Ashley Stahl (@ashleystahl) is a counterterrorism professional turned career coach, spokesperson, and author of You Turn: Get Unstuck, Discover Your Direction, Design Your Dream Career. She is also a podcaster, hosting her “You Turn” podcast. Today she is talking with Mark about what skills are necessary to manage your career.
- Your career is an experiment and your purpose doesn’t have to tie to it
- Reactivity is one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your career—think long term and reconnect with your true essence
- The best way to approach job hunting is to have high intention and low attachment—don’t get too desperate
Listen to this episode and see if you can make a shift in your career.
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Hey folks, welcome back. This is Mark Divine with the Unbeatable Mind podcast. So stoked to have you here today, I appreciate your time, your energy, your support…
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I’m super-stoked… today I have Ashley Stahl on the podcast. Ashley nice to see you. Now before we get talking, I just want to give you a little background. Super-fascinating Ashley is actually a counter-terrorism expert, worked at the pentagon for several years training civilians to do their job more safely over in Afghanistan.
But then she had her own little pivotal moment – kind of like I did, where I did a complete about face – and she became a career coach. So we’re going to talk about how that all happened. And then some of the really cool the things that she’s uncovered, coaching thousands of people to really get on track with what they’re supposed to do in life.
She’s written a phenomenal book called “You Turn: Get Unstuck, Discover Your Direction, Design your Dream Career.” And gosh, we need that right now – I mean actually, you’re probably tracking this more than I am, but I’m reading that like 40 some odd percent of people, don’t want to go back to their jobs after this pandemic lockdown.
Mark: What’s going on? Crazy.
Ashley: Yeah, thanks for having me. I mean, I’ve also just read a new study that came out this week that over 90% of workers have contemplated a career pivot throughout the pandemic…
Mark: No kidding…
Ashley: The statistics are in. Most people don’t want to be where they are. And I think a lot of that is the reflection of the fact that there’s nothing quite like some time at home – or a stressor of a pandemic – to make you think about the things you want in life. And the things that mean something to you in life.
And you spend 90,000 hours of your life at work – that’s two-thirds of your time awake on this planet – so it makes sense to me that people want it to matter.
Mark: Yeah, I would agree. So let’s kind of back up a little bit – your timeline and tell us a little bit about how you got into your first career. What was that all about? Some of the inspirations and also breakdowns you had that led to your getting into becoming a career expert and coach.
Ashley: Yeah, I definitely didn’t come out of the womb thinking I would be a career expert.
Mark: (laughing) who does?
Ashley: Yeah, I remember going to college and going to the career services office and asking the woman who worked there to help me figure out what to major in. Because I was kind of operating out of that misunderstanding that I think a lot of people operate out of – that your major is important for your career path – and granted there are some specializations that do matter – if you’re an engineer or you’re going into the sciences – but on the most part…
I mean, only 27% of the workforce actually uses their degree in their job. And is working in a field relating to their degree. So majority of the time – your major doesn’t really matter – just having a degree seems to still show up and matter in your career.
But I remember the woman said to me “follow your passion. Do what you love. The money is gonna follow. Follow your bliss.” Like, all of the three worded tirades that we all grew up hearing.
And in retrospect there’s this this thing called the Google ngram viewer – and if you look it up on Google basically what it does is if you enter a phrase, it shows you how deeply entrenched that phrase is in Google.
Ashley: And what that lets us know is from a timeline perspective – when did that phrase take off?
Mark: So these become memes, and then they become baked into our culture as truths. And they’re not truths.
Ashley: Exactly. So the “follow your passion” thing started in the ‘80s – somebody must have written it, and you see it spike on the Google ngram, so it just became a part of the fabric of our culture.
And so for me, I suffered a lot of pain and I think a lot of other people did as well either trying to turn their passion into a job, or trying to figure out what their passion was, and feeling passionless…
I know in my case… I’m interested in a lot of things – I like I like cooking, I like politics, I like fashion – but I would be a horrible chef, and I think I’m a little too sensitive to be a politician, and I wouldn’t be a good fashion designer.
So what I didn’t understand at the time was that there’s a big difference between being a producer of something and being a consumer of something…
Mark: Interesting. And as a career, you need to be a producer…
Ashley: Exactly. As a career you need to be a producer. And so I pursued counterterrorism – I put everything of myself into it – went to the top school I could, learned the languages, and graduated at the peak of the recession.
And just like gen-z has been impacted by the pandemic in a way that uniquely impacts them, millennials were impacted by the recession in a way that was very unique for that generation. And so I kind of ran off the cliff of the recession, slept on my parents couch a few months too many, and eventually bought into that myth that I would just have to take what I could get.
And that got me into a minimum wage admin assistant job, while I was at UCLA at night studying Arabic. And during that time, I just remember feeling like there’s got to be more than this. And it wasn’t about ego or entitlement – it was just like, I’d worked so hard, and I was so excited about my career. And I knew I had something to give – just like everybody does.
And so something inside of me – two months into my minimum wage job – got me to email my university and say, “hey, do you have a list of people who have graduated and moved to dc?”
And they emailed me a list of 2000 names and emails and I worked my way through the entire list…
Mark: No kidding.
Ashley: Yeah, and I ended up falling on my face, not knowing how to network with people, getting ghosted -but then also creating a lot of really amazing contacts, and a network that I still have in my life today… over a decade later.
And so I have learned through that experience that failure is on the same block as success. You got to kind of fall on your face… it’s the cost of admission to really figuring something out.
So, I ended up getting multiple job offers in national security, but on the periphery. Everybody that I knew that was impacted by the recession was asking how I got so many job offers.
I leveraged them. I tripled my salary and that was the beginning of my business as an author, and as a podcaster, and career expert.
Mark: Yeah, I’m sure you’re leaving a few things out (laughing), so I want to stop here and kind of backtrack a little bit.
First off – what a great idea to ask for that list and to call or email every one of them. I mean, boy, if you’re on a job hunt or you’re in college right now, take note, right? Because I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone doing that.
But it is such a simple idea. And I could see how powerful that’d be… because I’m much more inclined… in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever not responded to a Colgate student who’s reached out to me…
Mark: And some have reached out saying, “hey I’m interested in the SEALs. Can I talk to you?” Or “I’m interested in entrepreneurship. Can I talk to you?”
And I always pick up the phone or respond to those. And so schools that have a strong alumni base… man, that’s like your primary network if you’re a college graduate. That’s cool.
And then backing up a little bit further, I’m assuming that you wanted to go into geopolitics or working in that foreign policy area, because of your so-called passion for politics? I mean, so you were following the career advice of your counselor in high school.
Ashley: Yeah, and just stuff that you hear in society. But I mean, I also had family in New York during 9/11, so it really shook things up.
Mark: I see. And yeah, that makes sense too. Because I know a lot of folks joined special operations after 9/11. They were in business or even professional sports… or just doing whatever. And then they wanted to do a shift, because they wanted to make an impact.
Mark: They didn’t want to sit on the sidelines…
Ashley: Exactly. And you actually made a really good point about networking… that’s one of the core tenets of one of my online courses is about… there’s networking with cold contacts, which is super powerful, because very rarely is it the case that your dad’s friend is in the position to actually give you your dream job.
Ashley: Versus networking cold with someone who can actually hire you for something you actually deeply want. Nothing that’s on the periphery of it.
But also alumni networks – warm contacts – are quite powerful. And I think that if you can ever use the power of association in any way when you’re networking – like being a fellow alumni – you’re always going to increase your response rate.
Mark: That’s amazing… so you gotta tell us about the story that I read in your book – where you kind of definitively said, “screw it” to that job.
And you recognized that it wasn’t… you may have been passionate about foreign policy, but you can read about in a book. You don’t have to be in a dungeon office at the pentagon. Or at that Indiana base getting roughed up by a marine in order to still be passionate about it… you don’t have to do it, right? You have to produce work.
What was that like? Let’s tell us that story and how you made that shift.
Ashley: Yeah, I first of all, I learned that life is a numbers game. My dad is an entrepreneur and my grandma used to tell me if you knock on millions of doors, you’ll always get a yes. And so I kind of grew up seeing the world as an abundant place with a lot of opportunities.
My dad was… when I was a little kid, he lost millions of dollars and reinvented himself. And we were nearly bankrupt. And I watched him reinvent himself. And he was a hard worker.
And so I learned in my world that there’s always opportunities. And there’s two dynamics that I’ve also discovered in my career, that has kind of played a role in really making pivots and being who I want to be.
The first is the “what,” which is your skill set. Really learning what is the skill you want to use. How do you want to use your body, mind and heart from nine to five, or five to nine, or whatever your hours are?
And the second piece of the puzzle is the “how,” which is your core values. Given that more than 50% of people leave their job because they don’t like their boss, what we can assume here is that how your job looks matters just as much as what your job is. What you’re doing.
And so for me the problem – when I was working in national security – was who I was… I was a very sensitive person.
And what happens with a lot of people is I think they stop there. And they have a lot of shame about who they are, and they think that there’s something wrong with them – whether the job isn’t working, or the environment isn’t working…
When the truth is you get to celebrate who you are. And so in my case I was like, “wait a minute. I’m too sensitive. This is not meant for me. I’m too emotional of a person to be watching people blow their heads up. It hits me every time and it takes me out.”
And so I think unlocking what my true values are, from a non-judgmental, neutral place – giving myself permission to be who I am. And letting those core values be those key ingredients by which I live my life, giving myself that permission slip was huge for me.
And being able to make that transition out of national security and into entrepreneurship…
Mark: Right. I love that, that dovetails quite a bit with a theme that I bring to my Unbeatable Mind students is that first focus on your being and then let the doing follow – and it’s basically what you just said in other words.
Figure out who you are, what you’re calling/purpose is in life – and that may change throughout your life – but everyone’s got something right now that is like… they’re really moved toward.
And then figure out how and what to do about it. And that might take many different forms. That’s fascinating.
Ashley: Absolutely. I think so many people get caught in the “how,” that they haven’t even asked themselves are they actually solving the problem they want to solve? They get caught in solutions for the wrong problem.
And I think the real issue that a lot of people are facing is not clarity – because most people come to me and say I need clarity – and what I’ve learned over the years is it’s not that you need clarity, it’s that you need to connect to yourself. We’re very disconnected, we’re very domesticated from a very young age -and, I mean, you would know from being a seal – there’s a level of domestication almost.
Like, you are indoctrinated to learn a certain mindset. And our brains are very powerful, so there’s beauty in different mindsets, but the loss in it is sometimes yourself. You forget what your own mindset is, or you override it.
And I think a lot of people are walking around saying that they’re fine, when really, they’re not in touch with their pain. So I would say really saying okay if you don’t like what you’re doing right now or where you are right now, how can you reconnect to yourself? That’s the first order of business.
Mark: Rather than just flailing around and finding another job you’re going to be miserable at.
Ashley: Yeah, and reactivity is one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your career, right? Because you’re just a pendulum… feels like one of my girlfriends – she was dating a guy in a band who was always on tour and never available, and then after that she dated like a guy who wasn’t working and was home all the time and available.
It’s like we all swing on the pendulum – in our lives, and our careers, and our love life…
So I would say being reactive in your career – taking something just because you hate where you are, it’s usually not a sustainable strategy. And you’re just scratching the short-term itch that’s going to come back.
So the long-term game is figuring out who you truly are and self-discovering. And so my offer with that would be come up with a list of people, places, things that make you feel yourself.
I know that when I listen … even music, if I put on hip-hop music – I love hip-hop music – if I see a couple friends… I have a lot of good friends… but there’s a couple girlfriends that after I’ve seen them, I’m me again. And I spend time with them.
I know that if I put my feet in the ocean, I get grounded, I get myself again. And when you start to feel you, it leaks everywhere else, because it feels good to feel good. And that’s the nature of your career, so once you start to feel you, you can start to get in touch with your yeses and your nos…
But when you’re off kilter, and you’re domesticated, and you’re buying into limited realities of what’s available for you, it’s really tough to be yourself and choose from that place.
Mark: Yeah, I agree. I love how you say do what you are, right?
Mark: So that, of course, requires you to figure out who you are…
Mark: Self-awareness is really the number one job of all of us… the most important job, I should say.
Mark: I wanna kind of take listeners who might be – since 40 some odd percent of our listeners are thinking about a change, according to the stats – if you’re sitting in a job and you haven’t left it because of course you need money, but you’re wondering where do I go, how do I figure this out? How do I make sure that this next change, the shift that I know needs to happen, is going to be the right one? And I’m not just going to get in another shitty situation? Where does someone go from here?
They’re listening and say, “yeah, I got to get in touch with who I am. Great. How do I do that? And then what’s next?”
