Career Warrior Podcast #296) Pushing Past Barriers: Non Traditional Education, Low Income | Career Building as a Minority | Nitzan Pelman
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If you feel like you’re trapped – whether that be through not having the “perfect background” or feeling like your economic situation is holding you back, you need to listen to this episode.
- You may be struggling right now because you believe more strongly in the barriers right in front of you.
- Or you may (like many others) believe that there is a straight highway to success, and you don’t see yourself on that road. You feel like you’re in the grass on the side. This episode is going to shift your mindset and provoke thought to help you succeed.
Nitzan Pelman is a three-time social impact entrepreneur whose life mission is to create economic opportunity for hidden and overlooked talent. She founded Climb Hire in 2019 as a way to generate upward mobility for people earning below livable wage. Climb Hire’s program model is based on Nitzan’s first-hand research as an Entrepreneur in Residence at LinkedIn, where she studied the powerful role that social networks can play in securing living wage jobs. Early in her career she worked at the Department of Education in New York City, KIPP, and Teach for America.
Nitzan Pelman 0:00
We all have those stories and the more that we can tell those stories about ourselves, the more that we can frame how people think about us.
Chris Villanueva 0:11
LinkedIn presents. Welcome to the Let’s Eat, Grandma Career Warrior Podcast.
Chris Villanueva 0:28
And welcome to the Let’s Eat, Grandma Career Warrior Podcast where our goal is not only to help you land your dream job, but to help you live your best life. Today, we’re going to talk about how people with non traditional educational backgrounds can build social capital and build a career that they love. If you’re feeling like you’re trapped, whether that be through not having the quote, perfect background, or feeling like your economic situation is holding you back. You need to listen to this episode. Listen, you might be struggling right now because you believe more strongly in the barriers right in front of you. Or you may like so many other people believe that there’s this straight highway to success and you don’t see yourself on that road. You could feel like you’re possibly on the grass on the side. So this episode is going to shift your mindset and provoke thought to help you drive your career forward. Today I brought on Nitzan Pelman. Nitzan Pelman is a three times social impact entrepreneur whose life’s mission is to create economic opportunity for hidden and overlooked talent she founded climb higher in 2019 as a way to generate upward mobility for people earning below livable wage. Find hires program model is based on Nitzan’s firsthand research as an entrepreneur in residence at LinkedIn, where she studied the powerful role that social networks can play in securing living wage jobs. Early in her career, she worked at the Department of Education in New York City, que IPP and Teach for America. So as you can see, this is going to be a solid episode. And if you feel like you’re held back by any of these backgrounds or situations in your life, we’re here to help you and we’re here to guide you through it. So welcome to today’s episode of the Career Warrior Podcast. Welcome to the show.
Nitzan Pelman 2:12
Thanks so much, Chris, for having me.
Chris Villanueva 2:15
Listen, I’m so stoked. We’ll hear about climb higher in a second. But I just want to say you climbs you launched climb higher, to help overlooked and hidden talent prepare for new collar jobs related to Salesforce. So I think there’s a lot to unload there. But I just wanted to hear a little bit about how you chose this path to help people in their careers. There’s so many people who are helping people generally out in their careers. I know there’s a lot of career coaches and organizations founded to help job seekers. But how did you choose your mission?
Nitzan Pelman 2:48
Well, first off, Chris, I’m so glad to be chatting with you today. And to all of the job seekers that are the listeners excited to be connecting with all of you here. As you said in the intro, four years ago, I was an entrepreneur in residence at LinkedIn. And I just had this very unique opportunity to be kind of a fly on the wall there for a year, as I was thinking about ways that they could build more opportunities on the platform, and really noticing trends. And one of the really profound trends that I noticed, when I was there is that they had put a referral button on their platform. And what they learned by doing that was that the vast majority of job seekers were getting jobs through referrals, which really like was kind of a mind blowing epiphany moment for me. I had never really thought about where have I ever gotten my jobs from. And I realized that I had never applied for a job on a jobs board. And that every job I’ve ever had has come through a warm relationship and a network and an introduction. And that as much as I so badly wanted to be distinct in the world. I was distinctively undistinguished in just how much this was happening everywhere. Most people get jobs through referrals and networks. And so then the next question I started to ask myself was, well, where do networks come from? And I think if you grew up in a middle class or you know, more affluent neighborhood, you’re probably building networks from even before kindergarten. A lot of people then get another shot at building networks when they’re in college. And that’s when you’re singing in an acapella club, you know, joining a frat or sorority writing for the newspaper. You’re spending hundreds of hours in this coming of age moment in time with people that are in that exact same moment in time with you. And what I’ve heard from so many people over so many years, is that that’s when they you know, those are networks and relationships that then open up doors for the rest of their lives. But to be on honest, many people from low income backgrounds don’t do that oftentimes go to community colleges. And that’s because college is increasingly more of a sorting mechanism for wealth than it is for aptitude and capability. And knowing that, as the cost of college rises and becomes so much more cost prohibitive, especially people of color from lower income backgrounds, are then electing for community colleges more often than not, and when people are doing that, they’re going into class, they’re running out to go to their jobs to take care of family members, they’re not hanging out for hours on end, and therefore they don’t get to build social capital. And then when school ends, or when they’ve had enough, or whatever it is, they don’t have that network to tap into, and somebody to make that phone call and make that warm introduction. And then they get stuck, and they start applying for retail jobs. And that becomes the next thing. And the next thing and the next thing. And my hypothesis was, is that there’s all this hidden and overlooked talent, people who have grit and motivation and drive and plenty of aptitude. But maybe just didn’t have the network and community to break into that first career. And so we teach in demand skills alongside of building networks and community so that people can do exactly that. I love that.
Chris Villanueva 6:35
And thank you for bringing that to light, I think there are so many people out there who are looking to, you know, find this fulfilling life, and they have the raw talents and the abilities and the drive and all that like you’re talking about. But they feel stuck because they don’t have the degree or, you know, perhaps they were working under the degree and some financial considerations came into play, and they’re not able to afford to finish it. I personally think that people do also struggle with getting some sort of background and then not being sure of how to apply it. Like if you’re watching this right now, you can see I have a degree behind me right now. But it’s not what I am working on right now I went to school for hospitality to learn how to manage restaurants and hotels. But I was like, I don’t want to do this anymore. And I ended up switching to start my own business, which seemingly had nothing to do with what I studied. So I think there are a lot of people who may feel like they’re either way back by a degree that just may not be related to what they want, or they may not have it in the first place. So I love that you’ve highlighted it. I love that this is what your organization helps with. And social capital is another really big thing that I was thinking about earlier, how do you define social capital? And what can it be used for?
Nitzan Pelman 7:55
I’m so glad you asked this question. So if you think about capital, as an asset, or financial capital, is our money, and that’s an asset and how we buy things. Our human capital is also an asset or it’s a capital, and people hire us for our human capital. And each one of these assets has value to it, either our financial or our human. And then the last form of that capital is social capital, our networks, our relationships, our peers, which also has value in it inherently. And so when we introduce this concept to the climb higher students who we call climbers, and are really adults that are in their 20s and 30s, we really talk about these various forms of capital, and that social capital is you know, its own form of value, but you have to cultivate it and develop it in order for it to have value.
Chris Villanueva 8:50
I love that. I guess I would say what are some of the misconceptions about hiring individuals with untraditional educational backgrounds or possibly any of the other backgrounds that you’ve worked with?
Nitzan Pelman 9:02
Yeah, so I’ll say a moment about what kinds of backgrounds climb higher, generally attracts. And it’s generally people that are coming from lower income backgrounds, we generally serve people of color. And the criteria to be accepted into the program is to be earning below livable wage. Most of the people are, you know, driving Uber or Lyft or cashier, clerks, things like that, where you’re making minimum wage, you might working one or two jobs, just to make ends meet and have deeper aspirations. You’ve probably been working for a few years, the average age in the program is between 25 and 38. So it’s generally serving a adult audience but an adult audience who really have the ability to get unstuck or have a new career pathway because they’re still early on in their early enough in their career. And now I forgot and what initial question you asked me?
Chris Villanueva 10:02
No, that was a good primer. And that’s exactly the type of background that I was trying to highlight here. But like, what would be some misconceptions if I’m in hiring and I’m a company looking to hire talent of individuals like this?
Nitzan Pelman 10:15
Well, I think that for a long time, we’ve used the bachelor degree requirement on job descriptions as a proxy for aptitude, grit, drive, and motivation. And, as I said before, especially as college has become increasingly more expensive, and unaffordable, even to middle class families, they’re looking for many more ways to get educated, that don’t have such a high price tag. And so for people who don’t have those bachelor degrees, I don’t think that there’s a connection to aptitude and grit and drive and motivation that there once was uniquely connected to or correlated to the bachelor’s degree. And Google did a study on this 15 years ago. And what they figured out is that there was no difference in their employee base between people that had college degrees and people that didn’t have college degrees in their performance. And so they dropped the bachelor degree requirement. 15 years ago, I heard about this, too. Yeah, it was, they did a lot of publicity, and a lot of talking about it a long time ago. Now, the problem is that if you have yourself gone to college, and you respect that degree, and you don’t know very many people that didn’t, and you don’t know that many high achieving people who, you know, didn’t come from the same background that you did, you still might have hiring bias towards those bachelor’s degrees. And what we’ve been really helping companies understand now for a number of years is that there’s a whole population out there that they’re overlooking. And that’s why we call this talent overlooked and hidden, because they’ve proven themselves in our ranks. They’re doing six months of very intensive learning it six hours of class time at night, three hours twice a week. And then it’s usually about 10 to 20 hours of homework, on top of that this group of people are generally working one to two jobs during the day, that are really, really physically taxing, but they’re coming in full strong, you know, at night, and on the weekends to do this work, so that they can create a better life for themselves. Fabulous. Obviously, there’s a correlation between the non traditional educational background or not having that degree and low income. But I just want to focus a little bit on the low income or just folks who are having financial struggles right now, how does this impact my job search? Why is it harder for me to find a job if I’m encountering these sorts of financial challenges? And what can I do to overcome those challenges? The way that our model works, what and how we build social capital, alongside of these in demand skills, is we really teach the art of relationship building. And so how do you ask open ended questions? How do you show somebody that you’re an active listener? Chris, you do these things. So naturally? Well, you know, you ask thoughtful questions that allow me to, you know, pontificate and, and speak a bunch. And then you laugh, and you track me with your eyes. And you nod when I say something that you agree with. These are all things that we do with our body, and with our voices, that helps somebody else feel heard and listened to and valued in a conversation, we teach all of those things. And then we give people many opportunities to practice both with each other, with the alumni of the organization who have since broken into those middle class and early careers in corporate America. And then also with industry professionals, who work at workday, Salesforce, LinkedIn, Google, many different companies. And over the course of the five months, we have once a month, an event that we call social capital, happy hours, where people get onto the screen that you don’t know and you haven’t met before, and you practice you practice how to tell your story. You practice that ubiquitous interview question that is the first interview question. Oh, please tell me about yourself. And you know how you tell that story about yourself makes or breaks that first impression. And you don’t get it right the first time. And so all of this helps people break in. And so we’re helping people build networks, but also you could be applying cold for jobs. You could be reaching out to people on your own network. We have a climber who was working as at a bakery, and she was you know, handing pastries out to people as they came into the bakery. And she decided that she really wanted to do a marketing internship. And we taught her all about social capital and if she went to the owner of the bakery and said, You know, I really have these dreams of wanting to be in marketing, do you know anybody who might be open to hiring me, I don’t have much experience, but I’m learning. And she said, actually, as it turns out, my husband really needs a marketing intern. And I think you’d be delighted to hire you, because I know how hard of a worker you are, when he hired her. And then four months later, she found another opportunity from just having more experience. So we social capital is everywhere. And you can read it within our network, our alumni network, our professional network, and also your own network.
