What Exactly is a Mentor?

If you’ve ever read an article on “how to be an entrepreneur”, 1 piece of advice that’s always in there is to find a mentor. Well, what does that actually mean? How do you find a mentor and what purpose do they actually serve?

Those questions eluded me for years so I figured I’d share my thoughts on the role of a mentor, how to find them, and how to keep them engaged as well.

First things first, you need MULTIPLE mentors. Not just one. I doubt you’re going to find 1 person who will deeply understand every single facet of what you need help with. You’ll need what I like to call your personal board of advisors. I personally have separate mentors that I turn to with life issues, sales issues, career issues and a few other things.

Now let’s define what a mentor is. A mentor is not this Godly figure that swoops down from the heavens and know exactly all the answers to your challenges are. A mentor is an experienced and trusted advisor with specific subject matter expertise. With that said, I consider some of my close friends mentors because they have great experience in certain things.

How often should you engage with mentors? Unless it’s a close friend of yours, I’ve found that once every 30 – 90 days is appropriate. You need to keep in mind that these folks are incredibly busy and also have a life of their own to manage. When you do lock in a time, make sure that you come prepared with a very specific agenda and ALWAYS express your gratitude for their time, it goes a long way.

Last, how do you find these elusive mentors? The first step is find someone you admire and want to emulate. Go to LinkedIn, search the title of a person you’d like to model yourself against or that you believe has expertise in an area that you’re weak (let’s say CRO as an example for a title), and pick the people you believe to be most impressive. From there, go ahead and find their work emails and shoot them a note. Make sure you get across that you’re not looking to sell them on anything and are genuinely just seeking advice. You should literally make your subject line “All I Want is Advice”. Not everyone is going to respond to you, in fact, most won’t. I never said finding a quality mentor is easy ;)

So there it is, the mentor “mystique” demystified. Feel free to email me at kareem@ventureapp.com if you have any questions.

 

Office Politics

Having been in a fairly corporate environment for the past 3 years, I’ve learned a few things about how office politics works. I’ve had great mentors along the way who have taught me a lot, but there are some things I’ve had to learn on my own through trial and error. Below are a few things I’ve learned from my experiences.

011-house-of-cards-theredlist

You don’t need to be this guy to get ahead!

 

  1. Don’t share any personal details about yourself with colleagues that you don’t feel comfortable with the whole company knowing.
    • This includes what you share on social as well. Think twice about sending the 2:00 AM Snapchat to one of your colleagues (or anyone to be honest).
  2. They say don’t compare yourself to others, but your colleagues are your best measuring stick.
    • It’s no secret that the top performers within companies are promoted. With that said, identify who the top performers are and strive to be better than them.
  3. Office politics happens, but results trumps politics 100% of the time (at least in tech).
    • Age / tenure as a means for promotions is dead. You’re promoted based on ability and success.

I could probably add another 20 things to this list, but the 3 examples above are things I found to be most important. The biggest thing to keep in mind is that office politics exist so people can play certain cards to gain some type of advantage (promotions, pay raise or recognition). With that said, don’t get caught up in the gossip, try and have fun and make sure you do your job to the best of your ability.

How to Nail Your Interview

Having interviewed dozens of people and having been interviewed by a handful of companies at this point, I’ve learned a few things about how to nail an interview. Not to brag, but I’ve never walked out of an interview without having received a job offer, and I’ve even turned down a few jobs. The most important thing I’ve learned is that while being personable in an interview is important, your interview fate is really decided before you even show up.

It’s all about prep.

The more you prep, the higher the odds are that you’re going to nail your interview. Preparation indicates that you have a strong work ethic, which is the toughest thing to screen for in an interview and also one of the most sought after traits that companies seek. Below are the things that I do before every interview I have.

  • Website Research: Read every single page on your prospective company’s website. Focus in on any case studies, customer testimonials, or whitepapers that the company has published. This is a great way for you to learn the ins and outs of a business, and it’s also a great way to brainstorm some thought-provoking questions to ask.
  • Competitor Research: Google “[company X] competitors” and look into the top 3 that you see. Try to determine the strengths/weaknesses of each competitor and how your prospective company compares.
  • Customer Reviews: Google “[company X] reviews” and take a look at what consumers are saying. This is a great way to get insight into where a company is headed and how its functionality stacks up in relation to its competition.
  • Employee Interviews: Do a LinkedIn search for people in your current job role at the company that will be interviewing you, connect with these people, and send them a message. If I could only choose one way to prep for an interview, it would be this way. You’re guaranteed to find information through this line of inquiry that you wouldn’t have discovered in the interview process, whether it’s good or bad. I know it can be difficult to reach out to someone you’ve never met, so I’ve included a sample message below.
    • Hi [Name]. I hope all is well! I’m interviewing for [role Y] at [company X], and I’d love to talk to you to get some insight into your interview experience and what you think of your role. My schedule is flexible, so any time that’s convenient for you for a 30-minute chat would be great. Thanks!

All in all, the above process should take you about eight hours. This may seem like a lot of time, but if it lands you your dream job or a job above your pay grade, then you’ll be getting significant and clear ROI. There’s no substitute for hard work, but as the saying goes, hard work pays off.

 

How to Biz Travel Like a Pro

Having traveled for work 30+ times this year, I’ve learned a thing or two about the do’s and do not’s about biz travel. This isn’t going to be the cliche “travel light” BS, these are things I’ve learned from other folks and through experience.

  1. Wrinkle Spray.
    • This stuff is God’s gift. When I unpack my collared shirts, they usually look like they were soaked in water and wrung out. I used to spend a ton of time ironing my clothes when I got to my hotel. However, with wrinkle spray, all you need to do is hang your clothes and spray the solution on your clothes. 5 minutes later, no wrinkles. Incredible. 
    • http://www.amazon.com/Wrinkle-Releaser-Natural-Atlas-Travel/dp/B00P8GNO5E
  2. Hotels give you toothpaste/toothbrushes (usually).
    • Every hotel offers toothpaste for free, but you have to ask for it at the front desk. Most hotels will have toothbrushes as well, but they’re usually pretty crappy, so I suggest packing your own.
  3. Comfortable clothes for travel.
    • This may be more of a personal thing, but I hate wearing suits/collared shirts while on a plane or train. I always wear jeans and a t shirt. Especially on the way back. When you’re exhausted after meetings, putting on jeans and a tee VS a suit makes all the difference in the world.
  4. Invest in nice luggage
    • It’s just worth it. Trust me on this one. I suggest Rimowa luggage. It looks slick and lasts a lifetime.
  5. Have Fun.
    • After work is done, go out and explore! Don’t just got back to the hotel and watch TV. Get on Yelp, find some high rated bars/restaurants and go out. It can seem a little daunting going out alone in a new city, but that’s the start of a great story..
  6. Pedialyte (If you have too much fun).
    • If the night gets away from you a bit, and you’ve had 1 too many, drink a Pedialyte before you get to bed and you’ll wake up with little to no hangover. Pedialyte is essentially Gatorade on steroids.

Go Get It

Being a few years removed from school now, I’ve noticed a lot of people really hate what they’re doing, but stick with it because of the money. I get it, you’ve gotten accustomed to a certain lifestyle. You can buy nice clothes, you can go to the bars and take vacations whenever you’d like to. None of that replaces the sinking feeling in your stomach that you’re sort of wasting your life doing something you just don’t want to do for 60 hours a week.

Good news though, it doesn’t need to be that way. I love my job, and I often get asked what I’ve done to find a job I love. I live my life with a simple mantra, which is “Go Get It” and I apply that to everything I do, whether it’s my career or the gym. The only thing that is stopping you from getting what you want is yourself. I know that may seem like I’m oversimplifying things, but if you follow the 3 steps below, you’ll always get what you want.

1. GET OUT OF YOUR BOX

  • The greatest innovators constantly live in a world of discomfort. Reason being, pushing new boundaries and exploring new things isn’t easy. There’s naysayers at every corner who are going to tell you to just stick with your doing and that change is a bad idea. This can come from family, your boss or most often, yourself. Don’t fall in the trap of being your own worst enemy, take action and get outside of your comfort zone.

“I’m continually trying to make choices that put me against my own comfort zone. As long as you’re uncomfortable, it means you’re growing”. –  Ashton Kutcher

 

2. WORK YOUR ASS OFF

  • Once you get out of your box, now you need to start working harder than you ever have. You’re going to fail. That’s a fact. But every failure gets one step closer to where you want to be. Anybody who is successful will tell you that it took a lot of failure, rejection and hard work to get to where they are today. 

“Failure is also a necessary experience for growth in our own lives, for if we’re never tested to our limits, how will we know how strong we really are? How will we ever grow?” – Arnold Schwarzenegger

 

3. DON’T STOP

  • Once you’ve gotten out of your comfort zone and worked your ass off to get to where you want to be, you’ve successfully gotten into a mind-set that will keep propelling you. What you’ll learn once you get to where you want to be is that you don’t want to stay there, you want to keep moving forward. Life is no fun when you’re in a rut. What is fun is seeing how far you can push the envelope.

“The tragedy of life is often not in our failure, but rather in our complacency; not in our doing too much, but rather in our doing too little; not in our living above our ability, but rather in our living below our capacities” – Benjamin Mays

To be honest, the 3 things I’ve described above are not that hard to do. It takes a lot of time and effort, but everybody has the capacity to do it. It’s not about intelligence or status, it’s about work ethic. At the end of the day, if there’s a will, there’s a way. Or as Shia Labeouf would say, JUST DO IT.

 

Make Up of a Great Sales Rep

I often get asked from what the “secret” is to being successful at sales. I wish it was as simple as just knowing a “secret”, because if it was, I’d write a book on it and retire. There is no secret. It’s a mixture of genetics, hard work and mindset.  If you aren’t willing to fail 1,000 times and go to work everyday with the mindset that you’re job is on the line, than sales isn’t for you. Luckily for me, I’ve been surrounded with incredible sales people to learn who have taught me to avoid some of the mistakes they made. This group of people ranges from my father, my best friend, my mentor and my current colleagues. Below are the 6 things I’ve learned from them that make a great sales rep.

 

 

1. God Given Abilities: Just like Lebron James was born to play basketball, some people are born for sales. You need to have strong gut instincts on how to read people and you need to be a person who can easily build friendships. Simply put, some people got “it” and some people don’t. You need to love interacting with people and be a thrill seeker. Personally, I don’t know of a better feeling than closing a deal, and I live my life seeking the next thrill of closing a deal.

2. Commitment to process: Sales is as much of a science as it is an art. The most successful sales reps have a process that they follow. Whether if it’s the way that they qualify deals to find good prospects or if it’s the way they prospect, good sales reps create successful, repeatable, processes. It takes a while to define these processes, but once you do, you’re essentially shooting fish in a barrel.

3. Work Ethic: Sales people are the hardest working people in your organization. No if’s, and’s or but’s. Be prepared to work long hours and be prepared to do whatever it takes to be successful. Sales is a  24/7 job. When a client/prospect calls, money is calling, so you need to be ready to pick up the phone. Expect to regularly take calls on nights/weekends to accommodate your prospects needs.

4. Mindset: You need to be money motivated or accomplishment oriented. Sales is the most transparent job in any organization. Everyone knows how much money you make and everyone knows how well you’re doing. Personally, I’m accomplishment oriented. What that means is I care more about hitting quota than making commission (though I know that hitting quota means a lot commission).Great sales reps are also even keel at all times. You’re under the constant pressure of your quota, but  you need to keep your cool through it all and keep doing your job.

Pressure makes diamonds

5. Confidence: There’s no room for people with a low level of confidence in sales. People with low self esteem fizzle out quickly due to all of the rejection they face in sales. You need to believe you’re the best sales rep in your organization and approach every meeting with that belief. If you’re not confident in yourself, that means your pitch won’t come out confidently, and that means your clients won’t believe in you or what you’re selling.

6. Challenger: You need to challenge your prospects mindset. You need to be able to consult your prospect while selling them. The selling landscape has changed. Not only do you need to sell your prospect on your product, but you also need to sell you prospect on why what they’re currently doing is wrong. This can be intimidating, but prospects will buy an inferior product 100% of the time if you can sell them a better solution to their pain.

These are the 6 things I’ve seen to be common in very successful sales reps. Personally, I believe that point #1 is most important to a successful sales rep. Some people are born to do certain things, and the quicker you realize what you were born to do, the quicker you’ll find success.

3 Ways to Lock in a Promotion

Having worked at a high growth company for close to 2 years now, I’ve noticed a lot of common trends in the people who get promoted. I’ve also noticed that most people think that performance is the only thing that determines promotions. While that’s true in some cases, it might take longer than expected to get the promotion that you wanted if you solely depend on performance. Here are things that I’ve seen people exhibit who get promoted often/quick.