Ashley: Yeah, I love this question because I’m very tactically minded, and I love giving steps. So, I would say the first thing is obviously, really taking an accurate picture of your expenses and where you’re at. Like, some people are super miserable in their job – other people are lukewarm about their job…
I’m an advocate for noticing when your gas tank is starting to get lower, versus people who wake up and their gas tank is empty, and they can’t do another thing. And their burnout is so chronic it’s changed the chemistry of their brain. And they’re literally working out of a different brain.
So anyone who is feeling lukewarm right now, I would say start to look at your options. Start to build a network.
What that could look like is if you’re not clear on what you want to do next, never underestimate the power of a conversation… clarity comes from engagement, it doesn’t come just from thought.
And engagement can look like reading books like my book – it can look like taking a class at university, talking to friends, it can look like networking with people who are doing things in the world that you find inspiring…
So maybe you want to get on LinkedIn, and use the advanced search and put some key words in, that help you jog the engine of profiles that are people doing things in the world, or using skills, or working in industries that you’re very interested in. Start having those conversations. That’s the first piece.
If you’re in visceral pain, and you just can’t take another day – which I think there’s a lot of people who have been stuck in that that painful place – my advice would be to look at your expenses, look at your numbers and consider the power of a part-time job. Consider the power of something that pays your bills, while you reflect on what you want to do next, and you start networking.
Most people – their money mindset is such that if they even think about the possibility of making less money, they completely shut down, and they get irrational. When the reality is if you look at the numbers, usually you can take something on part-time, pay your bills very comfortably, and have that extra space in your life to recover if you’re burnt out. To look for a job that you want full-time. To network with people.
And again… kind of going back to the power of conversations… but my biggest message in my book and a lot of my work is that your career is an experiment. And your purpose moves. And it really is an experiment that should meet you where you are.
And so I think what people get stuck on is thinking that their purpose is in their work. Sometimes… if you’re a new mother your purpose is in motherhood, if you have a sick parent, your purpose is in helping them…
Your purpose moves, and it doesn’t have to be tied to your career. Your career is where you sharpen your tools, and you contribute to society.
Mark: I totally agree. Yeah.
Ashley: Yeah, and there’s a lot of limiting mindsets about liking your career. I think a lot of people are taught to do what they love, and that jargon gets people feeling like they’ve missed something if they really like their job, but they don’t love it. They get stuck in the “something’s missing.”
But for me, everything has a cost of admission. Everything has a tax. And even for me as an entrepreneur – I love my business, I love being an author, I love my podcast – but it doesn’t change the fact that there’s still going to be maybe 15, 20% of the time, things I don’t love. And so I also want to manage people’s expectations.
Mark: I love that. I often say that when it comes to purpose, people try to latch onto the tangible and they think “oh, purpose. I’m meant to be a doctor.” Or “I’m meant to be an attorney.” Right? And those are the stories, like you’ve been talking about. They’re so baked into our culture that you just take it for granted.
And so I encourage my clients to stop thinking about your purpose as a “doing” thing, but back to this idea of it’s a “beingness,” and it’s like an archetypal energy. And it will change in your life. Like you just pointed out – if you’re a new mother, then guess what? Your purpose is to be a mother, right? Not necessarily save the world – so put the saving the world on hold and be a good mother or father.
For me, when I was sitting on my meditation bench, and I had my first kind of epiphany what I figured out was my purpose was to be a warrior – not to be navy seal… I didn’t know nothing about the seals… my purpose was to be a warrior.
So it had that kind of archetypal energy, and that energy is like drawing you toward it. It feels like a sense of urgency to move toward that energy.
So you’re really saying the same thing which is cool, and we’re trying to break this down into practical matters. So get a part-time job.
What do you think… you stayed at your parents for a while, I know a lot of people have had to move home – especially if they lose a job or if they’re in between jobs – is that helpful? Because one of the things that I think about that, is there’s a lot of patterns at home that that got you where you are. That could keep you stuck if you’re trying to do a major transformation. What’s your feeling about that?
Ashley: Absolutely. I mean, I think that if anybody could just write on a piece of paper right now, “I’m not where I want to be because…” and they just filled in the blank, usually 90% or more of the time, it’s just an excuse that we’re telling ourselves.
Because the truth is the matter is, there’s someone out there who’s where you want to be. And they just didn’t believe that thing.
Ashley: And so I think the beginning is really taking a look at our own mindset, because we come into the world through our parents. And our parents have their own thermostat that they set about how they see the world, possibility, money and opportunity.
And unless we take a look at our own thermostat over time and say, “where am I setting the bar for myself? Where am I saying I can’t have this thing?”
We end up getting stuck… just like where our parents were… because it’s what we learned… and so I would say anybody listening taking a moment to say, “what am I believing about my situation that’s keeping me here? What am I believing about life? What am I believing about my career? What am I believing about money, that is keeping me somewhere I don’t want to be?”
“And am I willing to see this differently?” I’m a big advocate of Byron Katie and her book “Loving What Is” and The Work. Talking about releasing limiting beliefs.
I think there’s many ways to release beliefs, but just having leverage on them starts with knowing what they are.
Mark: Right. I agree with that. You talk about – when you actually start looking for a job – having high intention and low attachment. What does that mean?
Ashley: Yeah, that’s my job hunt mantra. I think that people are high intention, high attachment… it’s something that I learned early when I started my business as a career coach, was needy is creepy. One of my mentors told me that needy is creepy.
And so, there’s nothing quite like desperation to repel everything. And everyone. So I would say high intention, low attachment. Put yourself out there, be highly involved – but don’t stay too attached.
Because what happens is that you hold on to something too tightly, and you don’t notice when other things are coming in. And this is just how life works in general…
Mark: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And you’re right, the neediness – we project that out, and it’s very repelling to someone who might be interviewing you.
Mark: That energy, they’re gonna pick that up. I’ve had that as a hiring agent before… (laughing) people come up and then just start confiding in me how much they need this job.
And then their emotions just get all over the place. And you’re just like, “okay, you’re a great person, but I don’t think I could work with that.”
Mark: Interesting. Talk about the 10 core skill sets and how we can use those to really get clarity…
Ashley: Yeah, I can go through all 10 of them or just a few of them… what’s most helpful? I would love to talk about those.
Mark: Well, you’re the expert here. So you take us through what you think would be the most beneficial for someone listening while they’re driving their car… so they’re not going to be like, “I got to pull over and write these down.” And cause an accident. You can always go back and listen to it later, if you’re driving.
Ashley: Exactly. No I’ll go through all ten, and the funny thing is, people know what they are usually… so there will just be a few that should stick out for them…
But they’re ranked in no particular order, but in the past decade as a career expert with my email list and with my courses I’ve done a lot of research. And I’ve found that while I cannot obscure humanity into 10 skill sets – I can say that these 10 largely represent where people are in their lives, in their being, in their skills…
And it’s really helpful to know which one yours is. Because my belief is that you carry your core skill set with you throughout your career. And that’s the most important factor in choosing your path and your job opportunities.
So number one is innovation. That’s for the creative self-starter… the intrapreneur or the entrepreneur usually the distinction between those two are based on your relationship with financial risk and freedom. So I found that the entrepreneur, they need all-out freedom, and they tend to feel a visceral pain, if they don’t have creative freedom to work on their idea. Or time freedom to work on it when they want to work on it. It’s just a lot about their terms and the structure.
Mark: That’s me.
Ashley: Exactly. Me too. And then there’s the intrapreneur who maybe they need some flexibility, they don’t want to take the financial risk that an entrepreneur is focused on and comfortable with, but they absolutely are comfortable taking something and running with it.
It doesn’t have to be their idea. They just want that level of autonomy. They’re problem solvers, they’re self-starters, they’re initiators…
The second skill set is the builders…
Mark: Can I pause here for a second – I’m sorry… I just want to make sure the context is clear, because I’m not sure I’m 100% clear… these 10 core skills… is it such that we might really just have one of these as a dominant way of being? Or will we have a collection of these skills? Or how do we apply these?
Ashley: I believe that everyone resonates somewhat with at least three or four of them probably. But it’s important to know what’s your number one, because any job is going to be a targeted function in a company. Or if you’re an entrepreneur your services are going to be targeted around your zone of genius.
So I think it’s important to reflect on which one is truly the one that reflects your skills, your capabilities, your natural way of being…
And if you’re struggling to figure out which one it is and you re-listen to this episode – I would ask your friends, or your mom, or your colleagues that you’re comfortable with – when have you seen me at my best?
Mark: I love that, yeah. Like get the 360.
Ashley: Yeah. Get that input. And what’s funny is people will surprise you – what they’ll share about you – and it’s hard to read the label when you’re inside the jar. So I find that you can find a lot about yourself when you’re able to ask that question.
Mark: What about personality profiles – like Disc or Myers-Briggs? How would they play into…?
Ashley: I love personality profiles. I love the Enneagram personality test I love Myers-Briggs – I’m particularly curious – for anybody listening – about Myers-Briggs, on whether you’re a j or a p obviously introvert extrovert matters – n, t, s, p all these things matter – but the j or the p are very interesting for me, because while I talk about your core skills – that being 50% of your career, meaning like you need to work in that zone.
The other half I talked about was your core values. And if you’re a j usually you tend to be more structured… you show up on time, you like calendars…
If you’re a p you’re a little more spontaneous, so you’re going to feel a little bit more imprisoned by something that’s too structured. And so that usually sparks me to ask the most questions, but I do think just like my 10 core skill sets can’t paint a full picture of the human experience, nor can these personality tests. So I take them as a starting point, a reference point…
Mark: Got it.
Mark: Back to the second skill…
Ashley: Yeah, second skill – so, number one is innovation, number two is building… so, building can be quite literal – it can be a construction worker – it can be more of a metaphor – like, someone who’s building a website or a management consultant that is a strategist – they are a builder in their mind.
So, it’s just about how you use your energy when you think about these skill sets. It’s not just the tactical, it’s the energy behind them…
Number three is words – that’s my core skill set as an author and a host and all these things – I think what’s a really interesting question on this one, but all of them really, is kind of going back to Myers-Briggs somewhat – are you an introvert or an extrovert? Because there’s a lot of research on being an ambivert…
Mark: I’ve never heard that term…
Ashley: Yeah, an ambivert. That’s a both, but I think it’s important to take a lane because if you’re an introvert and words is your core skill set, you’re going to be more internal about it. You’re going to be like me who’s kind of a loner at heart and is going to write books behind her laptop and record podcasts on audio most of the time.
But if you’re an extrovert, you’re probably going to use words differently. Maybe you’re a talent agent, a real estate agent… something that requires you to turn words into money. Maybe you’re a public speaker – I do a lot of keynote speaking and traveling for that, but I will say that no matter how much I love it, I crash for about 24 hours after it. In a way that my extrovert friends don’t.
You’re the same way?
Mark: Yeah, I resist the speaking actually. I’m good at it, but I do resist it. It’s a lot of energy. So you’re focusing your energy… like, years of energy, into one hour.
Mark: And then just fry some circuits in my brain…
Ashley: Yeah, well that’s the thing, right? People are trying to be someone else. And the sooner you can just align yourself with your nature, and the truth of your skills, and where you get energy – the happier you’re gonna be.
And for some reason, we just deny ourselves that. Because it’s inconvenient to find out who you are. It takes time.
But yeah, the fourth skill set is motion. So these are the very physical people – people who have the gift of being on their feet all day – the fitness trainers – even the tour guides… people who are just out all day… there’s a skill in that and there’s a preference in that, and there’s an ability with that…
I just went on a trip before Covid, and the tour guide was like in a bus with us for like weeks on end. And I just thought, “wow, that’s a skill.”
And then he probably had a secondary skill of words, because he was so good at communicating.
But the fifth one is service. These are the helpers, the humanitarians, the nurturers and an important question for all of the skill sets -especially this one – is where are you coming from with your skill?
Like, for example, I had a client once who tragically lost a lot of family members when she was a kid. And she had to step up and parent her siblings – she was the oldest sibling. And so she told me service was her skill set.
But I’m like, “are you sure? Or is that just who you had to be as a kid?” And so I think that there’s a difference between your coping mechanisms and who you had to be – and the truth of who you are.
And sometimes it can be both. It can be that you had some traumatic experience that taught you to be a certain way, and you’re great at that. And it’s really a gift. But you just want to ask yourself that question.
And number six is coordination. I love these people – thank God for them – I would have nothing going on without the coordinators.
Mark: Right me too. That’s the operations manager, the executive assistant, etc.
Ashley: Etc. Exactly. Project manager, program manager, wedding planner, event coordinator… bless their heart… like, the world needs them so bad… keeping things moving…
And number seven is analysis. So this is really interesting, because having worked in national security myself I remember thinking, “oh wow! I get to write reports, and I love writing>”
But there’s a big difference between being a words person like a creative writer and being an analyst… it’s complete opposite sides of your brain.
And so I went into analysis… the researchers, the academics, the intelligence analysts… and I misunderstood my skill set of words. And so, I think a lot of people are doing that. They’re just a couple millimeters off and they’re misunderstanding themselves. And that was certainly me when I worked in analysis.
Number eight is numbers – the number crunchers… pretty straightforward.
Number nine is technology – the I.t whizzes, the artificial intelligence creators.
And then number 10 is beauty. These are the people who make art of the world around them. It could be musicians, it can be jewelry designers, it can be interior designers, fashion designers… these are the high, high creative aesthetic people.
So those are the 10 core skill sets, and I do believe everybody leads at least with one.
Mark: Yeah, that’s really interesting. So just as a self-assessment, you just go through this list and ask yourself which resonates with you? What’s kind of the arc of your life? If your calling were to land somewhere on those ten, which one would it be?
And then start there. And then you can map that to different types of careers. And people that have similar skill sets, right?
So take us through how you would coach someone when they start to identify or zero in on their top one, two or three skill sets.
Ashley: Well, I would say the way that I usually coach people – especially one-on-one – is I like to get an understanding of their history. Because one thing I talk about in a ted talk I gave, was your body – the power of your body – I mean, given that we know that scientists are calling our gut the second brain – there’s an intelligence there, right? Like 200 million neurons. The size of a cat or dog’s brain.
I’ve got a German shepherd… he’s so smart… whenever I see him and he has that many neurons going, I’m thinking to myself, “my stomach must be pretty smart.” And so when I get butterflies, when my stomach sinks… I think everybody needs to start noticing that and realizing there’s an intelligence to that feedback. When your heart contracts, when your body contracts…
So, I like to take stock of somebody’s life and say, “what are the paths that you’ve chosen? Where did you feel a sense of expansion? Where did you feel a sense of contraction? Where did you get feedback that you were contributing? Where did you feel like you weren’t contributing?”
“And let’s celebrate that – so that you don’t get down on yourself anymore for not being great at everything. Because nobody is.”
So, I start to just take stock on people’s career experiences… and if they’re younger I like to look at where they thrived in school… what kind of feedback they got…
According to research – especially relationship research – it shows that your friends tend to know if you’re headed to divorce better than you do. Because they’re neutral observers. And they don’t have any skin in the game, other than your happiness.
And so I would say the same is the case with your career. People notice where you’re skilled, and the problem with figuring it out for yourself is that it’s so obvious to you, you think everybody can do it.
But it’s not. It’s your skill, it’s your gift. So, I would say after I take stock of somebody’s past, I make a list of where they shine, where they don’t… where they’ve gotten feedback, where they’re tired.
And that’s really important, because everybody has different energy levels in their careers… like, for example, with me I got bit by a tick when I lived in Washington, dc, and again later in my life. So I had Lyme disease – and I’m pretty healthy and energetic – but I know that my energy isn’t like someone who hasn’t gotten Lyme disease…
Like, I have a little bit of energy loss there. And as a result, I am very conscious about what I say yes to, what I say no to… and I build my career based on what I can give.
And I think a lot of people go so far as saying, “this is my skill.” And they match themselves to a career that maybe forces them to be an extrovert, when they’re an introvert. Or their natural energy levels don’t match the job. They have to be on the phone all the time, even if…
So, it’s important to kind of know that about themselves… so, I definitely ask a client about their energy levels – when do they get tired? Why? What jobs make them tired? What responsibilities?
From there we usually can hone in on what is their number one skill set. What’s their number one gift? What’s their secondary gift?
The primary one matters much more than the secondary one, but they both matter. And from there, we look at bullet points. What are the responsibilities that could align with this gift.
Because one mistake people make is they’ll say “this is my skill. And this is the job title that goes with it.”
And the reality is these skill sets are umbrellas for a whole flow chart of different functions. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, or you’re in the workforce. So I start to ask them, “who do you know in your life that is using a skill similar to this? Who do you know or who do you find interesting?”
And I’ll come up with some keywords for them, and I’ll help them – in one of my courses I have a tutorial on how to use LinkedIn as a tool for clarity – and I’ll give them some keywords, or I’ll show them in the course how to do it – if they’re not with me one-on-one. And they’ll type keywords into LinkedIn that will help them find profiles based on their skill set. And expose them to people who are out there doing things they may have never considered. And that’s really the beginning of helping translate their skill into an actual title.
Mark: That’s awesome. We’re getting short on time, but I think it’d be fascinating to hear… so now, you’ve gotten someone to this point, and now they’ve identified some industries and maybe even some companies. And they’re reaching out through LinkedIn to connect with people.
How do you help an individual at this point develop their elevator pitch? The first words that come out of their mouth, so they don’t just start babbling.
Ashley: Yeah – and for those listening, if you haven’t heard of it – an elevator pitch is the answer you give to some version of “tell me about yourself.” And I think one of the mistakes people make with this, is that they don’t notice when they’re being invited into an elevator pitch.
So, “tell me about yourself” can be disguised in many costumes. It could sound like “what got you here? Why did you apply for this? Why are you leaving your job?” It’s all “tell me about yourself.”
It’s important your ear is trained to hear that. And I have a four-step formula that I go through in my book, in my courses… but what I will say – unless you want me to go through all of it – is that the starting point where people miss the Mark is they regurgitate their resume or their cover letter.
When really, they should be sharing a story that matches their career skill set to who they’ve been as a person their whole life. So, for example, if somebody says, “tell me about yourself” and you want to work in pr, you can say something like, “my entire life I’ve been a people person. I’ve always been connecting people, loving to hear about people and it makes sense that I’ve ended up in pr.” Something like that.
Or maybe you’re an engineer – you could start off by saying “ever since I was a kid, I used to break apart my computer and put it back together. I always knew I was meant to work in technology and computers.”
It’s something memorable, and then from there you can go on with your elevator pitch, but recruiters are human beings and they’re tired. And they have to talk to a lot of people, and they hear it all the time. They hear their resume; they hear the regurgitation – as humans they want to be fascinated. They want to be captivated.
And the number one way to be memorable… or the number one most memorable human emotion is not love, is not humor – it’s awe – being able to create a sense of awe for someone. And when you can share a story that ties you to your career path, it takes the job off the table. And it makes that job more part of a mission – it brings a mission into play.
So, I’d say that’s the number one starter for an elevator pitch.
Mark: That is cool and then kind of as a last question – what are like the biggest mistakes you can make in an interview?
Ashley: I mean, not having your elevator pitch thought out is definitely one of them. I think another mistake is not having questions at the end. Taking a new job is a big piece of your life, and if you don’t have any questions for someone, it can come off as kind of alarming.
And so I would say one question that positions you really effectively – because you don’t want to look at disengaged – is what would success look like in this position? If I was really thriving in six to 12 months, what results would be happening for the company because I’m here?
That kind of question gets an employer to start talking about their vision for the company. And you get to understand their results. And you get to enroll them in you being the person that can do that.
So, I’d say that’s one of the bigger mistakes – just not asking enough questions. People don’t even ask when they’re looking to fill the role or when do it, they expect to hear back… and then they have to email and have weird exchanges…
So, I would say just getting those basic logistics out onto the table that you’re wondering about. And also asking about success and how you can create that in the role.
Mark: That is awesome. Well, thank you so much Ashley. Your book “You-Turn….” Beautiful yellow cover if you’re looking at the video here “y-o-u-turn” and “Get Unstuck, Discover Your Direction, Design your Dream Career.”
This is available everywhere, of course, right? Amazon…
Ashley: Yeah, all the places…
Mark: Okay, great. And people can find you at AshleyStahl.com… same thing with like Instagram and your social media?
Ashley: Exactly. All ashleystahl…
Mark: Thanks so much. Super appreciate your valuable contribution and for your time on this podcast. It’s very nice to meet you and man, I learned a ton…
Ashley: Thank you.
Mark: But I’m actually on track, so I’m not going to be changing my career anytime soon. But I know a lot of listeners are going to find a ton of value there. So, thank you very much.
All right, folks. That was Ashley Stahl check her out, check out her book “You-Turn,” especially if you’re in a U-turn situation and thank you again for your support. And we’ll see you soon.
In the meantime be unbeatable.