Career Crashers 65: Silas Mahner on How A Project Pitch Can Set You Apart

This week on Career Crashers, Joel is joined by Silas Mahner to talk about creating projects as career signals and using Crash to pitch companies.

This week on Career Crashers, Joel is joined by Silas Mahner to talk about creating a project pitch as a career signal and using Crash to pitch companies.

Silas is an associate consultant for NextWave Partners, where he is helping to develop its global energy and infrastructure growth initiative.

“Sales skills are very important in any role, no matter what you’re doing. So learning how to sell your past, regardless of what it was, to a potential employer, is extremely important.”

Prior to landing this job, Silas used Crash to land interviews for a number of different opportunities. In this episode, he shares his formula for creating a project pitch that will make you stand out.

“If you show interest in the company by saying “I’m excited about your mission” and then cite a couple of things that you’ve read about them, you’ve already put yourself at the top of the list for attention.”

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Show notes – How A Project Pitch Can Set You Apart

  • How Silas discovered his passion for creating content when he went through the Praxis bootcamp
  • Just get started on a creative project pitch
  • How documenting your experiences allows you to see skills that you had overlooked
  • Making connections to nurture job opportunities
  • Turning your experiences into signals of your ability to create value
  • Silas’ process for using Crash and sending a project pitch on his job hunt

Connect with Silas

Full Transcript: – How A Project Pitch Can Set You Apart

Welcome to Career Crashers, where we tell the stories of those who are not content to wait around following rules and hoping for good things to happen. Great careers aren’t found. They’re forged.

It’s time to crash the party.

All right. I’m thrilled to be joined by Silas Mahner, who is a consultant at Next Wave partners. And he’s also a former Crash user. He’s pitched several companies and he’s an alum as well of the Praxis program. So we’re gonna flesh this out and try to create sort of a template for people who might be just starting out in their craft experience and how to build a project pitch and, and get going.

So welcome Silas. And let’s let’s start right there with the idea of building a project pitch. You know, anyone who looks up your name is going to see on your website. You have podcasts going, you have a vlog, you have a tea business. And you started you have a background selling insurance. Tell us about how you set up sort of got started building projects and got that creative ball rolling?

Yeah, so absolutely. First of all, I appreciate the opportunity to be on the podcast today. It’s but as far as as far as this idea, and this this method of creating and how I ended up getting started, I’d say that I’ve always want felt that I was somewhat of a creator since I was a kid. And I just I didn’t really pursue a whole lot of it until I was introduced to Praxis, right.

So throughout the application process for anybody who’s gone through they know. But obviously, through the application process, you do a bit of, I guess, a small project pitch to kind of prove that you’re, you know, worth being part of the program and to make sure that you’re in line with the mindset that Praxis has. And I remember specifically, when they had you write that blog post, I forget exactly what the content of it was about.

But they left it as an optional challenge to post it publicly on Medium. And I had never done that before. I never thought about doing that. But when I did that, it just it I don’t know. It’s kind of a lock something inside of me. That I realized, Hey, I really enjoy producing things, no matter what it is about. And I really enjoy putting my thoughts out there.

And I think now, you know, over a seeds over a year and a half later. Since I’ve started producing content like that. I’ve realized that the reason for that is when I produce content, I really start to feel like I can understand exactly what my thoughts are right? versus just having them kind of jumbled up in your brain and not fleshing them out. And understanding what is it that I really think, you know, what is my true stance on this, etc.

So just yeah, beginning process really unlocked that. And I just started to create things. Especially with being surrounded by so many people in Praxis, who had created so many great things, it was not hard to just to just start, right, you saw, it’s like, this person did that. And this person did that. And did they have any special qualifications to do so? Not necessarily, they just, they just went out and did it, they found out what it took to build them. And they started doing it.

And it was always imperfect at the beginning. Right? That was one of my things with with a podcast that I had, as you may have seen. I started a podcast just talking to other Praxians about their experience, specifically. And it wasn’t super professional. But I knew that I had to do something right, I can always improve on it from there.

But I just told myself, I’m going to start it, I’m going to do it. It doesn’t have to be completely consistent, like those professional shows you here, because it takes a while to build. And so I just I kind of went from there.

