work 60, 70 hours a week plus, then weekends are taken up ferrying the kids between sports and other clubs and goodness knows what. And leaving aside the time management, my question was going to be, how would you stay motivated in that? And you've answered that to a point in that you've got to see what you can get at the end of it, I guess. But even so that's going to be hard when your time is limited to Okay, so I did have time to watch an hour of TV in the evening, and now I don't even have that. So how do you - what do you say to people in that position who just kind of like, I just, I'm gonna just have to give up the one hour a week I get to relax to do this?

Austin Belcak
Yeah, I think I'm not a big fan of the word motivation. Because I think motivation is, it's fleeting, you know, we can all get motivated on New Year's Day or maybe the day after New Year's Day to go to the gym. And we can all get motivated to start playing an instrument or learn a language or whatever. But motivation is what gets you started. And discipline is what lets you follow through and finish. So it really comes down to you know, if you want to lose 30 pounds, you have to basically count your calories and work out and you have to be disciplined about it. If you want to, you know, do anything in life, it's going to be easy to get started and you're going to read the articles and you're going to see the success stories and you're going to get all pumped up. But that fades away pretty quickly - that fades away after week two, after week three - and then it's just you and the work. And sometimes the finish line isn't in sight. And so it's really about the discipline at the end of the day, and if you're having trouble staying disciplined, I'd say, or getting motivated to keep going I mean, one of the best things you can do is constantly remind yourself of what's on the other side. So taking some time to sit down and just visualise you know, what would life be like if I was working at this company or in this new role? You know, what would I do? How would I feel? What specific things would be happening? Where would we live? How much money am I making, and going through that visualisation exercise can be helpful, because it sort of puts you back in that place of what this is all for. And then outside of that, I mean talking to people is really helpful too. Because sometimes you can feel very lonely, and you feel like nobody else, especially if you have - a lot of my friends, many of my friends actually work in finance. I think the four out of five of my best friends are all in finance, and they graduated from college with a finance degree and they've been in finance and that's been their whole thing. And so none of them really understood the career transition that I was making. None of them really understand the business that I'm running on the side now. And you just kind of have to get past that, you have to realise that not everybody is going to understand what you're going through. But if you can find people who do by talking to some of these folks who've been through it before, you'll find that you're not alone - you'll find different ways that these people handled that that they'll be able to help you with. And just having that support system can be really powerful. So that's where again, that first step ties in, throughout the process - continuing to reach out to people, continuing to build those relationships. You'll see that this is this is not just you, and it is possible to actually make it happen.

Jeremy Cline
Fantastic. Well, that's given people a lot to think about I think! That's great. Austin if people want to sort of dive into this stuff a bit more, what sort of resources did you find helped you through this process, or do you recommend to other people who come to your website and are looking to do something similar?

Austin Belcak
Yeah, sure. So for me, I think one of the biggest resources that I have found to be helpful, is in terms of like a community style, there's a site called Free Code Camp. And it's really focused on helping non-tech people learn how to code essentially so they can get a job as software engineers, but you don't necessarily have to be a coder to get value out of it. Because I think that something I love about this the era that we live in, and the fact that web development and software engineering is such an in demand skill set is that these people are coming from all different backgrounds, I think - there are doctors, there are sales people, their HR people, marketing, finance, across the board - they're all trying to break into this one field. And so if you ignore or if it's not relevant to focus on the actual like code and learning that, you're going to get a tonne of value, just focusing out of how these people are positioning themselves. What what kind of stories are they telling? How are they pitching themselves? How are they putting together some of these examples we talked about to showcase their value? And you can just transfer that knowledge? You know, if somebody is doing this for software development, how do you do it for marketing? How do you do it for HR? How do you do it to become a nurse? You'll get inspiration from just talking to these people. And then on top of it, there's a whole community of these folks who are going through the same thing you are maybe not the same industry or whatever, but they're going through the same sort of process and change. And I think a lot of those feelings and a lot of the stages are very similar. So you can find a great support system and they have a tonne of fantastic resources. They have a blog on Medium. They crank out content every day, and it's always high quality. It's one of my favourite places. So I would definitely recommend checking that out. Again, it's Free Code Camp is what it's called.

Jeremy Cline
Free Code Camp. Cool. I will definitely link to that in the show notes. And finally, where can people hook up with you find out a bit more information about you and what you do and get in touch?

Austin Belcak
Sure. So my website has a tonne of posts and a lot of the info we talked about with step by step processes and scripts and templates and resources. So that's cultivatedculture.com. And then I always create a podcast specific page. So I consolidate the five tips that have been most effective for my clients and my audience. And then I also have a free resume revamp course. So if you go to cultivatedculture.com/changework that will have all that stuff. It's 100%, free. And then finally, anybody who has any questions, you know, feel free to email me it's austin@cultivatedculture.com, I read all of them, I reply to all of them. So I'm happy to help just reference that that you're coming from the podcast here, and I'll make sure to get back to you.

Jeremy Cline
Fantastic. This has been absolutely amazing. So yeah, Austin, thank you so much.

Austin Belcak
No problem, Jeremy. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.

Jeremy Cline
Great, thanks. What I like about the process that Austin described is just how much it's really built on common sense. So to go back to one of the things he said early on - that we should take advice only from people who already have what we want - it makes perfect sense. But I'll bet that most of us when it comes to career advice in particular - we're going to go and ask our friends and our family what they think. There's nothing wrong with that except that these people, they can be well meaning, but their advice is going to be based on their own experiences. And those are going to be narrow experiences and probably won't include the information that we need for whatever we're looking to get out of our careers. Austin also didn't shy away from the fact that his process does involve work. But I love the fact that he brought it round to focusing on what ultimately you're looking to achieve. There's a reason why you want to make this shift. He's absolutely right about discipline being more important than motivation in terms of getting your groove going and just keeping at it, but it's the motivation, it's that fire inside, which really picks us back up when we're thinking about giving up. You'll find out links to Austin's website and his contact details, as well as all the resources he's mentioned on the show notes, which for this week's episode are at changeworklife.com/8. That's the figure eight, number eight, changeworklife.com/8 because this is episode eight. If you haven't already done so please, please leave a review on Apple podcasts or really wherever you subscribe for podcasts. It really does help other people find the show. We've got another great interview next week and I can't wait to see you then. Cheers. Bye.

+ Click to view entire transcript
- Click to collapse

Thank you for listening!

If you have any questions or comments, please fill out the form on the Contact page.

I would be so grateful if you’d: