Would I have tricked you with this Halloween costume?

As you can see, my friends and I go all out on Halloween—we do not mess around:

Wonder Woman Halloween Ensemble - 2017

That’s our ensemble costume from last year. I played Charlie, the military-looking guy on the right side (Wonder Woman’s left side). Friends and strangers alike have commented on how much I looked like Charlie, right down to his posture and facial expression.

That’s pretty cool!

But my appearance as Charlie was built on a dirty little secret…

I hadn’t even seen Wonder Woman and I had no idea who Charlie was before I put on the costume.

WAT?!

I did just enough to pull it off. Here’s what I did once we finished my makeup:

  • Watched a one-minute Wonder Woman clip featuring Charlie
  • Studied pictures of him on Google
  • Asked friends to describe Charlie to me

I didn’t need to be Charlie for Halloween, I needed to look like Charlie for Halloween, and I only had to keep it up for a couple hours.

In a weird way, I’ve built an entire business on this concept. My customers don’t need to be negotiation experts—that’s my job!—they just need to know enough to negotiate a job offer or two and then they can go back to their normal lives.

They can do this through self study or even hire me to coach them through it.

Maybe it’s time to update my coaching page to say “I’ll show you how play the role of ‘Expert Salary Negotiator’ next time you get a job offer”.

How salary negotiation coaching is like cooking a tricky pasta recipe

My favorite Italian recipe is technically called Penne allo scarpariello, but I just call it “the penne dish”.

A couple of friends brought it back with them after they spent a year living in Salerno, Italy. I was hooked the first time I tried it, so I asked them for the recipe.

Here are all the ingredients:

  • Penne pasta
  • Campari tomatoes
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Butter
  • Salt
  • Red pepper flakes

And here’s the basic process to make it:

  • Cook the tomatoes in butter
  • Remove the peels when they break
  • Add salt and red pepper flakes
  • Add grated parmesan and a little more butter
  • Cook the pasta
  • Mix the pasta and sauce
  • Eat

The penne dish

It’s delicious! And the process to make it is pretty simple…assuming you know what you’re doing.

As you can see, there are only six ingredients, and yet I ruined it the first couple times I tried to make it on my own. Both times, I missed something small that ended up being a big problem.

So I went back to my friends and asked them to show me how they did it.

I immediately realized where I had messed up: The first time, I had the heat just a little too high, and I overcooked it; the second time, I had the heat a little too low and the cheese didn’t melt properly so it had a funky, gritty texture.

Now I can make the penne dish in my sleep and it’s perfect every time. My friends love it and I love making it.

But when I share the recipe with other people they never try to make it. Even though there are only a few ingredients, it’s too intimidating knowing that there are subtle things you have to get just right in order for it to work.

So I always offer to show them how to make it—just like my friends showed me—pointing out the subtle things along the way. Then they get it.

Salary negotiation is exactly the same way

I wrote the book on salary negotiation—it’s called Fearless Salary Negotiation and thousands of people have read it and used it to make more money.

It’s a detailed recipe with a few simple ingredients for getting paid what you’re worth. And it works for a lot of people who have used it to earn a lot more throughout their career.

But sometimes there are more nuanced situations where a subtle tweak here or there can have enormous benefits. And sometimes, people just prefer to have someone else—an expert—do the work for them.

My very first paid coaching client already had a copy of my book, but she still reached out and asked if I would help her with her salary negotiation. I was a little surprised that she reached out, but I knew I could help so we got to work.

We were able to improve her job offer by several thousand dollars, and I was really happy for her. But I couldn’t quite understand why she reached out and asked to pay a steep fee to work with me rather than just buy my book.

I had to know why she hired me instead of trying a DIY approach, so I asked her, “Why did you hire me instead of just reading my book?”

Her answer gave me everything I needed to know to build a thriving coaching business: “I just wanted you to do it for me.”

That’s why I offer one-on-one full-service salary negotiation coaching for experienced software developers. For those who just want someone to do the work for them, and for folks who can stand to make a lot more money with a subtle tweak to my salary negotiation recipe, salary negotiation coaching is an amazing value.

I recently worked with J.B., an experienced Software Engineer who had a strong offer that we turned into an amazing offer:

Testimonial from J.B., a Software Engineer

And the best part is that I love negotiating job offers, so it’s a lot of fun for me while being valuable for my clients.