Chris Villanueva 15:35
I love that. Thank you for sharing that story. I think that’s really enlightening to give people an actual story, to show how this type of thing can help you move forward. And I’ll just tell you, like, from my own experience, I remember when one time that was struggling through being an early entrepreneur, and it was tough for me to have that sort of money to propel my own business forward to propel all sorts of things forward. So I was driving for Uber for a few years, you know, to help make those ends meet. And talking about social capital. You know, one thing I like to do is, one thing I like to do back at the time is if I noticed, if somebody liked to talk, I would talk back and stir up a good conversation and just build that connection. Even though 99% of the time I wasn’t going to talk with these people ever again. But I remember a few key moments when I spoke with folks who were took a genuine interest in me. And I remember one I talked about my hospitality background, he said, handed me his business card as soon as I dropped him off, and he said, Hey, will you apply for this job, I would love to have you and I’d love to see you come through. I never applied for the job because I was building my own business there. And it’s something I’d still think about regularly, because it’s like, I didn’t apply to anything. I didn’t give him my resume. I didn’t go to his website and, you know, do this crazy research. But I just had a genuine conversation with him and shared a little bit about my hospitality background. And that type of interaction and social capital lead to something great. So just echoing your point there, I think it’s great.
Nitzan Pelman 17:11
Chris Villanueva 17:12
So what advice do you have for individuals who are looking to build successful careers other than just social capital? What other things should I be thinking about as well?
Nitzan Pelman 17:22
Applying for jobs is hard. And even if you customize your resume, and you get the perfect LinkedIn profile, and you really do all the hard work of really making sure that every application you submit, is thoughtful and clear. 99 times out of 100, you probably won’t hear back, yeah, you have to just have results. And that’s why really being around people who can keep you motivated and not let you fall is so important. And that’s why we have career coaching. That’s why I have community. That’s why we have peers, because it’s a lot to overcome the nose. And there’s a lot more nose than yeses, but just know that every single person who I’ve worked with over the last three and a half years, that just was relentless, and just kept at it. Sometimes it takes a year like and you know, the job market right now is hard. But if you’re relentless, and you do the work, so leaning into your social capital leaning into applying cold, you have to pull all the levers, but you have to do it thoughtfully, and you have to be on it every day. So we really encourage people to be applying for between five and 20 jobs a week and not any of this like bogus, like just get on LinkedIn, get on indeed and tap, apply, apply, apply, apply, apply. No, like that’s garbage. That’s the equivalent of garbage. It’s like really thoughtful applications are what get noticed if you’re really doing the hard work.
Chris Villanueva 18:54
Okay, I want to ask a question about looking at those job postings, because I know a lot of them are intimidating. I’ve gotten comments from job seekers that oh my gosh, this one requires all sorts of experience and all sorts of skills and that requires this x degree to apply for the job. What do you recommend for job seekers when they’re coming up with a decision to apply or not applied based on the job description? And should I really not apply for something if it requests a degree that I don’t have?
Nitzan Pelman 19:26
What our general advice is, if you have 75% of what the job description is saying, then you can apply? And obviously it’s even better if you can find some way to find somebody in that company who you can reach out to. And you know, when I started climb higher, I didn’t know one person who worked at Salesforce. And we were teaching the Salesforce admin cert and ultimately we knew we needed to build a lot of relationships with companies that purchases Salesforce licenses because they were going to have jobs. And I wrote to 900 people on LinkedIn. And I sent the very personal notes, knowing that they had connections to those clients to those companies, and asked if they would meet and explained why I was asking. And about 250 of them, accepted my request for a connection on LinkedIn. And then about 30 agreed to have meetings with me. So people can be generous, and then you have to come super well prepared for that meeting, you have to have a really compelling story, you have to have practice that story, you have to have a compelling reason for wanting to talk to them. And you have to have a very clear ask, like, what is it that you want, or that you hope that they might be willing to do? I’ve seen people come to us and say, the climbers are amazing and wonderful people, but they haven’t asked me specifically, how I can be helpful. And I want to be helpful, but I don’t know how to be helpful unless they tell me how to be helpful. And so you know, it’s about spending time on people’s LinkedIn and figuring out who they have a connection to, or even a genre of jobs or categories, like, the more that you can be six specific, the more that somebody else who is generous, will want to be helpful.
