A year and a half ago, Paula and I met for drinks. She was an immigrant from Brazil who had made her way to the US and was working at an SEO agency. The work was OK, but Paula didn't feel like her work truly made a difference in people's live. She wanted to work at a company that prioritized tackling humanitarian issues as well as profitability and she felt stuck.
After we met, Paula went out and flawless executed the Dream Job System strategy to land her dream job at a company that sold water bottles and, for every bottle sold, provided 5 years of clean water to people in developing countries. She began by reaching out to the CEO, landing a meeting, and continued to build the relationship over the next few months (more on this in the interview). When she mentioned that she was looking for opportunities, the CEO hired her before she had a chance to look anywhere else.
Paula worked at this company for a few months before taking her first vacation. When she got home, she found an email from her boss that said “we need to talk.” The startup was having funding issues and the CEO was laying off the entire workforce. Paula's last day was 3 days later.
While the situation was stressful, Paula already knew what she had to do. She took the same strategies she used to land her previous job to get her name out there and land a job as a Director of Marketing less than 3 weeks later. In this interview Paula walks through her entire job search journey, including:
+ The social media strategy Paula used to identify her dream company and make sure it met her specific criteria
+ The exact strategy she used to meet the CEO of that company and build the relationship (Paula talks about the mediums she used to stay in touch, how often she reached out, and ideas to keep the conversation going)
+ The Value Validation Project that landed Paula the job (as well as how she identified the pain point and what type of project she created)
+ How it felt to be laid off without any warning and how Paula shifted her mindset to attack her new job search
+ A walkthrough of the 17 days it took Paula to go from laid off to landing a Marketing Director role
Full Interview Transcript
Austin: Hey everyone. Welcome back to another Cultivated Culture success story. I have Paula Jackler here and she is the Director of Commercial and Network Marketing at Talkspace. Paula, thank you so much for joining me.
Paula: Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure.
Austin: The pleasure is all mine. I'm really excited to share your story because it has been a bit of a roller coaster. If we rewind all the way back, I'll just give a quick synopsis but you and I caught up for a drink. You were in New Jersey I was in New York. We got connected through the email list and at the time you were doing SEO and you kind of wanted to make a shift. You wanted to stay in digital but you wanted to work for a company that had a little bit more of a cause like a humanitarian cause behind it, right?
You also didn't want to go to a non-profit where it's tough to move up the ladder, salaries are lower, etcetera. We have to find a company where you could do digital. There was a humanitarian cause but they were also making money. They were trying to be profitable and that was the goal. We did find you that, but then it didn't last as long as you might have hope and so you got an email that basically told you, “Hey, your last day is on Friday because the funding ran out,” and you were kind of stuck back in square one.
Then a couple of weeks later, leveraging some of the tools and strategies here — doing some outreach, also, getting some leads generated from your resume, your LinkedIn profile, etc — you were able to land a job just three weeks roughly, three to four weeks after you got that notice. That is a crazy story and I'm really excited to have you share it because I think a lot of people have been in a situation where they get some unexpected news from the company and they have to make a pivot.
Also, for the first job, I know you basically took my strategies and played them to a tee and it worked out pretty well. Let's go all the way back to the beginning of that. Give us a little bit of background on you, where you're from, kind of what you did and then kind of lead us into that SEO role that you were in.
Paula: Awesome. I'm originally from Brazil. I moved here seven years ago in a study abroad program and then I fell in love with New York City and I decided that I wanted to stay here for good, but then I had to figure out how to make that happen. The time when I moved here was when Alicia Keys song was all over the place saying like, “If you'll make it here, you can make it anywhere.”
I decided that I was going to try and make it here because then I could choose whatever I wanted to do. The process wasn't that easy. For me to stay here legally, I had to get a student visa so I went back to a community college and then I applied to business school just to maintain my visa. When I was in business school, that's when I came across corporate social responsibility and that's when I fell in love with humanitarian causes and actually using profit for a greater good.
At the time everybody told me like it's not possible for you to get a job in that field. You don't have enough experience. You don't know a lot of people but I knew that I wanted to do something that actually helps other people and helps to make the planet a better place. I kept that in the back of my mind. Right after business school, I actually got an offer through referrals to an SEO agency in northern New Jersey and I was a Content Strategist there.