Yeah, I love what you’re saying about there. It’s sort of unveiled this new excitement to you once you got on the other side of the creative process. As opposed to just the consuming product. The consuming process, which I think that’s an easy place to be, and I know that I was in that place at one point, just consuming information. And looking at somebody who’s starting a podcast. And thinking, wow, that’s, that’s amazing that they’re doing that, but I couldn’t do that, right.

Then once you get start, you sort of publish something on the web. And then you kind of get really excited about that. And you want to keep doing more. I listened to a little bit of your of your podcast, called Deliberate. And you talked about that process of just starting. Where you you might have felt that resistance at the beginning. Of Oh, no, I’m I’m not sure I can do this because I got to get all this fancy equipment. And you just kept putting it off.

Then you realize you just all you need to do is have a recording device. Just start talking to someone and have conversation and then you got that going. Right?

Exactly. Yeah, that’s what I what I’ve introduced most of those podcasts to. To the people who are listening as well as the people I’m talking with most of the time. We’ve never met before. It’s just a conversation with new people, which is really, I think a lot of podcasts revolve around that format. And I just wanted to prove to people that it’s very simple to do it. And all you got to do is just find somebody to have a conversation with. Be genuinely interested in getting to know them, and it will turn out alright.

Yeah, and even if you want, you can just do a solo podcast and just just start talking. Then at first you might, it’s like anything else. You’re not going to be perfect at it might be a little uncomfortable. And then maybe you do a couple takes, and it’s not, it’s not great. But if you build that muscle of just starting something, and has a lot of power, and a lot of great ripple effects for this Crash process, because it’s all about creating and creating a project pitch, creating pitch videos.

But yeah, like with podcasts, just start. I mean, maybe once upon a time, maybe 20 years ago, you need more equipment, that was more fancy. But now it’s like you can put the put your smartphone on, and that’s good enough. Or you can get a really inexpensive microphone. There’s websites like anchor FM. They make it really easy to just to do the back end stuff and upload the podcast.

I mean, just just got to kind of do it. And don’t be afraid to be, you don’t need to be an expert, you know. If you just kind of puncture that membrane of resistance. I call just like that little hesitancy you have just kind of get started. And then you’ll get that creative juice and that fulfillment and you’ll want to keep on going.

What was what was your first project, the Medium post? And then you started kind of getting the ball rolling?

Yeah, so I think I’m trying to remember exactly the timeline. But I started I did that medium post, and I believe February of 2019. And yes, was February 2019. And then it was around that time, I guess I had a little bit of a mindset shift in general. Because prior to that I was selling insurance. I was doing pretty well with my career, but I just wasn’t wasn’t quite happy with what I was doing. Right. And I started to realize that, up to that point in my life. I kind of just gone where the wind blew me or where opportunity presented itself.

I had decided I made a conscious decision that it was time for Silas to start doing what Silas wants to do. And I didn’t know what that meant. I was like, well, I really have no idea what this means exactly, but I’m going to try to figure it out. So I just started experimenting with a lot of things. Obviously, I was looking into different different potential career paths. And somebody had recommended me to Praxis to check it out. So that was a really good starting point.

And I think I mean, I really credit a lot of it to to pPraxis at that point. Because they I remember one of the things they asked in the in the application process was if you had unlimited resources, what would you do? And I never thought about something that way. So I really thought about that. And I think that spurred this idea. This kind of entrepreneurial spirit that’s been inside of me ever since I was a kid. Because my dad, he owns a business. And I always I always wanted to own a business as well.

Growing up, I think for a long time I consider just taking over his business. But eventually realized that that wasn’t specifically what I wanted to do. So I just knew it was in me to own a business of some sort. And I think that my logic was, especially once I started blogging and just creating things in general was especially even more so with the Praxis mindset of just doing and, you know, building this portfolio and practicing and getting better as you go.

I was using this creation, all these creating different things to help me figure out what specifically is my area of focus, which which things are important to me, what am I excited about? What am I passionate about? enough that I can do it for a significant portion of my life and be fulfilled? Right?

Because at that point, I had learned that money wasn’t what motivated me. It was something to do with there had to be a mission behind it. And so I think that that’s that’s really what, what has been very helpful in my journey here so far.

Yeah, I love that you didn’t necessarily know your exact mission when you’re starting out. But you knew that you wanted to have a mission. And then you realize, okay, let’s have a bias for action. Let’s start creating, let’s start doing and you’ll keep on gaining self knowledge, the more you, you create.

One thing that I remember is that essentially, especially after that, that Praxis application, that’s what I really delved into this entrepreneurial spirit of actually trying some businesses. So I had, I had this idea for a marketing agency that I wanted to run just kind of a local digital marketing agency that could help businesses. I started, you know, I put my mind on it, right. So I had some focus going towards it.

And as a result, then I met, I had known this person very, very, a little bit through another friend of mine, and I bumped into him once I was like, Oh, that’s right, you do web design. We should have a coffee and discuss business. Right? And from there, we ended up not doing that. But we started talking about business ideas, and we ended up falling into that tea business that you mentioned.

And I’m trying to remember exactly how we started. But I think it was I was just at a point where I wanted to do something. Right, I wanted to not just have ideas. I think this was also influenced by Praxis was, is I’m just having ideas, I want to start executing on something, regardless of how how it turns out, I really want to try. And that’s how I started the tea business just a few months later, after applying for Praxis.

That’s awesome. And so the the Medium post was out the one that about what you learned in your insurance career?

No, so that was actually one of the recap posts I did for. For Praxis, I think the one that I wrote first, one of the first ones that I wrote was, if I had unlimited resources, what would I do with it? unless it was the maybe it was there was that one that was about the topic of insurance, I can’t remember specifically because I’ve written it over.

But I just I just came across that one. And I mentioned that because that’s a great place to start. If you’re early on, and you want to start showing your work and starting some writings and blogging. And you don’t maybe don’t have much professional experience, necessarily, but what what have you done right? Like, even if you’ve been the captain of the football team, or you’ve done ballet classes. Like you could write a blog post, you know, five soft skills I learned setting valet.

And all of a sudden you are getting some self awareness about the soft skills you have. You are showing the world that you wish that you have self awareness, you were developing your writing skills, you are starting getting my creative juices flowing with with a blog. So it’s like, anywhere you are the salt to say that anywhere you are, like just start writing, right?

Yeah, I think it’s really important. Writing in general is very important. And the idea specifically behind relating what you’ve done, and how it’s helpful is really important, because I had never thought about, oh, what skills do I have, from what I’ve done, I never like I was like, I don’t have a college degree. I don’t have, I was homeschooled. I obviously did graduate with an actual diploma. But I didn’t have anything like that would be externally validating until I started to have this mindset of, alright, what do I actually have, right.

And I remember, one of the motivations to start my insurance career was to learn how to do sales, because if I wanted to be a business owner, my former boss had told me like, if you want to own a business, you’re gonna need to learn how to do sales, you might as well do this, I was like, it’s totally a great point. When I was reading those posts about my past experiences, because I wrote one for every, for every role that I had held up to that point for my LinkedIn to support it with with Praxis.

And it was really helpful because you don’t think about, oh, I worked at a restaurant. In reality, I learned customer service, I learned these things, I learned this and that. And one thing that I want to mention to anybody listening is that you have skills. We all have skills of some sort, and we just have to really figure out what those are. And like you said, being the captain of a football team, for example, those are things that most people wouldn’t think about.

But by you, you know, signaling and talking about some of the experiences you had during that during that experience. And during that time, you can really signal to a potential employer that you can think outside of the box, which is extremely important, especially for anybody looking to get into the startup space, because you need to be able to solve problems.

And I think that in general, you know, maybe this is just a little bias. But sales skills are very important in any role, no matter what you’re doing. So learning how to to sell your past regardless of what it was to a potential employer is extremely important. So go through your past experiences, whether you’re worked at a restaurant, or worked at a factory and had to deal with certain, you know, difficult circumstances, whatever it was, go through and see which skills, isolate the skills, and then identify them how they can be applicable in other roles.

Because if you look through any job description, they’ll say what the specific skills and requirements and expectations are. And almost, without a doubt, you will have some of those skills in a different fashion.

That’s great advice. Great advice. So building off of that, tell us more about the sort of mentality of winning job opportunities, professional opportunities, in addition to showing your work through a project pitch, in addition to pitching companies through a Crash video, you have noticed are very, very active and proactive about creating connections.

And I’m curious if you could flesh that out the sort of the sort of networking, I don’t like that word, but the sort of idea of of creating, building a network and reaching out to people in a really proactive way in order to to nurture a job hunt.