Chris Villanueva 21:20
Excellent. You obviously have a great LinkedIn presence and have put in the work there. What advice would you have for folks on their LinkedIn profiles who may come from these backgrounds? I know LinkedIn, you could put everything you can put your whole novel essentially on that about me section. But what advice do you have for those folks?
Nitzan Pelman 21:38
Employers love when people overcome hard things and achieve like out positive outcomes when they’ve stuck to it. And so we all have those stories. And the more that we can tell those stories about ourselves, the more that we can frame how people think about us, and I’m not sure all of that should go on the about me section of your LinkedIn. But I think there’s power in talking about overcoming adversity. Yeah. And sometimes people don’t know that.
Chris Villanueva 22:12
I love that I would do the same thing. Because, you know, you talked about the misconception of not having a degree being not being able to have that, you know, grit or overcome adversity. And there is adversity when you go and attend these colleges. And it’s tough. But what about the story of these individuals who are overcoming backgrounds and having having this sort of thing? So I think that’s great. That’s something I would definitely recommend for our clients as well is to include that. It’s funny, I just, my mind is on it, because we just released an episode last earlier about LinkedIn about section. So I think it’s valuable. The last question I had for you was about negotiation, especially when it comes to the job offer. I think a lot of folks are afraid to ask for what they want, or they don’t know that negotiation is a possibility when it comes to employment and securing your next job offer. What advice would you have for folks who may feel like they don’t have the upper hand, especially coming from a traditional background or low income or any of that stuff? What What advice would you have on landing your dream job?
Nitzan Pelman 23:21
Well, one piece of advice is what I call thinking about the experience chasm. Every employer wants people with experience over people without experience. And so there’s this forever perennial quagmire of how do you get experienced when you don’t have experience, and anything you can do to get experience is going to set you apart. And I’m not saying you should work for free or anything like that. But you know, the second thing I would say is, you’re not going to get your dream job when you’re right out of college or when you’re young person, like that’s a fallacy. It’s a fallacious idea that the first job you have is your dream job. You have to build experience. And you have to walk around in the dark a little bit and taste a lot of different things. Before you know what your dream job is and what it isn’t. I had an amazing job in my mid 20s, it was probably my second job professionally. But I had a terrible boss, who was just vicious and mean and made people cry. And so even though it was a great job, like I learned a lot about where I didn’t want to work on a culture basis, right? So there’s a lot of different dimensions to what makes a job a dream job or not. And it’s not just what you do all day long. It’s also who you work with, who you work for, what the values of the organization are about how they aligned to where you are in your own life. And I just don’t think all of that happens right away and your first job. And so I think you should take every every job is a learning opportunity to find out about more about yourself, find out about what makes you tick, what makes other people around you resonate or not. And then you can over time, like find more, but the the biggest thing is to cross the experience chasm. And I’ve seen it with climbers, you know, who maybe didn’t end up in their dream job in that first job. Some of them were working at a company that was selling mortgage mortgages, and they were loan associates. And that was totally not what they thought that they were going to do. But as it turns out, a whole handful of them were like, actually really loves engaging with customers and talking to them. And I realized that I’m a people person, I can really be helpful. And it actually felt really rewarding to help somebody find the first house or something like that. But it wasn’t anything that they had ever considered. And if they had just said no off the bat, they wouldn’t have had that year or to have experience that then allowed them to get the next job and the next job in the next job. So don’t turn down opportunities, especially early in your career, because you think it’s not your dream job.