It was a very good experience. I learned a ton from the owner of the agency and I was growing professionally but again, inside of me I really wanted to do something that added value to people who actually needed. That's when I came across your content, being honest with you, I still don't remember how I signed up for the list but I remember that every morning– every Monday morning I would get this email and I was like, “You know what, I actually can make this. I can make the leap.” I just need a little bit of courage and being smart.
I don't recall and I don't know if you remember either like there was one particular email you sent that that's when I reach out to you and I was like, “This touched me. Let's connect,” and that's when we met each other. When we met each other, you were so wonderful and you were telling me that I could do whatever I wanted to do as long as I plan for it and I remember that. Like there's a framework, there are a couple of things that you can do, certain steps you can follow to make that leap.
I followed your advice and I went online and I started looking for social enterprises like companies that are profitable but they use part of the revenue to help social and sustainable causes and I came across a company on Instagram and I was just in love. The whole premise of the company was– they would sell a water bottle and for every bottle you bought, you would give five years of clean water to a person in Africa. Being from Brazil, and having grown up in Brazil in the '90s, clean water is something that is near and dear to my heart.
I was like, “That's it, that's what I want to do. I want to connect with them. I want to join them, and I want to bring clean water to people who actually need it.” Using your advice, I reached out to the CEO of the company and I was not asking for a job, I was just saying, “Hey, I came across your profile on Instagram. Clean water is really a topic that I love. I would love to talk to you more about it.”
I gave him a little bit of my background too. I told him that I was from Brazil, that I was working for an SEO company but then I wanted to do marketing for the greater good. He replied to me. He replied to me and we started like hanging out. We would talk about the business and I started giving them a lot of valuable advice. For example, they weren't tracking anything on social media. They didn't know what metrics to track. Their Google Analytics wasn't set up. I started helping them out with that, without saying like, “I want a job,” or anything.
It was really because I was passionate about the cause and the mission. That happened– I think that was like six months that we kept talking to each other and whenever I saw him I gave him tips. Actually, I created a whole digital marketing project for them. Then one day when I was like, “You know what? I actually want to leave my job and I'm going to start looking for jobs at a social enterprise.” He was the first one who said, “Wait, if you're going somewhere, join us.” That's pretty much what happened.
The whole process took between six to eight months. The job that I landed wasn't advertised anywhere. It was pretty much tailored for me and my skills. Some of your content you talk about that. Like 75% of the jobs are not even advertised online. That's exactly what happened. Maybe there were other people that could have done the job, that would have applied for the job, but they didn't even know that was a possibility. That's like the first part of the story and that's how I landed the job.
Austin: Awesome, I love it and exactly when you mentioned, 75 to 80% of jobs aren't available online. If you can showcase that value ahead of time, why would they hire anybody else? They know what you can bring to the table and I love that. Just taking it back to talk through some of the strategies, when you reached out to the CEO– Did you say you reached out on Instagram or did you reach out via email, how did you initially get in touch?
Paula: I came across their profile on Instagram, then I started following them and leaving comments but then when I went to visit their website, that's when I saw the entire team and the CEO. Since he had a name that wasn't popular, as soon as I google his name, his email address came right up. I was like, “Okay, I'm going to reach out to him.” That's how the whole process of first reaching out to him worked.
Austin: Cool. When you set up that initial meeting, was that his idea or did you ask to have a conversation? How did you end up landing a meeting, getting some of his time and being able to chat with him?
Paula: First, I thought the company was originally from England and I didn't know that they had expanded to the US. When I reached out to him was just like I wanted to talk more about the company and if I move to Europe that would be amazing. [chuckles] When I reached out to him he said, “I'm actually moving to New York City. We are in San Francisco right now. We are taking the headquarters to New York City, let's meet up in person. I would love to talk to you in person.”
I think– and actually, we exchanged emails two to three times prior to actually saying, “Let's do this in person.” I think he was more like, after talking to him it was his idea like, “Let's meet up.” Again, the tip that I have is once I reached out to him, I made sure he knew that I was very familiar with the company. Before reaching out to him, I actually googled the company and tried to learn a little bit about their history.
Also, like fun facts that I gleaned from Instagram so I put that on the email too. I would say it's like a humble brag type of thing [laughs]. He would be hard for him not to reach back. Right? Because I was. acknowledging their success. I was paying attention to things they are doing, and important details and also, conveying how passionate I was about the cause.
Austin: You just asked for a conversation, right? Did you talk about a potential job? I think you mentioned that you didn't. It was strictly like, “Hey, I think what you're doing is very cool. It means a lot to me. I'd love to talk more?”
