Guest blogger George A. Santino was born into a family living in poverty in Philadelphia’s violent Tasker Street Projects. He was subjected to his alcoholic father’s fits of temper as he tried to earn money for himself by selling tomatoes from the back of a truck. A freak injury caused him to be discharged from the military in his first week. His real estate ventures collapsed and his businesses failed one after another. Just when he thought he’d get on his feet at last, another freak injury left him the mercy of doctors who predicted that before his thirtieth birthday, he’d never work again. What do you do?
If you’re George A. Santino—you get back up. And when you achieve success in spite of it all, you write a book to tell people what you learned.
In his highly regard book, Get Back Up – From the Streets to the Microsoft Suites he shares his rare humor and the story of his rise from humble beginnings through a series of adventures—opening a sports bar with no walls, cursing out a drill sergeant, battling a hiring manager to get a job offer that he intends to turn down, and more—that culminate in a long and successful career with Microsoft, building a family and losing (and regaining) a small fortune along the way. Throughout, Santino shares his business insights and perspectives on mentorship, and stresses by example his central lesson: no matter what life throws at you, always remember to get back up.
Here are some of his best tips for career seekers.
Competition is fierce when it comes to getting that job. How can you stand out from the crowd? And how can you successfully stand out once you land it? Follow these steps and you just might be on your way to a new and exciting career.
1. Prepare for your interview! Before you walk into that office and start answering interviewer questions, you have to answer some of your own. For example:
- What does this company do specifically?
- What recent successes have they had?
- What recent failures have they had?
You would be amazed how many people fail to do this, even when conducting the research is often right at their fingertips. Employers expect prospective employees to know about the company. There is no excuse not to, but take it a step further:
When asked why you want to work for the company, recite a list of their recent success and their future expansion plans, if appropriate.
2. Don’t forget the basics of interviewing! Once you’ve scheduled the interview, make sure you do the following:
- Arrive on time. It doesn’t matter if there was a traffic jam on the Interstate, or that you had to drop your child off at day care. Plan for these possibilities and leave early.
- Be polite and courteous and thank everyone for their time, including the receptionist who greeted you. Imagine acing the interview only to have the receptionist say you were rude. You never know who wields power, so be nice to everyone.
- Dress nicely. Even if everyone in the company wears jeans, you don’t work there yet, so put in the effort.
- When you’re asked a question, answer it completely. If you don’t fully understand, ask clarifying questions. Remember, how you answer the question can be more important than the answer itself.
- When asked if you have questions, be confident and take the opportunity. Remember, what you ask and how you ask it will be evaluated.
Remember, you are making a life altering decision here. To the company you’re just another hire, but to you, this is your life. Ask enough questions to be sure you really want the job.
3. Follow up like a pro. When the interview is over, be sure to do the following:
- Thank the person or persons who interviewed you.
- Ask what will happen next and when you can expect to hear back.
- Make sure you collect business cards or email addresses from each person you speak with throughout the day.
- Find out if you have any action items. If you do, complete them right away.
- The second you get home, send individual emails to everyone you talked to. Thank them again for their time, reiterate why you want to work for the company and why you’d be a great fit.
Most importantly, consider actually writing a physical note and putting it in the mail. You’re looking for a way to stand out. This will accomplish that.
4. Overcome any objections. If the company makes you an offer, that’s great. You may or may not be able to negotiate the terms. However…
- Be sure and ask.
- If you end up not getting an offer, you’ll most likely be informed via a form letter, but don’t let that be the end of it. Get the recruiter or hiring manager on the phone. Thank them again for their time and consideration, but you’d also like the opportunity to learn the reasons for their rejection.
- When you hear the objection, listen carefully to what is being said, ask clarifying questions, and respond respectfully.
Example: When George Santino was first turned down by Microsoft, he was told it was because he didn’t have a college degree. He asked the hiring manager why that mattered given the fact that Bill Gates, the founder of the company, also didn’t have a college degree. She responded that it was more about demonstrating that he could finish something, to which he replied, “Instead of finishing college with a business degree, I went out and got 17 years of business management experience.” That answer got him invited back for a second interview.
Remember: A rejection doesn’t mean no; It’s simply a request for more information.
5. Now that you’ve landed the gig, nail it. Now the real work begins. Your first priority is determining what it takes to be successful in that job and doing those things. Where do you start?
- Show up ready to go. Find out what’s required of you that first day and get there on time and ready to go.
- Understand your role. Before you accepted the job offer, you had some understanding of what the position required of you. Now that you’ve arrived to work, you have to completely understand what you’re supposed to be doing.
- Refer to your job description or others performing the same role.
- Find a mentor if you haven’t been assigned one already.
- Set up one-on-one meetings with your supervisor.
Really read and understand that job description. Talk to the other people doing the same or similar jobs. Ask questions of your mentor and your supervisor. Basically, take the time to truly understand your role and its associated deliverables.
6. Manage expectations. Learn what your boss wants, needs, and values.
- Ask clarifying questions about what successful people at the company are doing and then do the same sorts of things.
- Get the feedback you need before your review. Throughout the year ask your boss about your work. You need to know if she thinks you are meeting or exceeding expectations for your deliverables. If you’re meeting them, find out what exceeding expectations looks like, and then take action. The next time you meet with your boss ask if you are now exceeding expectations. If your boss says you are, then keep it up. As the review approaches, remind your boss that she said you were exceeding expectations.
Know what it takes to be successful at your current job. You need to know what results are considered “just doing your job” and what results would be considered exceptional enough to possibly garner you a raise, bonus, or promotion. During your performance appraisal is not the time to hear you could have done better.
Don’t be afraid to say, in a respectful way, that you assume if the review were done today that you would be assessed as exceptional and therefore would get exceptional rewards. If your boss pushes back, ask what more you can be doing. This can this can be uncomfortable for some people but this is your career. If you don’t speak up for you, who will?
7. Aim for the next level. Once you know how to be successful in your current job, assess the requirements necessary to do the job at the next level. Find a way to start doing some of the things required of the next position there.
Hold yourself and your boss accountable for giving you the feedback you need to adjust your effort towards exceptional performance. When you do excel, make sure you get the rewards you deserve by having those conversations with your boss early and often before the actual review.
Whether you’re trying to get the job, or you’re requesting feedback on how to do better, standing your ground and advocating for yourself can be pretty uncomfortable. You may feel out of line, unprofessional, or arrogant. But remember, as long as you frame your requests in terms of a genuine desire to learn more—about what you can do differently and better–you stand a better shot at getting what you want.