19: Career Advice: Why Millennials Need To Carry The Water

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This is a podcast episode titled, 19: Career Advice: Why Millennials Need To Carry The Water. The summary for this episode is: If you liked this episode, we bet that you’ll love our blog content. blog.drift.com/#subscribe Subscribe to never miss a post & join the 20,000+ other pros committed to getting better every day. --- Today we’re talking career advice. But this career advice is going to be unpopular among the millennial crowd. Everyone wants a mentor, or someone to “pick their brain over coffee." Everyone wants to become an executive overnight. But first, you need to carry the water. You need to put in your time. Here’s what no one ever tells you early in your career: you actually have two jobs. The first job? Crushing your job. Your day-to-day to work. The things you were hired for. Your second job? Managing up and making the life of your manager or boss easier. That’s what we’re talking about today on Seeking Wisdom. Catch all of the previous episodes of Seeking Wisdom: seekingwisdom.io/ Follow David (twitter.com/dcancel) and Dave (twitter.com/davegerhardt) on Twitter.

Dave: Today on Seeking Wisdom, we're going to talk about carrying the water.

Speaker 2: Boom. I'm scared today. I've never seen Dave this fired up. Get ready people.

Dave: I am fired up. I am fired up.

Speaker 2: All right. So we're going to talk about carrying the water. And basically that's an old saying that most of us know, which is, for people, when they're getting started early in their career, to actually spend time carrying the water of those above them, whether that's mentors, whether that's the people in their workplace, whoever it is, and basically learning through the age old apprentice method. And the reason that this came up recently is that we always talk about the grind here. And I noticed something when talking to other founders and other people of a certain vintage, aka old, that it seemed like a lot of people that they were dealing with at work or their colleagues who were just out of school, fresh out of school, had a different set of expectations for how quickly their career would progress.

Dave: Yeah. So when you mentioned this idea, when you mentioned this to me, I didn't know what you meant by carrying the water at first. And then you explained it to me. I'm a big sports fan and so the analogy for me was a lot of times the rookies at training camp on a hot hundred- degree day, they got to carry the pads... Excuse me... of the veterans after practice. They got to carry their shit, bringing it into the locker room. And so that's what you said. You said yeah, it's that.

Speaker 2: And that's true in sports, in the military, and way long ago, and in the workplace as well.

Dave: inaudible. Doing things for your parents.

Speaker 2: Exactly.

Dave: There's so many things and we're going to talk about all of them because this is a topic that gets me fired up. But you basically were just saying early in your career, and we talked about this back and forth, earlier, you kind of have two jobs. Right?

Speaker 2: Mm- hmm(affirmative).

Dave: You have a job of, you have to do your work, you have to be good at your job, whatever. You're a designer, right? You have to be amazing designer, you got to create value for the company and value for your customers. But you also have a second job-

Speaker 2: What's that?

Dave: ...which I don't think a lot of people understand. And the second job is to make the rest of your team and your manager, your boss, look good and be successful. And it's not just about looking good, but it's like putting them in a position where their life is now easier because they've hired you. And I think the biggest thing that people just forget is they completely forget that step. But it's a hard thing to talk about because we were just at lunch and we're talking about this, we also don't want to come on here and say you are at the mercy of your boss and your job is to clean up their shit.

Speaker 2: No, not at all. Yeah, because I think it's true at both ends. So getting started, I think you should be focused on making the company and your boss, whoever that is, your manager, whoever it is, your team, look better and give them the credit. But I also think, on the other end, as you progress in your career and as you become a leader, that your job is to help those younger than you, those around you look good and not yourself. So I think it's not just younger people, but I think it's even as you become more experienced, your job should always be to make those around you shine.

Dave: Yeah. And I think the mindset is like if I'm an employee, it's how can I do my job and also take as many things off the plate of the person who manages me?

Speaker 2: Yeah. And I think it's going back to your team idea there. It's just like when you see a well- functioning team that everyone's blown away by, they're all individually doing great things, but they're also making sacrifices or assists, in basketball terms, they're assisting other players. Right. And those are the great teams. Right. There are great teams with exceptions where there's one dominating player, but usually that's not the case. Usually, that's the exception. And usually, the rule is a great team is everyone is contributing to bring the team forward.

Dave: All right. Okay. So for people listening, I'm 29. I graduated-

Speaker 2: He's a millennial.

Dave: I'm a millennial. I graduated in 2009 and started working.

Speaker 2: The reason I mentioned he's a millennial is that it's unusual for millennials to be as in touch with this subject as Dave is.

Dave: Yeah. Well, anyway. So, I understand this. And I think since then, right around that time, 2009- ish, why do you think this started to happen? You mentioned to me like it's the Zuckerberg thing. Is it because everybody that graduates college now thinks that they can start a company and be their own boss at 22?

Speaker 2: Yeah. I think a number of things have happened, in my opinion, and who knows if they're true or not. So some things which may be correlated are, all of a sudden, you're being brought up in an era where very young founders and celebrities, basically celebrities of all type, some of those celebrities being founders, are being celebrated by our culture. Right. And that could be a singer or an actor, that could be Zuckerberg himself in technology, but like all of a sudden you're seeing the example, public examples, which we didn't see in the past of 22- year- old, 20- year- olds, Justin Bieber, 16- year- olds being phenomenally successful. And the media loves to focus in on those people because they are so exceptional, because that is actually so not normal that we begin to grow up in an environment where we may think those things are normal.

Dave: Yeah. And part of the things that make millennials often great teammates is because they think they can figure anything out. And that's the mindset. Right. I can figure anything out. I can figure this out. Let me do it. I don't have experience, but let me do it. And that is an amazing quality. But at the same time, it's also exactly what we're talking about here. And it's that mindset that I don't have to carry the water here because I'm a person just like you and I can contribute.

Speaker 2: What year did you start working?

Dave: So I started working right after I graduated.

Speaker 2: What year was that?

Dave: 2009.

Speaker 2: Okay. That's important.

Dave: Yeah.

Speaker 2: I ask that because I think Dave and most people that we're probably talking about have graduated 2009 or more recently. And the reason that I think that's important is the second reason I think that this may be occurring more often than not is that these people have come into a workplace where there has been no downturn. Right. And the last significant downturn that we had, economically, was 2009. Right? So if you came into workforce after that, you've never seen an environment where things have been rough. Right. You haven't been through those rough times. And I think for the people who are self- aware like Dave is on this subject, they've probably seen some rough times, they probably been through the trenches to some degree. And so they have some context.

Dave: Yeah. I think, for me, it was because I graduated 2009. 2008 was a shitty year.

Speaker 2: Yes.

Dave: That was my senior year in college. And that was the weirdest I've felt in my career, actually, even though I hadn't done anything yet, was because everybody says you got to go to college so you can get a job.

Speaker 2: Yep.

Dave: I know you have opinions on that-

Speaker 2: Lots.

Dave: ...but separate thought. But then when I graduated, they were like," Oh yeah, we're looking for somebody with two to three years experience." And I was like," How the fuck do you get experience if you can't get a job?" So I took a internship, which is very humbling.

Speaker 2: Okay. Talk about that. Important.

Dave: Yeah. So didn't know what I wanted to do. I graduated with a marketing degree, which has absolutely nothing to do with anything I've done in my career.

Speaker 2: In marketing?

Dave: Yeah, I do marketing now, but it has nothing to do with anything I learned in college.

Speaker 2: Okay.

Dave: And so I took this internship at an agency, a PR agency, because it was like the only place that would hire me. And I thought I wanted to do business. And so I figured this would be a good way, work with all these tech companies. And I think that actually had a lot to do with the way that I think now is because of the agency model.

Speaker 2: Yes.

Dave: When you're 20... I was 22. What? 22? I don't get to talk to clients.

Speaker 2: Nope.

Dave: Right. So everything that I do has to like go through somebody else crosstalk. When I was an intern, like emails that I'd write, if they were client facing, somebody would have to review them first. And so I think that forced me to be like, " Okay, damn, there is a clear ladder here."

Speaker 2: Hierarchy.

Dave: Yeah. But once you can show that you can do it... And so, it was kind of on me like," Okay, if I don't get to do any of this client facing stuff." it was kind of like," How can I make other people that get to do this, how can I make jobs easier so then I get to do it?"

Speaker 2: Yeah.

Dave: And so it just became like scheduling meetings for people, doing all the other shit like scheduling travel and putting stuff in Excel that nobody wanted to deal with.

Speaker 2: Yeah. And where you paid well at this internship?

Dave: Oh, It was fucking terrible. I got$ 10 an hour. And I was living with my parents' house, which is in Worcester, which is 45 minutes away from Woburn where this internship was.

Speaker 2: Okay. So you're commuting 45 minutes crosstalk.

Dave: A 120 miles round trip every day.