Yeah, so I think that there’s a couple factors in general like for for me, specifically, since I chose not to go to college. I, I had a mentor, one of my mentors along the way, basically told me, he’s like, Listen, if you’re not going to go to college, it’s totally fine. Use these four years that You would go to college as your college experience, but you know, do whatever, you know, whatever is interesting and add the skills to your bucket that you’re looking to add.

So, by doing that, you know, it’s like in college, you produce papers, and you do different different homework assignments that help you to get a grade, which is a signal, right, this diploma is a signal. And and of course, the grade associated with is a signal of who you are, what you can accomplish, why not do the same thing with real experiences, right, so taking everything you do document it, put it into a format that helps you to gain the opportunities you’re seeking for.

And again, it’s not always possible to know exactly what you want, and what you’re looking for. But you have a general sense of what’s important to you. And you can have a general sense of which roles or types of companies are going to help you figure out what you want, and help you learn the skills that you feel that you’re missing.

So I identify those things, but create that portfolio because it’s a signal just like a diploma is that you can do something by saying, I’ve done this, here’s, here’s, here’s proof of it. And as far as the proactive, the proactive outreach part is being a headhunter. Now, it with partners, it’s really even more easy to see that people, you know, I’ve spoken with so many hiring managers that have to do with just all these applications that are completely unqualified people.

But you can set yourself apart so easily with a project pitch because the bar is quite low at the moment, especially for people looking for entry level jobs, right? If you catch a video, if you create a video that details very simple things like Crash does, right? I was thought, if you go through and figure out what are the most like the three most important things in that job description that you’ve identified as they need this, this and this, A, B and C. And I have a, b and c, right.

If you can just do that show extreme interest in the company by saying I’m excited about your mission. And then just citing a couple things that you’ve read about them, you’ve already put yourself essentially at the top of the list for attention. Because whether you’re qualified or not, you’ve already put yourself up there, and they’re going to see your information so that you at least get an opportunity to be seen.

And as far as I guess I don’t, I don’t dislike the word networking, because it’s been what ended up getting me so many opportunities in life is just being able to connect with people and genuinely ask them, What can I do for you? Is there anybody that I can connect you with, even though in most cases from my life, I’ve always been the small fish in the sea, right, I’m always the small guy.

And I’m trying to help them in whatever way I can, as I think is kind of the mindset of doing a project pitch for somebody signaling that you’re genuinely interested. And as a result, they’re going to have reciprocity, they’re going to want to help you more often than not people, people older than you or people who are further along in their careers, they really do want to help people. I think it’s just built into us as humans to have that desire.

So for me, networking is really just trying to connect with people on a personal level, as well as understanding their professional goals, and then seeing what I can do to help them And oftentimes, it’ll end up leading to, to a to a role. So for me, specifically, I ended up in this role because of a connection. I didn’t create a specific project pitch video. But I guess, to speak a little bit more to my experience with pitching with Crash, I would say is very powerful.

So again, not having any specific credentials, and oftentimes applying for these jobs that were, I would say, in general, they were looking for people who are who have more years of experience, it was very easy to get conversations when you went through that specific format. Because how many people did that right? Not many, and then you have that conversation, they can see your work, they understand they have a rough idea that you’re a hustler, that you you have these certain skills, and then you speak to them.

I don’t know if this is exactly what long the conversation looking for. But what I’ve also found is that through this method of pitching and creating a project pitch, it’s just this very transparent and honest approach to it. And I’ve had opportunities that were I was very close to being offered. But I ended up coming to the conclusion with the hiring managers. I was like, you know, this doesn’t quite seem like the right fit for me based on what I’m looking for.

And I think that through the Crash experience, it’s more than just getting the opportunity. It’s that mindset of transparency and being upfront and and communicating clearly, with the hiring managers that really led to I guess you could say diversion from taking a roll that wouldn’t have been a good fit for either of us.

So I think that that’s another benefit that people don’t talk about Crash is just in general how it’s it’s very helpful to get to to figure out what exactly is important to you.

And can you flesh that up more your your experience with Crash and sending these tailored project pitch videos, sort of what was your system? What was your approach in figuring out what to say in those videos? And what kind of research did you do in the company? Walk us through a little bit. The the nuts and bolts of your approach with Crash pitching?