Paula: Exactly. That was exactly it and that's one of your advices too, like you give before you ask anything. I was like, “I want to see– I want to learn more about what you are doing and it's so wonderful. I want to learn more about you.” One thing that it's like– it's not manipulative but the truth is people like talking about themselves. If you ask people to tell their story, that's like of course-
Austin: They would.
Paula: -yes, exactly. That was it, and no I didn't ask for anything like not for a job, for opportunities, connections like none of that. Just, “I want to learn more about you and the company and the wonderful things you're doing.”
Austin: Awesome. I think when people get over that initial fear of reaching out they're comfortable sending emails and that's all good but then somebody says, “Yes, I will have a conversation,” and the fear sets back in. When you had that initial conversation with him, one, how did you prepare? and two, how did the conversation go? Did you do a lot of asking? Did you have to steer the conversation? Was he very forthcoming? Tell us a little bit more about how you prepped for it and then how you actually handle the conversation itself to get some more of those insights so you could add value against.
Paula: The first thing that I did was actually like, deep dig about the company. My first– when I first reach out to him I googled them and I saw their website and social media accounts but before the actual meeting, I read every single article that I could find on them. They had been published on major publications which was good, but I also found like little smaller blogs and very like green thumb publications because it was like in the social innovation space so everything that I could find, I wrote it down and I actually had like a little document where-
Austin: Cheat sheet.
Paula: -I had like– exactly. Where I– like interesting facts that I could bring up again during the conversation. Also, I didn't want to ask him anything that I could find online. For example, he launched the company in 2003. I didn't want to go and say like, “When did you start the company?” That information is already available. I was trying to kind of like do my homework and have a smart conversation because again, we only have one opp– like one opportunity to make a great first impression.
I wanted to just like show to him that I'm smart and I was interested and all of that. I did a lot of preparation. A funny thing though, before our meeting, I don't know if you're familiar with Amy Cuddy, the Harvard psychology professor. She has a– [crosstalk]
Austin: Did you do the power pose?
Paula: I did.
Paula: I did because even though I'm like– I'm a friendly person, I tend to warm up after I get to know somebody. At first, like I'm not a super bubbly person and I'm not going to be like super forthcoming. I might have this self-consciousness and I think also being an immigrant I think like more people will relate to it. I was very self-conscious about my accent and I was like, “What if he doesn't understand me? and “What if I don't understand him because he's British?”
Like this whole self-consciousness and insecurity and doing the power pause actually help. By the time, like I said, I want to talk to him I was feeling confident and we even joked about our accents. We're like, “People with accent actually get along like in bond right away.” It was really nice for us to kind of break the ice and he was a very, very forthcoming and bubbly person. He was leading the conversation. He never made me feel uncomfortable so I'd see like I looked out, but for people like he wasn't like that. If he was a very shy person, I would– I did my homework and I would be able to steer the conversation based on all of the things that I had looked up already.
Austin: Awesome. That textbook, you did a great job and obviously, it led to some information that you were able to add value against. My first question is, you said that you started hanging out and chatting a little more frequently. What did that look like? Like how often would you say you were in touch with him? Did you usually start those conversations each time or would he sometimes send you emails out of the blue?
I guess a lot of people always ask me, “How often should I be reaching out? and I don't want to annoy them.” Questions like that. How did you handle that? How did you know when was the right time to reach out and what was the right amount of space in between and all that good stuff?
Paula: In order to answer that question I have to go back to the first meeting. Pay attention to whatever the person is saying because if you pay attention and you actively listen to what the person is saying, you have a lot of information to follow up on. For example, whenever I saw something that was interesting, I remember when we met each other, Warby Parker was just shifting their strategy and for everybody in social innovation, Warby Parker was like, “Yes, we all want to be Warby Parker”
All of sudden Warby Parker was just saying, “Well, we're going to be more into technology now, we're still going to have to help people but that's not going to be our focus.” There was like this long article on fastcompany.com about it, so I followed up with him and said, “Did you see that Warby Parker is shifting their strategy?” That was a good thing and then whenever he would see something online that it related to our conversation, he would follow up to, again because he's a very extroverted person that helped too.
Also, we exchanged numbers so we would text each other more frequently than sending emails, I think that was a very good thing too. You can have shorter, and more informal conversations if you're texting somebody. Like email, we always feel a little like, “How long should it be? How short should it be? What my tone of voice should be?” I think talking to him via text helped.