Speaker 2: There you go. Now, I think I understand why Dave has some context to this. And I don't think many people have gone through that.

Dave: But I don't want to forget this thought. So, the point of that story was to say that now all the companies that people want to work at, there weren't as many Drifts or other startups. Right?

Speaker 2: Mm- hmm(affirmative).

Dave: And so the challenge is that now if a startup is your first job or all these tech companies, right, you think that work-

Speaker 2: This is normally.

Dave: ...is 10 people sitting around listening to rap on the Sonos and there's a tap in the office. You think that that's what work is.

Speaker 2: Nope, no one's work is that way.

Dave: How do we change that though? Because at the same time, crosstalk.

Speaker 2: I don't know. I love everyone's opinion on how you change that. I don't know and maybe the change has to come from someone like Dave, because I feel like if I'm to say that, then I'm the old man on the hill like back in my day, you had to work. Back in my day-

Dave: Yeah. Yeah. Whoever says it, it's shitty because... Excuse me... even if I say it, it comes off as there's rules and you're not allowed to talk because you're in this role. And it's not that at all.

Speaker 2: Definitely not. Definitely not. But yeah, but we have to have some context to understand that the kegerator and the sitting around together and having a good time and doing outings and doing all the fun stuff that we do as a team as all of us do as teams, especially in startups and early technology companies, is not normal. It's not normal at all. But when that's only been the only experience that you've had, it's hard to have context. And I don't know how people inaudible.

Dave: You know what? I think the most underrated career advice is-

Speaker 2: What's that?

Dave: ...to join a big company when you get out of college.

Speaker 2: I think it's a really good idea. It gives you context. You may like it. So it might be perfect for you. And if you don't like it, then you have a reason or kind of a mission behind your decision to either start a company or to join a smaller company and it gives you appreciation.

Dave: I think it depends on what you do. I can understand if you're an engineer, it might be easier to go join a small company and you have a more focused role. But if you're in sales or you're in marketing, I didn't appreciate this while I was doing it, but I worked at two big companies, yeah, two big companies before Drift. So I've done two early stage companies and two big companies. And I think when you're at a big company, at the time, while you're there, you hate it. And you're like," I want to be at a startup. This place..." But then when you get that first early stage job, you have subconsciously built in all this process. And not the bad type of process, but like the way you communicate, the way you share your work, the way you work with others. I think that's stuff that you can't learn if you just go directly to an early stage company. And so, being in the constraints of a big company where you're like one of 150 marketers is actually a really good learning experience. But it's just hard in that moment to think of it that way.

Speaker 2: Yeah. And I think in our world that we're kind of in, B2B software world, it's important to have context for what is broken today in order to fix it. And it's great to have that kind of beginner's mindset and to come in and not be weighed down by the way that things work today. But it's also super useful to have some context for what is actually broken. Do actually people care about whatever it is that I'm building or proposing?

Dave: Yeah. So, from where you are, tell me about the good things that can happen to somebody in their career if they carry the water.

Speaker 2: So much. Let's see. What are the good things? Well, one, it humbles you. Right? So you need that humbling. And because the humbling is going to come no matter what-

Dave: But I mean, from your perspective, you're more likely to invest in that person?

Speaker 2: Oh, def... Oh, okay. So that perspective, yes. I think-

Dave: From you as a CEO.

Speaker 2: Yeah. People are always asking to get time with whatever, with me, or different people, whatever. I don't want it to be about me. But they're like," Oh, I want a mentor. I want to talk to this person. I want to talk to that person." And it's like, well, first thing you got to do is do stuff for them. People want to get, but they never want to give. So you got to start with giving because you need to give what you want to get back.

Dave: Right.

Speaker 2: And so you go, work, apprentice, mentor, whatever the word is, go do. Basically, go create value for that person or set of people and then they will give back to you. Right. But to expect that they will give back to you without first creating value, it's unlikely to happen.

Dave: And this is what happens at companies. I saw this at a company I used to work at. Day one, new employee emails the CMO, says like," Hey, can we get a coffee? I want to pick your brain." 75 people on this team, hundred million dollars in revenue. Like he doesn't want to sit down with you and talk, have a coffee. You've been through the interview process. You're here now. You don't get to pull that card. It's hard enough for other people to get meetings with this person.