Yeah, so generally, when an opportunity presented itself to me, I would do a brief skim of the job description and of the role. Oftentimes, it was just Isaac sending across a video of his own his own project pitch video saying, here’s what I’ve learned from the founder, etc, etc.

And I would base off of that, I just narrowed down to what I if I was a business owner, if I was the person in the shoes, like if I was a hiring manager, or a business owner, what three skills are most important to me for this specific role? Then I would also add in my project pitch because I always feel like it’s important to focus on the long term mission is where does our company want to go? And what what would this person probably end up doing in three to five years?

So I would put it into what are the three most important skills or, or things specifically that I want to see in a candidate who can help me with my immediate goals, my immediate needs, as well as my long term growth potential here. So I would I would write those down. I would also go through the company and try my best to just understand what is their mission? You know, what are they doing, specifically? But also, what is their Why? And what is their purpose? I’m a big fan of Simon Sinek in that way, who discusses the, you know, start with why in general and start with the purpose.

So I’d always try to find out what is their purpose, because I’ve found through my experience with Crash, that hiring managers, and especially with your, when you’re talking to smaller companies, if you can communicate to them, that you’re passionate about the mission as well, you raise your chances of getting that opportunity significantly as well. Because that’s what, that’s why they went on that journey as entrepreneurs, right, they went on that journey to complete some type of mission in almost every case.

So I would also try to understand that explain to them why that mission excited me specifically in my video. And then, so I would always take the mission, the three specific traits that they were looking for, and then I would, I would also find out three specific traits, specifically from my pitch deck, or from my, from my skills that I had created. It already demonstrated, that way, I could pair them up with the video. And I would communicate to them that I have those three skill sets.

And typically, my videos were very short and to the point. I do like to talk as you might have gathered, so it was hard for me to get them short to the point. But I got to a point where I was able to do it pretty, pretty effectively. And I was able to shoot these videos in one or two shots, because I had done it an hour times.

But it really came down to Hi, this is me, I’m excited to work for you. For this reason, because I see you’re doing this, my understanding is that you’re looking for somebody with these three skills, I can bring these three things to the table. And then I would also often add, in addition to the I also bring personality, and I would have mentioned three of the things that I felt were my biggest personality traits. That was helpful.

And then I would say, I really appreciate you consider for me this opportunity, you can you can reach me here. So that was typically how my how my project pitch went, I think it was always five or six slides, I can’t remember specifically. And again, once I got the hang of it, I could create one of these in probably, you know, I’d create the Google Slides deck, which would take 15 minutes sometimes. And then I could shoot the video in about two or three shots.

So it’s really not, it doesn’t take too much time to really understand what’s going on, I guess the research part would be another 15 or 20 minutes or so maybe an hour you can get a really great product produced and sent across to the right person.

That’s good stuff, it’s always it’s always helpful to hear someone who’s actually used the platform to share their story. So thanks so much.

And by the way, you mentioned the the slide deck that’s an option on the on the platform right now you as a user, you can create that project pitch video and have a sort of slide deck in the background. But also you can even simplify it and actually what most people do now as as the platform has evolved is simply create the video and it’s just this small little video in the corner of the screen for that pitch and just create that 60 second video only and and yeah it doesn’t need to be super complicated just do some research figure out why you love the company and how you’re going to create value just for them.

So really, really appreciate you you fleshing out all that’s all this Silas and by the way, everyone should check out your Crash profile which is And it’s a really creative just profile pitch where he’s just you’re sharing about yourself and you you go to the next level in creativity.

And you have this like produced scene by scene video where you’re hopping between coffee shops and talking about your your sales skills and your insurance background. That’s just I just want to mention that was a fun video to check out and you know most people just just do the simple video but it’s something you can you can keep being imaginative with and really engage people.

So thanks again Silas. Anything else you want to add in there?

I know I just really appreciate the opportunity to be on the podcast today. And for anybody who’s listening who’s not, you know, not sure about using Crash, I would definitely say, you know, what do you have to lose? Give it a shot. It’s really a great tool to use to help you advance in your career.

I definitely think that once you use it, you’ll be very happy with the results. Not only you know, will you gain results, but you’re also going to learn a lot about yourself. You’re going to learn about your limits. And you’re going to also kind of start to develop this mindset that’s really going to move you forward to your career more than almost any other thing can.

100% Alright, thanks so much Silas, appreciate it.

Thanks, Joel.

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