If you or someone you know might benefit from salary negotiation coaching, here’s where you can learn more and apply for a 15-minute intro call:

>> Learn more about salary negotiation coaching

Where was this video BEFORE my first time skiing?

I couldn’t see through all the snow spraying me in the face, so I just closed my eyes and waited for impact. Another skier was trying to stop before he ran me over, and he barely missed me. I had fallen – again – and couldn’t get up.

This was my first ski lesson. It was not going well.

Even better, the skier trying to avoid me was my good friend and instructor, Scott. He was much better than I was and he didn’t have much patience for teaching a newbie how to ski.

I would just sort of point myself down the mountain and try to maintain some control while zipping down in a straight line. When I eventually got to the bottom, I would either coast to a stop or intentionally wipe out to avoid hitting anyone.

It was awful, and I was content to never ski again.

Then my friends convinced me to give it one more shot, on powder this time. So I’m heading to Colorado next week to try again. They insist it’ll be a lot more fun than I remember.

We’ll see!

It’s a big investment—time and money—for something that could turn out to be really un-fun. So I put on my “learn a new thing, even if it might be unpleasant” hat and started doing some research.

I found this fantastic video on YouTube—it’s exactly what I needed:

How to ski | 10 beginner lessons for the first day of skiing

What impressed me most is how the instructor anticipates almost every fear that I have about skiing. “How do I turn?” “What if I fall?” “What if I accidentally end up on a slope that’s uncomfortably steep?”

He’s been teaching for so long that he’s heard all of those concerns before. His list of “10 beginner lessons” probably came directly from hundreds of terrified students who have said, “What if I fall? How do I get up again?!” as they pictured themselves stuck on the side of a mountain, people zipping by as they struggle to stand up, for hours and hours and hours.

After watching that short video, I have enough confidence to give it a shot. I’m still going to take lessons the first day, but I’m a lot less worried about embarrassing myself than I was before.

Most people feel the same way about getting a raise. Maybe they tried it once before, but it didn’t go very well. So they gave up and decided to just wait for their next raise to come along whenever it happens to come along.

Sometimes, they don’t even get that far—the idea of asking for a raise and having to defend their request may be so daunting that they never even try.

Does that sound familiar?

Now it’s February again and most companies are gearing up for performance evaluation season.

You know you’re underpaid, and you want to do something about it, but you don’t know where to start. Last time you tried, nothing came of it, so why try again?

This year can be different with Get Your Next Raise, a simple way to learn the 7 key things you need to get your next raise.

I’ll be your expert instructor showing you how to get your next raise in just 7 short video lessons with clear action items to help you make steady progress to your goal.

I’m opening up registration soon, and you can get an exclusive launch-day bonus when you join the early access list! ?Ready to finally get paid what you’re worth?

>> Join the early access list for Get Your Next Raise

This isn’t working

Nick Saban did something truly remarkable on Monday night: He benched his starting quarterback and brought in a backup for the second half of the National Championship football game.

It’s hard to describe how crazy this is – it’s never happened before.

Football coaches are notoriously stubborn. They learn a system that they like, and they hold onto that system at all costs. And this often gets them fired as they start losing games to newer coaches who have figured out how to beat their go-to system.

But Nick Saban isn’t an ordinary coach. He’s probably the best college football coach ever because he’s constantly evaluating the situation and looking for opportunities to adjust.

In this game—the most important game of the season—he evaluated his game plan, said THIS ISN’T WORKING and switched to a completely different game plan at half time.

I call this “optionality” – maximizing the number of options available at any time, and having a plan to choose and execute the right option for a given situation.

This wasn’t some sort of knee-jerk reaction to falling behind: They had practiced for this, and they ran a totally different offense with their backup quarterback in the second half.

AND IT WORKED! His team, the Alabama Crimson Tide, came back and won the game!

Optionality and your career

You knew this tie-in was coming, right?

We can all learn a lot from Nick Saban’s strategy in the National Championship. If I had to sum it up in one sentence, I would say…

Always keep an eye out for new options and have a plan to take advantage of the best options when your current plan isn’t working.
An easy way to increase your career optionality is learning a new skill—a programming language, software tool, or soft skill—so you’re ready for an opportunity that might be available soon. A harder way is to earn an advanced degree (like an MBA) or certification.

This is a big shift in thinking, but it’s worth it: Instead of just waiting for new opportunities to present themselves, you can proactively look for new options to take advantage of them.

That’s how you improve the trajectory of your career.

Fearless Salary Negotiation will show you how to proactively pursue raises and promotions using methods that work. Check it out if you’re due for a raise!

>> Click here to learn more about Fearless Salary Negotiation

How I get into the Christmas spirit every year

Every year, my friends and I watch as many Christmas movies as we can between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We have an elaborate system to nominate and veto movies until we have three movies to choose from, then we vote for our favorite.

It gets pretty crazy with people forming alliances and using complicated strategies to watch the movie they want, and we spend a lot of time arguing about what constitutes a “Christmas movie” (Die Hard is a Christmas movie, Die Hard 2 is not).

Here’s how it works…

The group nominates three movies. Each person can nominate one movie. Each person also gets one veto—they can veto any movie that’s already been nominated, and they must replace that movie with another nomination.

Once there are three nominations and no more vetos, we all vote for our favorite. The movie with the most votes wins. If there’s a tie, then there’s usually some campaigning before we re-vote for the movies that tied. If there’s still a tie, I think we flip a coin or something.

If it sounds complicated, that’s because it is: Sometimes the nomination process is as long as the movie we choose.

We’ve already had four movie nights and my guess is we’ll have five or six more before Christmas. Here are the movies we’ve watched so far this year:

  1. Better Watch Out – Is this a Christmas movie? There were…disagreements.
  2. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York – One of the best Christmas movies.
  3. Trading Places – Yes, the one about trading pork bellies. No, this isn’t really a Christmas movie—turns out the TV version is quite a bit different than the full version.
  4. Jingle all the Way – What’s not to like about a Christmas movie starring The Governator?
  5. Christmas Vacation – Chevy Chase at his best, and a timeless movie that gets better with time.
  6. Home Alone – The quintessential Christmas movie.
  7. The Santa Clause – A solid Christmas movie with one of my favorite Christmas movie characters: Neil.

A pretty good lineup, but we still haven’t watched my favorite…

Christmas Vacation

There’s just something about Clark Griswold’s dogged determination to have a Merry Christmas despite the universe conspiring against him at every turn. Hopefully I’ll get this one on the list while there’s still time.

And I’m still hoping for It’s a Wonderful Life and Home Alone this year.

UPDATE (12/19/2017): We have watched a few more movies since I originally posted this, so I’ve added them to the list above. We’ve had a really solid lineup so far this year!

Speaking of Christmas…

Give them a lifetime of bigger paychecks

If you’re looking for a great Christmas gift, Fearless Salary Negotiation is the gift that keeps on giving – literally.

For the rest of their career, they’ll know how to ace job interviews, get more job offers, negotiate a higher salary, and get raises and promotions rather than just waiting for them to happen. All because of your thoughtful gift.

Just click the little gift box icon at checkout and I’ll take care of the rest. You can even set a future delivery date to make sure their gift arrives on Christmas Day!

Give the gift of bigger paychecks

Tough career advice over lunch at a cheap BBQ joint

“What are you doing for lunch today? Wanna go to Sonny’s?”

I was a Project Manager on a team of about 8 people at a company of about 30 people.

Still, it was a pretty big surprise that my boss wanted to go get cheap BBQ for lunch.

I had been doing pretty well, impressing clients and even winning some awards. My co-workers seemed to like working with me. I tried to give good input and share my opinions in the right situations.

But I could sense this wasn’t a back-patting sort of lunch—Humble Pie would probably be on the menu.

Sure enough, my boss had one central message for me:

“Your input in our team meetings is often critical but thoughtful. And that’s good—we need that kind of input to keep improving as a team. But the way you share your input and accept feedback could be more collaborative and less harsh.”

He told me my body language was negative. I didn’t seem to be engaging to find solutions so much as simply venting about my frustrations. When my work was scrutinized, I wasn’t open to suggestions that could help me improve.

This was pretty hard to hear, and I didn’t take it well at first (reinforcing his reason for sharing this feedback).

But the more we talked, the more I understood that the actual words I spoke were only part of the equation. We work with people, not robots, so our facial expressions, body language, and tone all contribute to how others perceive us.