Speaker 2: Totally. Back before Drift, I was at HubSpot, and actually that would happen. I knew when we were bringing in new classes of MBAs, because it would happen every single time. Right. So I knew when the new class was starting, because I would get all of these emails. So every MBA that would start their first day, the first thing that they would do is to send emails to everyone on the executive team and say," Hey, can we go to lunch?" Right. So first day, you're getting all these emails and they're like," Hey, do you have time? Can we set up a meeting for Tuesday to chat?" And I'd be like, one," Who is this?" Two, I would always reply the same thing. They ask and say no. Some of them, a small percentage of them would reply back and be like," Oh, why can't we meet?" And I would say," You need to do something here first. Right? Do something here first, not only that you create value, but so that we all have context or I have context to even understand what are we talking about? Because you haven't been here for more than 30 seconds, you haven't contributed to the team or the company, but yet you want to have a meeting. I don't know what we're going to talk about." Most of the time they would always want to talk about, when I did do it in the beginning, just nonsense. Right. They just want to meet for the sake of meeting.

Dave: They want to talk about your career.

Speaker 2: Yeah.

Dave: Life lessons. That's why we do this podcast now so you don't have to. People don't have to meet with you, you just listen.

Speaker 2: Exactly. And I can point them back and be like," Go do that." Because every time I would meet them, I'd be like," Oh, we already talked about doing this. Have you done it yet?"" No, I haven't done it yet." Well, that's your problem. What are we here to talk about?

Dave: So this is just a self- awareness thing. Whereas the right way to approach that would have been, I want to meet with this guy, but I don't have my card to play yet. But I'm on his team. I'm going to bust my ass. I'm going to do a good job. I'm going to make sure he knows who I am. Maybe make a couple of things in his life easier.

Speaker 2: Yeah. And those people, guess what? You go out and you pull those people closer to you because they're exceptional. And so the people who would come in and crush it, man, I'd be running to meet with them. Not only me, but anyone else would be like," Wow, that person is creating so much value that I want to be a part of them, I want to help them."

Dave: Or you take the opposite mindset. You're like," Man, I want to try to get my hands on this person early in their career."

Speaker 2: Yeah.

Dave: Right. Versus them just coming to you saying,"Tell me a story."

Speaker 2: Exactly. So totally underrated, carry the water first, push, and then because it's so not normal, you will stand out and people will pull themselves to you. So you will create a pull versus trying to push yourself onto them.

Dave: Yeah. So, that's some career advice today from us.

Speaker 2: Yeah. And so what would you tell people, other millennials like yourself, who haven't carried the water yet, why would it be beneficial?

Dave: I just-

Speaker 2: How do they do it?

Dave: So the beneficial part is you just notice that people take good care of you. Right. That's the number one thing. That's why you should do it. Because if you can take little things off of that person's plate, then their life is easier and it's more likely to trickle down to you. But it also just shows the self- awareness and I think that can be applied to a lot of other things other than the day- to- day job like," Oh, this guy obviously gets how things work. I trust him working on X because he's going to think about it the right way." As far as how to apply that in your job, I think just remember that you have two jobs. You have the job that was in the job description on the website that you applied for and got, or whatever didn't apply for, but you know the role, you have to do that well. And so that's check number one. You don't get to earn the right to do all this other fun stuff and hang out with execs if you're not crushing your job. But once you've done that, it's just like, think about opportunities where you can take things off of people's plates. So like, whether it's just like you're in Slack, for example, and somebody mentions your CMO and they say," Hey, Bob should go do this." Right. If you have self- awareness, you know that that's not something that that person needs to spend their time on. Just grab that, just say," I got it and I'll do it." It's a lot of just like doing stuff and then telling somebody that you did it, like," Hey, FYI, I booked this thing for you. Don't worry about it. Here's all the information. Got it covered."

Speaker 2: Huge.

Dave: inaudible. That person doesn't have to think. Unless you're at a huge company, usually, the story that we're telling today applies to execs. It's not usually like the director of sales at a big company. It's more about people whose schedules are already nuts and already have enough stuff going on that any like sliver that you can make their life a little bit easier as it relates to work, whether it's you see some bullshit, stopping it before it gets to them... It's almost like you see a fight with your sibling. You could either let your parents find out so everybody gets in trouble-

Speaker 2: Yeah. Or you can deal-

Dave: Or you can deal with it yourself.

Speaker 2: Yeah. So I think the one thing that I would tell people if they're early in their career and they have kind of a goal of," Hey, I want to be the CMO same day, I want to be the CEO, I want to be whoever you want to be, or I want to start a company someday, whatever your goal is." to go and find the person closest to you who has already done that and has been successful at doing that. And then go and figure out how you can go and carry the water for her, for him. And then learn from that person by doing so.

