I just turned 36-years old and decided it was time to change careers…CRAP!
I spent the first nine years of my career working, fighting and clawing my way from a temporary operations position at Goldman Sachs to a front office real estate capital markets position with Bank of America. I would eventually go from a 70 hour work weeks to counting the days until I was laid-off. Welcome to 2008.
In 2009 I decided to take my chances in the startup world. I would spend the next four years working with early stage startup companies within finance & real estate capital markets. I gave up stability for a voice in the decision making process, the ability to be creative & entrepreneurial and all it got in return was stress, weight gain and more stress. Every day I would remind myself that all the risk I was taking would be rewarded huge in the end. At least that is what I believed as I walked into each bulge bracket investment bank, pension fund, hedge fund or family office pitching the three dirtiest words on Wall Street: esoteric, real estate, derivatives.
Four years, 3-companies and all I have is a big box of worthless equity I can use for kindling. There was no big pay day, no news story talking about our innovative product; nothing. Four years of an emotional roller coaster and yet I still had no interest in returning to the corporate world.
I would soon find myself in San Francisco after my wife was transferred for her job. Unemployed and looking to escape finance I thought there was no better city than San Francisco to change careers into technology. What I quickly learned was that a combination of 13-years of corporate and early stage startup experience in real estate capital markets isn't viewed as a transferable skill set in San Francisco. From March (actually December when I found out my wife was being transferred to San Francisco) to early July I was sending resumes into the black hole of HR inbox's, cold calling people I would find on Linkedin, attending networking events and having enough tea and coffee with friends of friends to last me a lifetime with zero results.
One day walking home from physical therapy (1-month after moving to San Francisco I had a bad bicycle accident requiring shoulder surgery) I had an idea to create a website and a Twitter account to help build my brand and create a following. While doing research about my idea I found a Forbes article (Forbesarticle) which included this mind blowing statistic "...only 7% of job seekers actually have a personal website.” This validated my idea but I still didn’t know how I was going to promote myself and get the website the attention I needed.
A couple of weeks had passed since my "brilliant" idea when I found an article on SFgate.com (SFGATE) about a company called Breeze (www.JoinBreeze.com, tell them Joe G sent you). Breeze provides cars to people who either don’t have their own car or have a car that doesn’t qualify for Lyft, Uber and Sidecar. With my latest discovery I found the missing piece to my puzzle. I would drive for Lyft, advertise my website, network and land my next job. This is usually where a twist comes into the story but that is literally what happened.
After getting my California's driver's license and going through the Lyft vetting process I was soon ready to hit the road. With the help of my network engineer buddy I was able to purchase a new domain for $9.99 on GoDaddy.com, convert an existing website to the new www.HireJoeSF.com (up but not in its original operating form) and setup a Twitter handle (@hirejoeSF) within 24-hours. The website showcased my career, included my resume, background about who I was, what I was looking for and a daily video diary. The diary was an idea of a friend who said I needed to be honest, and the videos needed to be raw and authentic. As embarrassing as they were to make people who found my website would comment the most on the video posts.
Through the signs in my car I clearly and openly marketed www.hirejoesf.com & @hirejoesf. My goal was to drive to 12-hour shifts to maximize my income but more importantly network and build my brand through the passengers in my car. Not only was this an amazing ice breaker for my passengers but it would also inspire those who were looking to change careers to think outside of the box as well.
The signs allowed passengers to check out my website via their mobile phone or tablet which would lead to inquiries on my background, what I was looking to do and how the passenger could or couldn’t’ help me. I would pick up anywhere between 16 and 35 passengers a day which would provide me 16 to 35 opportunities to test and refine my elevator pitch. I would test which wording was clear, fluid and to the point. With every question I received from a passenger I would test different responses to find the one that addressed their questions, was the most articulate and the shortest. I viewed every passenger as a job interview. Over the course of time I would build an inventory of the best pitches and responses.
As a participant in the sharing economy I had direct access to a changing and incredibly diverse pool of possible connections at the most intimate level. There was no other avenue available that could provide me the same continuous flow of one-to-one interactions in San Francisco. Not every lead was the direct result of an amazing conversation. I once received an email from one passenger who I had very little interaction with. But he reviewed my credentials and thought enough of me to forward my information to his manager. This simply wouldn’t have happened unless I was participating in the sharing economy.
I started driving on July 18th and by August 11th I had accepted a new job. The CEO and COO of the company I now currently work for were in town on business and over the course of our 45-minute ride they had visited my website, initiated a conversation with me, which lead to a formal interview before they left San Francisco and eventually two more interviews through Skype. The videos I found to be embarrassing would turned out to be a hit with the CEO I now work for. This opportunity would not have been available unless I was driving as part of the sharing economy.
All you hear about in the news is the growing tech industry and the high profile successes associated with it. What I quickly learned through my job search is this bourgeoning tech industry which is dominated by a significantly younger demographic isn’t an employment utopia; unless you possess the technical skills which are in high demand. With each passing day I found it easier for me to return to banking than it was to find an opportunity with a technology company. The jobs I found that I thought I was either adequately fit for or even over qualified for are in such high demand that the “dark” employment process of knowing the right people dominates the city. The desire that has fueled my drive to leave the corporate world would eventually be the reason why I continue to avoid it; creative and entrepreneurial thinking in partnership with the sharing economy not only helped me find my current job but it helped me change careers.
My new job is not with Breeze or with Lyft and this wasn’t intended to be a plug for either. I wanted to share my story because without the sharing economy and its components (Lyft & Breeze) there is a very high probability I would still be looking to change careers today.