I began to see that he was simply advising me to get out of my own way. By seeming standoffish and resisting input, I was making others less likely to offer feedback that could be valuable for me and our team.

I made two major adjustments that I still use today:

  • I forced myself to actively listen to all feedback without passing judgement in the moment.
  • I decided that I would not criticize something without having at least one thoughtful solution to the problem.

If you’ve sat in a meeting with someone who has no idea what they’re talking about, then you know how hard these things are to do in practice.

So it took a while to make these adjustments, but they paid off in spades.

It became easier to solve difficult business problems because I really listened when my colleagues identified things we could improve.

I also found that I had access to more unique opportunities because I became known as a thoughtful collaborator who could work with a team to solve difficult problems. Those opportunities helped me get promoted faster and get better paying jobs with more responsibility.

I’m glad my boss took me to lunch and shared difficult feedback over cheap BBQ that day. My career has been much better for it.

Something to think about

If you took yourself to lunch to share one piece of career advice, what would it be? That might be a good place to focus your energy as we head into the home stretch of 2017.

How I prepped for hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma smacked the state of Florida last week, and I live in Gainesville, FL, directly in the path of most of the trackers’ projections before Irma made landfall.

When Irma was in the Atlantic, it ramped up to a Category 5 hurricane, which is a pretty scary prospect for us Floridians. A Cat 5 hurricane can do a lot of damage, so it’s important to make sure you’re prepared.

Here’s a summary of my #HurricanePrep the day before Irma arrived:

  • My buddies and I played a round of disc golf—I shot one over, which is pretty good considering I haven’t played in a year or two.
  • Then we went to Wal-Mart and stocked up on the essentials. Here’s what we had in our cart:

Groceries for hurricane Irma prep

  • Then we went to Satchel’s pizza for a Satch Pan (Satchel’s take on a deep dish).
  • I moved anything that looked like a projectile out of my yard and into my laundry room.
  • I made arrangements to ride out the storm at a friend’s house where the power almost never goes out.
  • We watched football.

I know, I know: It sure doesn’t look like we took Irma very seriously. The truth is that we probably OVER-prepared for Irma given what we knew at the time.

Prepping for the right things

The worst part of a hurricane is the storm surge, but storm surges require lots of water (like an ocean). Gainesville is land-locked, which significantly mitigates the risks of a hurricane because we’re unaffected by storm surges and hurricanes have to cross a lot of land to get to us. As hurricanes move over land, they weaken, so they’re much weaker when they get to Gainesville than they were when they made landfall.

What I didn’t mention above is that my friends and I are all life-long Floridians, and we’ve seen and prepped for lots of hurricanes. Since we have so much experience with them, we can filter out all the noise coming from the Weather Channel Hype Machine™?, and we know that there are just a few important things we need to do any time a hurricane blows through town:

  • Get some water
  • Get enough non-perishable food and a few batteries to last a few days in case the stores close
  • Find a decent house to shelter in place (preferably one that doesn’t usually lose power in storms)

So when hurricane season rolls around, we know all we need to do is a few key things to make sure we’re ready. As long as we do those things, we’ll be ok for most hurricanes that reach Gainesville.

Irma flooded streets and downed a few trees, but not much else. This is 34th St here in Gainesville – a main road that goes north and south right through the middle of town:

A Gainesville, FL street flooded during Irma

And here’s the view from my house looking down my driveway. You can see the water line in my yard—fortunately my house is raised above the street just a bit!

My house after hurricane Irma

Asking for a raise boils down to a few key steps

Asking for a raise can feel overwhelming. But in my experience as a hiring manager, I’ve learned that there are just a few key things you need to do to to prepare ahead of time. If you focus on these things, then process becomes a whole lot simpler and a whole lot less overwhelming:

  • Pick a time when there’s budget available
  • Ask for a specific salary
  • Show how you’ve already earned the raise
  • Follow up

When you prepare well and take the right steps, then asking for a raise is much easier for you and your manager.

Not sure where to start when it comes to asking for a raise or promotion? Fearless Salary Negotiation will show you how to estimate your market value, and has a step-by-step process you can use to get your next raise or promotion.

The Tick-Tock of my BBC News Channel Interview on Live International TV

I got up and went to Starbucks like I do almost every morning. That’s where I go to get some coffee, catch up on the news (specifically, that means reading Twitter), and plan my day. I like having a routine, especially in the morning, because it reduces the number of decisions I have to make when I’m sleepy and my brain isn’t fully functional.

8:00 AM Eastern Time

So I got my coffee, found a table by the window, and popped into Tweetbot to see what was happening. I saw the little dot that said I had a new mention, so I checked it.

That’s what I saw. The BBC? Interesting! I replied right away and we did the “follow each other so we can DM” dance.

8:05 AM Eastern Time

I wrapped up coffee time and headed in to my office, which is about 2 minutes from Starbucks. It would take a few minutes for Tammi to follow me back and DM me, so I figured I might as well move to my office so I could set up for my interview.

At this moment, I wasn’t even sure what kind of interview we were talking about. Most of the time when I get this sort of request, it’s for either an email interview or a phone interview, and those usually end up published online.

So I was thinking this might be a phone interview that might be aired on TV or transcribed for quotes for online, TV, or radio use.

To be clear: I had no idea I was going on national TV soon.

8:17 AM Eastern Time

Tammi DMs me her email address and lets me know that they’re on air in 45 minutes, and would I be free then?

Now I know this is a live interview. I’m still not sure if it’s audio-only or video. I’m assuming audio-only.

8:21 AM Eastern Time

Tammi emails me with a summary of what they’re talking about and asks some questions to give me a sense of what sorts of thing I might be asked on the air.

She also mentions that it would be great if we could do a live interview for TV, and asks if I have Skype.

“…LIVE FOR TV.” ?

I confirm that will work and answer the questions she asked to show that I know what I’m talking about.

As an aside, I’ve found that any time I’m asked questions about my subject, giving very thorough answers is almost always the best way to go. It demonstrates my expertise and gives the asker as much information as they need so that can pare it down to whatever they were looking for. Over-delivering in this particular area has gotten me a ton of good opportunities to contribute to large outlets.

We also exchange a few more emails about logistics like my geographic location.

Meanwhile, I start setting up my office for a Live TV interview. I cleared my whiteboard, raised my laptop on a pile of books so the webcam was eye level, set up two super-cheap desk lamps I keep handy for key and fill lighting, and began testing everything to make sure it looked and sounded ok.

8:34 AM Eastern Time

Tammi asks for my phone number so a producer can reach out to me to start getting ready to go on air.

I continue monkeying with my setup so it looks as professional as possible on such short notice.

8:42 AM Eastern Time

A producer from the BBC News Channel calls me to confirm some details and tell me what’s going to happen.

This call lasts one minute.

I continue fiddling with technical stuff and testing things to make sure everything works. I mess with my bookshelf so it’s not totally barren. I drink water to make sure my throat isn’t dry. I fire up my lights so they can warm up in time. I talk to myself out loud a lot so my voice warms up as well (I’ve been awake for about an hour at this point, so I’m still feeling and sounding sleepy).

I log into Skype and hang out waiting for the BBC to call.

8:58 AM Eastern Time

The BBC calls me on Skype. A different producer this time.

He does some basic checks to make sure everything is ok. I’m on camera now and planted in front of my laptop. I won’t move a muscle for the next 12 minutes.

I don’t see anyone on the other side, but I can hear Shaun Ley interviewing a guest and talking. There’s a commercial playing.

9:06 AM Eastern Time

Shaun Ley is talking about me. Now he’s talking to me, but I can’t see him. All I see is a green dot on my MacBook, and some stars from the bright lights in my face.

Shaun asks me some questions and I answer them while I continue staring at the green dot.

9:09 AM Eastern Time

Shaun and I are finished talking and a producer thanks me for my time. We disconnect on Skype and my 15 minutes is over.

In only an hour and nine minutes, I had spoken with three BBC producers over four different mediums, plus talked with Shaun Ley on Live TV.

But my time with the BBC wasn’t quite over.

1:06 PM Eastern Time

Here we go again!

This one was a slower burn, but the tick-tock is still interesting.

I exchanged DMs with Sophie and sent my phone number so we could chat about the interview.

1:34 PM Eastern Time

Sophie says she’s calling soon.

1:45 PM Eastern Time

Sophie calls for an exploratory chat where she asked several questions about different aspects of salary negotiation and the gender pay disparity.

The interview would be quite a bit later in the day, so I think she was trying to get as much information as possible to enable them to ask questions that dovetailed with their programming while complementing other discussions they would have over the next several hours.

We wrap up after 16 minutes and I’m told the interview should be at 6:05 PM Eastern Time, and that they’ll call me a few minutes before that.

6:01 Eastern Time

A BBC 5 Live producer calls to make sure everything is set up. We do some technical tests to make sure they can hear me and then I am in the queue.

I can hear Stephen Nolan talking with a Sky reporter and the conversation is a little… contentious? BBC News and Sky are competitors, so this is to be expected.

I confess I was a little nervous that I might be walking into a tricky situation, so my guard was up a bit.

The interview with the Sky reporter went a little longer than I expected, but then I could hear Stephen transitioning to our interview.

About 6:15 PM Eastern Time

I’m on! This was a much less difficult interview logistically, but the questions were more challenging. We didn’t have as much time as I expected, but it was a good interview overall.

6:23 PM Eastern Time

The interview was over, the producer thanked me for coming on, and that was it.

Here’s my BBC 5 Live radio interview:

How I get the most out of business conferences

My MicroConf talk

I’m writing this from my hotel room at MicroConf, which is a conference for bootstrappers and entrepreneurs who are building (mostly) solo businesses like mine. I’m here because some of the smartest people I know—and lots of smart people I don’t yet know—are here, and I want to learn from them.

But I’m also pretty introverted (did I mention I’m holed up in my hotel room writing this?) and I find conferences and large groups of people to be overwhelming.

Here’s a pretty candid video of me a couple nights into MicroConf:

I'm living alone!

“So how will you learn from them if you’re hiding in your hotel room all week?”

Good question!

How I get the most out of business conferences

I’m very comfortable talking with one or two people at a time, so I try to find opportunities to talk with small groups of people. Before any conference, I make a list of the following:

  • A few people I want to talk to while I’m there.
  • A couple big questions I hope to answer.

And then my entire mission for the conference is to find and talk to those people and find answers to those questions.

That’s it! I’ll attend the seminars, go to some meetups, but I’m always trying to find a way to talk to those people and find answers to those questions.

My two big questions for MicroConf

1. How do I reach more people who would benefit from Fearless Salary Negotiation? I’m very happy with the products that I’ve built, and testimonials from successful customers keep pouring in. I need to learn how to reach more potential customers.

2. How can I better communicate what Fearless Salary Negotiation is to folks who read my articles, download free resources, and take my email courses? It’s one thing to make new people aware of Fearless Salary Negotiation, but it’s another thing entirely to help them decide if it’s the right investment for them.

“Ok, but you’re at this bootstrapper conference. That might work there, but what about my business conference with a thousand people?”

I actually developed this strategy when I had a full-time job working for a larger company. I would think about which managers in the company might be working on projects where I could contribute, then I would just look for opportunities to talk to them about those projects. It always helped to have a couple of thoughtful questions ready to go so I could make the most of the conversation.

How’s it going so far?

Pretty good! I’ve already spoken to two of the people on my list! I still have a few more to go, but it’s already been a successful conference for me.

If you attend business conferences, you should read my book Fearless Salary Negotiation. Can’t hurt to be well compensated for all those trips, right?

The three biggest mistakes I made in my first 10k race

Cooper River Bridge 10k starting line

I visited Charleston, SC for my first 10k race last weekend and it was a lot of fun. If I’m being honest, my main motivation was to eat lots of delicious Charleston food, and my penance for all that delicious food was running a 10k.

“Josh, we’re going to run a 10k in a few weeks, and you should come!”
“Meh. I’m not really into running.”
“It’s in Charleston, and we’re going to like five good restaurants while we’re there.”
“I’m in!”

My decision was handsomely rewarded with absurdly delicious stuff like this…

Pawpaw biscuits
Pawpaw biscuits with pimento spread and honey butter

And this…

Lewis Barbecue rib
A rib from Lewis Barbeque

Since I was in town, I figured I might a well run the race right? I finished in a mediocre 56:02. Still, that was a full 6 minutes faster than my only practice run so that’s something. I started training about eight weeks ago after not running at all for…well, I honestly can’t remember the last time I ran a mile before that.

It was a great experience and I’m glad I did it. But I also made some rookie mistakes.