Dave: And realize how long it took that person to get there. Right.

Speaker 2: A long time.

Dave: You shared a story, you said one time that you started a bunch of companies, managed hundreds of people, you said one time, somebody basically jumped five different steps to become an exec before they were 30.

Speaker 2: Yeah, totally. I think this is something that people don't see is-

Dave: It takes time.

Speaker 2: It takes a long time. And so some people might come out of school and be like," I'm 22, I'm 23, I'm 24 or whatever." It's like," All right. How can I be VP of whatever or the CMO in a year?" And it's like when someone is that far out or that far from being self- aware, it's really hard to kind of coach them. But you can use examples and say the best, best case scenario, like the phenom, the person who's blown you that you've seen or either work with you or has worked around you who's been the Kobe of their era, it took them, whatever, eight years, 10 years to be able to do this.

Dave: And that was like the best person you've ever seen. So it's going to be-

Speaker 2: Yeah. And I've only seen one. Right. Maybe you can be fast than that person. Probably not. Probably most of us can not be that, can be the Kobe of our position, of our generation.

Dave: Yeah. But the thing is, it doesn't come down to if you're 24, 25, that next step isn't about the work that you've done in the 365 days of that year.

Speaker 2: Exactly.

Dave: It's like the experience that just compounds over time. Right. And a lot of times it's like you can do an amazing job, but you just need time because you need to see more things happen. There's going to be ups and downs. You need to go through all that. It's not like you just crush it in one year and because nobody has seen results like that, that you just get to be this role.

Speaker 2: Yeah. You need time to make mistakes and to learn from them. And you're going to make a lot of them. I'm reading this fantastic book by the founder of Sam Adams, Jim Koch. I don't know if I'm saying his last name right. Fantastic book. I think we're going to do a podcast episode in the future about this. Great book. He started the microbrewery kind of industry. He started Sam Adams, which most of us know as a great beer company. And one thing that he said that he always remembered that his dad told him... And he came from the longest line of American brewers in history. Right. His dad was a brewer, his grandfather, his great- grandfather. Well, his dad told him one thing that he always remembered. He said," You need time to be able to make mistakes. And you're going to start out and you're going to make hundred- dollar mistakes in business. Then you're going to make thousand- dollar mistakes. And maybe you might even make it one day to make hundred- thousand dollar mistakes." And he said," And if you're really, really, really lucky and part of the very, very few percentage of people who get this far, you will someday make million- dollar mistakes." And he always thought about that because he did make all those mistakes, including making a one multimillion- dollar mistake that could have sunk his company. But you will need time in order to make all those levels of mistakes. And it's one thing to learn from a hundred- dollar mistake. But guess what? A ten thousand- dollar mistake is coming up and a hundred- thousand dollar mistake is coming up. And that just is a matter of time, you cannot rush that.

Dave: That's a good place to end. I was hoping you mention that new book.

Speaker 2: Oh yeah. Everyone's got to go out and read that and we're going to do an episode on that soon.

Dave: Cool. All right. That's a good place for us to stop today.

Speaker 2: Go carry water.

Dave: Go carry the water. And then once you're done carrying a water, help us and go to seekingwisdom. io, catch up on all the previous episodes. We talked about a bunch of things that we've mentioned in the past before. They're all on the website.

Speaker 2: Come on, stop hiding. Show us some love. Five star reviews, come on. Hook up an uncle.

Dave: We'll take a five star review if you're in the spirit and you've been liking what we're doing.

Speaker 2: Hookup uncle DC, five stars.

Dave: We'll talk to you next week.

Speaker 2: See you.


If you liked this episode, we bet that you’ll love our blog content. blog.drift.com/#subscribe Subscribe to never miss a post & join the 20,000+ other pros committed to getting better every day. --- Today we’re talking career advice. But this career advice is going to be unpopular among the millennial crowd. Everyone wants a mentor, or someone to “pick their brain over coffee." Everyone wants to become an executive overnight. But first, you need to carry the water. You need to put in your time. Here’s what no one ever tells you early in your career: you actually have two jobs. The first job? Crushing your job. Your day-to-day to work. The things you were hired for. Your second job? Managing up and making the life of your manager or boss easier. That’s what we’re talking about today on Seeking Wisdom. Catch all of the previous episodes of Seeking Wisdom: seekingwisdom.io/ Follow David (twitter.com/dcancel) and Dave (twitter.com/davegerhardt) on Twitter.