  1. Work Ethic
    • If you’re up for a promotion, performance isn’t the only thing that will be taken into accord. If there are two people who perform equally well in the same role, work ethic can be a determining factor as to who gets the promotion. As you get more senior, your role carries more responsibility and becomes more complex. People would rather promote a person with strong work ethic because they’re willing to work harder to learn the new complexities of the role.
  2. Visibility
    • A quote that I heard that I’ve found to be very true is “nobody is going to promote your brand quite the way you can”. For example, if you’re coming to work early and leaving late, find subtle ways to let your manager know that you’re working hard. This could be something as simple as sending an email with a question early in the morning/late at night. Also, keep in mind that your manager isn’t the only person deciding if you get promoted. His or her manager, (likely a director or VP) will also play a large role in deciding who gets promoted so make sure to stay on their map as well.

      You should be a bit more subtle than this.

  3. Ask
    • Simply put, let your manager know that you’d like to be promoted. That puts you on the front of their mind for a promotion. This is the easiest thing you can do to increase your chances of a promotion, and it also lets your manager know you’re thinking about a future within your company which is always a good thing. You’d be surprised how much managers value people who make it known that they want a promotion. You’d also be surprised how few people actually take this step.


These are 3 things, that tied with performance, will almost guarantee your chances of being the next person on your team to be promoted. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me @aghanomics.

Selfish Generosity

That looks like a pretty good lollipop.

Selfishness and generosity two polar opposites. People who are selfish seek to take, take, take and people who are generous seek to give, give, give. However, I’ve seen that being selfish is counterproductive . What I’ve seen is that people who who try to take the most get the least and the people that give the most get the most.

I work in a very sales oriented role. Most of my day is spent networking with people and building relationships. The key to building powerful relationships is by being mutually beneficial. Simply put, nobody likes the guy who comes to a Christmas party without a gift, but they might tolerate that person. By being mutually beneficial, and by “bringing something to the table” it invokes a reaction in the other party involved. As Sir Isaac Newton put it, every action, has an equal and opposite reaction. By adding value to someone else’s life, they will seek to add value in yours.

My friend who is a commercial realtor put it best. When he’s working with young, start-up companies, he tries to help them grow their business in any way possible. Whether it’s introductions to investment sources or helping them with their sales strategy, he focuses on their growth in the hopes that when they do grow, and need additional office space, he’ll be the guy they call.

Networking, and helping people out, is key for building successful career. What I have found so far is that 90% of the battle in networking isn’t meeting somebody, it’s turning that person into a friend. Your network would be completelely useless if you didn’t have friends. That’s why you should treat every new person (or prospect) you meet like your best friend. This way, you will have a network of friends who want to help you out, rather than a network of acquaintances who only know you because your connected on LinkedIn.

 

 

 

 

7 Things the NFL has Taught Me about Getting a Job

The NFL off season this year has been pretty crazy. A lot of big names being shifted around (Let’s go Revis!!!) and a lot of unlikely, last minute deals happening. Technically speaking, the NFL off season has nothing to do with your life, however, if you take a look at how players go about finding their destination for the fall, it is actually really similar to what it’s like to find a job. As a matter of fact, we could even learn a thing or two from the NFL off season. Below is what I’ve learned.

1. Test the Waters: Case in point, DeSean Jackson. This is probably the biggest takeaway I’ve had. If you’re up for a promotion or if you’re in the final stages of interviewing, assess what the market values your skills at. Pretty much every single NFL free agent worth anything will receive multiple offers before they sign on with a team. However, if the company you’re in talks with offers you a deal you simply cannot refuse, then you have no choice. This is just like being franchise tagged in the NFL.

2. Negotiate: Case in point, Julian Edelman. If you didn’t get the “franchise tag” deal, but you’ve realized you’re being paid comparably well to other people in your position, then now is the time to negotiate to try and get more. Julian Edelman is a perfect example of this. He got a solid offer from the Patriots, but decided to test the waters and see what other teams would offer him. Once he got the insight into what the market values his skills at, he came back to the Patriots and actually got a better offer than the original one he received. What this means for you is once you receive your offer, ask for more. You’ve only get 1 shot to ask for more money, and a company will never pull the offer (unless you ask for an egregious amount of money).

3. People love a hometown hero: Case in point, Colin Kaepernick. Teams and fan-bases love the hometown hero. Athlete’s also love being the hero as well. You’re familiar with the area, and most importantly, familiar with the playbook. Knowledge of how to operate within a system is invaluable, and a lot of times, you will be heavily rewarded if you have a deeper understanding than most people within your organization.

Those are Colin's actual socks.

4. The competition will likely pay you more but may stunt your growth: Case in point, Aqib Talib. Got a monster contract from the Broncos. The Bronco’s offered him that contract for 2 reasons. To get better and to hurt their biggest AFC rival, the Patriots. Double the value in 1 move. However, no one likes a journeyman. With performance based postions, like the NFL and sales, if you perform, you will always find a high paying job. However, if you continue to bounce around, the odds of you establishing a leadership type role is nearly impossible. Let’s think after football, do you think the Patriots would ever offer Talib a job as an assistant coach? No shot. Same with your job, a company will not promote you if they fear you’re going to bounce somewhere else in a couple months.

But he should be worried about his future!

5. You might be a great talent, but you might not be the right fit to the puzzle: Case in point, Brandon Spikes. Arguable a top 3 linebacker in terms of run stopping and penetration capabilities but ask him to defend a pass and he looks like a fish out of water. The Patriots cut him because his skill set is simply not valued with the Patriots (along with some attitude issues). If you look at what the Patriots value in a linebacker, they seek hybrid linebackers who can defend the run and also cover the pass very well. What this means for you is even though you might be great at what you do, the company you’re working for or applying for might not value your skill set the way other companies will. Again, all the reason to test the waters and see what the market dictates your skill is worth.

6. What have you done recently? Case in point, Julius Peppers. A one-time perennial pro-bowler and absolute nightmare for Quarterbacks, the bears wouldn’t give Peppers the contract he asked for because he was coming off of one of the worst seasons in his life. Doesn’t matter that Peppers is one of the best defensive ends of our generation, he simply didn’t perform and the Bears are not going to pay Peppers because of what he did 3,4 and 5 years ago. Same with you! Especially sales folks. Doesn’t matter if last you crushed it a couple quarters ago. What matters most is how you did last quarter.

See you next year buddy!

7. Don’t settle once you get the payday: Case in point, Chris Johnson. He came off of an incredible 2010 season for the Titans, got his franchise contract (was then the highest paid RB in NFL history), and has yet to have a season as good as his contract season. Now, Chris Johnson plays for the Jets and is making a fraction as to what he used to. Maybe he just got old and he doesn’t have the skill anymore, but my guess is he took his foot off of the gas pedal and got complacent once he got the payday. Don’t become complacent unless you’re happy with just one nice commission check! Complacency is lazy’s ugly cousin.

Did I miss anything here? Let me know by tweeting at me @Aghanomics. Thanks for reading!

Why You Should Be Rich In Your 20’s

I read an article about a week ago titled “You Don’t Have To Be Rich In Your 20s: How Much Money You Should Actually Be Making”.

How stupid is that?

 

Why is that ok? Why are you setting a limit for yourself and settling for “going shopping and returning everything you buy” or “traveling on trains but never in style”? Personally, I’m working every damn day to make sure I am rich while I’m in my 20’s. I want to travel in style and I want nice things. Is that so wrong? After all, that’s what ambition is, at least the way it’s defined in America. Simply put, your success is measured by the number in your bank account.
Wait a second. Ambition is defined by the size of your wallet?

 

That’s the problem with capitalism. Everyone is out for their own good rather than out for the collective. We have the smartest people in the world working on tools to help us “sext” and working on Wall Street rather than working on solving the worlds largest issues.


WhatsApp was recently acquired by Facebook for $19B. To put that into perspective, making sure every man, woman and child on this earth would have clean running water is worth ~$10B. Let that sink in.

 

WhatsApp ($19B) > The ENTIRE World Music Industry ($16.4B)

 

Hunger, disease, global economics, and education are all things I feel like could be improved upon if we had the world’s smartest people trying to solve them. Imagine if Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett and Sheryl Sandberd all dedicated their lives to solving world hunger. It may not be completely solved, however, we would be a hell of a lot closer to a solution than we are today. Imagine the impact they could make. The world NEEDS entrepreneurs to step in with innovative ideas as to how to solves these issues.
However, that’s not the world we live in. We live in a world powered by money. What makes America so great? The fact that we are free and that we have money hand over fist. People emigrate to this beautiful country for the opportunity to be free and to make a lot of money. Everyone reading this post today is already  free, so why not be rich in your 20’s?