I started too slow

I was worried that my adrenaline might make me jump out to a too-fast start and burn out early, so I took it easy for the first two miles. What I didn’t realize was that the sheer size of the crowd was enough of a damper to keep me from burning out early.

Here’s my view from the starting line:

Cooper River Bridge Run 2017 Starting Line
The starting line at the Cooper River Bridge Run

It wasn’t that crowded the entire time, but it was still pretty crowded.

This mistake cost me a few minutes.

I over-estimated how hard the bridge would be

The race featured the Cooper River bridge in Charleston, SC. I heard it was a pretty rough ascent and I didn’t want to wear myself out before I got there, so I took it easy until the bridge.

I kept waiting for it to get harder as we climbed, but it never did. When I finally got to the top of the bridge, I realized it just wasn’t that bad. Oops.

This mistake cost me a minute or so.

I wasn’t aggressive enough

40,000 people ran this race. I assumed it would be crowded at first, then thin out as the race went along. But it never thinned out, and there were even a few serious bottlenecks along the route so we nearly came to a stand-still a couple times.

Here’s one of the bottlenecks – this is the off-ramp from the bridge, about 3.5 miles in:

Cooper River Bridge Run Offramp
Cooper River Bridge off-ramp (Image source)

The better strategy was to start fast and aggressively pass people as often as possible.

I didn’t realize this until the half-way point at the top of the bridge, where I started slipping through slower groups instead of waiting for an opening to go around them. I employed a pretty sweet sideways-hop-jog, and I even used a swim move a couple of times (thankfully, there is no video evidence that I’m aware of).

This mistake cost me a minute or so.

BONUS mistake: We didn’t get an amazing post-race lunch

This wasn’t so much a rookie mistake as a lack of planning. We got to stroll around downtown Charleston for a while after the race, but we took so long that we missed our chance to hit a really solid post-race lunch spot.

Our post-race lunch was ok, but it wasn’t quite world-class-Charleston-food good.

We kind of made up for this by getting Jeni’s ice cream twice while we were in town, but this isn’t technically “Charleston food” so we don’t get full credit here.

This mistake cost (saved?) me a thousand calories or so.

Experience is the best teacher

My training partners, who had all run races before, gave me some helpful pre-race tips. I trained pretty hard. I had a plan going in.

I still made rookie mistakes.

I can’t beat myself up too much because I don’t think there was any other way to learn these lessons. Part of being a rookie is making rookie mistakes.

Next time I’ll start faster, temper my fear of the unknown, and aggressively pass people. It should be easy to improve for my next race.

The part where I tie this into your career

You saw this coming, right? All three of the mistakes I made in the 10k are mistakes you could be making right now. Here’s how this story can help you take control of your career.

1. Don’t start slow.

I coach a lot of folks who are interviewing for their first job. Once they get a job offer, most of them say something like, “This is my first job, so I don’t really have leverage to negotiate.”

That’s just not true. If you have skills that are valuable enough to command a paycheck, you have leverage to negotiate your starting salary. If you’ve been working for a while, learning new skills and proactively taking on new responsibilities, you have leverage to negotiate a raise.

You will have more leverage later in your career, and you’ll make more money later in your career. But you can also make more money early on with the right tactics.

2. It’s not as hard as you think.

Just like I psyched myself out before I even got to the bridge, you could psych yourself out before you negotiate your starting salary or ask for a raise.

Keep accumulating responsibilities, make sure others notice the work you’re doing, and ask to be compensated for those new responsibilities. It’s not necessarily easy to do this, but it’s not as hard as you might think!

3. Stay aggressive.

If you hang back and wait for great opportunities to present themselves, you could be waiting a long time and you will probably miss out on lots of opportunities throughout your career.

You should be pushing past your peers, working to proactively move to the next stage. If you keep your foot on the gas, continuously taking on new responsibilities, you’ll get many more opportunities for advancement and earn more money throughout your career.

The good news is that even if you’re making these mistakes right now, you can correct them. The sooner you correct them, the more opportunities you’ll find to take on more responsibility and get paid what you’re worth.

Want to avoid making rookie career mistakes? My book Fearless Salary Negotiation is jam-packed with strategy and  tactics you can use to take control of your career and get paid what you’re worth.

 >> Click here to learn more about Fearless Salary Negotiation