Most of the time when I reached out to him, I don't have a particular time frame, it's more like whenever you see something valuable and interesting that relates to whatever that person does and what you talked about, reach out, don't feel self-conscious or afraid you're bothering that person because you're actually adding value, so either– For example, the Warby Parker situation, he hadn't seen that at the time, so that was like, “That's really nice and I want to learn more about this.”
In other things when I reached out to him he had already seen it so we would just discuss it. Also, when I was reaching out to him, I was not asking for anything. I was not asking for a job, I was not asking questions, it was really like, “Everything that I have to offer right now, I would just offer to you.” We would talk, I would say like every week we would talk via text and we saw each other every three weeks or so.
Austin: Awesome. I love that you got the digits, we're going to need to do a follow up like Paula's pick-up artist moves to get founders numbers. That's awesome, it's great that– I mean, the fact that you, one, went that far but also found ways to actively keep the conversation going is great. I love the fact that– I mean, you mentioned texting weekly, meeting up every couple weeks.
I think a lot of people try to put like a specific formula on it, like five days is when I have to reach out. I like that you kind of kept it more natural, whatever felt right, awesome. A little bit further down the road, you took it a step further from just sending articles, actually putting together this– was it a dashboard for them?
Paula: No, actually, we started talking and he would tell me some challenges that he would have and then we started talking specifically about his business like what are certain things that you should be doing and it's always easier, and I don't think a lot of people realize that. I know I didn't. When you are an outsider, you have a fresh perspective on things. Even though you're not a specialist in whatever they're doing, when they share something with you, you are looking at it for the first time, you bring a fresh perspective and new ideas to whatever it is the person is talking.
So I would say like don't ever be afraid of telling your ideas and your opinions because most of the times they're going to value that. When we started talking about this and I was on the SEO side, I was working for an agency and I wanted to be doing more analysis so that was like a win-win because I told him like, “No problem, I can do that,” because it wasn't something that I did on a daily basis, so I was honing my skills at the same time.
I put this whole strategic plan for digital marketing on how to track certain metrics and how to actually notice if that is impacting your bottom line. After we were talking for five months that's when he actually gave me access to the Google Analytics. That's when I started making some changes on it, but again, it was a smaller company like that's not going to happen if you're trying to talk to Google or Microsoft. Nobody's going to give you the Google Analytics.
Paula: If it's a smaller company you can definitely do it. Even if they don't give you access to certain tools, there are a lot of other ways you can go about and actually build something as well. Yes, that's what I did. Again, when the conversation started flowing naturally. I was being a little selfish too, like I wanted to work on things that I wasn't working on on a daily basis.
Austin: Awesome. Were you ever worried at any point that he would like take all this work that you've done and just run off with it and implement it and never talk to you again?
Paula: That's what one of my best friends told me. She was like, “Why are you spending so much time? He can just take you're working for free. You're spending your time. They should be paying you for that stuff, that's high-level marketing consultancy.” My view on the things was just, I am learning and I'm practicing things that I don't do on a daily basis. Also, I'm a very spiritual person. I believe that whatever you give and whatever you put out in the universe you're going to receive it back.
If he took my stuff and ran away with it, that was going to be on him, not me. I was actually helping people. My advice would be, do it for you and do it just for the sake of doing something. If you have a right behavior that's on you, but if somebody else do something wrong that's on them. Don't worry about it.
Austin: Awesome. I love it because that's the exact attitude that you want to have. You want to give, give, give then ask. You did exactly that. You ended up with a job at the company which fulfilled all the criteria you wanted before, but then shortly after joining there was a little bit of a hiccup, right?
Austin: Tell us about that.
Paula: I always joke that my life is a Mexican soap opera.
Paula: There is always like– not drama, but there's never a dull moment. What happened I was really happy. I landed the job. I started working on a few things. It was my first time on a fast-growing startup. It was really growth on steroids. I was a growth marketer. That was my job and I loved it. I think for me one of the things like when you're in the social innovation space you can actually right away see your impact.
I knew that if I was doing a paid social campaign that sold a hundred bottles that is 500 years worth of clean water somewhere. That was a good motivator. What happened was, last December I went on vacation. Then when I came back it was Christmas Day and then the following day was boxing day so– because they're a British company we observed it. On that Tuesday, he reached out to me and say, “Hey, we have to talk. Are you available?” “Yes, I'm available. Let's talk.” “We're having cash problems. I'm not going to able to afford you and the rest of the team in the upcoming year. Your last day is Friday.” I was like, “What?” “I'm going to be completely honest.” I was honest with them too.
My first reaction was I was angry as hell because cash problems it's not something that happens overnight, you see it coming. My first reaction was, “I just went on vacation for two weeks. You knew you wouldn't be able to afford me. Why didn't you at least told me before my vacation? I would have saved the money. I would have had the time to look for another job. I can't find another job in four days.” My first instinct was I was really angry.
Then I was also disappointed in myself because I had a very good job before that and I left everything to do good for the world. Why? Why did I take this risk? I had a stable job. I was making a decent amount of money. Why did I just threw everything up just because I wanted to find a job helping people? I was really blaming myself. What happened was now, I'm like a pro on doing code emailing people.
Paula: I came across the Instagram of another woman, she's a director of partnership at Tumblr and she's also Brazilian. I reached out to her and I was like, “Here's what happened, I left my stable job, found this job at a startup and I am getting laid off and why? What do I do? Where do go from here?” It took me six to eight months to found this job. If I start the process right now what's going to happen? I was freaking out and she told me something that was the best advice.
Was like, “Don't you ever be afraid of taking risks again, that's why they're risks, sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. You have to keep on taking risks.” I was like, “You know what? Fine, I'll do it.” Looking for a job the second time was a little bit different because I was on a time crunch, I did not have six months available to create a relationship and gain their trust and bring value, I needed a job ASAP.
My first reaction was, I reached out to all of my mentors and some peers, people that I trust, and I told them like, “Here's what happened, the company didn't work out, I need a job.” They send me resume to a few places and then via LinkedIn I was looking for a job and I was really– because of my SEO experience I was getting a pro into optimizing my application, then using the right keywords. That worked, and I would say if you're– I would never encourage anybody to look for a job online, but if something happens and you absolutely have to, [laughs] always use the keywords that they're saying on their job description.
I got a lot of offers to go back to the agency side and do more SEO. Actually, I got an offer from a very reputable agency in New York City. That all happened in two weeks, I would say 17 days tops. It's my looking for jobs, talking to mentors, talking to peers, going to phone interviews, going to in person interview and then a recruiter showed up. She was like, “Your experience is amazing, there's a company that I think you would really fit in and it's Talkspace. Do you want to go for an interview?” I was like, “Sure.”
That like I was very far along on the recruiting process on the SEO agency. I had already done a phone interview, a test, an in person interview. I needed just one more in person interview, but I was like, “I like what Talkspace is doing, let me go check it out.” Then they made an offer and then I had two offers, one for the SEO side and it's something that I was really comfortable doing, I can do SEO with my eyes closed.
Then I have this offer for a very high position at a fast-growing startup. I have never done anything related to health care. That's when that advice of don't be afraid of taking risks came into place. I went back to them and said, “Hey, I have an offer from those SEO agency and they're offering X amount of money,” and they literally said, “No, we want you.” They made a counter offer and I ended up making a lot more money than I would have otherwise.
Paula: Yes. It is a very challenging position that helps me grow every day. I know on the SEO side, I would have been not as challenged, I would be on my comfort zone and I would just put out for a while. Now, I actually like every day I'm pushed out of my comfort zone and I'm growing.
Austin: Awesome, that's incredible. This is one of my favorite stories, because one of the reasons that I started the site in general, and made it different from a lot of the other like ‘recruiting will help place you' type of companies, is that once you learn the process you can rinse and repeat forever, for any job that you want or if something– if you land in a similar situation where something happens, you're laid off, you're fired, whatever. You have the tools and you know exactly what you need to do in order to land something else quickly.
17 days might be a record, I think it might be, we'll have to double check. Paula, thank you so much for sharing all this. To wrap things up, what would your number one piece of advice be, to people who are out there listening right now and looking for a job?
Paula: Believe in yourself, always. You have so much to offer, and there is somebody out there looking for exactly what you have to offer. I know that looking for a job is a very overwhelming process and sometimes we tend to have some self doubt, just don't, own your stuff, keep on studying, keep on growing and you'll be able to find somebody out there that is looking exactly for what you have to do. If I could give a second advice is like-
Paula: -sometimes life is not perfect, I can find my dream job and then get laid off, always bounce back.
Austin: Awesome, two for one advice deal, I love it. Thank you so much for stopping by, Paula. I really appreciate all the knowledge you shared, telling everybody your story and we will talk to you very soon. Take care.
Paula: Thank you, bye-bye.