Chris Villanueva 26:05
Great piece of advice, Nitzan Pelman, and thank you so much for joining us. I have one final question to circling back to something you said earlier about loneliness and the struggle. What pieces of advice would you have for somebody who feels like they’re really struggling right now and they feel like they’re alone in their job search?
Nitzan Pelman 26:25
So I think as people feel lonely, they sometimes put themselves into a deeper hole by just getting lonelier and lonelier. And lonelier and isolating more and more and more. And I would say that’s like the opposite of what you need. Yeah, everybody lives in somewhere where you can make new friends, go on hikes, go on outings, like start talking to people locally, at your church, at your synagogue at your school at wherever. Just finding connection is so much more valuable than I think we collectively we underestimate it. And it actually is at least 50% of how people feel better. I had a pretty yucky Friday, like my last Friday, it was just a bad, professional day. And I spent a lot of the weekend like kind of venting and talking to friends. And you know, and I just, I feel better today. Good. I want people to know that like friendship is like at least 50% of how we feel better in the world. It’s not everything, but it’s a lot.
Chris Villanueva 27:39
It really is a lot really good way to close out this episode. And I again, I really appreciate it. So let’s just let’s drive it home, who is ClimbHigher for and how can they get in touch?
Nitzan Pelman 27:50
ClimbHigher is specifically for people who identify as people of color, who are generally earning below livable wage. So usually 40,000 or less, are ready and prepared to do some really serious learning at night, for six hours a week, and then another 10 to 15 hours of homework, you’re ready to do hard work, you’re ready to build relationships, and looking to break into that, you know, first career and are ready to do the hard work to apply. We serve people virtually across the US on Zoom, you have to have an internet connection and a computer. And you have to be ready to do about six hours of class time a week, and between 10 and 15 hours of homework. And you have to be ready to work really hard both on building relationships. And also on applying for jobs. We don’t hand people jobs. But we give people the wherewithal and the know with all and the social capital and the networks to lean into many different levers for how you can find that job, both in skills and in relationships. And so it’s you know, it’s people who are gritty and motivated and driven, and who are ready to work hard, but haven’t had that break and haven’t found their place yet. We’re really good place for that genre of people will need sign.
Chris Villanueva 29:11
I love everything that you are doing. So thank you so much for joining us on the Career Warrior Podcast. I just want to wish you the best of luck. By the way, I also had a really yucky Friday, and I connected with my wife and I feel a lot better.
Nitzan Pelman 29:23
Oh good. I’m really glad to hear that.
Chris Villanueva 29:26
Thank you so much for joining us.
Nitzan Pelman 29:27
All right. Well, thank you so much for having me. It was so great to be here.
Chris Villanueva 29:31
Awesome. Take care. All right, listeners, that wraps up today’s episode of the Career Warrior Podcast. I am excited for as many reasons the first is because this is the first time we’ve really delved into an episode where we cover non traditional educational backgrounds or low income and we have a philanthropy department here at Let’s Eat, Grandma. So we’ve served individuals with content like this before, but we’ve never had an episode so if this speaks to you do let us know and connect with both Nizan and me on LinkedIn. Make sure to include that within the description as well as how to find out more about climb higher. So then again, just remember that if you don’t have the perfect background, and if the job description makes you feel like, oh, I can never apply for a job like this, I’d never get a job like this, then think again and listen to this episode. Again, if that’s the type of encouragement that you need, I had a lot of fun, and I cannot wait to see you on the comment section and LinkedIn. And I’ll see you later live Career Warrior Podcast. And before you go remember, if you’re not seeing the results you want and your job search, our highly trained team of professional resume writers here at Let’s Eat, Grandma can help head on over to letseatgrandma.com/podcast to get a free resume critique and $70 off any one of our resume writing packages. We talk all the time on the show about the importance of being targeted in your job search and with our unique writing process and focus on individual attention. You’ll get a resume cover letter and LinkedIn profile that are highly customized and tailored to your goals to help you get hired faster. Again, head on over to letseatgrandma.com/podcast. Thanks, and I’ll see you next time.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai